The Leaves

Lately, I’ve traded strides for stumbles
Shouts for mumbles
Pride and joy for being humbled
Roads that once seemed straight are jumbled
Storms of life rage on and rumble

I guess before I rise, I’ll tumble
And hope my foundations don’t crumble
But if they must, I’ll build anew from the dust
And the rubble

The season has come for dreary skies and leaves of yellow
As our Mother tries to give us beauty in the mellow
Before summer dies and winter says hello

I find such delight in harvest red and pumpkin orange
One of my best friends just flew to Florence
And I wish her the best
As I stay in the MidWest
Still learning to prioritize my rest

She asked if I’d make the effort to visit
I said I’d get back to her in a minute
Sadly, airports have a baggage limit
The weight on my chest doesn’t fit within it

I’ve been told the only constant is change
The hope amidst this hurt is strange
It’s a new feeling
It’s a new healing

Flipping through the books I read in my youth
Tapping back into some long lost truth
My legs ached the other day when I walked for a mile
It’s been a while
Longer than I thought
I somehow forgot how to carry myself with these feet
Aren’t we such feeble vessels of bone and meat?

Trudging through this delicate story
People tell me my twenties should be a time of glory
But I’ve been a little less adventurous, a little more cautious
The place I’ve been the most this year is a doctor’s office

I’m a little less present and a little more bitter
But it’s given me the space and time to reconsider
Who I am, what I do, what I want, what I make
Where I’ve been, where I’m going, what I’m here to create
In the last two years, I’ve been brutally bruised
But I’m learning to live with the stones in my shoes

I’ve been known to be too obsessed with it all
I oughtta put it to rest, my grandkids won’t recall
The days my hair was wild
Or the wrinkles in my clothes
But the wrinkles in my smile
I hope they remember those

This year went by fast, and for once I’m okay with it
I feared my hope wouldn’t last, but I’m sustaining it
Last fall, I had to give myself a reason
To believe I could make it another four seasons
I was saddened by the sweet autumn days I was missing
But I told myself the leaves will fall again
Now it’s 2023, my love and I are kissing
As we feel a pleasant breeze, and I’m taking it all in

Still not quite where I’d like to be
I’m getting there
The life I seek feels far from me, but I’m aware
That I can’t take this old debris and just repair
For trees don’t reach for fallen leaves
With branches bare
They begin anew
So I will too

Slowing Down

For the last twenty-one years, I’ve rarely stopped moving. Though my artistic ambitions have changed drastically, I’ve maintained a compulsion to push forward. As a high school student, my dream was to write for DC Comics. No one could dissuade me. I was committed to making trackable steps toward this career on a daily basis. Eventually, I decided not to limit myself to such a hyper-specific job; my creativity was far too multi-faceted. I instead set my sights on becoming a self-employed artist.

I believed social media was the quickest path to achieving this. So, I poured countless hours into developing an online following, only to discover that social media demands compromises. I had to devote most of my energy toward gimmicky videos and promotional posts to have a shot at success. And even my primary projects required catering to the masses… Fan films and travel vlogs seemed much more popular than my original stories, so my focus shifted. I told myself I just need to make art that’s popular, and then once I have an audience, I can make the art I really want to make! Upon becoming aware of this trap, I abandoned ship.

Since quitting social media, I’ve had the space to explore questions about myself as an artist. What types of stories do I want to tell? What mediums do I find most fulfilling? How can I improve my art? How can my art improve the world? I’ve produced some of my favorite projects in the last couple years, and it’s been incredible.

But the last couple years have also been deeply challenging and painful. As I discussed previously, I’ve been dealing with a chronic eye condition for quite some time. It was originally diagnosed as a form of Dry Eye, which took 8 procedures and months of daily treatments to be mostly “fixed.” Yet despite my objective improvement, the pain has not decreased in the slightest. It seems I have an underlying nerve issue causing extremely heightened sensitivity and pain in my corneas. I am seeking help regarding this condition, and should hopefully have a treatment path soon.

So… my artistic growth has been hindered by my physical incapabilities. At least, that’s how I viewed it until recently.

For years, I’ve carried an internal narrative about artistic success. I’ve always viewed my projects as stepping stones to something bigger. Perhaps a career as a novelist, comic book writer, or big-league director. Or better yet, an independent multi-medium artist with supportive fans around the globe. Our capitalistic society tells us that our passion must be our career. It is less valid if it is not profitable. This is a concept I’ve been unlearning as of late.

Why is a famous guitarist performing in front of thousands considered a “rock star”, while a person playing campfire songs for their family is just “a guy who plays guitar”? Why is a writer with a best-selling book considered an “author”, while a person with a notebook full of poems is just “an aspiring/wannabe author”? The answer is simple… In our society, artistry is only considered successful and valid when it attracts fame and fortune. Art can be anyone’s hobby, but it cannot be your identity unless it pays your bills, funds your lifestyle, and is seen by thousands of people across the world. This mentality was ingrained in me since childhood. It’s taken me my entire life to break free.

Throughout my childhood, teachers praised my creativity and said “You’ll be a movie star someday!” or “You’re gonna write a best-selling book!” These compliments certainly motivated me, but they also fed the narrative that my art should always be career-based. A vision was permanently implanted in my mind, wherein I was a rich and famous artist, with a massive audience of devoted fans. I’ve held onto this vision for so long, it feels inevitable. Up until recently, I’ve never considered a reality in which this dream doesn’t come true.

