A Message from The Human You Will Never Be Again by Orey Wilson

While frantically searching for some documents for the BMV, I found a letter I had written to myself in December of 2015. I had planned on reading it in December of last year, but it had gotten tucked away during my move to Ohio. And, when I read it... well, it was weird. 

First of all, Past-Me was happy AF, as he was preparing for New Years. He began listing out all the things going on in his life, so I could remember what he was experiencing.

Past-Me talked about the books I was reading and the classes I was taking. He talked about the friends I had collected around myself. I talked about my writing, and my RPGs, and my job. I talked about the guy I was dating. That was all kind of hard to hear, knowing how everything was getting ready to change for him. He was on the brink of losing basically everything and coming back to Ohio.

But, it was the last paragraph of the letter that really got to me. He was writing, not about himself, but about me. I'm going to quote it directly, even though I wasn't sure if I wanted you all to hear this. But, to explain my point of view, I felt that it was important. 

I hope you love your job. I hope you're writing. I hope you're reading (and enjoying it). I hope you're cooking amazing meals. I hope you're not cutting. I hope you're not puking. I hope you don't look in every mirror you pass to examine your gut. I hope you love your friends. I hope they love you. Remember Desiderata when you feel lost. 'This is my substitute for the pistol and ball.' Seek the White Whale. Hail Kings. Promise things to yourself and keep those promises. Love yourself as much as I love the idea of you. Live up to my dreams. Live. 

It's signed, "The Human you will never be again". 

Well, let me start by saying this made going to the BMV a far more existential experience than planned. This bastard had so much hope and so much happiness. He cared about me so deeply. More than the life he was enjoying at the moment, he concerned himself with the life I had now. He didn't know how different it would be. He didn't know all his plans would change. But, he didn't care; he wanted me to be happy. His final word said it all: he wanted me to live. 

So, how am I to react to something like this? At first I got thrown into a fucked-up place, thinking I had failed my former-self. But, had I really? I had made it through the biggest life-altering time in my adulthood. I stayed positive and looked at it as an adventure, not a punishment. I had come back to Ohio, changed. I'm not the guy I was when I lived in German Village, listening to Pippin and dreaming of my Corner of the Sky. My two years alone in Philadelphia had helped to mature me in ways I didn't realize were needed. It was immersive therapy that pulled me back from the edge. In those years of intensive reflection and writing, I finally left my bedroom, raced through the shifting walls of the Labyrinth to find that I was the Goblin King and could leave anytime I wished. 

What does this mean for the human I'm currently inhabiting? Well, my life still feels like a lava-lamp of instability. I feel like I can't trust any of this, for fear it might sink away from me. But, the one thing I know is that I can count on is me, the hundreds of thousands of me's that look toward me, telling me to keep going forward. Maybe the Human I will never be again knew something then that I somehow forgot. The beauty of this life is that we can't see what's coming next. We are the only part of it that we are sure will be with us. I depend on me and the world made sure I remembered. 

So, Past-Me, I hope I can make you proud. I'm still seeking the White Whale. I'm keeping my promises. I'm still living, even if it's not the life you expected. 

Now, let's wait for the us-from-a-year-from-now and see how he's doing.

Coping, Couplets, & Character Sheets: My Need for Fiction In A Too-Real World by Orey Wilson

I've never liked talking about politics. My family had (has) very strong, immobile views about many things and their opinions were thrown at me like battery acid water balloons most of my childhood. I learned at an early age that if politics came up, leaving the room would typically save you an hour or so of listening to screaming.

Now, in a world were the political climate (much like the world's climate) is getting hotter and more unavoidably awful. Let me say this now, this is not a political rant, an invitation to sway your beliefs, or really even a politically-based post. But, I want you to understand why I handle things the way that I do. 

