Seattle Sunshine

Today is a Cascadia Cup Matchday.  Portland travels to Seattle.  67,000+ screaming fans, Clint Dempsey’s home debut, Rave Green and Capital Blue, a Tifo to end all Tifo, and one of the single best sporting environment in the United States will be unleashed onto the pitch in 5400 seconds of awesome.  And that all barely scratches the surface of what things like “Eternal Blue, Forever Green” mean to me.

Being in Iowa, one of the big questions I get (often with a SLIGHT hint of a condescending tone) is “Why are you a fan of XYZ?”  Football fans want to know why I’m a Chargers fan, soccer fans want to know why I’m a Sounder.  The easy answers are: “Well, I became a Chargers fan because of Nate Kaeding and I’m not really big on jumping ships” and “The fanbase for Seattle is amazing and I just feel something special with regards to the Sounders and the community surrounding them.”  As far as the latter goes, that’s not the whole answer though.  The whole answer is something I’ve been trying to hammer down for the past little while.  There’s more than just “the fans and environment” at play when I root for a team from a city I’ve never visited and who had no players I really knew until I started following the team.

seattleTifo

I’ve had this challenge going with myself for the better part of a year to always look at the big picture rather than focusing on certain specific things.  I used to get so bogged down in being upset about things or so caught up in excitement and that meant that I’d miss everything else around me – the good company, the books, the adventures, etc… all of that would happen and I’d miss it.  It felt more like I was getting ripped from the skin of the Earth by a tempest that would either dash me upon the ground hundreds of miles away and shatter every bone in my body or sling me into orbit for one of the most breathtaking views ever.  For a while, that worked for me.  The constant chance of an amazing adventure was worth the risk of broken bones (metaphorically)… until the damage started piling up.

Any type of wound takes time to heal though and soon, even the fun stuff stopped being fun because everything else still needed to heal.  So I decided to stop seeing life as a big, scary tempest.  To stop letting my emotions go on rollercoaster rides that relived themselves in an instant from just seeing an individual.  And to start looking around at what I had been missing.  And it’s good… really, really good.

But I always liked the idea of rain as a metaphor.

I think better when it’s raining because it relaxes me.  I find that I enjoy things such as music or reading more completely when it is raining.  The grass always seems greener after a rainstorm, cars always seem cleaner and more vibrant, and life seems to just pause and take a moment to heal and let go of muck and grime.  Hell, my first night in college, I remember sliding down the hill behind the Old Capitol with two of my friends during a downpour.  As I was thinking of all of this, I came to the realization that I have been trying my hardest to stop fighting the storm and just enjoy the rain.

In the stadium... still pouring rain.

In the stadium… still pouring rain.

The tailgate for my first Sounders game was held in the muggiest and most disgustingly hot conditions.  It was gross and I was roasting.  A little over an hour before kick off and the scarves begin swinging and we begin singing and something miraculous happened – the skies opened up and cut loose.  I was with 200-250 other Sounders fans in Kansas City and every single one of us had a collective feeling of “This is who we are!”  The chants turned from “Take ’em all!” and “Sounders ’til I die!” to a very simple “SEATTLE SUNSHINE!” as we marched and jumped our way towards the stadium.  Things stopped being just about the game and started being this enormous unifying force that was represented in the droplets pelting down from above.

We were held outside of the gate for 15 minutes during the hardest rain (I think there might have even been pebble sized hail at this point).  We just sang louder.  The ink on our e-tickets was running and they wouldn’t scan but it didn’t matter, we just sang louder.  Even the home KC fans started giving us some crap but it didn’t matter because we just sang louder.  And rather than singing anything specific to the game or the Sporting fans/players, we sang two words over an over: “Seattle Sunshine.”

Kickoff rolls around and the rain’s cleared by this point.  Seattle went on to lose the game and the Open Cup on penalties but it was an amazing experience and it all truly started in the rain – in the Seattle Sunshine that we called down from the Pacific Northwest.

In the spirit of Cascadia, I can honestly say that THIS is why I’m a Sounder.  The fans, the team, the miraculous moments, and then environment are all great… but my heart and my soul are there because of the rain.  I deck myself out in Rave and swing my scarf and shout obscenities at TV and computer screens because the whole of my life – all its colorful moments (both pleasing and painful) and wonderful people who are a part of it – are all drenched in Seattle Sunshine.  They glisten and grow and become more vibrant because of it.

It’s not in the forecast for Iowa City tomorrow but I hope it rains.

