Completion; Fulfillment; Harvest.
Life exists in chapters. And the start and end of a chapter are always equally exciting, but the really important parts happen in the words between. The importance is in the sleeve of blue flowers and the coil of golden lights. The value is in the prints left in the snow and the stack of stones you passed by.
I’ve always had a problem completing projects, so I never felt what it was like to set out towards a goal and actually reach it. In fact, I remember the exact moment in elementary school when I realized it was possible to just not do my homework and get away with it. Figuring that out meant that so much extra time could be devoted to watching Phil of the Future and fantasizing about making out with Raviv Ullman, so my gay little brain was fully invested in this new school strategy. I didn’t fully anticipate that it would lead to both a lifetime of procrastination and a lifetime of boys not being able to measure up to Phil Diffy. But here we are.
I’m going into 2019 with a feeling that I haven’t known since that moment in elementary school. The feeling that I put in every ounce of effort possible, and that I now have a completed project that I’m proud of. But it doesn’t wrap up quite how I wanted, with a sense of finality and ultimate accomplishment. Instead it gives me a feeling that there’s so much more to do and so much further that my limits can be stretched. Because now I look back and think, "I can do better than that." And there’s the want to bring every single talented person I know with me on this journey. There’s also a slight jittery feeling but I’m assuming that’s just from the 4 cups of coffee I’ve downed in the past two hours without expending any of the energy that it’s given me on anything other than scrolling through instagram and Grindr simultaneously, with no plans of accomplishing anything with either one. Partly because Raviv has just set the bar far, far too high.
Sorry, boys that weren’t interested in me anyway.
2018 has been devoured by the eater of time, whose eldritch horror would devastate the world if seen by the naked eye, so instead he adopts the visage of Anderson Cooper as the ball drops and moves us forward into the New Year. Some of us are working on New Years resolutions, some of us are starting new jobs, and some of us just had our first collection of personal essays finish getting posted on their website. So, what’s next?
The simple answer is: What’s next is working on that resolution, showing up and killing your first day at work, and posting your next collection of personal essays. But in the words of my favorite biblical prophet, Gia Gunn, “What you WANNA do is not necessarily what you’re GONNA do.”
My resolution is a simple and personal one this year. It’s about gaining consistency in my social life. Which I knocked out of the park going into the New Year by consistently sitting at home alone listening to Kacey Musgraves during every holiday in 2018. And, on the writing front, while “Before Color” is fully out, I’ve barely been able to start my second collection of personal essays, which will be called "Raspberry." Part of that is because I’m afraid to open back up the darker parts of my life that that chapter touches on.
But last year I decided I would be consistent when it came to writing, trusting myself, and putting my work out into the world. And... I did it! So that’s what I’m going to continue to do even though Raspberry isn't done. So at least on this website “What’s Next” is more of What Was. You’ll still get posts every Monday, sometimes Wednesday, and Friday (some of which will be Very Bad Poems), Trish’s Dishes every Tuesday, Prompts every day, and a wrap-up at the end of the week. There just won’t be a new full-length series of connected personal essays for a little while, mostly because I prefer to have quality over quantity. But when it does come out? Prepare to be... somewhere between impressed and not paying attention at all.
Anxiety comes in a lot of different forms. And each one has informed every decision I’ve ever made in life. For a long time I listened to my anxiety like directions on a page, keeping myself from the world. It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I began to follow the mantra I live by now. Which is to say yes to social occasions. Because either you’ll have a great time, or you’ll have a great story. And either way you win. Unless you’re attending a party at a high profile music studio and start having an anxiety attack halfway through and need to go hide in the bathroom until you’re good, and then you trip over a fire extinguisher on your way out and everyone is asking if you’re okay to drive yourself home when you’re actually the only sober one there and also you don’t even fucking drive.
Sometimes anxiety feels like a trap. Like you’re snowed in, in a phonebooth with no service and a wolf pacing nearby. Sometimes it feels like that until you’re halfway through, when you come to your senses and, seeing clearer now, realize that you are the wolf. That you are the one that paced and waited and attacked. Your prints in the snow shaming your lack of self-awareness.
