Something

I’ve Been Busy…

I’ve been busy. I know, I know, it’s something we hear from most folks. And busy rarely equates with “productive” or—what I’ve learned to matter more—”purposeful.” But I’ve been busy. A lot of it productive, a good chunk of it purposeful.

Hence not writing in a while. Sure, I’ve THOUGHT a lot about writing, The trouble is, I had a hard time committing to putting something down. Typing or writing out the words made it “real” and if it were real, it was vulnerable to criticsim. And to quote George McFly, “I don’t know if I can take that kind of rejection.”

Which, as I am sure you are well aware dear reader, is absolutely silly. I read a quote from Matt Fraction recently (of the esteemed Hawkeye series—I don’t care if you think comics are for luddites or not, read it) in response to someone asking him about his process of sitting down to write. He said something along the lines of writing as a physical act. We assume it’s some ethereal thing, but in reality, it requires physical effort. He then asks us to pick up a pencil (or open Byword on your Macbook) and then write “Something.” “Something” what?

” i don’t understand the feeling of, the way people speak of writing as though it were, like, some kind of djinn to be summoned or like it’s the loch ness monster or seeing a shooting star. it’s a physical act. it is a thing you do with your muscles and your body and your willpower. watch, i’ll show you: get a piece of paper. get a pencil. put the pencil on the paper and write the word “something” there. you did it. you wrote. you wrote ‘something.’ now put a word after something. Something what? Something… happened? creaked? died? flew? exploded? snapped? Tell me. With your hand, with the hand holding the pencil or pen or marker or crayon, it doesn’t matter, push your fingers and hand up and back and across and back until there is another word after “something”.

There. Now you’re writing a story.”

— Matt Fraction

This is my something. Something I’ve been working hard at, getting a lot of ducks lined up for 2014 and beyond.

2013

2013 was a great year of change. Turning 30. Balancing out work and life. Changing careers to focus more on social services. Applying my interests in creative direction, storytelling and culture into servicing the social sector. Confidence. Exploring my values and behavior. It’s all in-progress. And for once, in-progress feels good. Not procrastination, but knowing these projects, even upon completion, are an in-progress iteration toward learning more, doing better, exploring, staying curious, being open.

It’s all been for the better. And as a part of that, I decided that it was also time for me to fear less, do better, share more. The doing part I’ve done, but I was never comfortable with sharing it. A part of that is the fear I was talking about. The fear of having your work ridiculed or dismissed. Of being called a hack or irrelevant. Of being an amateur.

Pressure Testing

It’s the age of information. And once we put something out there, it’s out there. That’s a lot of damn pressure. But you know what? If it’s not out there, no one gets to know about it either. And if no one knows about it, I won’t get feedback, I won’t get pressure tested. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned about myself it’s that life requires some pressure testing. Here’s to improving.

And so, I’m looking forward to posting up some of the work I’ve wrought into being from the past year, using this blog-space to explore some of my loftier speculations on life and wonder. It’s a place for process. To showcase how I think through my designs, to display some of the polished work I’ve executed. It’s a place for me to be accountable. To share ideas and share how they’re developing. A place to communicate to those interested in knowing how my mind works or what I’ve been up to. A place for my written word to do, you know, what humans do: relate.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this past year, it’s that you can do anything you want. But you can’t do everything. And with that lesson, I’m going to tell you of some of the things I have done and some of the things I will do. Because life is short, and if we’re unable to do everything, let’s pick and choose what’s worth doing.

So join me. Choose. Commit. And let’s do something.

Childhood Memories: From the Perspective of a Child

Looking to minimize the amount of physical hoarded objects in my life, I stumbled upon a book I created in 1997.


It appears I was pretentious enough in the 8th grade to name my version of our major autobiographical project for Mrs. McCue’s class as “The Wisdom of Phil Le.” Because, didn’t you know? I was full of wisdom by age 13.

But really, my intentions were innocuous. I can recall the influence in producing such a name, a book I picked up while on the big field trip we took to Washington DC that year. It was in the Smithsonian bookstore that I fell upon a collection hidden in the far left hand corner of the golden lit room. “The Wisdom Of” series. From this series I purchased “The Wisdom of Zen.”

