I Love The Blues

I love the blues. Chances are you do too. Blues music is the root of 96.8% of all popular music. Taylor Swift? Check. Modest Mouse? Absolutely The Beatles? Duh.

But I’m really talking about the original blues. The 1-4-5. 12 bar progressions, heavy with pentatonic improvisations and low down funky underlying rhythm. Think B.B King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters. Mississippi John Hurt.

There’s something in the way Sonny Boy Williamson makes a harmonica scream that gives me literal goosebumps on my flesh.

Sound to skin contact. That is as close to magic as I know.

I don’t know if it’s because of the primal simplicity of the chord progressions that I love; much like an engineer would admire the structure of roman arches.

Lester Young, an influential jazz saxophonist, said “If you can’t play the blues, you can’t play shit.”

I tend to agree. The blues are the building blocks of modern music. And while most just play with the building blocks for a while before progressing to the next creative phase, it is those who take the elementary blocks and make masterpieces out of them that fascinates me.

Isn’t everyone fascinated when someone builds a huge replica of the star ship Enterprise out of Legos? Or creates elaborate sand kingdoms on the beach?. Of course it would be longer lasting and more refined if the medium were more permanent and illustrious, but that misses the point.

The blues do not aim to be accepted and renowned in rich concert halls. The blues are a moment. The blues are the heavy heart of anyone who has known the depths of trouble. The blues are for anyone who feels happy on a sunny day after the rain. The blues are elemental: fear, anger, lust, joy, admiration, respect, sadness. It’s all in the blues

Sometimes it’s nice to simply feel without inspecting the feelings. The blues are a prescription for getting your head out of your ass.

The blues always leave me feeling like I’m sitting on top of the world. Yes, that was a cheesy way to insert that hyperlink. Get over it and listen to some blues.

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The Meaning of Your Life

I really do not intend for all my posts to be about such serious topics.

It’s just that nothing funny has happened around me in the past few days to spark any ideas.

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                                   This kind of serious.   

So, back to serious.

It’s amazing that people have no idea what they want to be in life. There are so many people and so many things to do. The options are close to mathematically infinite. You either love infinity or hate it. But, that’s another post altogether. You’re, just looking for what you want to be when you grow up (this concept has very little to do with age).

Under the age of fourteen, it’s easy. The football playing, aeronautic engineer who also speaks Japanese version of yourself is tight. That person’s going to be awesome.

Except they’re dead now, murdered by the societal gauntlet you are assaulted by daily, the fatal stab provided by yourself.

I know, you just want to be a “good” person, who makes large amounts of dollar numbers to go into your number account. That’s why you tried to get good grade numbers in school, so that eventually you’d earn more money numbers someday. There was no final, life-defining reason behind earning the numbers back then, so why should there be now?

Oh, sorry, YOU’RE here, I nearly forgot. YOU love your life and are living with fat saucy purpose, free of existential guilt. YOU can stop reading here, because YOU truly know it all.

Man I hate that person. Anyways…

You don’t know how to earn money doing what you love. That’s fine. I bet you know a few things you like, start there. Though, more importantly, I bet you know a lot of things you don’t like. Excellent. Don’t do those. Listen to Isaac Morehouse when he says “don’t do stuff you hate” or better yet buy his book of the same name.  

Not doing what you hate is a great place to start. You know these things. If you don’t, then get out there and start failing!

Failing sucks.

It’s a great teacher because of that fact. Just don’t stop trying because you’ve been hurt by failure. If you stop because you hurt, then you don’t know how to learn. Find a reason for the failure and turn that into the most grateful lesson of your life. It’s ok to exaggerate here. Just be positive about it.

Positive exaggeration is a good way to forget the bad shit. Just don’t go around shoving it down other people’s throats. No one likes super positive Sally smiling and bragging about the tourniquet on her severed leg. Don’t be fake.

Keep trying. Something you can tolerate will stick eventually. And that’s where most people stop. Not you.

You want to be part of something you truly enjoy. I’m not saying this necessarily has to be how you receive monetary compensation. There are accountants out there who like they’re job alright, but they really love that it provides them monetary freedom to write music at night. They love their life. Is that a problem? I don’t think so.

You’re job does not have to be the reason you are happy, but it can easily be the reason you are unhappy.

