I’m Creating Again

Today has been a day off. I haven’t gone anywhere, or really done a whole lot. But, I have done one thing. I’ve been creating. (I also applied for my first car loan *shudder* and searched around online for cars within my pre-loan budget… b/c I haven’t been accepted yet, DUH!)

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Going analog with The Disappearance of Clara Summers, in the background you can see my Intuos Art sitting on my computer that I’m using to draw digitally.

(I also shared some work that I created previously. Here, here, and here.)

I can’t tell you how good it feels to create again, and not just because I’m sitting with a heating pad on my back, on and off, while I do it. I wish I could do this all day, every day. Sadly, I only get eight days a month to devote to creating. (That’s 25% of my month… less!)

This last week I’ve managed to talk myself into working before I go in to the day job, or to sit down after I get home late at night. Yeah, 10pm isn’t late to most people, but I’m like 80 years old when it comes to the time I want to be in bed. #DefinitelyNotANiteOwl

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with my life. I’ve tossed around the idea of going back to school to get my teaching license, going to grad school like my friends from BSU English and getting my Masters in Creative Writing, and I’ve even considered just dropping everything, moving to New York, Seattle, or Chicago and just seeing what happens.

Teaching License: uhm… I like teaching Sunday school, but the education system itself is really screwed up and I’m just not ready to handle that.

Grad School: How in the world am I supposed to get the money for that/apply for grants/scholarships? I’m probably the most skittish person in the world about applying for things. It’s taken me a year to convince myself to apply for a car loan, and that’s only because I don’t have a lot of options at the moment. Let alone, I’d have to apply to actually get into the programs. (Let’s face it I’m a ball of skittish neuroses and I don’t like sticking my neck out there.)

Which is exactly why I can’t just up and move cities without like a decade of planning, some counseling, and a tub of ice cream – actually ice cream sounds really good right now, but that’s beside the point. In other words, that’s DEFINITELY not happening.

Clara Summers Concept
Clara Summers – My latest and most favorite creation.

Yet, as my brain starts itself back up through the rust and dust, I can’t deny that it’s been a year (minus a few weeks) since I graduated college and I’m starting to feel antsy. I hadn’t planned to be living with my grandparents and still driving one of their cars by this time. I certainly hadn’t planned to have done so little creative work over this last year. You saw how I was at the beginning of 2018, I was all fired up for, like, the entire month of January! And then I fizzled again.

 

I feel like I need to do something, that I’m supposed to be somewhere else, doing something with myself. I’ve been blessed that God has not only given me a job, but the endurance to keep working that job – even if I complain a lot, don’t enjoy it like I did, and hurt all over. But, there’s more to life, to my life, than the garden center at Lowe’s. On top of it, just after this last weekend, with our season really starting with the break in crappy weather, I can’t help but ask myself how much longer I can keep up at this job before my body just drops.

Right now, looking forward to my daily creations and my daily devotions are the only things that keep me going to work every day and not giving in to the depression.

Knowing that there is something else I need to be doing – even if I don’t know what that is just yet – is pushing me out of bed in the morning. I may not look forward to going in for the day job, but I look forward to getting home and creating something, continuing the creation I began that morning, or have been working on for a while now.

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Charlie – My favorite doofus. (Don’t tell my brother.)

I have my favorites playlist going on my iPod every time I sit down at the computer. I’m getting into a routine with it. I’m getting to the point where I can shut off the rest of the world again. Well, except for doofus, he doesn’t like to be shut out with the rest of the world, so he hides under the desk while I work whenever he feels like he needs to be noticed.

 

I think he’s happier too, now that I’m creating again instead of lying in bed on my phone or watching Netflix all day when I’m off. Tomorrow morning I was even thinking of taking him to the park or to the pet store for a “field trip” with just the two of us before I go look at a car in Mishawaka in the afternoon.

Creating again is like a drug in its addictiveness. I’ve been focusing for so long on what I want to do with my life and where I’m at that I set aside my skills as a creator, as a storyteller, and let them get covered in dust. That was a dumb mistake, because I know one thing for certain: whatever it is that this drive to do something with my life is pointing me towards, I’m going to be creating when I get there. I can’t see myself doing anything else in the future. No matter what my day job is now, or in the future, whether or not I travel or go to school – in my daydreams, my creativity is always there, even if it’s not the main subject, it’s there.