If I, as a 10 year-old, had a question about religion, I couldn't just ask it. It would find its way back around to Rush Limbaugh or Bush and my question would never really be answered. I couldn't ask about race, or I'd just get a bunch of other names for the race without understanding why they were being treated differently. If, heaven help me, I had a question about sexuality, I would get shut down faster then I could say, "Heterosexual". I was forced to find more creative ways of asking questions and, later, ways of answering them for myself.

Recently, I have been asked time and time again why I don't show more of an interest in politics. I hate watching any TV program about it, I curl back into the safety of my phone if it comes up in conversation. But, that doesn't mean I don't think about the "Big Questions". In fact, I think about them all the time. However, instead of bringing them up at the dinner table, I weave them into my stories, poems, and role-playing games.

I've based whole games on racial and religious inequality. In my grad school poetry collection, "Edges of Men & Kings" I hint at undiagnosed mental illness in nearly every other poem. I return to themes of gun-violence, depression, tyrannical leaders, and sexuality over and over. But, my goal is, not to talk about or preach my views of them, but make them intrinsic to the environment of my work. In my working-collection of poems, "Soundtrack for An Apocalypse", I mention sounds of gunshots or far off, unnamed shooters frequently. They aren't the reason for/point of the poem, but they create a backdrop for the poem to cross. I don't write them to give my opinions or change my reader's; they simply are part of my life so they become part of my poems. 

So, how does this help you? What do you get by me releasing my mental blocks in poetry or dice games? Well, last night, as I played through a one-night, sci-fi Western game called "Snake Oil Springs", I realized something. Besides the things I knowingly tuck among my written and spoken narratives, other things get absentmindedly woven in too. I realized that however much danger or fear I put my characters or players in, there's always more to the story. I push them to get them to an end where there is something deeper. I motivate them to find the hope.

I realized then that my writing has become more than just an outlet for the things I can't say; it has become my therapy. It allows me to work through my problems in a format where I can't be hurt by mistakes. I'm free to be creative and wild and haphazard because it's a world of my invention. As lines and stanzas roll off of me, they reflect myself in ways that I can't find in my waking-world. And this gave me an idea: if hope is there, so close under the surface of myself, why can't I harness it everyday, all the time?

I can. And I'm going to try. This world has bad running through it like colors in a funfetti cake. But, that doesn't mean that the cake is ruined. It can still taste delicious. It can still be a simple of celebration. We can have our partially-evil cake and eat it too. (Note to self: Don't write blog posts when you're hungry).

The point is, we can all find Hope somewhere. Hope has no way to protect itself when things get crazy. Like the Gorgonites from Small Soldiers (10 Blog Points if you get the reference), it is designed to take cover and wait when violence and fear begins. Maybe it's in that travel food blog you follow. Maybe it's in that unread Russian novel sitting on your night stand. It could be in that ideal for a screenplay you're never going revisit. For all I know, it might be in the season finale of Westworld (I don't know. I haven't watch it yet.) All I know is that it's out there. Hope isn't dead. It's hiding in works of fiction. Go find it and bring it back here. 

The Age Of Not Believing, or The Search for A Magic Bedknob by Orey Wilson

Last night my roommates and I did a play on our rotational movie night called Goathouse Presents. Instead of just sharing a movie with the others, we decided to make a theme of all nostalgic kid's movies (We called it Kids Presents. Get it? Like kids as in children but also baby goats?...a baby goat is called a kid... like a human- Nevermind, it was funny). I brought to the table my favorite childhood movie (A movie my mom called "my babysitter" because she could just rewind it all day and know that I'd be glued to the TV, entranced.), the classic 1971 film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks

If you haven't seen the movie, it takes place during 1940's England during the bombings of London. A trio of children are moved away from the city into the country home of Miss Price (played by Angela Lansbury) who just happens to be an apprentice witch. They use a travelling bed, powered by a magical bedknob, to carry them all over the world. Miss Price hopes to use her powers to aid in the war effort and, inadvertently, teaches the children the importance of imagination and trusting the power inside themselves. 