Crossing the Finish: STU-S-A, USA, AO, and Other Assorted Letters

“When you can’t run, you walk.  When you can’t walk, you crawl.  When you can’t crawl, you find someone who will carry you to the finish.”

I’ve seen two unprecedented and incredible months of United States Men’s Soccer.  Dramatic stoppage time wins, beautiful flow, shut outs, and the personality of so many players literally spilling out onto the pitch.  I’ve also been a part getting the soon-to-be Bouncing, Badass, Baby Brother Iowa City chapter of the American Outlaws off the ground.  All of that – in retrospect to my life – has led to this feeling like I’m finally running once more and this time, faster than ever.

I make no real attempt to conceal the fact that I was in a pretty low place for a pretty long time and that Soccer has really been a way for me to start clawing and climbing out.  The players, the personalities, the beauty I find in the game, and the family I have found within the community of supporters and players (which feels more and more like a family every single moment of ever single day) really helped me find a light in that dark, dark tunnel.  In a great many ways, it was THEM who pulled ME out, picked me  up, and carried me until I could walk again on my own.  Celtic’s return to the final 16 in the Champions’ League, Seattle’s historic win over Tigres to advance to the CONCACAF Champions’ League, and the USMNT coming into its own under Klinsmann – these were milestones in bringing me back to a place where I could open up and run again.  But the sport is about so much more than hardware and winning.  The Hoops, the Rave, and the Crest all mean so much more than goals and wins/losses/ties… at least in terms of the impact it has had on my life.

Sometimes, I pretend I play.

Sometimes, I pretend I play.

A little over a year ago, I was watching Stu Holden’s videoblog of his recovery from injury as a way of keeping my mind off things.  That led to intrigue, which led me to read a bit more (aka “every article I could find”) about him and his life – which, in turn, led me to start putting things in my own life back together and shifting my outlook from negativity or fear to positivity and hope.  Not exactly the easiest transition to make alone and so night after night, I was watching youtube videos where Stu would tell us how he did his hair or what he made for breakfast all intercut with clips from his rehab… and it made me feel better about life and myself.  Metaphorically, you could say that was him carrying me a bit.

And I got back out there a bit.  As I got to poke my nose around the soccer community, it began to feel like there was a person or event that could directly relate to pretty much everything I felt.  The whole “identity crisis within the gay community” thing I went through was easily silenced in my own head the night Robbie Rogers took the field with LA for the first time (I still maintain that that game only existed for the 84th minute… no other time).

ROBBIE!!!!!

My friends moving and life moving on was easily answered by NEW FRIENDS (imagine that!).  And wanting a community to be a part of and live through and with… well… as if supporting three amazing teams wasn’t enough of that, now there’s this Outlaws chapter in Iowa City that (save for needing a few more people to register [yes, I know, I’m one………. taking care of it tomorrow]) I’ve been blessed to be a part of.

Hats off to AO Portland for the amazing TIFO display.

Hats off to AO Portland for the amazing TIFO display.

And the funny thing is that a year ago, I never thought of any of this happening.  Even then, I was still in a shell and there was such a chasm between me and the sport I used as a way to take my mind off things.  So today, it was full circle.  The story of a man’s triumphs over injury and loss once carried me to the beginnings of a better place.  When Stu hit the turf and began to grab for his knee, I teared up.  FOX cut to him on the bench and I lost it… sitting in the middle of a bar (I hid it well… mostly).  Here’s this guy who’s become my hero who’s hurt.  Here’s this team that has been a beacon of hope for me and you could tell all of their hearts plummeted.  And I felt with them and for them.  I shot Stu a tweet as soon as it happened and the minute it sent, the tears stopped.  Stu’s a fighter and there was a job to finish… and there’s so much more to life than just soccer.

Stu Holden chopsticks

Mix Diskerud subbed in and played his best game in a US Shirt (and though I haven’t seen ALL of his games with Rosenborg, I have never quite seen him play like he did today).  Momentum picked up and even around Donnelly’s, the spirit had returned.  We were laughing about things we saw, getting into the game, and pushing on with all our willpower – not focusing on our fears for “STU-S-A.”  Brek Shea slotted home the game winner and the team did what they had to do to secure the Gold Cup and take the winning streak to 11 games.  The celebration began and was filled with relief, joy, and even more laughter (from coaches, supporters, and players).  Hell, even Stu gave us a little to laugh about (or enjoy as you see fit) when he tweeted out a picture of himself drinking out of the cup and looking all coy in the lockerroom after the game… with Mix in his boxerbriefs in the background.  We all picked one another up for the time we needed to and then we started running once more.  My love with this team and this sport is summed up in a single picture that represents what it’s done for me, what we all do for each other, and what I know at least one bar in Iowa City wanted to do for our “Golden Boy.”

