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Badlands (Early 2016)

Each day I sway over the abyss on the razors edge of identity. On one side of the divide is the person I’d like to be, and on the other is the person I’m afraid of becoming… These two termini are some of the most influential forces in my life. Peculiar it is, the disconnect between our intentions and the actions and behavior that sometimes diffuse from deep within to see the light of day. Have you ever said something completely out of character that abhorred you the instant it happened; as if some foreign entity quietly invaded your person and incepted this horrible outburst? How anomalous these sleeper agents are; these temperamental organisms that sit silently beneath the surface, waiting to flare up like the magma of antiquity; slowly simmering just below until the correct combination of elements come together and then… 💥.

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The battle between our dreams and reality quietly controls us in more ways than we can comprehend. The best we can do is be aware of the two beasts battling inside of us… Feed, nurture and give our attention to the one that best represents our true selves, and then hope it eventually gets strong enough to eat its opponent whole.

As I write this chapter, I find myself on another one of those narrow cliffs that dot the tumultuous topography of life. Behind me lies a stretch of path bathed in golden sunlight; full of the opiate-like comfort of routine, productivity, and the ecstatic embrace of friendship-laced good times passed. In front of me is a sheer rock face, a dead drop, under which the perceivable future rolls outward, obscured by hazy uncertainty. What tectonic process could have caused this unfriendly geological formation? A number of things are responsible, some are my own fault and others are beyond my control. Recently my union with my full-time employer of a year and a half, GumboLive, came to an end, as the organization was dissolved by its parent company Momentum Worldwide. Originally designed to be a creative resource for Interpublic Group advertising and media agencies, fueled by the potent, scrappy passion of millennials, those at the helm could no longer see Gumbo as anything other than a knick in the bottom line. Plans to transform our office into a direct revenue generating edifice could not find legs despite our efforts, and lacked requisite executive attention, so here I am: Surveying the wreckage, thirstily standing in that waning ray of sunlight before I gather myself and begin my next anthology of steps forward.

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That job was a large vessel, sitting heavily on the viscus surface over which I distribute my attention and emotions; investing myself in a number of aspects of life. Diversifying for a better chance of happiness… I guess I lost sight of this gently ebbing balance, and allowed myself too much to be defined by working and passing time at GumboLive. When the ship sank, it felt like I sank with it. Thrashing to stay above water, I started to act with emotion over reason; I grabbed for whatever I could so that I might avoid slipping into the silent, black depth. In my tumultuous effort to hold on to the life that I had known, I breached the hull of other vessels; some not even my own. I watched in horror as bastions of well-being and dignity began to take on water, black as ink, and plunge quickly from my view. I affected others in my own struggles, something that I am not used to doing. As I look up from the depth at the reflective, mirrored surface, I see a person that I do not recognize. It takes me a moment to realize with a jolt of disgust that its me I’m glimpsing. All I want is to begin the lonely swim upward to breach that surface again. I know that it will take serious work, probably everything I have, but all I can think about is trying to get back to that significant instance where things went wrong. Positive trumps negative. Always. Forever. This I know, but I guess sometimes we end up so far down the wrong path that it takes some wading through the dendritic, clinging weeds before we can truly soar again.

When life is thick, and calm calculated movements within it are foiled by its unrelenting friction, I try to share its burdens with the pages of a book. Well-written novels are like pockets in reality that escape the pressure of time and space, so that I might climb inside to live half within its refuge and make my own daily ascents more easily understood and digested. The written word tints our lives. Tiny, angular, geometric symbols throw momentous sunlight, or shadow, onto our daily reality; beware the power of letters. I can also find solace in creating; exercising the skills and processes that I’ve built, maintained and imbued myself into. Labyrinthine mansions made of thought and passion… Additions, renovations, creaky rooms and hallways tacked together that will always feel more familiar than any physical place ever could. Getting lost within these spaces is helpful asylum when the atmosphere outside the bounds of my mind feels hostile. Every something I make out of nothing seems to add a foot or handhold that I can cling onto as I try to climb out of the holes I have regrettably dug for myself.