But lately, I’ve been debating the value of “goodness” over “greatness.” There is beauty in living a life without fame and fortune. There is value in creating art regardless of its profitability. Maybe my books won’t become world-famous, but maybe they will have a profound impact in my community. Maybe my films won’t be remembered for centuries, but maybe my grandchildren will watch them and be inspired. And maybe that’s enough for me.

I’ve always idolized artists who chose a definite aim, and followed through until they acquired their dreams. It’s an admirable approach that seems to work well for some… but I may need a different route. Of course, I would love to be recognized for my work, earn a living from my art, and have an audience of people interested in my stories. And I would be honored to have my books published around the globe, or receive a ginormous Hollywood budget to produce a film. But it’s time for me to slow down, and acknowledge it’s okay if I never reach that “promised land.” It’s okay to be right where I am. Most of the legendary artists died penniless. Greatness is a ruse. Very few successful people say that fame and fortune solved all their problems. The “greatest” artists of our time still have emotional and physical struggles. And those who act like their monetary success makes them 100% happy always appear rather shallow.

Art is a means of self-expression, self-improvement, and self-healing. It is a way to connect with one’s innermost spirit. It is a vessel to capture and release one’s imagination. It is an opportunity to forge bonds and memories with other creative humans. It is a tool for impacting individuals and societies. It is a manner of leaving a legacy. These qualities are far more important than any recognition it may garner, or profit it may earn. I would continue to tell stories if they never earned me a cent, and if my audience consisted only of my immediate friends and family. That’s been the case for my entire life, and it’s been more than sufficient.

Now, let’s circle back to my chronic pain. I thought my condition was inhibiting my art. But that’s because I viewed my art-making as a linear trajectory, all leading up to this mythical “end goal.” Indeed, this condition has disrupted my Five Year Plan. It has delayed many milestones. It has screwed up my personal deadlines. But my art can still exist without these structures.

So, for the first time in my life, I’m slowing down. I’m lifting all deadlines. I’m taking a break.

I thought by choosing a life of artistry and passion, I had escaped the capitalistic rat race. But I’ve been running my own rat race this entire time without realizing. I’ve been tirelessly working toward a goal, without ever stopping to consider if I truly wanted it. And I’ve been holding myself to a high standard of productivity, perhaps because it seemed necessary to achieve the hugely successful career I’ve been told I must have.

This revelation was difficult to believe. After all, storytelling is my truest calling. It fills me with tremendous joy and purpose, so how could it be doing me any harm? Well, I’ve unintentionally enforced structures onto my passion, and these structures are not conducive to the type of freedom I need as an artist, and as a human. Timelines can still be very valuable and necessary. Productivity, passion, work ethic, and dreaming big remain part of who I am. But for now, I’d like to discover the version of me that exists when I remove all deadlines and expectations. This should be exciting.

It’s also time to give my body a genuine chance to rest. I am enduring serious physical pain every day because of my condition. It is emotionally taxing and physically sickening. I need to accept that my body requires rest, and that my health is my highest priority. I recognize my privilege; many people would not be able to take a hiatus from work, regardless of physical ailments. But in an ideal society, such a thing would not be considered a privilege. Rest is a necessity, and one I ought to afford myself.

This removal of expectations also extends beyond my creative work. I set high standards for myself when it comes to seeking joy and meaning in life, especially through travel. I have internalized many narratives about how and when I will travel the world. I have plans to experience unique cultures, natural wonders, and diverse people through my adventures. If I was unrestricted by pain, I would be embarking on some ambitious trips at the moment. But instead, I am learning to accept my current situation, and acknowledge that my adventures will be limited for the time being.

My inability to safely move through the world, as well as my struggle to partake in simple daily activities, brings me a great deal of stress and anxiety. These heavy emotions radiate in my mind throughout the day, and have even infiltrated my sleep; I’ve been experiencing occasional panic episodes in the night, accompanied by nightmares about my health. Hence why this break is necessary… If I remove the urgency that comes with these self-imposed timelines to create, travel, and conquer life, I can find solace in this season of stillness, and patiently look forward to days of wellness and passion. I can make peace with being a simple organism on the planet Earth. Because when all social structures are stripped away, that’s all we really are. Creatures of the Earth.

We can tell ourselves stories of destiny and greatness, but we are all subject to the inevitable waves of life. And we may sail through them as hurriedly or as slowly as we please.

Like many others, I too often ask the question What will people think? Much of my anxiety is derived from this irrational fear of being judged. My intense productivity was a subconscious attempt to impress people. My deadlines were partly an attempt to keep up with the accomplishments of others my age, or perhaps get ahead of them. And now, as I embark on this deliberate break, I feel hesitation. I feel concerned that I will fall behind on life, and I will be judged for not keeping up.

But there is no “behind” or “ahead.” There is no rush.

We are here to exist. It’s okay to just exist

That’s what every other organism on the planet is doing.

Change

In recent months, I’ve gone through some difficult phases. My outlook on life, my creative practice, and my self-image have all been radically reshaped by some rather challenging circumstances. To quote The Legend of Korra, “when we reach our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.”