Whenever I think about the future or about the past, I can’t imagine putting it aside, not after all the work I’ve put into it, going to school and getting my degree in writing, investing in art supplies, I can’t give up.

So, yeah… I’m creating again, and I’m excited, and I’m going to do anything I can to keep this going. I don’t want to let this go again. No matter how hard it gets to drag myself out of bed in the morning, it’s just not going to happen again. I can’t let it.

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The Irony of the Introverted Writer

There is an irony to my profession.

Writing is often seen as the ideal profession for introverts. Hours ALONE at a desk with nothing but the computer and an iPod to keep you company. If you want to feel social, flip the wi-fi back on for a little bit and surf the internet, Facebook, twitter, wherever your little heart desires and you never have to talk to an actual person face to face, or even over the phone. It’s always you and a keyboard, nothing else.

writer-1421099_1920.jpgThing is, that’s the romantic version of being a writer.

One technological step up from Thoreau’s cabin in the woods is turning off all your wi-fi and locking yourself in your apartment or bedroom with a bottle of Merlot and a keurig next to your Macbook.

Writing itself – a totally introverted sport.

Being a writer – So. Much. More.

Being a writer, isn’t just about writing at your desk. That’s the part that makes you a writer. I mean, if you don’t write – you aren’t a writer. It’s like, the only qualification. It’s more than just that, though. Being a writer is about experiencing life. People, places, and activities are a bigger part of that than most of us like to admit, even to ourselves. It’s nice to imagine yourself high up in your tower, writing by the light of a candle in a sound proof room, the entire world shut out.

How can one write about the world, write about the experiences of someone living in the world, when one has not had those experiences for themself?

From experience, I’ve found that when one lets themself give in to introverted tendencies and do little but sit behind the computer and write, things happen.

  1. Our bodies start to fall apart. Have you ever tried writing through a cold? The flu? Pneumonia? If you haven’t, chances are you’re thinking that you could make it work. If you have, I’d lay odds you know it’s just that much harder than it sounds. Our brains tend to find focus hard to obtain when we’re operating on less than 100% capacity. Most of our bodies energies are being spent on trying to get better, trying to heal. They aren’t easily reallocated for writing. When we sit in one place for long periods of time without getting up to do something like exercise or eat right, our bodies don’t like it. Our immune system weakens, and our writing suffers.
  2. Our minds start to wander. There is only so much we can pour into any one project at one time. Eventually, your mind wants to do something else. We end up scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, bingeing Netflix, and doing anything at our computer but writing. We get bored. The human brain is designed to shift from task to task, for survival, if nothing else. More than that, when you pour all of your energy into something at one time, you eventually lose momentum. You lose the fuel to write.
  3. Our writing starts to feel forced and uninspired, it might even be of poorer quality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this. I lock myself up for more than one day to write and the first day, everything goes awesome. The words are really flowing and it’s sounding amazing. (Until revision, that is.) The second day, it gets harder. It’s like trying to make a car go on nothing but the ghost of gasoline fumes. It’s not an easy thing. I might make my word count that day, but I’ll look back on what I wrote and it’ll be repetitive, it’ll have redundant words out the wazoo, and be of a quality I haven’t produced since third grade. It’s a result of not having fuel. Experiencing things, getting out and being a person fuels our writing. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, it gets those creative juices flowing like they don’t when you don’t experience anything for a while. The greats will tell you not to wait for inspiration to write, and they’re correct. You should always write something, every day. You can’t edit or revise, and definitely not publish, what isn’t there in the first place. But, you also shouldn’t force yourself to create something out of nothing. There’s a difference between drained writing and writing that takes place with something in the fuel tank, even if that something isn’t for that project. You can feel it. It might all be in your head, but you can feel it all the same.

These are just a few of the things that happen to a writer: drainage, declining health, and even the lack of enjoyment in writing. Getting out and about is essential for even the biggest introverts. The human being is designed to move and to learn, to do things other than stare at a computer all day.