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To my family and friends who have come into my life (even if I don’t know you personally), I love you.

Stu buddy, you’ve got heart and fight in you and I know that there’s literally NOTHING that can beat you and you should PROBABLY be offered a role playing yourself in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  I love you, AOIC loves you, no matter what, find away across that finish line.

Landon, EJ, Gooch, Beasley, Brek, Matt, Jose, Joe, Edgar, Kyle, Sean, Bill, Nick, Corey, Jack Mac, Herc, Tony, Clarence, Michael, Michael (there were two), Ale, Mix, Will, Wondo, Alan, and Josh… Love you guys too.  Thank you for bringing me along for the ride AND for letting me bring a bunch of friends too.

AO… well… y’all already know how I feel about you.  Thanks for bringing me in, keeping me humble, hugging me when I need it, laughing with me (or at me), taking covert pictures of dudes on airplanes and sending them to me with a “hot or not?” attached, and coming to visit and watch a game.  Love you guys too!

I’ll give you a song to go out on because I’m in a music mood.

Thank you all for carrying me when I needed to be carried, for carrying those I love, and for running with me and letting me run with you.

No matter what, when you fall, I’ll be there to help you up and I’ll run with you when you’re ready because you’ll be ready… you always are.

Thank God for good food, good Family, fast cars, and Futbol.

Amen.

The Laws and Practices of the Men’s Room

Lemme see your hands – guys and girls – how many of you are actually excited for this one?  (Side note: I’m considering “Thank God it’s not a soccer post or a sappy post” as “excited” too… so put your damned hands up, people!)

As a young professional, I feel compelled to remind the rest of the world (and ladies, any of you who are “oh so jealous” that guys get to perform one of two actions whilst standing up… this is also for you) of a few simple rules.  There is an entire culture surrounding how men use the restroom.  It’s a culture complete with unwritten understandings and respect as well as common sense in the act of itself.  Ladies, you know how you have your lipgloss and your gossip and even the occasional pregnancy test that just can’t wait until you get home?  Yeah… that’s NOTHING compared to the rigors of Male Water Closet Procedures (herein and henceforth to be called MWCP) (I won’t refer to it as this ever again).

Are you excited?

The first Three Laws, you learn in the preschool and kindergarten era of life.

  1. You lock the door when you are in a stall.
  2. You do not look under the stall, even if it is locked and you have your doubts about someone being in there.
  3. You do not need to pull your pants and underwear ALL THE WAY DOWN to use a urinal.

These three are pretty much the most basic that come right after “wash your hands.”  All three of which should be cemented in your memory along with your social security number and your mother’s birthday by the time you get to college.  Rarely do I have an encounter with any breach of these Laws that is not prompted by excessive alcohol intake.  Breaching 1 and 2 get you the wayward look at the sinks if you mess ’em up.  Breaching Law 3… oh dear lord… do you hate yourself that much?  How drunk must one be for this to happen?  (And yes, I have encountered it at least once a year in a bar’s bathroom… pretty hilarious but relatively harmless to the rest of the users).  All in all, these three Laws, while probably the most ingrained and habitual, are nothing more than hilarious and nothing less than a minor nuisance when breached.  Easy come, easy go, partner… and thanks for the laugh!

rdj thumbs up

The next set are learned around elementary school… right around the same time the class-clown-jackass kid decides to see if he can pull a “Kobe” into the urinal from the far wall.

4. YOU DO NOT STAND AGAINST THE FAR WALL AND TRY AND MAKE IT INTO THE URINAL… JACKASS!

5. Conversely, you probably shouldn’t lean into the curve of the urinal lest you look like you’re passing a kidney stone… also, that’s kinda gross.

6. Say it with me now, gents.  “EVERY.  OTHER.  STALL.  STARTING AT OPPOSITE ENDS.”

Number 4 and number 5 are pretty common sense.  Don’t be weird.  Don’t make the experience weird for others by doing weird things.  Nobody wants to see you arcing bodily fluids 5 or more feet and nobody will be proud if you can do that.  Also, if you are leaned INTO the curve of the urinal, you look like something’s seriously wrong… which could prompt someone to break Law 7… (we will go into this in a moment).  Number 6 is also fairly easy.  If you have the room to skip a urinal, do it.  If there are only two urinals and one is in use but the stalls are open, guess what?  Use the stall.  I don’t want to hear weird stuff about “but it reverberates” or “I’m claustrophobic.”  If those are the case, then it is more than acceptable for you to hold it and wait.  Only as a last resort do you take the urinal immediately next to one in use.

