writers and depression

Writing Causes Me to Be Depressed, and That’s Why I Do it Less

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Writing

A month and a half ago, I said that I’d be writing more about games again. The jokes on me. because I haven’t written anything since. That’s not quite true; I’ve edited well over a hundred articles for work, mostly on selling and buying businesses. But I haven’t written at all, not creatively anyway. The truth is, I’m starting to believe that writers and depression go hand in hand. I’m still a writer, of course. I always will be. But being a writer is depressing, and I think that’s why I’m less and less inclined to write anything anymore.

Even now, writing these words is kind of putting me in a bad mood. I often feel like I need to live up to these expectations of being a writer that I arbitrarily created for myself when I was younger. Having an innate talent helps, of course, and I do have a book coming out next year after all. But for me, the stigma of writers and depression has followed me. Most of the writing I’ve done has been when (or even because) I was depressed. I used to think it was just the writing industry that got me down, and that I just needed to be patient and bide my time. But now, I’m not so sure.

Embarking on a writer career is obviously a slog, an uphill battle in a society that has commoditized the written word as content to be consumed via search engines and social media. Even this article is peppered with keywords like ‘writers and depression’ in an attempt to rank better and have more people read my words in the ever-shifting void of the internet. But that isn’t what really bothers me. If it was, then I couldn’t work as an SEO professional. No, what bothers me about writing is that it’s a form of communication that doesn’t resonate with me as much anymore. Creating depresses me, it doesn’t bring me joy. Really, I don’t think it ever did, at least not in the way that I thought it would.

You can be talented at something, and even derive pleasure from the completed product, but not enjoy the journey. It’s not a matter of work; I’m willing to work hard if I thought the end result would bring me meaning. But if it’s just causing me arbitrary suffering, and causing me to be depressed, then it seems pointless. The point of writing, or anything really, is to bring meaning to your life. That’s why we join communities, build relationships, and strive to excel in our careers. In a sense, we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, even if that something is a made-up world or scenario that is being used to communicate something entirely different about our reality.

I guess I don’t feel the need to do that anymore; I’m actually pretty happy. I’ve traveled most of the world in the past few years with my awesome fiance, have great friends and family, and excel at my job. Writing sometimes feels like something tacked on to that, a shackle that’s holding me back from finding meaning in anything else. That doesn’t mean I want to entirely stop writing. I’ve come this far, and there’s no reason to just give up.

But I don’t really want to take stock in it anymore. I don’t want it to affect my life, or cause me to be depressed. Being a writer is about observing the world in a certain way, and seeing the stories in everything you experience. That’s why writers and depression have such a prominent connection. I remember my senior quote from High School from Aldous Huxley: ”

“The trouble with fiction that it makes too much sense. Reality never makes sense.”

There’s a lesson in there for all writers. That fiction is almost a more plausible way to explain the world than what it is. It might not be real, but it gets to an emotional truth that is deeper than reality. But being tethered away from that reality is depressing, and it’s not something you have to do. Maybe it’s just growing up, but I like reality now. It’s pretty fucking good. I don’t have to turn to writing to bring meaning to my life because it’s already there.

I experience it every single day.

 

 

 

 

 

video game journalist

I’m Going to Be Writing About Games Again

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Video Games, Writing

My life hasn’t really turned out the way I thought it would be.

Back when I graduated college, I thought I was going to be a video game journalist. I spent years cultivating the skill, having written hundreds if not thousands of video game news stories, features, reviews for over a dozen independent video game publications.

I even was briefly the editor of the defunct Indie Game Magazine and started my own publication. I covered events run by EA, Activison, and most major video game publishers. I wasn’t a professional in that I wasn’t making a consistent income writing about video games (although I’ve done professional technology journalism), but it always felt pretty close.

I’ve gone through the phases of my career as a video game journalist before on this blog, but I don’t think I ever really talked about how quitting made me feel.

Quitting at trying to be a video game journalist was a pretty shitty feeling. It happened abruptly, when I started another startup publication with some friends. It was kind of a backlash to my partner at Continue Play (the previous publication I had founded). Although we created a successful publication, we were butting heads about the direction it was going. Even successful is an operative word in video game journalism though, as getting traffic didn’t necessarily mean that we were making much money.