These are the physical ironies of the introverted writer. But, then there’s the rest of it, the professional ironies.

A lot of the professional tasks of being a writer can be done over a computer screen, yes. But if you’re at all successful there may be things you have to do for one reason or another that require face to face contact with your audience.

As an introvert, I’m sometimes terrified to do things as simple as send out a submission to a magazine so that maybe, just maybe, I might get published. What happens if they like it and I have to talk with a person? Or, worse, what if they don’t like it and I put my neck out there only to have my head cut off when they send me a rejection.

If you’re self publishing, you still might have to deal with a designer to make your cover, bloggers who will hopefully review your book(s), people you want to write blurbs for the back cover. All of those things. You might even get fan mail, if you’re good, that you may wish to respond to.

Writing may have been an introverted task, but once you get into this side of things it becomes extrovert oriented very quickly.

You wanted to be a published writer without a typical 9-5 so when you have to make an appearance at a convention and talk on a panel so you can get paid enough to keep the lights on this month… you’re going to have to be an extrovert for a while. Even if you’re only pretending. No one likes a stand-offish panelist.

If you’re a writer of anything but the big FOUR: Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Screenplays, and Poetry… it can be extroverted start to finish.

Freelance blog posts? Networking.

Articles for businesses? Networking.

Reviews for books? Networking.

Blogger? Networking.

There is networking everywhere! At Ball State the English department holds “Stars to Steer By” events where they bring in speakers, give presentations, and a dozen other things that prepare English Majors (and others) for a career with a humanities degree, or getting a career with a humanities degree.

I wish I had attended more of these, but I’m an introvert and I don’t get out much.

One of the sections, that I didn’t attend but should have… Networking for Introverts.

Yep, it’s a thing. And it was something helpful to a few of the people I know because let’s face it, a good portion of the people attracted to a humanities degree? Introverts.

We like what we like.

So, yeah, writing is an ironic profession for introverts. You can’t get away from people, especially when people are what you write about. And lets face it, anything with characters, even talking horses, lions, beavers, fauns, and other non-humans… it’s about people. Which introverts, tend to avoid.

I look at it this way, being an introvert is all well and good, but no one is designed to be completely alone. Even hermits keep a dog or a cat. Castaways have a volleyball.

Writing is a sport for introverts. But being a writer… you might have to step out of the comfort circle for a bit.

I Can’t Stay Silent: 13 Ways to Show Love

man-2599320_1920There’s been a lot of political strife, everywhere I go. I can’t get on social media without seeing it, I can’t drive to work without seeing a million bumper stickers with the latest liberal or conservative slogan on it. And it’s eating me up inside.

I’ve tried to keep silent, remain neutral, do my best to just love and be an example for Christ, but I’m starting to think that sometimes you can’t love without the truth. And sometimes the best way to love is to stand in the way of a bullet. I managed to convince myself that if I spoke out politically I would ruin my chances at a writing career. But by being completely silent, I’m ruining myself as a person. I have privilege that others do not.

I come from a conservative background. I hold a lot of conservative views. And I know a lot of people will disagree with my personal views. But this is just getting ridiculous.

The triggers behind this opinion piece are the comments from the president, whom I would have voted for if I had received my ballot, I’m not going to explain that particular sentiment, that’s for another time, and by the NFL players who are taking the knee. But what really is triggering this response, are the responses of NFL fans.

IN NO WAY DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO JUDGE THEM FOR TAKING A KNEE!

Yes, I’m a millennial. Yesterday I posted an opinion piece about why I hate being a millennial. But here is a millennial point of view.

I think that there is inequality in the world. I think that taking a stand against police brutality is a good thing, as long as we understand that there are good cops out there, in fact, the majority of them are good men and women just trying to get home to their families at the end of the day. The media just hypes up the bad cops, all we see in the news for any major and well written piece are the cops that shot someone or tackled someone they didn’t need to.

I just watched a video of a Redskins fan who burned all of his memorabilia because a few players took the knee and he felt that was disrespectful of the flag. A friend of mine posted the video with the comment “Excellent” and all I could think while watching it was, this is childish.