If this is the case with you, leave it. You found another thing you hate. Sweet painful success!

Keep finding out who you are. This process may never end for the rest of your life, and no one else will find the answer except you. You’re the only person who has to live with you for the rest of your life.
Are you really going to keep living with a pissed off you inside your head?

Why You Hate Your Job

I’m sorry, I wasn’t speaking to YOU. I know YOU love your job. YOU can stop reading this.

Now that they’re gone, we can chat.

So, you hate your job? I’ve been there. I’m close to there currently. I dislike my job right now. I don’t hate it yet, but if it weren’t a seasonal position that was about to end anyways, I could see hate as the next logical step.

Oh well, you gotta make a living right? Yes, and no.

You must provide for your own material existence and those who are dependent on you. Yes.

You must do something you dislike or hate to provide said material existence. No.

Ah, and now you think I’m going to suggest you do something you looove to provide material necessities.  Yes and no.

You want to be a singer/dancer/musician/painter/naturalist/athlete but either none of them pay enough or they require exceptional talent that few possess.

Well then, I guess YOU should go back to your cubicle/service counter and stop reading this also.

Let’s take a trip into your mind. Better yet how about you do that yourself. I’ll stay out. But go in with this question:

What choices are immediately available to me, that go in the direction of what I love, that I am ignoring due to what someone else might think?

Could be your father, your spouse, your boss, your friend group, yourself, anyone whose opinion of you would change. Really it is everybody.

My god what would they all think of you? How could you quit your job, sell your car and not renew your lease, then have the audacity to move to Colombia for three months to learn Spanish?! You selfish monster.

Or sweet Jesus, she’s lost her mind. She’s going to night school to learn welding? Coming back with burnt trousers and burns on her fingers? Why can’t she just be satisfied taking customer complaints all day? She will fail.

The thing is people assume you will fail if you try something new. Or worse they’ll softly and falsely wish you luck, waiting for you to fail so they can justify their own lack of ambition.

The thing is, you might fail. And that’s ok. I’m not here to motivate you and give you reasons to keep going. Either you have them inside or you don’t. All I want is for you to ask the question to yourself:

What would I do if I listened to no one else’s opinion about what I REALLY want to do?

I know what you’re thinking, what does this have to do with my job?

Imagine: You’re looking through a telescope at a crazy beautiful mountain peak of what you desire.

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When you take your eye away from the lens you get the perspective of all the shit in the way. That peak is FAR AWAY! There are seas between you and it. Those seas are full of sharks! There are dark jungles full of venomous snakes disguised as branches.

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                                    Or worse, you could run into this guy:

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The jungle turns into freezing high plain steppes with no water. Then treacherous foothills traverse crevasse laden glaciers full of skeletons. Finally you’ve got to climb vertically with an old worn out cotton rope for safety and your bloody raw frostbitten fingers.

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All of this to get to that happy peak of perfection that you saw from far away. From where it looked desirous. You might not like it when you’re there. You might end up not liking it 1/10th of the way there.

The real secret is that, in the end, the peak was never the purpose.

Right now you are sitting in a plush chair surrounded by friends doing the same. Probably drinking cold drinks and laughing at the latest binge-worthy content. You can take it easy forever. A paycheck is the soft pillow beneath your ass or worse, it could be a pair of gold handcuffs that you’re still $89,000 in debt for. Why should you get up? How could you?

A job is a social signal that you are ok and no one needs to judge or worry about you. And if you are truly happy knowing this then I love you for it.

Liking where YOU are in life is not bad at all. But why are YOU still reading this? I thought I told YOU to stop reading this at the beginning.

Anyways…

I’m talking to you.

You know you can do more. You might even know what it is and can see it in the distance. You might have no idea, but are scared to begin the introspection to find out. And why should you? At least there’s a check in the bank account next week.

This is why you hate your job. It’s easier than hating yourself. At least hating yourself leads to real answers.

 

Burned to Learn

You need to get burned to learn.

I don’t literally mean you must touch fire to understand the negative consequences of heat. I’m sure there are plenty of people that never touched the stove in innocence only to recoil in pain and horror at the injustice of physics.

Though, I was not one of those kids. I definitely touched the stove.