The next three Laws, along with number six, seem to be the first four laws “forgotten” once a gentleman gets up over the age of 50.

7.  NO TOUCHING OF ANY KIND WHILE URINALS ARE IN USE!  There should be at least a foot distance between a person using a urinal and the next person waiting or passing by.

8.  No talking while equipment is in use.

9.  No singing or humming while equipment is in use.

To be clear, if someone’s having some sort of an issue or looks to be in distress (that is more than a kidney stone passing or old man noises), do be a good person and check to see if medical attention is required.  I don’t wanna be that guy who has a stroke while at a urinal and is left for the latter part of the day because nobody did anything… I’d rather not die with my dick in my hands, thank you very much.

NOW… after that… There is no touching of any kind while using the urinals.  If you’re in a stall, you should be alone and if you’re not… find a classier place to get frisky.  This means: No back slaps, no back rubs, no hair ruffling, no picking dirt or bugs off shoulders.  None of that.  You don’t do it.  I don’t care if you’re just trying to be a friendly 65 year old… YOU.  DO NOT.  TOUCH.  A MAN.  AT A URINAL.

I also don't care if you're an athlete... you absolutely DO NOT do this either!

I also don’t care if you’re an athlete… you absolutely DO NOT do this either!

Next, talking and singing.  Sure, you could have a great conversation going with a friend.  You could even have that new 1D song stuck in your head… nobody cares.  If genitals are exposed to the elements, you pause what is on your mind.  I have been at several urinals where all I want to do is get in and get out but someone has to interrupt my attempt to find serenity while urinating in a public place with their drivel – meaningful or meaningless, it’s all the same.  And yes, we all know how catchy boy bands’ music is… but it doesn’t help anybody declench nor does it provide a relaxing atmosphere.  Stop.

Now we come to the personal preference and situational section of the Laws and Practices.

10.  Wash your hands, even if you just peed.

11. WASH YOUR HANDS, EVEN IF YOU JUST PEED.

12. The Handicap stall is always preferential… so use it if it is available… but for the love of God don’t you dare take forever or do anything to defile its sacred status.

13. Flush.

How common sense do we need to be here?  Fellas, come on now.  Even in the dead of winter, at some point during your day, you’ve gotten sweaty balls.  Do you want to shake someone’s sweaty-dick-and-or-balls hand or want them to hug you?  Do you want to feed yourself with your sweaty-dick-and-or-balls hands?  Just freaking wash your hands.  Please.

The handicap stall.  It’s spacious.  It has a way more comfortable seat.  It’s an oasis of comfort in an overused porcelain mecca.  It is to be cherished and appreciated… NOT MESSED UP IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM.  What it is to you, it is to others… respect that.

Flushing.  Really now?  Why is this even an issue that must be brought up?  There are times that I have no faith in humanity…

Next up: Sex-things in the bathroom.

14.  No sizing up.

15.  No toe tapping.

16.  Do you not see where you are?  No sexing.  It’s not hot to screw in a men’s room.  It is repulsive.

Sizing up………… why this happens, I have no idea.  Sizing up is useless unless you’re sporting a boner and if you are sporting a boner at a urinal… well… standing on your head to relieve yourself must be the worst.  I don’t care if you’ve got Godzilla’s package dangling between your legs or if you need a microscope to find it… what you’ve got, you’ve got.  Be confident enough in yourself that you’re not constantly looking to compare.  AND IF YOU COMPARE YOU NEED TO KNOW that those are skewed comparisons due to the aforementioned boner-issue.

You know that awesome song stuck in your head that you don’t get to hum?  Yeah… still keep it in your head.  I don’t care if the beat’s SUPER CATCHY… you don’t need to tap your foot for any reason.  And if you do it, nobody will believe that it’s just “That Jackson 5 song where I blame things on the Boogie.”  You will forever be equated with this guy…

And you don't want that...

And you don’t want that…

And if you manage to break all of these rules and nobody is there to call you out, shame you, or interrupt… please have more dignity and self-respect (and respect for any prospective partners) than to get your freak on in a public restroom.  Do you know what goes on in there?  Do you realize the purpose of these rooms?  Why would you want to utterly ruin a great experience with a shitty (SEE?  It’s a Pun!) setting?