I don’t watch football. I don’t like football. I don’t give a rip about football. I made it all the way through college without going to a single football game. The only reason I went in high school was because I was in the marching band and pep-band. the only reason I go to high school games now is that my little brother is now in the marching band that I was in, playing one of the instruments I played. I couldn’t care less about this man’s support or lack thereof for the NFL.

This response is just childish, I mean, really! He said he didn’t want their protest to ruin his football. I don’t think that the time those players took to kneel had any affect on the game they played, whatsoever. What this “gentleman” really meant was that he didn’t want to be faced with the ugly side of the world.

Not for one second are these men disrespecting the flag. In fact, according to U.S. flag code, there is nothing wrong with kneeling at any time other than the pledge of allegiance, and only if you are delivering the pledge! Nowhere does it explicitly say you can’t kneel. What they are doing is drawing attention to an issue they care about. And an issue that I’m really starting to care about.

They aren’t hurting anyone, delaying the game, nothing at all, all they are doing is forcing people to think.

This country isn’t great. I don’t know that it ever was. We’re a bunch of obese, unruly children who get offended at everything. The older generations blame it on the millennials, my generation.  And the millennials blame it on the older generations.

I have no problem with what these players are doing, because what they are doing is opening a discussion. They are forcing people to think about the big issues. If you have a problem with that, maybe you should think about why you have a problem with it.

Next time you hear the national anthem, I want you to pause and check your patriotic pride for a moment, and think about the words you’re hearing.

Oh, say can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.
And the rocket’s red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there.
Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
For the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

The last two lines. Can you answer them with a yes?

I want you to think about it, the flag is just a piece of cloth, it’s what it flies for that matters and I don’t think it’s flying for what it was supposed to fly for, not anymore. This country is only as great as her weakest citizen. And the people getting mad about this protest, they aren’t strong, they don’t want to be faced with the ugly.

Nowhere in the Bible that I have ever read did God say to get angry when someone won’t bow to your idle. And that seems to be what the flag has become, what this country has become. This country, nor any country, will never be worthy of the praise and worship these people seem to be demanding of us. But it can be worthy of respect. Until that flag stands for equality, it isn’t worthy of even that.

I believe in God, and God demands love. Love demands respect. Not agreement. I don’t love the flag, the flag is not my god. I do not love America, America is not my god. I do love the people, God tells me to love the people. He never said I had to agree with them, and on many issues I do not. But on this one, I agree – wholeheartedly.

America is not great.

The American people are not great. They’ve forgotten how to love.

I can not remain silent any longer. Love demands the truth. And since God demands love, I have to speak.

Love isn’t always soft and coddling.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

13 Ways you can Show Love

  1. Be Patient – listen to all sides, but then make your own decision
  2. Be Kind – don’t slam those that don’t agree with you. Tell them the truth, but don’t be cruel about it
  3. Curb Your Jealousy – Make sure that what you’re doing, that the “love” you speak isn’t driven by jealousy.  The guy in my trigger video was quick to point out that these NFL players are overpaid, therefore they should have to give up their rights. That sounds like envy to me.
  4. Be Humble – Take the log out of your own eye before trying to remove the spec of dust from their’s. Don’t talk about how great you are, look at your own faults before you criticize theirs. After you refrain from boasting and take a look at your on faults, humble yourself, don’t be proud, look at yourself and your faults and realize that they need to be fixed.
  5. Have Honor – Don’t put others down, it’s something we get taught in grade school. Because really, dishonoring others dishonors yourself. We could all stand to develop a more archaic sense of honor.
  6. Build Others Up – Look out for others, look for ways to build others up, not yourself. You’ll find that when you build others up, you’ll do a lot better job of building yourself up in their eyes than you ever would have putting them down.
  7. Check your Temper – Getting angry can start a chain reaction. So check your temper at the door. When you get angry, everyone else will get angry. You’ll never hear or see anything other than your anger. If your angry about something, think about why and then check if that’s really valid reason, or if it’s really the reason you’re angry at all.
  8. Forgive – Don’t hold a grudge. Grudges foster anger and resentment. Sometimes things happen that you feel like you can never forgive. There are people who hold grudges for generations, entire families and groups of people who don’t even remember the exact reason why they’re fighting anymore, the event that started it all. Don’t let that happen to you and the people around you. Forgiveness is hard, but when you work together, make a choice to love, and try to resolve your issues, you’re already on the right track.
  9. Rejoice in What is Good – Yeah, that one’s a mouthful, but it’s the only way I can phrase it. If there is something wrong, don’t celebrate it. You can’t force people to stop, but you don’t have to celebrate their wrongness with them.
  10. Protect – If you see something wrong, you might not be able to stop it, but you can protect those who are suffering from it. Don’t be silent. Take a stand and say that enough is enough.
  11. Trust – Trust others, there is no better way to show love than to look at someone and tell them that while you may not understand what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, they have a reason for it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to understand what they’re doing, but that initial bit of trust can open a lot of doors.
  12. Always Hope – There can’t be love if you don’t always hope for a better future, a better outcome. Without hope, depression sets in and eventually you give up.
  13. Persevere – Never give up on getting through, on making it to the next day, encounter, step, whatever. If you give up, you’ll never get anywhere with love.