So, because of this, I left Continue Play with some friends to start a new publication. My tenure there though was short-lived. I wrote a lengthy article about Mass Effect 3, and was accused of plagiarizing the beginning bit of it. Although the situation was more nuanced than that, my friends promptly kicked me out of the site. It wasn’t really a betrayal as much as an inevitability, friendships based off low-stakes video game journalism was never going to last. But what surprised me was how quickly they were willing to toss me aside; all over video games.

For the most part, I haven’t really written about games since. That’s partly because of this incident, but also because continuing to try to be a video game journalist just wasn’t working for me anymore. It felt futile, and just isn’t a viable way to make a living, especially with the way journalism has gone because of the internet.

Because of this, most of the video game journalism on this blog has been content that I wrote in 2013-2014. Although I enjoy gaming more than I did when I was writing about games, I also travel a lot more and play games a lot less. It’s really unfortunate, because some of my best writing was from when I was a video game journalist.

The truth is that making a living as a video game journalist is hard. You need to compromise yourself somewhat, and just like any form of product journalist, it’s the companies you are covering that control all the access. Those considerations, of course, exist in any job in the digital era, but what bothered me about it was that it wasn’t the reason I wanted to be a video game journalist at all.

What appealed to me about being a video game journalist was using games as a medium to talk about culture and the world we live in. I know that sounds a bit pretentious, but games are a way that many people (myself included) experience the world. Games are where some of my biggest memories are from growing up,  and they still often speak to me today.

Although being a video game journalist is  obviously not as important to society as covering politics or world affairs, it felt more important to me. Every game, of course, needs a review, and every news piece needs to be reposted and repackaged from a press release. But the meat of what interested me in writing about video games is writing about the way they made me feel, and the way they helped explain the world to me. And conveying that to people felt like the most important thing of all.

I think I’m going to recapture that spirit and write more about games again. That’s not to say that I want to be a video game journalist. That ship has sailed. Besides, my life may not have turned out how I imagined it would, but it’s actually been a lot better. Being a marketing professional who travels the world with his fiancé and while producing comics books has been a better present than I could have possibly imagined.

But that present reality doesn’t really involve writing. I keep up this blog, of course, but I don’t really write anymore. I’d like to change that, and I think writing about games more will be a good start.

It turns out, I don’t actually need to be a video game journalist to write about games. I just need to want to do it.

 

 

 

the slave auction massacre

Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry: The Slave Auction Massacre

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Video Games

After the release of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Ubisoft did something a little different for the game’s post-release DLC, offering up a new campaign and swapping out Edward Kenway for former-slave-turned-pirate, Adéwalé.

Freedom Cry deals with slavery in both a thematic and mechanical way, but while developer Ubisoft Montreal could so easily have fallen into the trap of making Freedom Cry feel exploitative and insensitive, instead it’s been sensitively handled and ends up being one of the better post-release DLC campaigns the publisher has released in quite some time – not just for Assassin’s Creed, but for any of their games. But by marrying its theme with the traditional gameplay of the Assassin’s Creed series, it also manages to create a disconnect between the narrative and the on-screen action, which feels a bit jarring.

What makes Freedom Cry so memorable is the main character himself. Adéwalé is a more principled man than his former captain Edward Kenway; rather than fighting for booze, gold, women and everything in-between, Adéwalé fights for the liberation of his people. As a former slave, his motivations are clear – rescue from bondage the men and women who suffer as he once did, so that they can be given a choice, a chance, at freedom.

But his methods, especially the way he wields his weaponry, may betray that genuine sense of goodness. For an Assassin, Adéwalé makes a footprint roughly the size of a Yeti, leaving many dead in his wake. Despite his chosen profession, and his goals of helping the Maroons rebel against their harsh overlords, Adéwalé‘s sojourn through the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince – or at least my unwieldy controlling of him – was marked by destruction, of both slave and master.