In 2021, I developed a condition called Dry Eye Disease. Several months later, I discovered it was a more specific version known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. I’ll spare you from excessive medical details, but I would like to explain how this condition has impacted my life, and how it is far more than just dryness.

The glands surrounding my eyes no longer produce the necessary oils for healthy tears. Generally, humans have a tear film that constantly protects the surface of their eyes. But my tear film is very low-quality. Therefore, my eyes are exposed and unprotected at all times. One might think this would only cause issues in the case of dust, pollen, or irritants. But anything can harm unprotected eyes, including the air inside my home.

All in all, I’ve been suffering from debilitating chronic pain in my eyes for over a year now. On most days, I wake up with severe pain, use my doctor-recommended treatments until the pain is bearable, then try to have a somewhat enjoyable/productive day (while avoiding environments that could worsen the pain). On certain days, the pain is much less. But on other days, the pain is excruciating, and I have to keep my eyes closed for hours.

Since 2021, I’ve cycled through various treatments, coping mechanisms, and attitudes toward the condition. During certain months, I masked the pain and endured the elements carelessly. During other months, I stayed indoors and often slept my days away to avoid facing the pain.

Learning to live with pain that lacks a definitive end has been a rollercoaster. And accepting my incapabilities has been quite the process. It wasn’t until November 2022 that I acknowledged how much of my self-worth was wrapped into my productivity. I have prided myself on creative accomplishments and prolificity for as long as I can recall. My months are defined by how many stories/films I publish, and the years of my life are marked by how many projects I completed. Granted, storytelling is my passion. It is a source of joy and fulfillment. But I never realized, until recently, how I used it as a measurement of my success and worth.

Due to my eye pain, I cannot write peacefully for long periods of time. Nor can I spend hours filming outside without consequences. I have found helpful treatments and temporary solutions (such as the goggles pictured above), but nothing that stops the unpredictable pain. So, I’ve had to accept that my work schedule is largely out of my control. My body is making decisions for me, and my mind has limited input.

But let’s talk about the mind. While I can’t simply will the pain to go away, and perseverance only goes so far in moments of crippling hurt, the mind is far from powerless. My lack of productivity initially made me feel depressed and helpless, but I have learned to accept my situation, and not value my worth based on what I can create or contribute.

Joshua Luke Smith, my creative mentor and comrade, told a story about his dear friend. After severe health complications, she was lying in a hospital bed, in critical condition, unconscious and unable to do or say anything. When Joshua visited her, all he could think was She has never been more loved than she is in this moment. By telling this story, Joshua illustrated one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last year of my life… We are not less valuable when we are less capable.

I needed to deeply understand that, despite my condition, I was still loved by my closest family, my truest friends, and the spiritual/universal forces I’ve always believed in. But most importantly, I was still deserving of love from myself. I started to ask myself a critical question… How would I treat a loved one if they were suffering from a painful condition? Would I shame them for their lack of productivity, and force them to live life “normally”? Or would I care for them like a sick person, with warm meals, considerate gifts, and cozy company? The answer was evident.

At the start of 2023, I began an initiative of self-compassion. I redecorated my apartment to make it much more cozy and fun. Now, whenever my pain confines me to my home, I’m surrounded by artwork and colors that make me happy.

I started devoting more time to cooking delicious meals. My past self would’ve hated extended time in the kitchen… he always thought there were “better things to do” than spend an hour on a meal that would be consumed in minutes. But the simple act of making something for my own pleasure has become a significant gesture of self-love.

I bought myself a slew of stylish new clothes. I’ve always resisted changing my signature style (which is just black sweatpants & a black hoodie). Any fashion beyond these casual garments made me feel like I was trying too hard to impress people. But now, I get dressed up for my own enjoyment. Looking in the mirror and seeing myself in a unique and colorful ensemble gives me a subtle contentment I’ve never before experienced.

I’ve also been surrounding myself with loved ones during moments when company is needed. I’ve been seeing a therapist once a week, to unpack my emotional baggage. And, most importantly, I’ve been practicing acceptance of what I can and cannot do. Last month, I did not release a single film or written story. Instead, I wrote a poem as a means of coping with my pain, I brainstormed projects I will create when I feel more physically capable, and I dreamt of future adventures that will ensue when my eyes are more manageable. Essentially, I transformed my desolation into joyful anticipation.

This struggle with my body is far from over. My eyes may never return to their original state, but I will find a way to live without frequent pain. There are new treatments and tools on the horizon, and at least one of them will work. Of this much, I’m certain.

In addition to self-compassion, my greatest takeaway from this journey has been a deepened sense of empathy. I find myself navigating the world with much more awareness and consideration. It may sound like a cliché, but everyone is enduring something. Plenty of people in my immediate life suffer from their own health issues. Nearly everyone in the world is living and coping with some inhibiting mental and/or physical hurt. Now, having experienced the struggles of a truly restrictive condition, I am committed to being more accommodating to others. I want to be a person who makes others feel seen, understood, and cared for.

Interestingly, self-compassion and empathy are the two major outcomes of this internal conflict.

How beautiful and strange that such sincere love was forged by such severe pain. 