What I mean is that in order to learn the lessons you really need to learn, you better get ready for some pain. All kinds of hurt: emotional, physical, philosophical, existential.

The secret is…you cannot avoid it.

There are two types of alcoholics. Both types wake up one day and look at the shitty shell of themselves they’ve become. One type keeps drinking to suppress the shame, the other gets up and does something about it. What would you do? Drink to ignore the facts or put the bottle down and walk 5 crying miles through the rain? Sometimes a long rainy walk is the cathartic fire extinguisher we all need for any problem.

This metaphor applies to people obsessed with politics, bad employment, negative relationships, etc.

Personally, I would probably still be following politics if I hadn’t made myself sick for four years getting upset at so many things outside my control that led to poison in so many other aspects of my life. Because one fire starts other fires. The burn only spreads until you train yourself to leave it alone or put the damn thing out!

Not everyone needs to learn the same lessons in life. Most don’t need to learn any at all for certain things. I’ve never needed a real life visceral example to know not to murder someone. I’ve never had the real urge, and honestly the whole business seems a bit icky. Though murder still happens. Some people struggle with it. I cannot relate to their specific problem, but I can relate to having problems.

Wouldn’t it be so great if at the age of nineteen we knew exactly what would make us happy by the age of 87 and we followed that plan step by step smiling the whole way. Improving the world as we skipped merrily along, feeding poor children and petting abused animals. I already hate this smug person I just invented.

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Most people have a urge to change the world! For the better! YES! This is a great urge. So they go about it in the means they know of best! 99.99999% of people fail. Some right off the bat, or some 30 years into the game. What do you do after the burn? Keep touching the fire or get a bandage and a fire extinguisher?

El Tornillo de Cocaína

After I graduated college, two buddies and I drove 7,000 miles very quickly, with the intent of touring as many breweries and national parks as possible. It all went very well for the most part with lots of laughs, adventures and the inevitable meltdown. It was a helluva trip. That’s not what I’m going to write about.

It’s July, I graduated college in May. I did my blowout, standard celebratory trip. Now what? 

So I moved to Santa Fe and became a sous chef. Clearly, the natural thing one should do in my situation.

I only meant to stay in Santa Fe for a week or so while visiting my Dad, who lived there at the time. My mind’s plan was to move to Missoula, Montana, which I had visited in the aforementioned road journey.

Instead of following that plan my Mind said “hey, why not work for a month or so here in town before moving?”You’re living with your Dad, saving money, double down and earn some too!”

Fair enough, Mind.

My mind can be a real funny shit.

The first interview I went to was at a new wine bistro in downtown Santa Fe. The owner was a famous chef around town looking to create her own place with her own style.

I was twenty-three, knew how to look people in the eye during an interview, and had a tattoo of an avocado on my shoulder.

I got the job. Though, I did have some previous professional cooking experience, I should have been laughed out of an interview for a sous chef position. I should never have been granted that interview. Perhaps the first sign of imminent failure, in retrospect.

My new chef Carlos, our dishwasher Eríc, and I busted our asses to get the restaurant ready for opening day. Seven days a week, twelve or more hours a day in our 20X20 old adobe kitchen. There was no AC, but we did have one window that opened half-way, with a little fan blowing in that sweet 90 degree New Mexico summer air.

The best thing about that job was getting to practice Spanish all day.

It wasn’t a terribly hard menu to learn, and within two weeks, we were open. And the troubles really began.

Look, we all have problems. Some people wear too much make up. Some people fart in crowded buses. Some people like to get absolutely wrecked on foreign substances to the body and pretend they have no problem. My boss, the owner, belonged to the latter group.

It became apparent after a few weeks of working with her that there was always an opened bottle of wine in the walk-in fridge. After a few more weeks it became apparent that bottles which were there in the morning were consumed by noon, and replaced with new bottles. OK. Fine. Chefs are notorious for being able to handle their booze and be rockstars, which is why it’s so sexy to want to be a chef anyways.

Then, one day before dinner service, like right before service, I’m trying to get my mis ready. Everything in its place. It’s how cooks make your stupid food and food for ninety others quickly.

She calls me into her office. She’s a little tipsy, but what’s new? I am told to go to her bank and pull out $400 for her. Besides being a baffled as to why (a little weed, she says), I’m pissed. She is, and has been sitting in the office unhurried by anything. I’m trying to run her goddamn restaurant and she’s sending me out to run bitch boy errands for her for weed money (which actually turned out to be coke money).