After liberating the Maroon resistance group from an influx of enemies, the leader of the group gifts Adéwalé with a stolen blunderbuss, perhaps the least subtle of all ranged weaponry. While Assassin’s Creed 4: Freedom Cry is mostly a close quarters affair, the basic structure boils down to a series of rescue missions, and Adéwaléwith blunderbuss and machete in hand, is at the forefront of this.

 

Unlike Edward, who is motivated and propelled only by gold and conquest, Adéwalé unlocks better weaponry and skills via the liberation of slaves. He can rescue these slaves from a variety of situations, increasing his standing and access to the Maroon community. But the scenario that gives Adéwalé the greatest gains – at least as far as ones that are scattered throughout Port-au-Prince – is the slave auction.

For anyone remotely familiar with the unseemly and regrettable history of the Transatlantic slave trade, you likely know what’s going on here. Roughly half a dozen virile men are on sale, with several overseers badgering out prices to the growing crowd. Almost without incident, Adéwalé takes the stage, blocking the view of the slaves from the crowd, directly confronting the overseers. They offer Adéwalé 500 gold pieces for the lot of them, a paltry sum compared to the vast riches surrounding Port-au-Prince. But Adéwalé – or at least my version of him – would never buy the freedom of a group of slaves. He would earn it. Through bloodshed.

Reaching for his blunderbuss, Adéwalé eyes the overseers as they approach him suspiciously, weapons drawn. Without a word Adéwalé lets off a blast from his blunderbuss, a deafening cry that ends lives. But not for the lives he intended. Sloppily, the blunderbuss’ scatter shot, that could hit the broadside of a barn even when aiming away from it, manages to rip through overseer and slave alike. All die – both tyranny and freedom cut short by the least appropriate weapon for human liberation. Adéwalé says nothing, moving on the next scenario to liberate some slaves – but I, divorced from the character, stop to think.

Were those casualties appropriate? Adéwaléthe principled man is completely divorced from the video game avatar. More so than a Grand Theft Auto character going on a rampage, Adéwalé is not the type of man who would violate his stance. In fact, his actions actively undermine the narrative of liberation. Should he be wielding blunderbuss, machete and firecracker, if his methods are so deadly that they can easily end the lives of slave and master alike?

Of course, Adéwalé has no answers, no thoughts on the matter. He is only a projection of the struggle for freedom, the struggle against tyranny. When Adéwalé later raids slave plantations, his bluntness in attack can lead to over half the plantation workers being massacred. Of course, this is realistic in a sense. Slave NPC’s, like any other, can be killed. But for the death to come at the hand of Adéwalé, or as a consequence of his actions, it all seems a bit wrong.

A principled man can take a strong stance against the murder of his brethren. But if through his own misgivings, his own approach, he allows for death to take place where it would not have otherwise – is he really as principled as he believes?

Assassin’s Creed 4: Freedom Cry, is, of course, not really interested in answering such a complex conundrum; instead, the narrative and action actively undermine one another. Yet it allows for Adéwalé to act on his own accord, even if he inadvertently murders some of his brethren by mistake. I’m not sure what that means, or if it even means anything. But Adéwalé’s action – and by extension my control of them– did make me think: Was it just an honest mistake? Or in the case of liberation – do the ends justify the means?

It’s a question that defines, purposefully or not, the entirety of Freedom Cry.

 

anxiety about getting an apartment

Having Anxiety About Getting an Apartment

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Budgeting, Culture

“Congratulations!” an article in College Magazine reads, “You’ve moved out of those pesky dorms and on to bigger and better digs. You’ve traded RA’s for limited supervision and can finally call yourself independent.”