Sometimes anxiety feels like a missing voice, forcing you to pack up and leave without saying goodbye. To give a friend your copy of a game because you’re unable to tell him that you lost his. The numbness that strikes your hand as you’re about to turn the doorknob, because you heard a footstep on the other side. The feeling that your “let’s hang out” will come up on their phone and be left on read, when that is all that could pull you out of this pit.
But sometimes anxiety can be banished. Sometimes you’ll meet in the park with your friend and idol, Valerie, armed with a violin and a voice much stronger in ink than in air. And she’s tiny but what she sees and what she says is bigger than anything you think you can reach. And that friend will strike a spark in you when she says that she learns from you. It will reignite the fire held by the green in your eyes. Because if the most creative person that you know is inspired by what you do, then you have succeeded. And no wolf in the snow, or mess on the floor, or twenty foot door will ever be able to lie to you about who you are again.
“I’m sorry. Just walk through the door.”
I just want to say, you know how in every thriller/apocalypse movie there's that one character that has the news playing in the background warning that the entire world is falling apart and then they just turn it off and go back to playing sudoku? That's absolutely me. If you think I've absorbed any dystopian thing that's happened in the past 2 years and haven't fully just been having an out of body experience this whole time, then you're underestimating me. Or overestimating me. Not sure which.
"Crack! The whip lashes out towards the lion in the ring. The lion roars and bursts into a wondrous flame. Your date smirks, eyes glued ahead and lurched forward, more enveloped than just impressed. Money is no object for you, but these seats cost a fortune."
"The blood is rushing to your head. Your feet are strung up on a hook as you hang upside down in the meat locker. You think about the monster that put you here and your heart begins to race."
"You crouch down in the dark, dripping cave. You’ve run for too long and your legs don’t feel like they’re yours anymore. The beast is here, you can hear it snarling. You think hard about how you’re going to do this…"
"Before you is a silver dish with a lid, the contents waiting to be revealed. There are 20 others at the table as well, a dish before them. On each dish are two names: The name of the person at the table that must kill you, and the name of the person that you must kill. "
"You lock your seatbelt and nod to the pilot. They nod back, as they prepare the vessel for lift off. In a few moments you’ll be in space, and that is where the mission starts."
"Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The person interrogating you has been out of the room for some time. Tick. Tock. Time is all you can think about, looking around and seeing the clocks that litter the walls. You’ve messed with forces you knew you shouldn’t have. Tick. Tock. Tick… The door opens."
"Before you is a mask, shaped in an odd way and made of thick oak. You know what this is for, and the thought both intrigues and terrifies you. Particularly because it is now yours."
One thing I will give my fear of death is that it totally turned my fear of the supernatural into appreciation. Because in my mind it was silly to be scared of dying if I was just gonna become a spooky ghost after and get to haunt people for a living. Which sounds kind of like a sweet gig, and would also give me a reason to put my ability to sneak up on people back on my resume. The only bad thing would be the possibility of an exorcism, which would totally suck. Especially because they always seem to bring a priest along while doing those and I’m a healer main so it’ll just end up being this awkward power struggle the whole time. It’d honestly just be better for everyone if you brought someone more focused on DPS, like a dentist or a gym teacher.
In high school my fear of death, much like my gayness, came out in full force. And one of the boys I was friends with at the time tried to calm me down by suggesting that maybe what happens when we die is exactly what happened on LOST. But that just made things even worse, because I’m super not prepared to survive on a deserted island. If we didn’t find the hatch within the first 7 days of me being dead I would’ve put my own torch out at tribal council and walked out on Jeff Probst before the episode was even over. And then Matthew Fox would come up to me all, “WE HAVE TO GO BACK RYAN” and I’d make out with him for a little bit before I’d inevitably remember that he and I are too different to ever make it work, and I’d have to leave him. Plus once the government gets Kyogre to throw a storm at us we’d be done anyway, because we spent all of our time on the island starting and stopping relationships and none of our time actually planning an escape. Not very responsible, Matthew Fox. I expected more from you.