So, I do it. I get her stupid money and start rushing to get in the flow of the night. I am unaware of the cocaine fueled gigglefest going on in the office as Carlos and I are getting slammed. Trusty El Salvadorian Eríc was deep in the dishes, fighting the dirty fight. We were pretty good, us three. Then comes in the cocaine tornado. El tornillo de cocaína. Don’t translate that. It doesn’t make sense.

Anyways, she’s obviously having a blast and singing snippets of the John Prine I had playing.

“Oooooo” she squealed “John Prine, ohhhh, love it!”

“Ohhh my very first job I said thank you and please, they made me scrub a parking lot down on my knees, but then I got fired for being scared of bees, they only paid me fifty cents an hour.” She sang loudly and coarsely along. A fairly appropriate song, looking back.

Then she sidles over to me and is just being a general asshat. I’m preparing an appetizer when she notices my shirt has a small hole in the fabric of armpit.

“Woop! You got a hole!” She giggled and proceeded to stick her finger in the hole and yank downwards hard, ripping my shirt all the way open. Hell no.

This was my black shirt with a artistically done picture of the cover of Led Zeppelin II. It was a pretty sweet shirt. Damn, I still miss it.

I got mad. Pretty pissed. I am harshing her vibe, so she leaves and I work the rest of the dinner shift with my nipple and armpit hanging out in the breeze.

The next day is Sunday. My first day off in a long while. I cannot explain how much I wanted this day off.

Instead she wants me to come in and watch over the brunch shift, which is already fully manned.

I didn’t show up. I didn’t listen to any of her voicemails. I went to Montana.

College Sucked My Hustle

College sucked my hustle away from me. With my consent.

At age twenty-three, the hungover scholastic shell of my former self had a silly piece of paper that many believe is a sure sign of success. The almighty diploma. Hail.

After seventeen years of mostly continuous schooling, I was out. No job, no money, no prospects. Semi trucks blowing by, kicking up dust on the side of the highway. No idea how the real economy worked.

I’m not saying I used to be this great entrepreneur with an highly successful track record, but I was trying. Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad changed my life at the age of twelve. I was absolutely sure that I was going to be a self employed man for the rest of my life. Creating wealth through innovation and living a time-rich lifestyle. I ran my own small and unsuccessful bike repair business. I failed trying to put vending machines at paintball ranges. I used to wake up hours before any of my classmates in high school and walk for miles while listening to these new things called podcasts back in 2006.I graduated high school a year early to hike the Appalachian Trail.

I felt like I was building up steam towards some sort of summit. Which was only too true, it was a peak, and the top of that mountain had a backside. I went to college.

Of course I went to college. It is the obvious, safe, irreproachable course to take once you have circled the sun 18 times.  Then you are granted access to the magic institution of “higher learning” where you will learn how to adult and become professional at things.

Perhaps this is true for some. It was not for me.

I began as an english major because books are good, obviously. Then, about half way through college, I realized knowing verses from Chaucer might be completely useless in the economy, so I got a B.S. in geography. Because knowing where the deepest lake in the world is or how the Himalayas were formed is highly monetizable. The classes, which taught no skills in value creation or what a real job might look like, were easily ignored.  I passed them all fine and had to occupy the rest of my sentence.

Most of my time during my college years was working part time jobs to pay for my rent, food, and rising cost of beer. You see, I went to college during the craft beer explosion. Budweiser was not acceptable anymore after tasting any beer from Sierra Nevada. Combine the fun habits with all the new people and the excitement of living on your own, in central Texas with beautiful rivers, live music, gorgeous women, and you get a time vortex of astounding depth.

Looking back, I should have dropped out. I actually did once. I was sure it was indefinite, but strangely enough, I began feeling good again, and like some Stockholm syndrome addled patient, I returned to the abusive institution.

Years went by. Classes, grades, beer bottles pile up. Then it’s all done. I wake up one Thursday and I’m a college graduate.

There I am, standing in the dust by the highway. Jobless, broke, a destructive relationship with alcohol, holding a diploma. How do I get a job? Wait, do I even want a job? I didn’t even remember who I was just 4 years before. What just happened?