Now, one of the songs in this movie (Yes, there are songs. It's a Disney movie. They are very good, often overlooked songs. You should look them up. Go ahead. Get on Youtube. RIght? Portobello Road is so freakin' good!) is called The Age of Not Believing. Miss Price sings it about the oldest child, Charlie, as he scoffs about the possibility of a magically teleporting bed. What a little douche, right? Angela sings:

When you rush around in hopeless circles,
searching everywhere for something true,
you're at the Age of Not Believing
when all the make believe is through.

Although I loved this song growing up, it basically bitch slapped me last night. My inner-monologue was, "Holy fuckballs, this is me literally right now. This is what I do. I'm freakin' Charlie! I hated that snot-nosed punk growing up and I turned into him! Angela would be so disappointed in me..." and then that trailed into a whole thing about how Angela and I would be best friends if we hung out. Which isn't important to this particular blog post.

When did this happen? When did I stop believing in everything?

As I child, I had a Harry Potter music box that I would never open when anyone was in my room. When I wanted to get it out, I'd barricade my door (there was no lock, much to my later-teenage chagrin), and pull the music box down from the lopsided shelf next to my closet. I'd open it up and, as Hedwig's Theme would play, I'd pull my magical artifacts out of the box. This included a burnt out light bulb from a broken lava lamp, the rusted key to my garage sale wardrobe, some polished stones from a roadside stand, and, most importantly, a brass bell with a unicorn-shaped handle. I'd lay all the items out around me as I sat on my bed and, as soon as the music box stopped playing, I'd ring the bell. This formed the barrier between me and the rest of the world. This is where I could use my magic powers without anyone catching me. In that circle of relics, I became a witch, a spellcaster, or at least, I became safe.

Now, I know that this all sounds like just a bunch of hocus pocus (bonus points for anyone that gets that reference). But, after my run-in with a singing Lansbury last night, I couldn't think of the moment that I stopped believing in those relics. When did I give up on the bulb, the bell?

Many people give up all their childhood quirks like believing they had magical powers. But, upon thinking about it, I realized that I still practice many of the "spells" I used to perform to keep my world intact. I get incredibly uncomfortable touching the paint lines of a parking lot. I lift my foot if I'm in the passenger seat of a car and I notice we're passing a telephone pole. And, if someone marks my skin with a pen (or, heaven forbid, a marker) I'll instantly go into a panic. Why did these tics get ingrained into my mind when the belief of my own power disappeared?

So, as I woke up this morning I made a promise to myself to find the magic again. I don't know where I'll find it, whether in a twig, in a line of a book, or in my own thumbnail. But, I don't want to live like a Charlie. Instead, I want to feel as he did as he rushed across the room and leapt onto the bed at the last second as the technicolor lights flashed around him. I don't want to miss out on the plot of the movie.

I also want you to do the same. Yeah, you didn't expect homework did ya, Punk? If you think that you've become a Charlie too, go out this week and find something with magic surging through it. Maybe it's that pen at your work desk that seems to write differently then all the others. Maybe it's that quarter in your car cup-holder that seems to return no matter how many times you put it in your pocket. Maybe it's the front door of your apartment that creates a barrier between you and the rest of the world. 

There is magic ingrained in the world around us. In the bells, in the bulbs, in the bedknobs. You just need to believe in something, even if that something is just yourself, to find it. 

The Party's Over, But Not For Me: An Existential Crisis Brought On By Showtunes by Orey Wilson

This morning, I woke up with a song in my head. It was "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Stephen Sondheim's musical, Company. I'm aware that this is starting off super stereotypically gay, but stay with me. My Grandma (a particularly fascinating woman named, Dary...yeah, Dary) always told me that if you woke up with a song in your head, that it meant something important to you, deep down. I've always held that advice with me and analyzed the tunes trapped in between my ears.