 

Hurt

My eyes really hurt
And for the longest time, I’ve lacked the words
To explain this pain beyond allegories and allusions
To refrain from reducing this story to a conclusion

But to claim this experience has been a lesson
Would only serve to lessen this experience
So if I may be concise and overt…
My eyes really hurt

Nearly two years have since gone by
But I vividly remember that Fourth of July
Squinting as fireworks erupted in the sky
While I felt an unsoothable stinging in my eyes

Despite what I was prescribed
It never went away
The medicines I tried
Never kept it at bay
Though I firmly denied
The pain was here to stay
It’s been so much time
Yet it hurts to this day

I’m relatively young, the ripe age of twenty
Youthful enough to believe I had plenty
Of time before my health would ever fail me
Before I could develop an incurable ailment

So I dismissed the pain, expecting it to vanish
The idea of it lasting a month was outlandish
But it lasted two… three… and then four
Now I don’t bother keeping count anymore

I tried painkillers and eye drops
They helped only a bit
Antibiotics lined my countertops
Didn’t feel any benefits
I took everything the doctors ordered
And they ordered a lot
They said with meds, I’d move forward
But sadly, I did not

Steroids didn’t help much either
Even though I followed procedure
The pain was stronger than every antidote
So I put my faith in online anecdotes

I adjusted my diet, I thought why not try it?
Any product or service advertised, I’d buy it
I was desperate for healing, this hurt I was feeling
Was cruel and unyielding, felt like my fate was sealing

Let me provide specifics
The glands inside my eyelids had shifted
Shriveled and dried to the point of deficiency
I’m well aware this is unpleasant imagery
But I implore you to envision me
With tears that evaporate far too quickly
And blood vessels making my eyes appear sickly

The human cornea is dense with nerves
More sensitive than any other human tissue
So imagine how severely my eyes hurt
When my glands and tears became riddled with issues

My protective tear film was practically gone
So each of my eyes became an open wound
This crippling pain lasted so damn long
My bedroom became the place I cocooned

I slept days away
Relief only came when my eyes were closed
I was put in harm’s way
Simply by waking up with my eyes exposed
For hundreds of days
I was greeted each morning by a whiplash of pain
And each night I prayed
That this terrible season would pass like the rain

But it stayed
The hurt refused to fade
And I was forced to adapt
To a condition that perhaps
Exists due to a drug
I took when I was young
A pill designed to clear up skin
I wish I knew the full extent
Of what all those side effects meant
They say it only hurts one percent
I guess I’m in that one percent

I’d kill to just have bad skin again
How was that my only issue then?
This last year, I’ve suffered greatly
Existing has been daunting lately

Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply grateful
For my companions and adventures
But when your own two eyes are unstable
It’s hard to appreciate the splendor

I flew to San Francisco to see a friend
The wind stung my eyes for hours on end
My love came to visit me at Christmastime
But the cold was too much, so we remained inside
Returned to Norway after eight long years
As I marveled at the beauty, my pain conjured tears
Even as I continued the necessary treatments
The excruciating hurt was persistent and frequent

I’ve lived more pleasant moments than I can mention
But I wish I could’ve given them more of my attention
There’s mountains and sunsets I saw through aching eyes
My expressions of enjoyment were too often a disguise

My therapist told me
It’s perfectly fine
To mourn the life I once had
I miss the old me
The joy that was mine
Before I tasted anguish this bad

I miss when my car
Was a vessel of freedom
My ticket to the open road
Now I find it hard
To accept that it’s become
A box with harsh air enclosed

I miss when every doorway or window
Wasn’t a passage from safety to peril
Now walking outside when the temperature is low
Causes my eyes to feel painfully sterile

I miss the pleasures of being outdoors
Enjoying a breeze or a morning stroll
But with this condition, I have to account for
All simple pleasures extracting a toll

Even at home
How can I find peace in being alone?
I used to find solace in reading a book
But it hurts just to look
It hurts just to read, to see, to be
I spent so many months being unproductive
When you’re hurting, idleness is so seductive

I’ve learned not to blame myself
My worth is not defined by books on my shelf
Or films in my catalogue
Or trips in my travel log
But I miss when I didn’t have to overcome pain
Simply to partake in the grand or mundane

I miss when my body was fully capable
And I didn’t know how lucky I was
Now this agony is inescapable
God, I miss how easy life was

I miss when every day wasn’t a countdown ’til night
I miss when I didn’t long to simply step outside
I miss when I didn’t feel this stinging in my eyes
I miss when it was less painful just to be alive

I mourn the man who held conversations
Who made fearless creations
As he traversed the nation
And his only focus was on what he beheld
Not the pain he concealed
Not the hurt he withheld

I mourn the child whose injuries would always heal
Whose parents could vanquish the pain he would feel
But ease has become a stranger
Now I’m better acquainted with danger
And I wonder if the life I lived before was even real

But I mustn’t get philosophical
I wish to keep this as honest as possible
There’s a single reality I must comply with
These are the eyes I was born with, and the eyes I will die with
And I’ll try tirelessly to make them heal
But allow me to repeat how I presently feel
Without mincing words…
My eyes really hurt

Dreaming

I passed violet flowers in Shaw Park three days ago
They reminded me how everything alive is made to grow
My internal seasons are aligning with the natural year
And springtime is a sign there isn’t much I have to fear

I hardly ever spend time down by the Gateway Arch
But I see it from the train when I travel home in March
I’ve been away so long, novelties are now traditions
Try to take it up with Time, but I’m told he doesn’t listen