Well, that’s not me, I had initially thought when reading the article. I’ve been out of college for five years and have traveled most of the world as a digital nomad. But with my recently announced move to NYC next year… maybe it is? Sure, that doesn’t mean that I’m a recent graduate, or that I don’t have a job or any direction in life. But it does mean that I’m having anxiety about getting an apartment. I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days, especially after hiking to the Mt. Everest basecamp and getting engaged up there. If I can do that, which was a challenge but not anything insurmountable, why does getting an apartment seem like the biggest hurdle yet?

anxiety about getting an apartment
Doing a very doable thing that nobody does

Is it because I am afraid to stay still so long? I don’t think that’s it. While traveling has been amazing and transformative, there’s ultimately no meaning to be found in it, at least not any that can be translated to going back to regular society. In other words, it’s been awesome, but travelling full-time is not for me. It forces you to be constantly assaulted by change, which is interesting in its own right but doesn’t lead you to make any lasting connections to any one thing.

Ideally, if I was a millionaire, I’d maintain a residence in New York and just travel whenever I wanted to. But that’s obviously not realistic. I make a good living, but nothing close to what would be required to do that. But I think having anxiety about getting an apartment stems more from me not wanting to give up my flexibility. I work remotely, which allows me to do what I want, when I want. When I work, it’s mostly in bursts, a marathon to get work done so that I can live my life.

It’s a good way of living, but I wonder what I’ll do once I have an apartment and the free time to loaf around. With travel, you automatically have things built in to do. There’s always another sight to see or a food to try. New York is the closest you can get to that in a single city, but even then, it’s still a singular place. You’re still stationary, but I guess less exhausted than you are when travelling. It’s the closest to the best of both worlds I can think of, and also probably a good thing for me. I have a book to get out that I’ve been slacking on, after all.

I don’t think that’s the whole story though. There are other reasons I’m having anxiety about getting an apartment. Maybe it’s arrested development, or just not wanting to fall into the trap that everyone else does, but I guess I’m afraid. Things can go wrong, of course. But the entire process seems harrowing. Not just finding the apartment, but getting furniture, maintaining it, and dealing with everything. I’ve had short term rentals and long term rentals in other countries, but those were simplified; they weren’t in America.

I don’t want to live home anymore (and neither does anyone really want me there), but at the same time, I already know that I have more travel planned after I get the apartment. I’ll be gone all July for wedding planning in Montana, and a road trip to Arizona and Utah, in the Amazon and the Inca Trail in Peru all August, and then on an African safari for most of September. The timing just doesn’t seem right. But then again, I guess it never is, and there’s always subletting.

I recently watched a video about anxiety and the circles of influence. It was about trying not to flip out about the things that aren’t entirely within that circle, and recognizing the feedback loop that is occurring. Since my depression mostly abated, anxiety has largely taken its place. These are issues that aren’t easy to talk about, but I guess they wouldn’t be issues otherwise. Looking at apartments and thinking about apartments is causing me to have anxiety about getting an apartment. The circle continues, unbroken and unmoored.

I’m not sure if this is normal, but not much in my life has been so far. So if having anxiety about getting an apartment is what’s going to happen, I guess I’ll just have to roll with it through the entire process, both in terms of the financial cost and the opportunity cost. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.

blog search traffic

Why Relying on Search Traffic Is Hard When Blogging

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Internet, Marketing

I think it’s time for me to admit that I don’t really understand blogging. Obviously, I know how to write (I think). But blogging is not writing. Running a blog takes a lot more than than a relative command of the written word. It requires marketing expertise such as knowledge of SEO, social media, and email marketing to get more subscribers. I’d say that I really only have a penchant for the first of these (it being my job), and I’ve largely built my blog on the basis of search traffic as of late. However, blog search traffic, like any other marketing channel, is a finicky way to build a blog.

You might be able to dominate a keyword for a little bit, but eventually, you may fall in the rankings. In my case, I was ranking highly for a post about getting hell’s itch in Thailand  After about a month, it started getting a ton of traffic and was ranked 2nd for the keyword ‘hell’s itch.’ In fact, in June alone, it got over 5k hits just from search . The post, however, doesn’t really answer the intent of the searcher in when they are searching for ‘hell’s itch’

Seeing that this keyword was obviously generating a ton of traffic, three sites with higher authority wrote similar posts. My blog is 18 DA, which is not bad for a personal blog, but these sites were all beyond personal blogs in terms of overall site authority. More importantly, these three other sites wrote posts that better corresponded with the user intent of the search and were more informational in nature since July. One of these was on a personal blog, but the other two were on more authoritative publications. I’m not going to link to them, but let’s just say that their blog search traffic increased in proportion to my massive downturn.