I also have a phone app that shows me a randomized Tarot card everyday. This is a silly thing to follow, but I find it interesting to see how my brain translates the simple message the card is to illustrate. I don't think Tarot cards tell the future but, like ink blot tests, I do think they interact with our brains, telling us about our subconscious. This morning, my card was the Queen of Wands: the feminine master of fiery determination and strength.

So, as I took my morning shower, singing like a banshee under the spray, I decided I needed to listen to my subconscious and do something with it. 

My roommates and I have a movie series called Goathouse Presents where we each choose a favorite movie to show each other. It was my turn to choose (as it typically is, as I take the longest to choose my movies) so I decided to pick "Elaine Stritch At Liberty", a filmed version of her one-woman show. Elaine Stritch is definitely a strong, fiery woman and she originated the song "The Ladies Who Lunch" on Broadway, so it all seemed to be coming together.

Now, choosing a movie that both my roommates will like is not an easy task. One of them prefers movies led by macho-men with rippling biceps who stab dragons in the forehead while the other likes singing, puppets, and satire (not necessarily in that order). So, for me, choosing a movie for Goathouse Presents tends to be a difficult task. But, with my subconscious in charge, I decided to not care what they thought; I wanted to watch this movie today.

So, it began and we watched a 70-something woman scoot around the stage with a bellowing voice and no pants. I was in heaven and my roommates both laughed at appropriate times. But, as it went on, I realized why I didn't watch the movie very often: it makes me incredibly sad.

For anyone who doesn't know, Elaine Stritch is a brilliant, hilarious, Tony-Winning actress. Her story involves dates with Marlon Brando, a relationship with Rock Hudson, Broadway successes and flops, and a lifelong dependence on alcohol. After all of her struggles she still was able to get on stage and tell a beautiful, heart-wrenching story.

As Elaine belted her way through "The Party's Over" from Bells Are Ringing, I watched her relive the pain of giving up booze for a chance to live a life she for which had been absent. It made me think, "Am I absent from my life?" and "What am I missing that I won't see until I'm 70?" and "Will I be happy then with what I'm doing right now?". These are deep, existential questions that plague me frequently, but with New Years and all that "change your life" stuff being so close behind me, it seems to hit closer to home.

A week ago I was preparing to ring in the New Year with my closest friends and now I'm feeling like the emotional equivalent of an abandoned apartment with Season 6 Buffy & Spike inside (anyone who gets that reference to The Vampire Slayer, kudos). Point is, I don't wanna feel like this. I'm constantly anxious about my direction in life, or lack thereof. I try to reinvent myself as much as possible to make the most of the time I have. But, is that enough?

Elaine started singing, "The Ladies Who Lunch" and my entire body began to focus. As she sang, listing off the women who live, but not really, I spiraled deeper into my personal black hole of possibly-melodramatic angst. One section has always hit me close-to-home:

And here's to the girls who just watch—
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
Ah! I'll drink to that.

Am I one of these people, sitting with a glass and waiting for a chance to crap all over someone else's life? Are my innate anxieties coming off as annoyances for others? Does anyone else even notice the things about myself that I notice?

I never thought when I woke up this morning, I'd be prying myself off the emotional rock bottom I hit this afternoon. But, this all got me thinking, "Well, Orey, where do we go from here? It's a week after your yearly life-overhaul and you're moping around already."

So, I took a minute to stop, breathe, and think. Yes. I've taken seven small steps into this year and I'm already feeling the weight of it all on my chest. Yes. The anxious behaviors I had last year were able to find me at my new address in 2017. Yes. I just had an existential crisis from a video of an old woman screeching out showtunes.

But, this is still my life. It doesn't belong to my friends or my music or my anxiety. Too often, I find myself a side character in the show of my life. I want a life worth writing about. I want a life worth singing about. I want a life that feels like New Years everyday.