My joy has been more solemn lately
But it’s more deserved
Than the joy I had innately
Before enduring hurt
My hope has been a little fragile
Sometimes I feel naive
Though I’m injured from this battle
I’ve got the strength to leave

My dad and I have bonded
Over pain we wish would go away
And when I start to feel despondent
He says take it day by day
Camille says I hate to see you hurt
It’s been over a year
I say Your presence and words
Make it all feel less severe

A Northern man at heart, wintertime is where I’m most at home
Fall is a close second, I feel autumn winds within my bones
Never knew I needed spring, until I saw its healing power
Now I dream of summer nights, I’ve been counting down the hours

Dreaming of riding a bike, surrendering to my momentum
Dreaming of taking a hike, walking off woes ’til I forget them
Dreaming of an evening drive, windows down, pain in the rearview
Dreaming of living my life, with no restrictions to adhere to

Walking through Chicago
And it’s still snowing
Winter was awhile ago
But the cold’s ongoing
Hard not to dream of warmth
And sunny days ahead
I ought to leave the North
Live by the sea instead

Somewhere out of reach
Pleasant tastes and smells
I’m picturing the beach
Stepping over shells
Or maybe on a beautiful
Mountaintop or hill
With a sunlit studio
Everything is still

All this to say, I’m dreaming
Of finding some serenity
Not devoid of meaning
But a little less intensity
And a bit more focus
On the simple pleasures
I’m dreaming of the slowness
And more forgiving weather 

But the pitiless part
Of all weather and seasons
Is how they depart
Without giving a reason
Though summer is kind
I can count on it leaving
But it’s all by design
And so I’ll keep on dreaming

Slumber

It’s been a good minute
Since my pen touched the page
My mind hasn’t been in it
Been feeling five times my age
I’ve got projects unfinished
So many deadlines delayed
Perhaps I overcommitted
I didn’t plan to be in pain

For four hundred days, my life has been askew
Been impatiently waiting for it to begin anew
This condition is inhibiting, the waves of pain are riveting
I know there have been good days, but only just a few

When the time is right, you’ll know how much it really hurt
How this monster in my body dragged me through the dirt
How this disability’s been killing me unwillingly
But even through the agony, I still wandered the Earth

The North Sea’s frigid waters
Froze me to my soul
And from atop Mount Fløyen
I connected with the cold
My past self became a stranger
So I had to let him go
There’s a doubt and anger
I abandoned back in Mexico

There’s an inner child
Who I met again in California
He told me This life is wild,
Never say I didn’t warn ya
Looked a raven in its eyes
So much beauty I beheld
Within the seas, and in the skies
I can’t help but see myself

This season of pain has been quite hard to process
But I know there’s light in the dark
On this treacherous sea, how am I not lost yet?
Love must be guiding my ark

I’ve been held together by family members
A handful of friends, and a lover
Without these guardians, how could I ever
Make it from one day to another?

How deeply ironic, how sweetly poetic
I had to be brought to my knees
To be shaped into someone truly empathetic
Perhaps it was my destiny

To use my words and my passion for art
In the healing of suffering souls
It’s time for my work to transcend my heart
It’s time to accept a new role

A friend of mine was asked
What he’s trying to become
And he replied a man who listens
Now I’ve adopted that task
And I’ve barely just begun
But I know it’s a worthy mission

For the first time in life
I understand the weight
Of devoting myself to kindness
When I emerge from this strife
I’ll be a force against hate
Giving more than just cheer and politeness

But in order to give love
I have to love myself
So now my days consist of
Caring for my health
I redecorated my walls
Lit up my home with color
Even if it seems small
I think it’s helping me recover

I cut my hair yet again
One less thing to fuss over
Back in touch with my friends
So glad when they come over
Bought myself new clothes
Never cared much for fashion
Now I get dressed up alone
Trying to show myself compassion

From my bodily pains to my spats with depression
Hindsight somehow smooths out all the edges
So I need to recollect and reflect on my lessons
If Hell can exist inside my body, so can Heaven

I have overcome more than I remember on the daily
I have endured wars, although my memory betrays me
Even though this current chapter frequently frustrates me
It’s part of my life story, I know better days await me

I am in more pain than I was a year ago
But I’m far more sane than I was a year ago
And I don’t think I’d trade the last year for another one
I’ve been speaking to the universe in my mother tongue

I’ve been thinking often about young Keilan
I wonder if he’d have some conflicted feelings
If he saw me staring for hours at the ceiling
Sending up prayers while I’m on the floor kneeling

Maybe he would find his future unappealing
Or be a little frightened by the demons I’m concealing
But I know he’d be amazed with the secrets time is revealing
And I hope he’s okay with devoting this year to healing

I used to stare out my window
At the Chicago lights
Nowadays I feel a bit low
On cold Chicago nights
I’m learning that it’s okay
To lean into my body’s seasons
In the winter, there’s dismay
And I’m done demanding reasons

I’ll be back to morning walks
Evening drives, days of passion
Overly ambitious talks
That I follow up with action
Days of peace, nights of romance
Overflowing with fulfillment
Waking up and taking no chance
At missing a single moment

But for now, I slumber
I shall not wander the Earth
This is not my fruitful summer
Yet I have not lost my worth