In picking that book, a collection koans Marc De Smedt felt appropriate to represent Zen, “The Wisdom of Zen” became the model for my self-made book: a collection of short narratives and inspiring excerpts from a myriad of sources I thought valuable to a future self in the coming years. If I would find this a daunting endeavor today, looking at this hardbound time capsule, there is no indication this was the case then. But here I am 17 years later flipping through pages of dot-matrixed type and poorly written words. With each turn I can hear the aged glue crinkle knowing giggles at what it must feel like to jump back in time to your own adolescent brain.

“Kind, sensitive, smart; who fears fear, who wishes for peace and love.”
–like the 140 character autobiographies seen on Twitter

The book does not hide my deep Christian upbringing. As a matter of fact, I currated portions of the book with resonating quotes from the Bible. These sections share verses on faith, love, good work and good deeds. They also demonstrate my past fears of sin and punishment in an imperfect of the world. In contrast, other sections reflect my exposure to other world religions, the writings of Albert Camus and, believe it or not, Bruce Lee (he was quite philosophical when not on screen kicking bad guys and flexing muscles.) This amateur work is anthropological evidence for the existential quest, my search for meaning in 1997 (unfortunately for my 13-year-old-self, I wouldn’t stumble upon Victor Frankl’s work for another decade and a half.)

I wrote about hope, hope for myself and for those around me. “Everyone has hope, whether it be for the family you love or the friends you meet each day. Hope is very important to people like us. Without out it, what would we be?” Apparently I questioned things like “Why am I here?” and hoped that in simply asking the question, we had purpose.

In one section was a copy of a favorite Zen parable of mine which involved a rooster trained for fighting. After many stages of conflict it was when the rooster didn’t mind its opponents anymore, not out of a lack of fear, but out of a lack of self, was he deemed ready by the king and the sage to fight. By then, the rooster wasn’t interested in fighting his fellow roost any longer. How simple that sounded then and how hard it is to try to learn that now.

This collection, this “Wisdom of Phil Le” was one of those teenage amalgamations of knowledge, an example of a youth who wanted to understand his world and so in regurgitating thoughts that came before him, thinks he does. It’s funny to read through it now as I see a lot of influences still with me today. As a matter of fact, some things haven’t changed. Other things, well, they’ve changed quite a bit.

My favorite out of this collection is a personal piece I wrote entitled “Childhood Memory.” It appears nostalgia held true then as it does now.

“Childhood is the best of times. It is a time when innocence is in the heart and fun is all you understand. Some of my best childhood memories are spending time with my two friends, Dan Alburger and Caleb Sebra. Though we are not as close now as we once were, we had great times together and they stay with me now. One of our favorite things to do was to sit and write together. We would meet up and just write.

Dan and I still have our stories from when we were younger. The stories were not done as well as to the ones we try to write now, but of course, we were much younger then.

Caleb and I grew up interested in the martial arts for as long as I can remember. Caleb is now in Bushi Karate and I hope to study different martial arts one day. I can only learn about them through books right now.

The three of us, we are each in our separate worlds doing different things these days, but in my heart they are still the best of friends. Together, we were great. I hope that as time goes on, we stay that way, as far apart as we may be.”

I reread those words a younger version of myself wrote and I feel as though they could have existed in a recent incarnation. Out of the entire book, this page is unadorned (save for the terrible italic serif font I chose.) In its description, it poses a question, looks to the future and holds on with hope. It shares the great value friendship had for me then and gives reference to why friendships are dear to me now.

Looking back on the entire analogue-would-be-Tumblr I created for myself, I find future me (well, I guess it’s present me now) asking the same questions posed within this book. I am wondering a lot of the same things. And in that wondering I am still using words, art and imagery to explore the questions that arise through daily living. The wisdom imparted from the book, if I can call it that, isn’t what I explicitly wrote then; the wisdom is in the process in which I chose to make meaning of things that were on my mind.

No one but my teacher at the time and my English teacher from the year before read this book. Outside of them, this was a book on self reflection, on preserving important memories, on recording honest feelings. I suppose it’s not very different from the collection of sketchbooks I keep to this day. And it’s a reminder to keep asking, to try answering and to keep creating. Because, “Running water never grows stale. So, baby, you just have to keep on flowing.”*


*Bruce Lee.