These posts are now obviously ranking all above mine, and I’m toward the bottom of the page, so the traffic is now about 300 a month  vs 5000 a month on this post. Obviously, a searcher looking at ‘hell’s itch’ is looking for information about it, not a personal account, so it makes sense that other sites capitalized on this and Google recognized it within weeks of their posts being published.

I totally recognize why this happened, but it still sucks. It’s not really a failure though, as much as a chance to reevaluate. I’ve still been steadily building links to my blog, of course. But a setback like this makes me think that blog search traffic is ephemeral, that is unless your content is just that good from a search perspective.

I’d like to think my writing on here is pretty good, but in general its not super tailored toward search. I’ve tried my best to market my blog, but I think that aspect of blogging isn’t really for me. I’ve already turned this into more of a hobby recently, and it seems I’ll continue to go in that direction with it. There’s a reason that 91% of content online gets no love from Google anyway, as Google search queries are geared toward the informational and not the personal.

The irony is that I regularly drive traffic and improve search rankings through link building for clients at my day job. Some of these are huge brands, and it’s crazy to think that I’m largely responsible for thousands of people clicking on webpages everyday. But for me, that isn’t as inherently as satisfying as writing. Instead of focusing on blog search traffic, I’m trying more and more to just look at this blog as a collection of my writing. It’s not even necessarily my best writing, but it’s writing that is communicating creatively and consistently. For someone, even a handful of people, to read your work, is immensely gratifying.

And if that’s what the blog will be, then I’d say that’s successful by that standard. At the very least, gauging blog search traffic is just one way to look at a blog. Now, I’m choosing to look at it differently.

going on another trip

I’m Going on Another Trip – Here’s How I’ll Prepare

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Travel

In two days, I’ll be going to Nepal and India. In the past, that would have sounded more otherworldly than it actually is. But when you’ve traveled as a lifestyle for quite some time, it starts to become a bit routine. That’s not to say I’m not excited to be going on another trip – I still am. But this time, the excitement comes from a different place. It’s not leaving that excites me. I’ll be in New York plenty going forward, and the length of the trip is only a couple of months. Relative to trips that we’ve taken in the past, it’s honestly nothing.

No – what excites me here is the actual experience. We’re doing the most intense hike of my life, for one. Or at the minimum, the longest that requires the most endurance. And then we’re going to India, a country that I’ve always wanted to see, somewhere that is about as different from the United States as you can possibly be.

going on another trip

But I’m also kind of excited for the minutia. I used to find a 30 hour flight grueling; now it’s just normalized. I can watch a ton of movies and enjoy them, and get regular meals that are actually not that bad. One part I’m not really looking forward to though is the planning. When going on another trip, planning is the worst part. We have trips booked to Israel/Jordan and China after this one, and the former is not planned at all. It’s the only stressful part, and if you’re already tired, there’s nothing worse than trying to find the best deal for a place to stay and a good place to eat.

Still, this trip to Nepal and India is relatively well planned. More than half of it is spent on organized tours, which ups the budget but makes the whole experience a lot less hectic. When going on another trip, you really want to make sure you make it as stress-free as possible. While travel can open up new challenges for you, there’s a point where the experience itself can drive you crazy.

If you can laugh off riding a camel after getting food poisoned in the Sahara desert, then less of that phases you. But mentally preparing for scenarios like these is part of travelling. You can’t just assume everything will go right – it never does. To an extent, you need to be open to the experience of brutality, especially in comparison to a Western sense of comfort. Even countries in Southern Europe are not all that easy to navigate – especially if you’re not prepared to get ripped off and taken advantage of.

Making that mental shift toward a different way of life is the biggest part of going on another trip. It allows you to get a taste of what living there would be like, except that you know you can go home at the end. While there’s no greater meaning to be had while purveying other cultures, you can often get more than superficial glimpse. You just need to be open.