For now, I shall rest
And I am far from ashamed
In this moment, I am less
But I am loved all the same

A Letter From the Future

To my ten-year-old self, and myself in my twenties
Stop grasping onto time, I promise you got plenty
There are days when the world’s moving all too fast
There are days when you’d trade the present for the past

But don’t look back, at least not for too long
You’ll have time to reflect, but you gotta move along
You’re gonna go through loss, and it’ll hurt like hell
And man, I wish I would could say that all will be well

But life is meant to be messy, a mad work in progress
So live it for yourself, don’t consider it a contest
You’ll manage to achieve your childhood desires
But there are bolder dreams that you’re yet to acquire

In a way it all works out, and in a way it never does
You’ll find balance in what will be, what is, and what was
Your path is not set, you’ve got mountains to climb
Just don’t waste your life away fighting with Time 

A Letter From the Present

To my younger self, you worry far too much about it all
I know it seems blurry, but you cannot rise without a fall
You will lose your innocence, you will lose some dreams
But I promise your youth remains stitched in your seams

There’s childhood bliss that you’ll ache to hold onto
But there’s a future calling, you ought to respond to
I’m sorry for the heartbreak I know you’ll endure
There’s meaningful growth when you cross through that door

The world awaits you, you haven’t seen the half of it
Friends and adventures, you really can’t imagine it
As I write you this letter, I’m thankful beyond words
Things do get better, you keep moving onwards

I’m so grateful I was just handed this overflowing cup
‘Cause honestly, my greatest fear has always just been growing up
But I’ve been never been more tapped in to my imagination
I’ve never been closer to achieving what I’m chasing

I’m deeply in love, and my love keeps on deepening
I’ve got daunting dreams that I won’t stop believing in
Obsessed with my craft, and fulfilled by my life
I’m not rushing the future, it will soon arrive

Perhaps sooner than later, those teenage years were fast
I’m coming to find the sweetest things never last
Now I’m wrestling with Time, hoping I can pin him down
Only twenty, but I fear the day they put me in the ground

What if I never achieve the greatness I’m pursuing?
What if those crowds in my head remain just an illusion?
I’ve embraced my adulthood, but I’m still afraid
That the passing of time is a double-edged blade

I miss my first adventure alone, I drove to Michigan
I wish that I could return home, have my first kiss again
People no longer see me as a kid, that’s a little strange
I’m not ready for this change, I’m not ready for this change

A Letter From the Past

My world is so small, and yet my mind is infinite
Life’s got a rulebook, but I haven’t been given it
I’m ten years old, somehow I feel like I’m a King
My youth is too sweet to not be everlasting

Riding bikes on the paths in the park with my father
Could plan for the future, but why would I bother?
I live in the present, I cherish each moment
This bliss is so rare, and I don’t even know it

I never cared too much about my appearance
Even in a room full of faces, I stay fearless
The creatures that dwell in my brain keep me company
Might be at my peak, got the universe under me

Don’t care who’s in love with me, not for right now
My future’s lined up for me, I won’t strike out
Writing stories and books at my desk or in bed
I’ve got thousands of fans, they’re just all in my head

For most of this decade, I’ve been a bit delirious
Now my teachers tell me that it’s time to get serious
But that’s never been me, I refuse to concede
What if I lose my dreams, honestly I’m fearing this

And I think for the first time, judgement affects me
It’s like kids in these hallways just live to inspect me
Life is getting bizarre, is this the end of my youth?
I hear it’s time to grow up, and I fear it’s the truth

I put away my notebooks, throw ‘em in the drawer
I’m telling people don’t look, feeling insecure
It’s becoming clearer that my purity’s in danger
I look into the mirror, swear to God I see a stranger

Swept up in struggles, going through these motions
While trying to juggle uncertain emotions
I wish I had answers, ‘cause everything’s new to me
Worried I’m losing me, worried I’m losing me

Twenty Years

I once believed in certain universal truths and principles
Like goodness will prevail, and happiness can be invincible

I thought one day I’d be immune to life’s highs and lows
And if I saw storms oncoming, I just wouldn’t fly below

I sought clear-cut chapters, and pages I could write upon
I wanted to steer my story, rather than just ride along

I thought life could be a fairytale, full of glee, free of pain
But these days, I find myself soaring headfirst into rain

I embrace the darkness, finding it beautiful and natural
And I’ve accepted the broken bricks as I build my castle

We are each imperfect, as is the world we inhabit
And those of us seeking purity will likely never have it

If a man claims to be perfect, and if light is all he knows
Then when shown the world’s hurt, he keeps his eyes closed

There are no wise men, only those whose minds are set
The most knowledgeable people know they know nothing yet

Some days, I live that fairytale I once believed in
But other days, my mind is a place I need to grieve in

Some days, I believe in the kindness of humanity
But at times, this broken system feels like a sham to me

I have smiled, basking in the beauty of a blizzard
And I’ve listened to the ocean, where divinity is heard

But I’ve also observed evil no God could have made
Some claim injustice left us, but I’m certain it stayed

I find myself unraveling the brain inside my skull
And picking apart pieces to unlearn what I was told

Like when you meet the one, you’ll be content until you die
Why do we tell tales that perpetuate these lies?