Do these things and I can guarantee that Love will not fail. Because love never fails.

Independant Thinker from Interdependent Roots

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This article from Vox has raised some interesting thoughts this morning.


I graduated with a bachelor’s degree this last spring, three weeks before I turned 21. That’s a pretty big deal. Neither of my parents have a bachelor’s degree. My mom worked through for an associate degree in business and got it about a year before I graduated high school. My dad was a banker for 13 years, until I was in first or second grade, but when he lost his job he started working at a grocery store, the same one that my Mom and he met at while working as teens. The same one that he works at to this day while my mother works at the same store in another city. My Gramma never got her degree, though she as a secretary and a kindergarten teacher for a short time.

Both of my grandfathers have bachelors and one of them has a masters Both of them have a degree in history and my Dad’s father has an extra degree in math, yet both worked in hard labour jobs, electric, steel, whatever put food on the table. I grew up in a non-denominational church. And even though I went to a liberal college I found myself having more conservative view than my peers and my parents. A point that seems to cause some uneasiness between my father and I.

Growing up my parents made $300 too much to qualify for food stamps, though we really needed the help. If they cut back hours to not make that extra $300, they would have received $300 worth of help in food stamps.

There were 6 of us in a four bedroom house with one bathroom. You couldn’t lock the door to the bathroom when you were taking a shower, only if you were using the toilet. If you did lock the door Mom or Dad wouldn’t be able to finish getting ready for work and would end up being late, or your other three siblings wouldn’t be able to get ready for school and then you would all be running late.

There would be entire weeks where I didn’t see one of my parents because their work schedule clashed with my school schedule. Dad would give up coming to band concerts or plays so that he could work overtime and make sure the house payment was made. In so many ways I still resent that. I’m crying, or trying not to cry as I type this.

My father is a borderline hoarder, and if it wasn’t for my mother he could probably be a whole season of Hoarders by himself.

Our house was always messy. There would be a giant laundry pile in the hall that you had to climb over because none of us wanted to do it. It would only get done when Mom got pissed off enough to do it herself, staying up late or spending her entire day off doing the laundry for 6 people. The dishes would pile up because no one wanted to do them.

The dog, who died when I was in 7th grade, was so allergic to fleas she didn’t have any hair behind her rib cage. I remember watching in utter disgust as masses of fleas moved across her skin. No matter how many baths she had, no matter what kind of medicine we gave her, we just couldn’t get rid of them. She slept in my bedroom because I was the only kid who would pet her and tell her I loved her still and my schedule was probably the most predictable at the time, so she knew she could count on me. I feel so bad for what we put that dog through because we couldn’t afford to really take care of her.

My parents would have trouble just trying to keep us in clothes that weren’t always running away from our ankles. It’s the reason why now that I buy my own clothes I don’t like to wear anything that shows my ankles. Because anything that short reminds me of when I had no choice but to wear clothes where my ankles showed.