I finally broke out of my intense fear of death when I grew up and moved to the city. Which is ironic because you’d think I would be way more terrified of serial killers while living with roommates, but almost none of them have actively tried to kill me yet. Which is admittedly super cool of them considering some of the craigslist ads I saw at the same time as theirs were advertising an initiation into a secret brotherhood. Which sounds cool and all but I just know there’s a hidden membership fee at some point and I’m not about it. Unless your secret brotherhood is about recapturing the Pokémon unwillingly being used for government labor, I’m not interested in paying. And if it is then fine, but let me build up some pinap berries first because I’m honestly SOOOOO close to a magikarp evolution.
I’m speaking cause I find myself asking, “what is my voice?” And why do I feel the need to justify why I’m speaking?
When I was seeing this guy named Connor he told me that there are two kinds of people: those that walk through doors and those that walk around them. Now, me personally, I vibrate up through the ceiling because I’ve had 7 cups of coffee and my atoms are holding on for dear life as I transform into Shadowcat from the X-Men, but he said it to tell me that I walk around doors. Which is to say that I enter a room already apologizing for taking up space. And that is at the core of everything I do and don’t do. Every joke I make is an apology for having taken up your time. Every edit, every sentence cut, is me saying that you could be doing something better. Because I don’t believe in me. Because I’m sorry for me. And what I can’t bring to the table.
So… what is my voice? Am I the 5 second edited joke? Am I the painting before it receives its colors? Am I the character breaking down on stage? Am I the insider text to a friend? Am I an apology for myself wrapped in lead and code? I don’t know.
And when I find my voice, can I finally say to myself,
Just walk through the door.”
I’ve thought about quitting before, but the migraine is always so painful. You know that scene in X-Men when Professor X puts Cerebro on to try and find someone but then it was secretly poisoned by Mystique the whole time and so his head almost explodes? The coffee migraine is kind of like that, but worse because some of us don’t have telekinesis, Charles. And also because Professor X probably got to have coffee before he put cerebro on and almost died.
When I moved to the city I lost contact with all of my Long Island friends. And I do mean all of them. A long-lasting depressive episode held me in place, not allowing me to reach out. Telling me, whether true or not, that they hated me now. Five years after moving to the city I had to gather the strength to reach out to them. My depressive episode that drove me to isolate myself from everyone that cared about me finally wrapped up in a way like when you’ve finally recovered from crying and realize just how hungry you were the whole time. Your sadness no longer blanketing it, no longer a tourniquet for the pain.
I reached out, finally, to the person I knew I could count on first. Over coffee and food, for the first time in 4 years, I reconnected with Yeliz. It was a story I’d written in her yearbook that I thought would be fiction. The story of us 4 years in the future having had no contact but coming back together like we hadn’t spent a day apart. And that’s exactly how it went. Yeliz was also the start of me reconnecting with the rest of my friends from Long Island. Dragging myself out of the depressed pit that I’d slipped into while moving to Manhattan. My chosen family. And that’s the happy ending.
If you're anything like me you literally didn't realize a week had passed and so that's why you're writing this post at 6PM instead of at 10AM like normal. Oops. But here we go!
First thing on the weekly recap was Trish's newest post from the dark comedy cooking blog, Trish's Dishes:
Trish taught us all how to make an... omelette... Thanks, Trish. Uh, great job. And she taught us how to imbue a demon with ancient power that will help them become more victorious in battle. Delicious and practical!
On Totally Logical Fear we got two more episodes and one poem from "Before Color." Episode 20: "Golden Sun" a chilling tale about losing someone else's video game, and Episode 21: "All You Can Eat" a stomachwarming adventure through a sushi buffet. Sandwiched between them was the poem, "Static and Stale."
And lastly we had our weekly writing prompts. Remember to leave a comment with a link to anything you write that you want to show off!
You’re an entry-level god given the tedious task of creating new life after the human race killed themselves off for the tenth time. You’re annoyed that this keeps happening, and this time you want to try something new. Is your supervisor looking?
