Shouts Into the Void

coffee2I walk into a coffee shop and I am greeted with faces obscured by phones and laptops. No one bothers to look up. Typing, the sounds of fingers endlessly typing on screens fills the room. At the counter, three baristas walk past me as they, too, fiddle with their own devices. “Excuse me?” I say, waving at each of them. This is me making my presence known in a world dominated by touchscreens. Finally, a woman acknowledges me. She takes my order and asks for my name. “Adrian,” I tell her. “Say again?” she asks. I take a deep breath, but she doesn’t hear me. She’s back on her phone. I turn around and see everyone else in line doing the same.

In a world where modern technology affords a greater sense of connectivity, we are strangely disconnected from one another. We are tiny squares in fluctuating screens, easy to scroll on by. Social media has become a platform to promote the best versions of ourselves. Our accomplishments, our engagements, our pregnancies. I myself have a Facebook, and, like so many others, I frequently post about my personal achievements, all for the sake of a systematic “like.” Clicking. Constant clicking. I am amazed by the click of a mouse. I might as well shout at everyone around me, begging to be noticed.

At the coffee shop, I ordered an iced coffee. I check my phone while I wait. After a few minutes, my order comes sliding across the counter. I can now get back home and resume my work, which consists of me staring at another, larger screen, typing the day away. I grab my drink, but I’m disappointed to see the name scribbled on the cup. “Angel,” it says. It seems the barista misheard me.

I searched my name on Google and discovered that there are over 200,000 people who share my name. One of them is a fashion designer. Another, a football player, a lawyer, a teacher. Alas, it was on the 8th page of results where I found a heartbreaking truth: I am but one Adrian in a sea of Adrians. I wondered, then, if any of them had trouble ordering a cup of coffee.

As a writer, I strive to make a name for myself. Recently, I had an article published in an online magazine, an article that came and went in less than a day. On Facebook, I got three likes. This didn’t surprise me. Months earlier, I witnessed the same thing happen to a fellow burgeoning writer. She had articles published on a similar magazine. Almost immediately came the outpour of comments like “Good job!” and “Congratulations!” More praise came her way as she went on posting more articles. One day, the comments stopped. No clicks. No likes. Her audience suddenly found her uninteresting, no longer trending. Yet, she continues to write. Most of her articles go virtually unseen. And still, she writes.

It’s not just her. We are all struggling to matter, to stay relevant. We want our voices to be heard, our stories to be remembered. Someone to notice us. The sad thing is, no matter what we do or who we become, it all comes to pass in the blink of an eye. We are but one among thousands of others who share the same name. We are a tiny photo in an archive of millions of portraits. We are little specks in an infinite universe.

In some small way, our lives do matter, even for just a moment. Our actions, our words, mere cogs in an ever-growing network of actions and words. If this is our only shot at making ourselves matter on a planet hovering in the void, then we might as well make a huge raucous. One great big shout across the universe.

It’s a new day. I walk back into same coffee shop and I am greeted with familiar phones and laptops. I head over to the counter. The barista meets my eyes for a brief second. I take a deep breath. “Adrian,” I tell her, “my name is Adrian.” She nods. I think she heard me this time.

What I’m Grateful For

I am grateful for my mistakes. My missteps and my faults. The things I should have known better to do, but did anyway. The things I should have taken the time to consider. What I should have worked harder on, put more effort into. The actions I took that fueled the flame of chaos. The decisions I made that only led to my downfall.

I am grateful for my regrets. My guilt and my shame. Everything I didn’t do or simply didn’t have the courage to do. The things I can’t change. The things I’m embarrassed of. What I wish I could erase altogether, along with the memories that haunt me and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my days.

I am grateful for the conflicts I’ve faced time and time again. The walls I’ve hit. The battles I’ve lost. The friends I cut. And the family I let go of. The people who came and went like doors opening and closing simultaneously. The conflicts and tragedies in my life that left me broken and forced me to put myself back together again.

I am grateful for the path behind me. Because everything, my struggles, my fallen dreams, my lost causes, all of it brought me to where I am now. I’m a college student in crippling debt. I’m a father who’s miles away from seeing his daughter again. And I’m a writer with an ambition, barely making ends meet.

Had I done my life a bit differently, I’d be someplace else. Better? Maybe. Worse? Probably. All I know for sure is what I’ve got as a result of who I’ve become, and I can’t imagine my life being anything else but this. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t want fame. I certainly don’t want to get rich. But I do want to support my daughter by making a living through the career that I want. I’m not asking for the world. I just want to give my daughter the world. Because that’s how much she means to me. It’s a long shot, like reaching for the stars. Then again, that’s what dreams are for. Sure, I may be down in the dumps right now, but I have nowhere else to go from here but up. And I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of simple answers as to what I’ve been thankful for. This, however, is perhaps the simplest answer I’ve come up with and undoubtedly the most truthful, one that I will echo for years to come. I am eternally grateful for my mistakes, and what my life has become because of them.

A Silver Lining

Sobbing, Eric continues to run. And he keeps on running. This is it he thinks, after making it past another mile or so. I can’t go on any further. I have to stop. His body is caving in, hunched over and ready to collapse. He wants nothing more than to sink down into the asphalt and let life trample over him. But he looks down at his feet and realizes that he’s still moving. Left, right, left, right, left, right. It’s all he can do just to put one foot in front of the other. Even then, he keeps his head up and his feet high, determined to keep on running.

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You Are Your Own Worst Critic

Criticism for any writer is a must. We need it as much as we hate it. How else are we going to improve our craft? In a world where creativity is everything, we have to know what works and what doesn’t. Do you care enough about a character to keep reading? Does the storytelling match the story? Though we may adore our own work, we have to learn to question it if we want to get to that next draft. That’s where criticism comes in. Now, I’m not an expert here nor have I been published, yet. But I have had extensive experience in writing workshops to know a thing or two about criticism and how to tolerate it. Luckily for you I’m going to share a few tips to try and help ease the pain. Most of all, I’m gonna show you that these critics aren’t so tough after all. They’re people too, just like me and you.

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Loneliness is Underrated

“People don’t realize this but loneliness, it’s underrated.” No, I didn’t write it. Yes, it’s from a movie. Doesn’t make it less true.

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore (500) Days of Summer. As a film, it transcends generations through its boldfaced honesty and reaches to the hopeless romantic in each of us. Tom, the hopeful hero of the story, is a character who we all can relate to. Just like him, we’re eventually drawn to the idea of true love at some point in our lives. But that’s through no fault of our own. We’d see it in movies, hear it play on the radio, and read about it in books. We’re exposed to it at such a young age that it becomes more of a goal than our own dreams, which is pretty much what happened to Tom. He’s the only enduring human trait throughout the story, even when the film accentuates those wondrous moments when he’s side by side with the girl of his dreams, then exaggerates his misery when he’s all alone. And isn’t that how it always is when we’re in love? We believe in it so blindly that we feel we need each other in order to be truly happy. It’s only when Tom climbs out of the depths of his own sorrow that he learns to be happy for himself and to embrace his life because of it. That to me is the true message of the film. So, through the context of (500) Days of Summer, I’m going to show you that being single doesn’t mean you have to be miserable. In fact, it may be the best thing that ever happened to you.

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