There we are.  There are, of course, several more amendments, preferences, alterations, etc to these rules.  Gentlemen, are we glad we had that refresher?  Ladies, do we now see that there’s more to “standing up to pee” than just standing up to pee?  Can we all go back to our lives and see a little more beauty in the world now?  Good.  I’m so glad.

As always.

See you, space cowboy.

To 14 Year Old Me…

You guys, I wish this was a post that was going to deliver laughs by the bucket load.  I wish this was a post that would bump everyone up a few levels on the happiness scale without having to first take a dip… believe me, I do.  BECAUSE OF THAT, I will end this with one of the most adorable puppies you have ever seen and I promise that I will build from where this starts so that you never dip too low… I just ask that you trust me and take that first step.

14 year old Justin.  He was a piece of work.  TOTALLY socially awkward and with the WORST luck ever (even to the point of being “Bad Luck Brian”).

funeral erection

That was basically me as a meme when I was 14.  A decade later and ya never know… there are some pretty hot cadavers out there….

But I digress.  14 year old me.  Wow….

See, up until I was about 12, I was the luckiest dude on earth.  I had this group of friends who were all a good 3-5 years older than me.  They knew me (sometimes better than I knew myself) and despite whatever beliefs they had, they loved me.  Laura, Dan, Tony, Josh… those four…. Nobody in the world could have ever asked for better friends.  And here I was at 14 – 2 years later.  I was in a different city and playing the ever so familiar “I don’t need anybody/I’m gonna do this on my own” angsty teenager game.

And they stood by and let me go.  They let me be this idiot kid who had to do what he was gonna do because they knew what I would go through and they knew I would come out the other side.  I’ll never be able to thank them enough for that.

Hell, I was in 8th grade and I remember having a talk with Laura about being gay.  It would take me 6 more years to admit it (and then another 6 to confuse the hell out of what I really am) and still that night… I was so close back then and it was a casual, two sentence exchange of a side conversation…

Anyhow, all of this reflection is brought about because I read an article on ESPN today.  It was a “letter to my 14 year old self” or something or some sort.  Aaron Rogers wanted his younger self to not dive for a ball in a pick up game of basketball.  Andy Murray wanted his younger self to appreciate the feel of the racket, the bounce of the ball, and the pace of his heart.  And then… Robbie Rogers… Robbie wanted himself to know that he was not going to be alone.

And, being the sometimes sappy and emotional sort that I can be, I suddenly realized what I failed to see back then.  I wasn’t alone.  I may have had to be on my own for a while but I was never alone.  In my awkwardness, in my occasional suaveness, and in my killer dance moves (because SHOW CHOIR!), I was never truly alone.

And so I started thinking of what I would say to that gawky, 14 year old boy, who had no idea how to put an outfit together, let alone how to make it through a day without herp-derping something insanely awkward and maybe even tripping up a flight of stairs.  I came upon a nightly ritual wherein I remember I would clutch onto my pillow and have an inner discourse about the existence of God combined with prayer to change me back to straight.

Ladies' man?  Derpapottamus?  You pick...

Ladies’ man? Derpapottamus? You pick…

There’s nothing I could say to him that would keep his future – my present – what it is now.  I couldn’t tell him that I’d discover what it means to feel “Love” through the pain of heartbreak.  I couldn’t tell him that his classmates already know.  I couldn’t even tell him of the Seattle Sounders, the Emerald City Supporters, the USMNT, Tanya, Ryan, Brady, Eric, Nick… All I could tell him would be a simple “Stay the course.”

And so when all the eloquence of words fails me, that is what I come to.  If I were given the chance to talk to my 14 year old self and help him rest easier at night, that’s all I could say.  “Stay the course.”

Upon a decade’s reflection, I can’t even begin to quantify the things I have discovered about myself and the people I hold dear.  I’ve gone from dreamer to musician to wannabe lawyer and then back to musician before finally swinging around to writer.  I’ve been a boyfriend, a best friend, and I’ve even managed to grow from the mistakes I’ve made.  And all of that, I had to do on my own.  And a part of me wonders if that’s what Laura may have seen a glimpse of on that night so long ago…

And so here I am, thinking back upon the last decade of my life and what I would say to that boy who tried so hard to hide and would wait another ten years to figure out who he truly is – beyond just a word.  I look around to the friends I’ve made and the friends who have been there all along and realize just how blessed I have been.  I have music, soccer, writing, movies, and even the occasional heart to heart all wrapped up into 24 hour doses that repeat every single day… That is what 14 year old me has to look forward to.