Human connection is needed, from family to lovers
We need partners and companions as we grow and discover

People with whom we can freely fail and improve
Not mirrors of ourselves, or pawns for us to move

I had to relinquish my desire for control
And doing so lifted a heavy weight from my soul

There is much I cannot change, there is much I cannot do
Yet I believe in the gift of turning visions into truth

I believe in telling stories, this much has never wavered
And I’ve spoken to the Earth, I will do what I can to save her

Much like how our planet beholds starlight and dirt
There’s beauty in how we withhold such strength and hurt

Every Season

Darling, your smile is orange as summer
Your laughter is green as the spring
In the winter lights, you find every color
And you love the yellow autumn brings

For six long years, you’ve held me through time
Making sure we remember the reason
To endure, and ensure our love stays sublime
Beautiful, I love you in every season

You tend to find magic where you look and explore
From those audiobooks to the classiest stores
And the music and rhythms you feel in your soul
The Kings of pop and the Queens of rock & roll

How I admire your adoration for nature
As well as your mission to make the world safer
We marvel together at Earth’s grand features
You’re deeply connected to its many creatures

Like speaking to a kookaburra at the farm
Or running bravely to save a turtle from harm
Diving in the pool to rescue an iguana
And to Gomez, you’re the most loving mama

You keep me young, but your knowledge dates back
As for entertainment, you know every fact
You use stories and fictional films to unlock
Ways to overcome scars and turn pride to your rock

I could not be prouder of the dreams you’re chasing
And all that you’ve learned on the way
Despite unfair adversity I know you’re facing
You manage to conquer each day

You are closer than ever to jobs you imagined
Someday soon, you’ll work with your idols
But should you choose a path a bit more old-fashioned
I will love you, regardless of titles

You’re modern and vintage, you’re artsy and old-school
You’re traditional, yet inventive
You’re fiercely independent, nobody controls you
But your mom is your truest incentive

You make every season a tale of glory
I love our adventures and nonsense
Honey, I’m simply in awe of your story
And grateful to be in its contents

A Fox in the Dark

Do you remember the rainbow that formed
As we stood before Buckingham Fountain?
Some say first impressions are unimportant
But I’d say that one surely counted

And do you recall the rides on the train
Group dinners and walks by the water?
Swimming in sunlight, strolling in rain
And the countless questions we’d ponder?

That snowball fight in Millennium Park
Telling stories in the dark
And the quests we embarked on
Beauty in being curious
Like that fox alluring us
Forgive me, my one gift is wordiness

And yours is maps of existence
You bear such resistance
To the world’s hinderances
And my world view expands
Each time we discuss our plans
For navigating the grand and unknown

Though we are shown otherwise,
In this life we hold the gift of choice
Although I often wonder why
When I hear this city’s name, it’s in your voice
But I know our journeys are intertwined
From Chicago, Illinois
To foreign seas and skies

So here I stand
Having traveled to an unfamiliar land
No longer photos and stories
Now I know first-hand
What a profound delight
It is to soak in this coastal light
Like Lewis said in his song
I won’t live long
But this feels right

A Letter to Time

Another day goes by
A week, a month, then a season
They always say time flies
But they never tell us the reason
I’m writing a letter to Time
Asking why I should believe him
When he says “Child of mine,
I swear your youth is never leaving”

Only ten days remain
Until my teenage years are over
By now, my mind has been trained
To count the petals on my clovers
And see wonder in the rain
Not just the beauty that’s leftover
I was drunk on guilt and pain
But I think I’m finally sober

Because I see my past and future with astounding clarity
I mapped out my next five years, I won’t let purpose be a rarity
Reconnecting with my passions, so my inner flame burns daily
Sailing a boat of my ambitions, confident that it won’t fail me

In this age of forward thinking, our hindsight we’re sure to lose
So I’ve been delving through history, tapping into my Nordic roots
Finding our minds, bodies, and stories are all shaped by Time’s passage
We grow with each rose that blooms and every wave that crashes

But not all can be romanticized
Not everything’s idealistic
Over half my life I’ve fantasized
Now is it time to be realistic?
Each day I look more like my father
And act more like my mom
With all the wisdom that I’ve gathered
Can my youth really be gone?

With all the moments I’ve collected
I feel rich in Time’s currency
With all the thoughts I’ve dissected
To stop my mind from hurting me
I feel seasoned, I feel weathered
By my newly formed maturity
Yet I remain partially tethered
To my inner child’s purity

Time, why are we molded by curses and blessings from youth?
Why do we spend our fleeting days seeking impossible truths?
How do we know when the time for which we strive has arrived?
And how can we fully acknowledge the privilege of being alive?

If I am the man my younger self always dreamed I’d become
Then why do I feel as though my story arc has barely begun?
And why the hell is each year so much shorter than the last?
Plans become moments, moments become memories of the past

And is there a reason for death?
When a soul departs, do flowers grow by the grave that’s left?
Do you mend the wound of a heart tumbling out of a chest?
’Til I know, I cannot rest

And what is the purpose of loss?
To love a living being, why must you assign a cost?
Why can’t you grant every wish tied to these coins we toss?
Am I not meant to have these thoughts?

Why do we feel such stress?
The weight we carry on our backs is needlessly immense
Why must we feel the world depends on our success?
The truth is so much less

What’s the point of wars fought?
The heavy heads, calloused hands, and ink blots?
We all run from nothingness until we get caught
Is meaning just a facade?