For me, that’s what’s exciting about going on another trip. It’s connecting with a new culture and exploring a new part of the world. When I went to the Great Pyramids of Giza, I remember being sweaty and uncomfortable, and being forced to ride a horse for an additional $75 more than I planned. But when I think back, I don’t tap into those emotions. I don’t think about feeling ripped off or annoyed. I think about what I felt like being there, and how they looked. Now, it feels like the pyramids can be around any corner.

And that’s what’s exciting about going on another trip. It allows you to feel those things about a new part of the world. You create new memories and experiences that just wouldn’t have happened back home, and open yourself up to some of the realities of the world we live in. It’s a little pretentious to say you’re becoming a global citizen; that can never really happen. But while an element of escapism is inherent in travel, your feelings toward it or not.

That’s up to you.

moving back to nyc

Why I’m Ready to Move Back to New York

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Culture, Travel

Growing up on Long Island, I never really considered leaving New York. I went to college here, and aside for my one year abroad living in Oxford, I had never lived anywhere else. New York was my home, after all, and even though it was a bubble, I didn’t recognize it as such until I left. The whole point of New York, I thought, was that it’s not homogeneous. You can have varied experienced, meet varied people, and just live different lives in a shared space. But moving back to NYC is a choice that I’m actively making now after several years of travel. There’s a downside to New York that had never occurred to me until I left.

moving back to nyc

New York is expensive, man! Sure, it’s not San Francisco, but it’s close. The cost of living is pretty high, and my last brief foray in NYC ended in a move back to Long Island shortly after. Part of this was due to depression, but a lot of it was due to money. I just didn’t have it, and I didn’t have any job prospects that would allow me to live there in a sustainable way. Between security guard work at the Met and what little money I was making from freelancing as a recent college graduate, I wasn’t exactly able to live any sort of lifestyle that I could now. But now, moving back to NYC is different. The city won’t swallow me up or leave me adrift. When I move back, I’ll have a fiance, a great remote job, abundant freelance work and creative projects to work on. But more importantly, I’ll have a life I enjoy living.

Last time I had an apartment for more than a month it was in Granada Spain, and it ended up costing me around $300 a month. An apartment obviously costs quite a bit more in NYC. But there’s also a lot of benefits to being there. My entire network of friends and family live around NYC, for one. But I’ll also be able to take advantage of living there.

Last time I lived in NYC, I bunked in a Krash house, a defunct ‘co living’ startup that I thought would help me network and find some interesting work. But it turned out, without much post-college experience, I was just another kid who might as well have been going to his internship every day. I didn’t have much to contribute to the environment, and I didn’t get much out the limited networking opportunities I was capable of exploring. As such, my move to NYC was largely a failure, and I left shortly after back to Long Island for another year. Then, I got more into traveling with my girlfriend, until we were both able to work remotely enough so that we could start doing it full-time.

Moving back to NYC is not exactly a budget-friendly choice, but it’s the best choice I think we can make right now. There’s no better place for two individuals with a lot of free time, a lot of ambition and some excess income. There will be a ton for us to do and explore, and we can travel regularly and keep ourselves from stagnating. There my be cheaper places, but I can’t myself anywhere else right now. That’s not to say that that won’t change — it always does.  But if we’re going to be in one spot for a while, moving back to NYC seems like the way to do it.

getting into hiking

How Getting Into Hiking Has Boosted My Self-Confidence

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Travel

There was a time that I actually liked physical fitness. Between six years of football (before numerous injuries stopped me) and seven years as a nationally ranked fencer, I got in quite a bit of exercise in my younger years. Then, I went to liberal arts college, and instead of the freshman fifteen, I went a step further and put on the freshman twenty five. Since then, it’s more or less been a constant struggle to find an activity that I liked and reliably keep off the pounds. The college weight gain caused some serious male body image issues, and although being in a relationship helps, I’ve never quite gotten back to where I want to be. That’s why for me, getting into hiking has been a revelation.