So what would I say and how would I say it to him?  Well… despite the fact that I no longer play an instrument, this is my corps.  This is the corps I auditioned for and this is the piece of music that made me truly fall in love with music and performing.  There will never be another feeling in my life like running through this piece with them in the arc… and it says all it needs to.  14 year old me would listen and he would begin a journey of understanding that even a decade later, he is still unraveling…

“…But the fighter still remains…”

And oh what he’ll find.

He’ll find a brother…

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He’ll find a family…

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He’ll find something he loves…

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“Are you Tanya? We’ve heard you’re kinda awesome…”

And he’ll even find people who won’t even realize the impact they truly make on him…

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So why spoil all of that?  What else could I say to keep him going yet not reveal all the wonders and surprises to come?

 

“…Oh lord I wanna be in that number, when the Yanks go marching in…”

KC Outlaws Section

Phew… we make it through that okay?  Everyone still here?  Good.  Here’s a puppy.

happy puppy

Until next time.

See you, Space Cowboys.

Precipices

I’ve got this chair.  It’s a recliner (that I “mistakenly” keep referring to as a “rocking chair…”  What?  It rocks.  It is therefor a “rocking chair.”  Don’t get all “Nope Nope!” on me about this) and it has a rather nice view of the quaint residential street out my window.  It’s possibly my favorite place to start my day off.  Great view, comfy chair… and, for whatever reason, it feels like the most “secure” form of “personal space” I have.  To say I love this chair  and where it is in my living room is an understatement.  In full disclosure (and because my Mother happens to know that this chair was pinched from the corner on move-out day this past August), it will not be making the move with me to Los Angeles when the time comes.  But for right now, it’s my favorite place in the world.

I’m sitting in it, blaring REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes” through my headphones, playing Archer on the TV, and glancing out at the fog – illuminated by the soft and rosy/golden glow of the street lamps – that completely conceals the ground just one story below me… and I’m finally able to sit back and say what I’ve worked for three years to say: I.  AM.  OFFICIALLY.  A.  FUCKING.  SCREENWRITER!

Cue: VICTORY DANCE!

For a little over a year, I’ve been working with a good friend of mine on developing and writing a pilot/series and I was finally given the OKAY to post about it.  So I jumped on that shit like a zombie dog in uh…. zombie heat?  (I’ll let you enjoy that image in your head… too scared to type it into Google…)

The weird thing about all of this is that it’s been about 3 years in the making and I’m now, finally, at the starting line.  When I started teaching myself how to write screenplay format (and subsequently devoting a great deal of self-restraint to NOT putting my own eyes out due to frustration), I used to imagine this moment as the whole “Nick Saban, you just won ANOTHER National Title with Alabama, how do you feel?” type moment.  That’s not exactly right, though.  It’s a bit more like training for a marathon.

I’ve wanted an excuse to use this meme for SO FREAKING LONG.

The beauty of it all is that this is not a destination.  It’s not a “well, now what do I do next?  Do I try and repeat everything?”  I can honestly say that getting to this moment has been what the past three years of my life have been about… which is fitting as I have this thing about sets of 3.  If this is what the last three years have been building to, I’m beyond stoked for the next few sets of 3.

But after all the excitement, it’s fitting that things are starting to pick up/go public around a day devoted to giving thanks.  There’re plenty of people in my life who inspire me and plenty of people who believe in me (even when I falter in believing in myself).  Family, friends, and even heroes (small “breaking the fourth wall” moment… Holden read my last post and tweeted me about it… no joke… SO AWESOME, YOU GUYS/GALS!)… y’all have kept me going and I’m so thankful for that.

And I’m thankful for my chair.  There’s no place I’d rather be right now than sitting in this chair – my safe place – and actually getting to take a quick breather to look back at the unbelievable amount of support and love I’ve been shown… with my Hawkeye blanket my mom made for me (that’s quickly become my “almost adult safety blanket”… don’t you judge me!).  I’m ever so grateful and I just hope…..

… I hope that you’ll laugh.  I hope you’ll cry.  I hope that you’ll be entertained.  And, in the end, I hope I can give back and give to others what you’ve all given me.  Thank you so very, very much.

From me in my chair to you in yours, thank you!

– JP

See you, Space Cowboys!

Holden Onto Happiness

Happiness breeds more happiness.  Yes, it’s cliché and yes, it doesn’t help those who aren’t happy.

