Epitome

In response to Daily Prompt (Epitome)

It was hard for me to understand exactly what my words were worth. I spent so much time comparing myself to those around me, by aspiring to the greatness achieved by others. I never once took the time to think introspectively.

It seems like such a daunting task to emulate those who came before me, but so much more terrifying to try to be myself.

The most important thing one can do as a writer, in my humble opinion, is to focus less on the external. Don’t worry so much about who you compare yourself to, be the epitome of yourself.

Epitomize greatness, in such a way that only you can. No one else can understand your tragedies and triumphs. No one else can view the world through your eyes. No one else can wield the pen in your hand quite like you can. If that’s not greatness, I don’t know what is.

Epitomize curiosity. You are here for a reason. You pore over texts innumerable, write pages unfathomable, see scenes from a perspective that belongs to no one else. You analyze the works of others through the measure of your experience. The lens with which you are equipped is unparalleled, don’t allow the endless murmurings of others to engulf them in fog.

Epitomize courage. If you think it’s an easy task to take a piece of your soul and give it to the world, you’re sorely mistaken. As writers, anything we publish — big or small — is a piece of ourselves. That in and of itself is an act paramount to being a paragon of pluck! There are so many out there who will judge this, I am sure there are quite a few out there who will hate it. They’ll find it mediocre, boring, poorly constructed. All of that may be true, but I’ll be damned if I won’t publish it. Waiting for a piece to be perfect would be to ensure it is never seen by another. Have the guts to try and fail.

The best and worst parts of you as a person materialize through the letters that dance across the screen or page as you compose them. Don’t waste time attempting to master another’s form. Your dance is worth remembering. Make no mistake, if you are the epitome of yourself, you will never dance alone.

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Rain Check Ruminations & Cafe Catharsis 

On a Saturday morning, the best place I could have come was this little cafe. I was originally supposed to be meeting a girl here, but things fell through approximately 30 minutes before the date. C’est la vie.

That’s been my luck of late. Oh, and when I say, “Of late,” I mean for the last year or so. I feel as though I’m sending off some ubiquitous signal to all the women of the world, and once this signal is processed, computed, tabulated and filtered through their minds, they come to the conclusion that I am completely undesirable. C’est la vie.

Alas, the life of a bachelor can be lonely, but it is not without its benefits.

Think of all the money I’m saving, not bound by the obligations of anniversary gifts or paying for someone else’s dinner. Think of the heartbreak I’m saving myself when the girl ultimately comes to the conclusion that I am entirely too eccentric to take home to her parents. Really, I’m coming out on top in this arrangement. Say it with me, “c’est la vie.”

That’s enough about my non-existent love life, let’s discuss this cafe in a little more detail.

It can best be described as a down-to-earth vignette of a bygone era. The walls around me play host to portraits of all of Delaware’s past serving Governors. One, in particular, placed purposefully behind a small light in the corner, is a silhouette. “Joseph Maull, 1846,” the inscription reads. I wonder why, of all the governors here, he is the sole soul who is displayed in shadow rather than light.

Ahead of me, I see a small, squat man donning a cheese cutter hat. He mixes a Jameson and Ginger Ale behind a simple oak bar. A bit early for a drink in my opinion, but to each their own. The bar itself is only just visible through an antechamber adorned with a simple chandelier. The bar doors are painted in bright crimson, a departure from the dark creme color which every other doorway seems to sport.

The employees, all of whom are dressed completely black, dart in and out of view like shadows dancing behind candlelight. It is strangely beautiful in its simplicity. The most beautiful visions can arise from the most unassuming things, like early morning dew on cobwebs, or a patch of oil spilled on parking lot pavement, reminiscent of a rainbow. I sat there for a moment, engrossed in this shadowy dance. I just wish there were someone with whom I could share this scene.

It is far too dreary of a day for dates or disappointment for that matter. I am thankful for this time, for this cafe, for the comically large coffee cup beside me and for a little inspiration. Most of all, I think I’m thankful for the shadows.

My mind drifts back to the Jameson and Ginger. I wonder who might be ordering such an innocuous drink at such a conspicuous hour, in such an inconceivable place. Never before in my experience, albeit limited, have I seen a fully stocked bar in a coffee shop. It seems to be a bit of a dissonance of purpose, offering both stimulant and depressant. Granted, as I can attest to quite well at this point, mixing intellectual stimulus with a tinge of depression can have an unforeseeable, albeit auspicious outcome.

Seeming so out of place, I recall that the bar is marked in kind, the entranceway of which is jovially decorated in that curious crimson shade. A departure from its drab surroundings, it offers a pleasing alternative, an escape. Perhaps that is another thing to add to the list of things for which I was thankful for this waterlogged weekend, escape.