The truth is, up until recently, I never liked the outdoors. My first hike as an adult was approximately two years ago; it was probably the worst hike I’ve ever done. My girlfriend, not realizing how grueling it would be, signed us up to hike a volcano in Guatemala. She thought this would be a great way for me to start getting into hiking. Boy, was she wrong. The hike she had in mind required immense physical fitness. It was an eight hour slog up an active volcano, which we then camped on. Even though seeing an active volcano was exciting, I wasn’t ready for it, so the trip wasn’t really worth it for me.

getting into hiking
On the hike to the volcano trying not to break down

In fact, as you can see above, I wasn’t really all that thrilled with the experience. We were hiking with a small group that was much more experienced than I was. They kept going too fast, and wouldn’t stop when I needed rest. Eventually, our guide left us behind,  more concerned with spending time with his Swedish girlfriend than helping me along. While my girlfriend is an experienced hiker, I was not, and only her and the porter carrying my bag saw me through.

This was, of course, the totally wrong way of getting into hiking. It made me hate the idea, and as a result, I didn’t hike at all for another year. It wasn’t until we went to Seoul for a month that I started to become interested in hiking again. While it wasn’t exactly my idea, my girlfriend encouraged us to climb Bukhansan, a large mountain outside of Seoul. While I was reluctant at first, I decided to give it a shot, and it was a pretty eye-opening experience for me.

The hike itself was about six hours up, but we got a late start because we both like to sleep in late. The hike itself started more relaxed at first, but as it went on, it got more intense, and almost made me regret getting into hiking. There was some scrambling involved, and not enough water was packed. At the end, we had to careen ourselves up the peak using unstable steel cables. It didn’t exactly feel safe, but once we got to the top, I experienced something that I never had hiking before.

getting into hiking
A beautiful view

The mountains looked fake, almost like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Not only had I climbed up here, despite being afraid of heights, but I did it on my terms. I allowed myself to experience the mountains, soak them in without dreading the climb back down. I took it a step further and scaled to the top of the peak, the highest point within Seoul

getting into hiking
At the top of Bukhansan

For me, this is what getting into hiking was all about. It was the moment that I felt a sense of confidence that I hadn’t felt in years. My body wasn’t a total failure, and if I allowed it to be, was capable of doing great things. It might not have been easy, and we may have had to climb down in the dark, but we were able to do it, and even go out to bowl with friends afterwards. I was capable, more than really, and even if it was challenging, it was still doable.

Since the hike to Bukhansan, I’ve done hikes in Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Montana, and Canada. I’d like to think I’m not a beginner anymore. I’m nowhere near an advanced level of hiking, and likely never will be. But I am planning on doing the hike to the Everest Base Camp in the next month, the ultimate culmination of getting into hiking.

These days, doing any serious athletics are over for me. This is due to spinal fusion surgery and chronic sciatica radiating down my right leg. My surgeon recommended I don’t ever lift more than fifty pounds, a good excuse to get out of helping anyone to move. But getting into hiking has taught me that physical fitness can be enjoyable, and even beautiful, without feeling competitive. With hiking, it’s just a race against yourself.  You’re not exactly conquering the mountain, but at the minimum, you’re not letting it conquer you.

Just finishing is enough.

keeping up a blog

Why I’m Struggling to Keep Up This Blog

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Internet, Writing

It turns out, keeping up a blog is a lot of work. While writing is very important to me, keeping up a blog has become something of a chore. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy writing a blog, and in fact, my traffic was very high for a while. However, I was mostly riding off the search engine wave of a single post, but I was very much on track to beat out my previous year of blogging. That being said, the blog is still in a healthy place in terms of traffic, although not as much as I was expecting.

Over time though, I’ve learned to have a different relationship with my blog. I’m less concerned with the highs and lows of my traffic, and more concerned with the quality of the writing that I’ve been producing. I have a book coming out, after all, and having a platform to promote that is more important than how any single post does in terms of traffic. Still, using this blog as a repository for my writing has not been as successful as I would have liked. I personally find it difficult to find the motivation to continue sometimes, and the lack of structure that I used to love is now a bit constraining.