I found this trick back when I was still dealing with my breakup and it’s been one of the single easiest ways to snap myself into a good mood.  I knew I’d walk by a place he’d said he liked to buy clothes every day when I’d be on my way to work.  So simply enough, I made it a point to GENUINELY SMILE every time I walked by.  It started by blaring whatever music I could find on my iPod to set a mood of happiness and it permeated out from there to the point that I have realized just how much I smile whenever I’m out and about now.  I’m pretty sure he’s never seen that… and that’s okay.  See, it wasn’t really so much an “I’m so much happier without you, you piece of whatever” as it was “if I smile, I’ll be happy because smiling means I’m happy.”

I HAZ SMILE!

What got weird about that whole thing was when I started to realize that I was smiling because I was actually happy.  That bled into more and more of my life and pretty soon… it’s turned into me being a beaming and giddy nerd.  We’re all entitled to our own opinions but in my experience, the “beaming and giddy” variety are the best type of nerds.

None of this is to say that I still don’t have my ups and downs… but I’m glad to feel a paradigm shift toward optimism in my personality.  I’ve also rediscovered punk-rock bands that I used to love when I was in HS (basically: music that represented the last time I felt carefree) and gotten tickled at the simple prospect of having fun with the entirely absurd in my writing.

Favorite clip from this movie.

That’s exactly a point that came up at dinner last night.  I was discussing “moving on into real life” with one of my artistic minded friends.  Aside from the fact that the atmosphere at Red’s was unbelievable (68 degrees outside, the fire pit was on but not oppressive, the outdoor lighting was perfect, the music was amazing song after amazing song, and the vibrancy of life from everyone on the patio was palpable), we were having a conversation about our futures as young people that was not fraught with anxiety.  For a great majority of people, finding happiness in life is an ultimate quest.  It just so happened that Megan and I were confident that, if only for the next little while, we were doing things that brought us happiness… and we were doing it for OURSELVES.  It might not work for everyone but for us, being able to say “I do what I love and it’s going to be my job” is an unbelievably exciting prospect.

The life I want is not routine.  It’s not mundane.  It’s exciting.  It is the closest I can get to stepping into a blue box that is bigger on the inside than the outside and having adventures nobody would ever believe.  I’m a 23 year old college student who has been to two major soccer matches in the past two months (on his own money), gotten a beer with his childhood hero, who is writing a comic book that is actually going to be produced, who LOVES food (seriously, my healthiest relationship, from an emotional standpoint, is my affair with Bar-Bee-Que Sauce), who loves movies/tv/comics, who writes movies/tv/comics, and who gets to share all of this with the people in his life whom he loves and holds dear.  All this on a server’s budget.  I’m not going to give that up because all of it is such an essential part to who I am.

The past year has been all about finding out who I really am and who I am going to be.  I’m an American Outlaw, an Emerald City Supporter, a nerd, and the list goes on… but the most important thing is that I have started to figure out how to create my own happiness from life around me.  There’s a French proverb that says “Success is the best revenge.”  With respect, a quest for vengeance will only get you so far.  It’ll take you through pain.  It’ll take you right up to the point where you have to have faith in yourself.  It’ll get you right to where you have to let go and reach for the next rope to swing on.  All it takes is a deep breath, a smile, maybe some Yellowcard, and the faith to say “I’m fucking awesome.”  Then, all you gotta do is let go and grab hold of the next rope.  So rather than search for success out of a quest for revenge, just smile and be happy.

I have no problem admitting that I’m nearly 24 and I still have a “hero.”  I’ve had many heroes throughout my life and this is actually the second soccer player to grace the list (the first is Alexi Lalas).  A few years back, there was this blonde dude with all sticky-uppy hair who took the field for the Houston Dynamo.  Dude was BRILLIANT in his play.  Watching him was like staring into the burning core of a star and being able to see the energy created from the nuclear fusion.  He played with a pure passion and love for the game and it was evident every time he took the field (often, commanding the entire flow of the game).  I was still an armchair fan when Stuart Holden was suiting up in Dynamo Orange.  The spark he showed on the field got me pumped up for every game I managed to catch (which, admittedly, was rare in those days).  Then the 2010 World Cup happened and I suddenly cared.  There was that blonde dude with the styled hair subbing on for Jozy Altidore during the game against England.

Stuart Holden. (He’s the one with hair).