You’re in a room working diligently on something. Out of the corner of your eye you see a snake slither out of one of the outlets in the wall.
You, the treasure, sigh. Another adventurer approaches, ready to open the chest and loot its insides. Just one more person that can’t identify a mimic upon first sight. You ready yourself for your attack and think back to how this all went wrong.
You are but a lonely frog trying to cross a dangerous road to get to the other side. You narrowly avoid a car, make it onto a floating log, and are making good time. Suddenly a barrel comes hurtling towards you.
He’s tinkering with the watch you brought in, but it won’t stop moving backwards. No matter how hard he tries. You’re fearful, as you know what this means.
You sit on the balcony of your apartment in the city, looking off into the calm sunrise surrounded by rooftops. Out of the corner of your eye you see movement on the roof a few buildings over. You recognize this as the building your recent date lives in. You note that the figures on top are wearing ceremonial clothing as they form a circle and drop someone from the building onto the street below.
The customer isn’t happy. The tonic she bought from you had the exact opposite effect that she wanted, and now her life is upside down. What are you going to do to make it up to her, she wants to know. And, no, a coupon won’t do.
Anyway, like some kind of messed up 80s coming of age story, those Mario Tennis skills translated to real life badminton skills (not even the same sport, but whatever brain) and I was returning shots back to the other team like my life depended on it. We still lost every single game and placed lowest in the class-wide tournament, but that’s not important. I mean, it was important for our gym grade, but not for this story.
My hunger for competition only grew through my senior year, even though I was barely there. I missed so many history classes that I almost wasn’t allowed to graduate. Except then we split into teams in our history class to hold an election and due to the perfect storm of one of the other groups arguing for the legalization of lightsabers during military action, some Russian bots (just assuming), and the popular girls accidentally voting for me because they didn’t realize they could vote for their own candidate, I ended up winning the election by a landslide. And I’m kind of convinced that that’s the only reason I didn’t end up flunking that class. I mean, you can’t fail the president. That’s in the constitution, I’m pretty sure. (Or maybe not, I don’t know, I didn’t really show up to any history classes.)
After the election, Yeliz, Gulsah, and I decided to go out and celebrate at an all you can eat sushi place, which sounds disgusting but hear us out. It’s not like buffet-style where it’s sitting out for potentially decades at a time. Instead they hand out these menus where you check off everything you want and pay a flat fee per person and on the bottom of the menu is a vaguely threatening message that says “DO NOT ORDER WHAT YOU WILL NOT EAT.” Which was just sensible and loud enough for us to be scared into only ordering what we knew we liked, which meant lots of generic but delicious rolls. So delicious and generic that it took us halfway through our platter to realize that we’d accidentally been given and were eating someone else’s food. Since we were already halfway through and stuffed completely full, we decided to just shovel the rest into our mouths no matter how painful it was, pay, and never speak of this ever again out of bloated embarrassment. We finished, gave ourselves a congratulatory but exhausted cheer and planned to head out. Unfortunately the sushi place also realized that we’d been given the wrong platter and then promptly placed ours down where our empty platter once was, and the words “DO NOT ORDER WHAT YOU WILL NOT EAT” echoed in the air as if Mufasa himself was speaking to us. Which, we were so full that all of us felt half dead, so communion with the spirit world really wasn’t too far fetched.
I wasn’t hungry, but we were also out with Gulsah’s sister and her sister’s boyfriend (who looked suspiciously like Joe Jonas but just enough where you could never really be sure and it felt too awkward to ask) and when the second platter came out he just started digging in. And then because the Ancient Greek goddess Monica Geller is at the very core of my being, I took that as a challenge and decided I was going to finish it off on my own. I had what I can only describe as a competitive blackout because I couldn’t tell you what happened beyond that except that ten minutes later the second platter was gone, my friends all looked disgusted with me, and I was asking who wanted to go get ice cream.
Ryan C. Robert is the writer of multiple comedy blogs, most of which are satirical and self-deprecating. He writes about his life in his personal essay series "Before Color," parodies cooking blogs in "Trish's Dishes" and posts writing prompts every single day.