We were always clean and presentable at school, Dad would sew bright patches of fabric onto our clothes to hide holes and he did it so well that teachers complimented us on it, thinking that our parent’s had bought the clothes that way. When we got new clothes, we all got them, but they were never in style. I remember feeling very out-of-place.

When I was in high school I suggested once that I might take a year off before going to college and I was given looks of shock and horror and my grandfather shook his head at me as if I’d just told him I wanted to dye my hair orange and pierce my eyebrows.

They knew that putting off college wold make it harder to ever go back. As it turned out, going to college was the best choice I could have ever made. I may have lived like we were from a poor family, but according to our income we were “lower-middle class” – still middle class, and that was enough for people to assume I had it easy.

The article that inspired this, I find the views of different classes towards college interesting. When I came to college it was not with the mindset they establish for poorer students. I came with a desire to get away. But if anything, the distance from my family allowed me to get closer to my God, and to become more appreciative of them, even if I still have my issues with some of them.

For me, college was the way I was going to finally figure out who I was outside of my three siblings and my parents. Outside of that tiny house. (In reality, it wasn’t tiny, but with 6 people, it wasn’t huge.) College was a place I could embrace my introverted nature without fear. And where I could explore the occasional extroverted activity without fear of being suddenly relabeled and expected to be extroverted all the time.

The first night I was there my roommate told me I could “turn out the lights if you want to.” Those words, if I wanted to, sent me into a fit of laughter that had me on the ground for about an hour. She thought she’d broken me, and in a ways he had. For once, it was my choice. it wasn’t governed by someone else. It was my choice to do something. I didn’t have to turn them out because my mom or dad told me to, because my siblings across the hall were trying to sleep and my light was keeping them up, I could turn them off because I wanted to.

I’ve always been strong-willed, as a result I didn’t have the same problems other people with backgrounds like mine had. I went straight int a humanities field, even though I didn’t think it would make me a lot of money or get me the best job. My college career was about what I wanted, for the first time ever, I was able to think independently without someone else telling me I should be thinking interdependently.

Yes, some of my motives were that I want to give a better life to any children I might have, that I would love to be able to take care of my parents when they get old, and make a better life for myself than what I started out with, but those weren’t at the forefront of my mind. What I wanted was to explore what makes me happy.

That’s where my real challenge comes in. I’ve been criticized for the fact that I’m looking for the job that will make me happy. ‘When I was your age, we took whatever job we could get and were grateful for food on the table and a roof over our heads.’ (An amalgamation of things that have been said to me.) It’s hard to overcome something like interdependent thinking when it’s how families think, and ou come from a background where your family is conditioned to think that way.

Not that interdependent thinking is bad, just that it wasn’t the way for me. If I thought interdependently, as it is assumed I should, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I would not be the writer that I am, or can be when I’m not rambling.

The real trick, that I’m finding anyway, is not to think independently as opposed to thinking interdependently, but to intertwine my independent thinking with my interdependent thinking. It’s all well and good to think for yourself, but sometimes you need to think about the people around you as well.

My parent’s house still has issues, but it looks better. It probably won’t be what it should be until my brothers move out and Mom and Dad don’t have to take care of them anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but I can attest that your background makes your college experience different. My mindset was of someone with a different background than my own. I was lucky. But at the same time I was given that background, I still met resistance because people want to keep you where you’re at. My biggest struggle in life has always been in getting people to let go of me where I’m at, and getting them to let me in where I want to be.

I still live at home, now with my grandparents. I work a working class job that makes less than $20k a year. But I’m writing and I’m happyish. I don’t know how some people manage to be truly happy in a job like mine, but they do it everyday. It’s why it’s sometimes hard for people to accept that you want to move on to “better things.”

The whole point I’m trying to make is that it’s not just colleges that discriminate against class. It’s the classes themselves. When you try to move up in life, even though people are encouraging you to do it, there will always be that resistance as they try to keep you with them for a little longer, afraid you’ll leave them behind and never come back. And it’s not an invalid fear.

Sometimes, the challenges you face are societal. Sometimes, they aren’t. It’s important to examine your challenges and figure out where they’re really coming from. It’s also important too look at your background and realize that in one way or another it will present a challenge. But that’s just the way life goes.