So, as I pick the little bits of myself out of the carpet and reassemble myself after another panicked identity crisis, I begin cycling a new thought through my head, on repeat: Hold on to that feeling of entering 2017 with your friends. Hold one to the emotion of raising a glass of champagne. Hold on to that feeling of hope that you can change for the better.

I know that a breakdown during the first week of January might translate to others, "This dude's resolutions aren't going to stick". But, I'm still focused on my changes. I want to make myself better, whatever that means. Yes, I'm going to break down sometimes. But, if Elaine Stritch taught me anything with her brilliant life, it is that we can't let one flop, one heartbreak, one brush with death stop us from living.

So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep living. I'm going to bring that hope, and champagne-soaked happiness I felt with me into as many days as I can.

Sure, the party's over, but not for me.

2016: A Year in Review or, Accepting Improvisation by Orey Wilson

This is the best time of the year. The holidays are over and New Years day has come. Now we begin to toss out all the things we said goodbye to in the previous year and showcase the hope and inspiration celebrated at that champagne-tinted midnight. Now is when we get to work.

There were a lot of people freaking out about how terrible last year was. Obviously, everyone had different experiences but, for me, it wasn't an easy one.

Long story short, I began 2016 with a hopeful relationship, a job I loved, a slew of classes left for my degree, and plans to find a new apartment in Philadelphia when the summer rolled around. Unfortunately, by the end of February, I didn't have any of those things. The relationship ended suddenly, I was laid-off my job which caused me to rearrange my classes, graduate early, and relocate back to Columbus.

Now, at the time, this was heartbreaking for me. All my resolutions were crumbling and my life felt as stable as if it were built over some Indiana Jones-inspired trap door, sitting 10 feet above a pit of disgruntled. serpents. I saw others around me in turmoil over politics, accidents, losses, and deaths. By December, it seemed that everyone was tonsil-deep with a gun and ready for 2017 to just end it all already.

But, this all got me thinking: How bad off was I, really? The relationship ending probably saved me a lot of grief when the relocation back to Ohio would've come. The job I had was wonderful but now I'm working at a job that is more in my field and connecting me with other area writers. I'm living in a place I could've never afforded in Philly and I'm around my old friends who I missed like fucking crazy (although, you shouldn't tell them. I have a hardened, brooding reputation to keep up).

As I prepared for my New Years celebration, I considered everything that had happened in the previous 12 months. My life had been completely uprooted but I couldn't say I was worse-off. When trying to sum up that time in a single, "2016 was the year of ____" phrasing, I could only think of one thing: Accepting Improvisation.

We all deal with improvisation in our daily lives. A car accident sends us on a new road for our commute. A stain on our favorite shirt makes us pick out a new outfit for that big, first date. Netflix takes our favorite show off their collections before we finish all the episodes, forcing us to find something brand new to watch (this is hitting particularly close to home at the moment... I was almost done getting through Chopped, you bastards). 

Improvisation and coming up with new means to our ends isn't easy. When our newest president was elected, many people had to swerve off their chosen paths and find a new way to make their lives make sense. Some people shut down, not sure if there was any chance to get at their goals. Some just got angry, refusing to believe it. But, if 2016 has done anything for me, it has taught me how to diverge from one road onto one three blocks down, take an extra three left turns, and still make it where I need to go. Sure it takes a little more time, more gas, and more understanding of the cardinal directions, but you might find a new Thai restaurant that you wouldn't have passed before (hope you made it through that metaphor. Yes? We're good? Wonderful). I'm not saying life will get any easier or any worse as 2017 burst open around us. But, I feel ready to take anything it's willing to give me and make it work for me. 

Now that I'm home from my New Years celebrations and have a moment to sit, breathe, listen to Carole King's Tapestry three times, and quietly celebrate to myself. I have no idea what is going to happen in 2017, but I'm excited to my core to find out. And, I know that when I see that unexpected construction in the street ahead of me, I'll be ready to turn off my GPS, turn up the radio, and just enjoy the drive.