What that means in terms of blogging is that I’ll still be keeping up a blog, but probably a bit less often. Historically, I was writing one or even two posts a week. But for the last few months, it’s been once a month or so. I’ll probably remain at this level, and still write what I want, although brand it a bit more toward the writing (or the lack thereof) that I’ve been doing. After all, even though I’ve moved on to SEO editorial work professionally, I’m still a writer at heart and want to remain that way.

What I’m hoping to do a bit more of is critically analyze media and write more about my travel experiences. For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that my soon-to-be fiance and I travel the world regularly, and she writes about it more than I do. Obviously we have different experiences, and don’t want to share a platform, but there are things that I have to say that are different than what she thinks. I hope that in keeping up a blog, I can express some of those views in writing, and continue the motivation to write on a regular basis.

In short, I’m trying to re-imagine how I use this blog. I’ve wanted to focus more on creative writing and getting my next big work done after my book is out, but keeping up a blog shouldn’t feel like a hindrance to that. Instead of it feeling like a publication where I’m the only writer and promoter, I’m just going to use it to write what I want, when I want. And hopefully, the readers will stay steady and everything will turn out ok.

nostalgia entertainment

A Marvel and Star Wars Movie Every Year Until You Die: When Will the Nostalgia Train Will Slow Down?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Movies

It took a month for me to see Incredibles 2. And man, did that turn out to be a disappointment. Depending on if you read Rotten Tomatoes or The New Yorker, you might agree or disagree. But The Incredibles is, incredibly, a sequel slated fourteen years later that nobody was really clamoring for. But with the culture of nostalgia entertainment, it made sense to make it. Given that the film has pulled in nearly a billion dollars worldwide, it’s no surprise that it exists.

The real surprise though is how much the nostalgia train is slowing down, or at least increasing in quality relative to its box office returns. Infinity War may have done better than either of the previous Avengers films, but that’s because it’s a better movie. Infinity War proved that nostalgia is not always bad, as long as it’s created in the service of something greater. In this sense, the something greater is the story, the characters, and a movie that doesn’t feel like it’s made by committee. It stars its own villain, sidelining the heroes you know and love to a chaotic force of a character that you can sympathize with, even as he destroys half of the world

The same holds true with Black Panther. It may not be the first superhero film starring a black man, but it’s the first to explicitly talk about black issues. It’s adding something new and innovative to the genre, creating a narrative about sons reconciling with the sins of their fathers in wholly different ways. The film uses the nostalgia entertainment of the traditional superhero to supervillain showdown to pit integrationist and supremacist ideologies against each other. While the outcome might have been a bit too conservative for some, the fact that the issues are even being talked about at all is a great step in the right direction.

There are, of course, legitimate critiques you can make of these movies. But along with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I think there are really reasons for these movies to exist beyond the box office. They are using their respective genres to comment on issues of our time and reckon with where we are as a society instead of where we want to be. If nostalgia entertainment can do that often, even in smaller ways like in Cobra Kai, I am all for it.

That’s why many have rejected the message of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Instead of killing your heroes, old fans wanted to see Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie hamming it up in a galaxy far, far away. But what they got was a postmodern look at the fallout and consequences of hero worship and how that can turn into the romantic authoritarian ideal . That being said, the movie’s take on the state of the galaxy resonated with many fans and critics alike, and provided something new to the franchise as opposed to being a virtual remake like The Force Awakens.

Before the flop of Solo at the box office, it seemed that the direction of nostalgia entertainment was to entertain for the sake of it. It was just fun for people to get the old gang back together, and see where Han got the Millennium Falcon’s dice from. But that’s exactly why Solo’s box office bomb might not just be good for the future of Star Wars, but the future of nostalgia entertainment as well.

Now, executives at Disney and other major mass media companies are aware that the train will grind to a financial halt if they’re just retreading old ground. So, if they’re listening to the market, and what the people want, they’ll realize that an Increidbles 3 might not seem like such a sure bet next year. Instead, media companies need to focus on turning nostalgia entertainment as a springboard into a springboard to talk about issues larger than the franchise at hand. Otherwise, we’ll eventually stop showing up.