This isn’t a diatribe against the idea of college, only the reality as I, and so many others have experienced it.

Luckily, this is not a sad story for me to recount. I am extremely grateful for my life experiences, past, present and hopefully future.

Just because you made bad decisions for five, fifteen, or thirty years does not mean it’s too late.

Remember who you really are, and be that.

Welcome to Canada, We’re so Sorry!

“Welcome to Canada! We’re so sorry!”

I turned my head quickly to see if I read that sign correctly, but it’s too late. I’m cruising down the pothole filled road at a snappy 100 kilometers per hour. I was heading to Winnipeg, gloryhole of the north.

I’ve been living in a town with a population of 700 people  in northern Minnesota for the summer. It’s been nice. My commute to work is 60 seconds. There are no drive-thrus of any type. Not a single stop light in the entire county. The long prairie trains roll through town regularly. Always passing by, never stopping. Carrying their loads of grain, canola oil, broom handles, stuffed penguins, etc.

After a train passes, the quiet air settles down, punctuated by distant lawn mowers and cicadas.

This small town existence is idyllic for me. Big cities and I do not see eye to eye. So why in the hell was I going to Winnipeg? 

Winnipeg: A city of over a million people in the southern part of Manitoba. Locals call it “The Heart of Canada”, based on its geographical centricity to the landmass of Canada. Also, I think Canada felt guilty and tried to find something nice to say about their ugly child. Winnipeg is also the murder capital of Canada. The downtown is situated at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine (which I pronounce as cinnabon) rivers. Large and muddy, this confluence is known as The Forks and is the center of the only real touristy area I know of in the city. It’s ok. For someone coming from nowheresville it had more stimuli than I could want. But to someone coming from a bigger city I could imagine the letdown.

I stayed a few blocks from the downtown area in an AirBnB apartment. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe the apartment building was some sort of rent controlled situation thriving with Filipinos. Twenty stories tall with ancient carpet in the halls. The cooking smells of current and yesteryear were potent. One evening someone must’ve cooked an entire swordfish, spreading its oily essence through the air on my floor. One evening it was pepper spray. Apparently some woman had sprayed her lover. The capsicum was thick in the air as I sneezed and coughed my way to the stairwell. Ah, people.

Outside, ethnicity! Ethiopians, Somalis, Vietnamese, Filipinos, crazy guys in wheelchairs! It was a real delicatessen of people watching.

So we drank, ate, walked fifteen miles, absorbed Canada. That was Winnipeg. Too much for me. No amount of delicious Ethiopian food or Pho makes up for how dirty, loud, and violent this city is. At one point in the night I remember hearing an all out tribal war erupting. Screams, cries of the wounded, sirens waxing and waning from earshot. I drifted back to sleep thankful I was seven stories above the maddening torment and hellfire. I woke up refreshed and ready to leave, glad this place was going to burn down without me as a witness

All big cities make me feel this way.

I’ll take a quite prairie night with birds chirping in the cattails anytime.

What Did You Change Today?

What did you change today?

Anything? The amount of food in your belly? The volume of coffee in your tummy?

Did you feed a rabbit from your garden? Did you fill up the gas tank in your car?

Who are you affecting besides yourself? Did you smile at that cashier genuinely? Were you actually glad for the transaction? That sandwich you’re now eating is sustaining your life force, are you actually grateful for that? Or are you just consuming and expelling, your only goal being purposeless continuation of consumption?

A lot of questions, I know. I’m not done.

Did you help anybody or anything? Did you practice that thing you know you should practice but is hard? Did you call that person you know you should call? Or did you make a grilled cheese and watch the internet? Yes, you can watch the internet. You can also interact with the internet and create connections and better yourself. I hope you did the latter. Also, did you pay your internet bill?

Did you set yourself up for tomorrow? Is your bed made? Is your heart giving you small twinges of pain occasionally? Did you go for a walk?

All these questions are about to give me a heart attack. Heart attacks are as serious as you make them. Make sure you are questioning your actions. If not, you are going to be 57 one day and have no idea why you’re wearing weird ugly white sneakers and sitting in 3 hours of traffic a day.

Start acting. Call them. Walk there. Buy that plane ticket. Take a picture and don’t share it with anyone. Sing whatever song is in your head, loudly. Study. Play. Live.