Perhaps the flipping of calendar pages amounts to very little
Maybe the answers we seek are part of an unsolvable riddle
But dwindling years, faces soaked in tears, and blissful cheers
Bring us something more sincere than a purpose that’s clear

Time, you give us well-earned love and powerful connections
You give us revelations on life’s wondrous imperfections
You grant us growth and a place in the cycles of existence
We plead for you to stand still, but require your resistance

There are lessons rolled in rainclouds
And truths in scathing summers
As these holidays all fall away
Hopes for stagnation sink under
We are free-falling through open skies
With no parachute instructions
In these frighteningly brief lives
We must make our own deductions

But there lies the secret, I suppose
Everyone speaks it, yet no one knows
How to live without bounds and baggage
And make it through each daunting passage
Accept that some moments will be lost
Vows will break, lines will be crossed
Despite efforts from young and old
Time, you can’t be tamed or controlled

Wizardry

Seven books you read to me, over countless weary nights
I drifted into dreams listening by orange lamplight
Stories of great ogres, trolls, dragons, fairies, and elves
We were gifted from my grandmother’s wooden bookshelves

She passed along words of wonder for us to explore
We sought a bedtime story, yet we found something more
Tales that spoke truths about our most unusual lives
And chapters that allowed my imagination to thrive

To this day, I return to those pages for inspiration
When I embark on my own quests of worldly creation
It is a delight to dive into a rich fictional history
And wander the wild lands of witchcraft and wizardry

These days, I so scarcely write strictly as a fan
But I so deeply appreciate these books on my nightstand
Somehow magic wands, dark lords, and forbidden forests
Have formed real bonds and friendships, the very purest

Though it is rare for a writer to achieve such reach
Before my life ends, a unique tale I hope to unleash
One that resonates with children and old souls as well
It is a story with a glowing core of truth I hope to tell

A story that transcends generations and cultures
Reigniting childhood for those living through adulthood
An adventure weaving together events both lovely and tragic
I want to thank these seven books for granting me the gift of magic

The Hill

Not only have we been climbing this hill
We’ve been pushing bone-crushing stones to the top
Sometimes we make progress, other times we stand still
And on occasion, we feel the pressure to stop

But there’s a chorus of voices cheering us from all sides
And new forces have joined us to carry the weight
Yet perhaps it’s a ruse, are they just loyal online?
Because if so, not much has changed in our fate

These are feelings I’ve heard have been felt by minorities
Living in this land built on overt oppression
In the face of danger, they’re expected to stay orderly
But you’ll never hear the government give that confession

I am a white man living in America
I possess the privilege to discard these thoughts
I could spend my life pretending racism is hysteria
But the people directly impacted cannot

I could live a life of deliberate ignorance
Never recognizing my skin tone is beneficial
Because being caucasian somehow makes a difference
To employers and law enforcement officials

So thank you to the past and present activists
Who frequently remind me to combat the violence
That includes every protestor, not just the pacifists
Because actions are needed when words are silenced

There will likely never be a flawless President
But the last one set quite a dangerous precedent
I saw January 6th unfold live on the internet
A full year has passed, punishment hasn’t been given yet

If anything vital came from those four years
It would be the exposure of our corrupt system
The most concealed faults were made crystal clear
And it became known which citizens remain victims

The nation is unfinished may be an understatement
Because united is in the word nation’s definition
How can we be a country when our disunion is so blatant?
We require foundational rebuilding and revision

We’ve been climbing this hill for countless sunsets
But it turns out the hill was an entire mountain range
When the finish seems near, we find the journey isn’t done yet
But it must be worth the trek if the destination is change

Some Americans claim to be guilt-free and virtuous
Saying how can I be racist, I’m completely color-blind
But ignoring past injustice is ignorance, not perfectness
So all you’re really doing is turning a blind eye

One of the greatest deterrents to improvement
Is deceiving one’s self into thinking all is well
And lately in this country, I’ve witnessed a movement
To claim our nation is a Heaven, and silence those who feel it’s Hell

Derek Chauvin was imprisoned for murdering George Floyd
He knelt on a man’s neck for nearly ten minutes
Yet when he received his sentence, there was massive shock and joy
That a cop was held accountable for crimes he committed

White Americans, this offended defensiveness must halt
I assure you, we are not the ones under attack
It’s easy to say our generation is not at fault
But addressing our race’s wrongs is the only ask

We live in the shade, leaps and bounds from the light
We’re at the base of the mountain, our climb has just begun
Let’s applaud our remarkable progress and might
But we must continue climbing until we reach the sun

The Watering Writer Ep 1: Wandering Chicago

Combining my passions for film, photography, editing, poetry/story writing, voiceover, travel, and daydreaming into one series! This video is the culmination of many days spent brainstorming new ways to document moments in a beautiful and imaginative way that would fulfill me as an artist while also bringing something new and meaningful to my audience.

We Don’t Know

We don’t know how, in this merciless void
Through all that’s been created and destroyed
The needed ingredients and conditions insist
On existing, allowing human life to persist 

If Earth moved too far forward or backward
We’d be frozen over or scorched by the sun
It’s a miracle we were given just the right factors
To build all we’ve built and do all that’s been done

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