I sit back in my chair, taking a long pull from the long cold coffee sitting beside me, wondering if my life were in need of its own red door. Of all the things I’ve encumbered myself with, all the projects left half-finished, the invitations accepted and disseminated, the additional duties undertaken, the bits and pieces of my soul given to those who truly don’t deserve it. I was in need escape. I needed a moment for myself. I needed, funnily enough, a rain check.

Pushing my glasses up the bridge of my nose, I pondered this new angle of viewing a previously dreary day. I believe the requested rain check was the best thing that could have happened to me at this point. I honestly think that what I needed most was not a Dulcinea, but rather a drink.

ASIDE

Now, dear readers, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m seeking my red door through a bottle. Fret not, that is not at all the intention of the most recent, non-italicized line. Take a deep breath, and keep reading.

I stood up from my seat, pausing to twist out a few creaks and cracks from my back, which had spent the better part of two hours hunched over my laptop. The motion elicited a pleasing ripple of pops from my stressed vertebrae. I meandered away from my temporary workspace, stepping through one of the drab doorways into the main cafe. I allowed my eyes to linger on a particularly delicious-looking macaroon.

Its eggshell like sheen captured perfectly under the fluorescent lights installed about the counter. I shook my head, remembering one of the essential commitments I had made, the commitment to my wallet. The red door came to the forefront of my mind once again, and I came to my lack of senses. I ordered a fresh coffee, and one fateful, bright red macaroon.

As I returned to my seat, I felt overwhelmed with childlike glee. I took a bite of the macaroon and let the flavor of raspberry flood my mouth. I closed my eyes, making a conscious effort to avoid making my enjoyment too audible. This simple morsel served as a simpler gesture. I felt as though I was far too tightly encased in a shell of expectations to aim for the red door immediately. Instead, I took a simple, pleasurable, measurable and easily repeatable escape. Small though it was, its impact was noticeable immediately.

I realized for a moment, the burden of my worries were somehow lessened. I was no longer concerned about the fifteen briefings I had to deliver, the pieces of training I needed to complete, the emails to grind through, the projects to develop, the company to keep, the words to speak. No, in that moment nothing mattered — nothing more than the sweet tang of that raspberry macaroon.

In this moment, I’d like to address the shell that has ensnared me, the crushing weight of my responsibilities and general grievances. Do you think I could have a rain check?

Living The American Dream

I’m living the American Dream. I say that quite often. As a matter of fact, I say that every time someone asks me how I’m doing that day. I’ve been told the expression makes people sick. They believe me to be a liar, they say no one believes me, they say that it can’t be true.

Why?

I’ve made mistakes, I’ve fallen farther than I ever believe possible, but I pulled myself up. I take the opportunity every day to stand a little straighter when they try to bend me. I speak a little louder to rise above their malefic murmurings. I smile a little brighter when they try to cast their failings on me because I’m living the American Dream.

But that can’t be true.

And why not? Because you’re not living it? Sorry to say at 21 years old I have more self-assurance than you do in your advanced years. My deepest apologies that I have conquered the tumults, the tragedies, the existential despair that you have become ensnared in because I AM living the American Dream. 

It makes me sick when you say that.

Do I make you sick when I say a simple phrase? Or is the cutting reality of your own weakness what sets your stomach in knots? What’s more nauseating, my optimism or your perennial pessimism? Take a moment and think about it, I implore you.

It is so easy, I promise. The American Dream isn’t having a McMansion, a white picket fence made in China, 2.5 kids in an unhappy marriage. No, the American Dream is knowing you have the choice to make tomorrow just an inch better than today.

So yes, I am living the American Dream. Won’t you stop complaining about it and just join me?

Tripe

How can one who has seen your soul find your presence so profane?

How can one who has breathed deeply of your secrets show so much disdain?

While that may seem to be folly, you wreath it with garland and holly. Praising it as an Olympiad would be, favoring those who look but do not truly see.

But who am I?

Do I stand for any virtue? My very presence seems both welcomed and abhorred. Your indecisive nature I’ve far too long endured. The time of my yielding has come and gone. Through the shadows of dread I greet a new dawn.

(TRIPE)

Nero

I occasionally struggle with being a horrible person.

You see, most people struggle with self-control issues; drinking, gambling, eating too much cake. But me? No, I struggle with being venomous, callous, arrogant, eating too much cake.

I don’t know where I first began my contention. People go about every day being but twice removed from Nero without a second thought. But me? Sometimes I leap from my bed wanting to be kind and nurturing. But sometimes I want to play the fiddle while I watch my city burn.

Is that a character flaw? Maybe, but I will contend I am not as near to Nero as those who stoke my city’s flame.

So, yes, I occasionally struggle with being a horrible person. So if the day comes when you hear the haunting tones of my fiddle, know it was you who struck the match.