 

Just Saving The Planet

A friend threw their glass bottle into one of the many recycling containers at Whole Foods.

“Just saving the planet” they remarked. We walked on with nothing else said about it.

I know this person. I understand their levels of facetiousness. It was a casual remark with a hint of irony. OK. Though this innocuous statement poked the hamster in my brain wheel to action. Why are we saving the planet? What is saving the planet?

I hear it all too often in various forms.

“Save the planet!” some demand angrily.

“I’m saving the planet!” some exclaim, quite smugly, while eating Sun Chips in a compostable bag.

What the hell are these people talking about?

The planet earth is an oblate geoid attempting to careen through space, held in check by the gravity well of our sun.

The planet wants to explode and implode, fly through gamma rays and into other star clusters. Just to say hello.

The planet does not notice there are creatures living on its humid, warty back claiming sovereignty and rights to mine its many zits and pores; Shaving its armpits of vegetation and bombing its skin.

The planet is as aware of us and the zebras as you are of all the microbes feasting on your skin right this second.

The earth could scrape us off its body with glaciers and feel as much guilt about it as you do when you roll over in your sleep and squash a lady bug. Or darken our skies with volcanic ash for decades and starve us into submission without losing a beat.

Our planet is kind of a jerk.

What all of these planet savers are really trying to say is: “We want to protect the future of humanity on the planet.”

Which I tend to agree with. And so do you, probably. Most everybody, whether because it’s genetically hard wired or culturally appeasing wants a future.

The planet does not give a shit about us. As previously mentioned, it would rather be partying without its magnetosphere on in alpha centauri with some supernova right now.

Screw the planet. I like humans, being one might bias my belief structure a bit. I think we’re pretty neat and just alright.

I find it odd that most often the “planet savers” (who are actually humanists) propose solutions that would kill many humans. Genetically modified golden rice with vitamin A to cure eye diseases in millions of children is villainized by Greenpeace. The Wilderness Society decries attempts to put wild lands back in private hands, when the federal government has done the most environmental destruction of any group. Practically any person who is on the internet too much wants the world to switch immediately to solar and wind even though that would surely kill hundreds of millions of people in a relatively short time.

Why are these Planet (human) Savers trying to destroy so many humans?

Serious answers to this question deserve books addressing psychology, philosophy, sociology, technology.

I aim to only raise the question here. Stimulate the thought wheels in your noggin and create a discourse.

Ok, you can go back to looking at cat videos now. Thank you for your time.

 

Stop Being Scared

Stop being scared.

Easy for me to say, right? Or easier said than done. Or screw you, don’t tell me what to do.

Those are some nice examples of responses from scared people.

I see scared people everywhere. They pervade every aspect of our culture. Their pessimistic dribble covers the internet.

To be clear, I’m not talking about fear.

Fear is not bad. That elemental, neck prickling sensation, breathing low and heavy in the dark. That’s real and powerful. Fear can be one of the best survival tools in the right context.

Thing is, we hardly ever enter that context here in the U.S.

When was the last time you were walking down a dark alley in south Chicago by yourself? Surrounded by a screaming angered mob? Bleeding out of your femoral artery far from help?

These situations should inspire fear. Fear keeps you alive.

Fear is not the same as being scared.

Fear is a gut based electricity that provides an instinctive step by step plan to survive. Fear is time slowing down, and stretching in front of your eyes as the car next to you swerves into your passenger door.

Being scared is a failure of emotional response. Being scared is an excuse to not take any constructive action in the face of dissatisfaction. Being scared allows you to criticize without creating. Being scared does not alleviate problems, it feeds on them. Multiplies them.

One sure sign of being scared is attempting to diffuse it upon others.

Being scared creates the opportunity for the army of internet activists to state their obligatory pessimistic two cents and rest easy knowing that everything is ruined anyways and they did their best.

The thing is you never know your best until you go beyond comfortable actions. Which can be scary. You sure as hell won’t fix any problems by complaining about them.

Get up and go outside, into the world. Do something good for somebody or something and don’t tell anyone about it. Do this once a day, week, or month. Never mention your good deed to anybody, ever, for any reason. Do it selfishly. Receive a quiet thanks from the world and move on with gratitude for life.