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Usually I use these blog posts to give some narrative background on milestones in my life regarding work, travel and other pleasures. As I write this one, however, I am having trouble bringing myself to record these routine musings. In my current state of introspection, I do not feel entirely certain of the individual I am presently; I am struggling to render a clear picture of that person. At this moment I feel so acutely aware that the people we are deep down simply cannot be defined by the things we do or make, or the places we go. Even the sum of all of one’s experiences will fail to create the immaculate, unwavering equation describing that individual; I am sure of it. There is something deeper than that. A singular node that commands the way we walk through life, treat the others we collide with, and navigate the circumstances we are dealt. I’m trying to get a clear portrait of that core. It may not even be possible, but I am hoping that clutching at this awareness, this knowledge of its shrouded existence, might afford me a clearer appreciation of it with time. I suppose you must fully understand something before you can work on making it better. I beg of my reader to actively gaze inward. Do not wait for a traumatic experience, self-induced or otherwise, to jolt yourself into a state of hyper-self-awareness as it has for me. Our relationship with ourselves is no different from any other. It takes work and attention to flourish.

Time, my best friend and my worst enemy, marches forward relentlessly. The minute hand’s trip around the the clock balefully mirrors our planets trek around the sun. These revolutions tease us resolutely, not caring whether or not we’re looking, but always there to exclaim that the joke is on us whenever we dare to take notice. We do what we can to to balance the ledger of time spent and life lived. We hold up things we’ve made, leisure we’ve enjoyed, hours sedentary staring at screens and exclaim, “Look ye fiendish constant, see how I have spent you worthily!” Time stares blankly back for a second, pausing before pointing at the watch on its celestial wrist and reminding us of the moments we have just wasted. If you are interested in how I’ve been spending time in my professional and self-satisfying endeavors, you can always peruse my design portfolio, ad portfolio and flickr photostream. A couple of recent projects that felt particularly rewarding include my first beer can design, which recently hit the shelves in New Orleans, and another successful Buku Music and Art Project Live Gallery. Good friend and talented videographer Nic Stark got involved this year to help produce the first ever, real deal recap video for the installation. I’ll be sure to post that here when it’s finished. The event, as always, was a great gathering of New Orleans aerosol contemporaries, and our efforts raised $3,000 for local non-profits including the Parisite Skatepark and Upbeat Academy.

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I sit writing these words from my parents house in Santa Fe, where they have recently retired. I’ve left New Orleans momentarily, taking advantage of my current less-than-employed status to clear my head here; to allow my thoughts to futilely try to fill up the vast spaces in this part of the country. I find solace in considering my own insignificance; in the fact that when the Big Curtain finally falls, every struggle or triumph in my life will be but a faint memory contained within some disparate building blocks of matter. At first it can be disconcerting to ponder life from this perspective, but trying to see things from different angles always helps to provide a bit of depth. There is no better place to really feel the tragic inconsequence of the human experience than the American West. Here, tectonic plates battle and crash into one another, and volcanic pressure patiently waits for the opportunity to explode upward, sending the most magnificent skyscrapers jutting toward the heavens. All of this happens both instantly and at the most delayed, ancient crawl. These forces work on scales of time that we will never truly be able to understand… We can but stand there, and use our gift of life to marvel at the majesty of things so far out of our control that it is a wonder we share the same space.

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I know that this post distinctly consists of heavy thoughts and contemplations. For this I feel I must apologize, as I usually hope to inspire positive thought and action in those I come in contact with in life. I know, however, that I must confront my current state of mind head on; I need to feel everything, to explore every thought. Emotional debt is something that you can never shirk. It is best to embrace every feeling, even those as unpleasant as despair, because trying to avoid them will only give them strength. You’ll think you’ve escaped them, but in reality they are just hiding under the surface, steadily burning until they erupt as anger, sadness or an action completely uncharacteristic of yourself. Writing these words feels therapeutic, like it is helping me process a queue of emotions and thoughts that wraps around the block. Thank you, as always, for reading, and please try to act in the interest of not only your own well-being, but that of everyone around you and especially those you hold dear. I know this is an obvious sentiment but it is astounding how quickly straying from that guideline can bring a life crumbling to ashes. As always, here is the last few months in photographs.

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