I didn’t really think much of it at the time as he only played about 15 minutes (if I remember correctly) and the scoring was already completed for that game… but as the tournament wore on, I began to wonder about that dude who used to absolutely light it up at Houston.  Turns out, he hasn’t exactly had it easy.  Serious injury after serious injury (included a shattered knee) threatened to derail his playing career.  His family went through a huge loss.  Even after the 2010 World Cup appearance, he suffered another serious injury on a bad tackle that has had him off the pitch until about a week ago (he literally just tweeted about having to set three alarms to get up for training with Bolton… yes, it’s 2:45am right now… I’m a night owl… and I love twitter).  I started casually admiring the guy because of his perseverance and what I found as I dug a bit deeper into his rehab was that Stuart (can’t quite call him “Stu” because I’m not actually friends with the guy… but by rights, I feel like I should be simply because of how inspired I am by him) is an enormously positive person.  Even after the loss of a family member, his mantra (and that of the rest of his family) was (paraphrased): “Let’s look at this as a celebration of life and good memories and be happy because we’re capable of being happy.”

Bottom line is that this dude’s career should be over.  Nobody would blame him for throwing in the towel.  Nobody would blame him for being sad.  But here he is, waking up for practice with the Wanderers.  He’s back on the pitch and he’s done it all by being happy.  I make no secret of dealing with depression in the past year (most people do at some points in their lives) but the one lesson I learned that got me through it and has stayed with me now (and will be with me into the future) is “Celebrate life and be happy because I’m capable of being happy.”

Happiness breeds happiness.  If it’s something so simple as just making sure you smile or if you look to a baby-faced attacking midfielder for inspiration and strength, just do it.  Be happy in what you do and how you live.  Do what you do because you love it.  Live because you love it.  It’s worth it.  In the end, you may just find yourself a new team to root for in the process.

“Cuz Bolton Wanderers will never die!”

See ya, Space Cowboy.

(Ed.  Yeah, I’m adding Bolton to my list of clubs I support that is at the end of my last post.  Pretty simple reason.  I’ll root for any team Holden plays for because he’s Holden.  Even if the dude never reads this and I never actually meet him… He’s my hero and that’s worth learning chants, screaming myself hoarse, getting a scarf, and enjoying watching my hero work.)

Need a Kick?

To be quite honest, the quote that inspired this post came out of a conversation about Jungian Personality Theory and how Jung differed from Freud.  (Yes, I have INSANELY SMART FRIENDS).

“Freud just needed some good dick and a few spankings.” – One of my closest friends.

On top of the joy that quote brought me, it also got me thinking about what exactly has happened in my life over the past few months to get me where I am today.  Yeah, you could say that, upon retrospectively viewing the past 9 months (or so) of my life, there’s been a pretty seismic shift in my outlook on the world, general mood, and even my writing (all of which have been trending steadily upwards).  Obviously, there are about a million and three different things in my life now when compared to back then.  A great majority are good things and I’m incredibly happy where I am and where I’m going.  But sometimes it’s what our Souls need that really stands out among all the changes.  And unlike Freud, I’m quite alright without the spankings…

The other “inspiration” for this post is that I am supposed to write a piece about my experience at a Soccer game I went to recently (as I missed class for it).  It was fun.  The USA won.  I had a great time.  <—– There.  See, I also had this epiphany during the trip that is actually more interesting than just writing about my time at the game.  There I was, sitting on the porch of the Dubliner Bar in the Power and Lights district of Kansas City.  The air was just a tad crisp and I was nice and buzzed, sitting among new found friends and thinking about where all my life has gone these past few months.  I couldn’t help but smile at the simple realization that in everything that changed, my Soul needed Soccer.

Me at the American Outlaws’ tailgate.

To say that it was just “Soccer” that I needed would be a falsehood.  I needed what Soccer means to me.  Something to enjoy, be passionate about, connect with people through, support, and feel pride in… all existing in an external and interactive environment (whereas writing and creating is often an internal world).  I wore my Celtic jersey downtown one night and was greeted by a resounding “Hail! Hail!” from a handful of people.  I’ve gotten thumbs up from Sounders fans when I wear my ECS scarf on game days.  Hell, sitting at the Dubliner, I was chilling with a Cyclone/Timbers fan and having a grand old time (despite the rivalries).  Celebrating the 3-1 Victory for the USMNT (and subsequent advancement to the final stretch of qualification for the 2014 World Cup), it sort of congealed for me that this was the whole community I’d been missing.

I could have found all of those qualities in other environments and through other means but, for whatever reason, it was Soccer or nothing for me.  I had latched onto stories of healing and redemption and even developed a new role model through following his history of injury and his brilliance on the field (Stuart Holden).  Soccer had become the new “home” for a slightly displaced and drifting part of my psyche.  It literally feels like I have a “room” to watch games in, a “room” to interact in, and even a yard to play in (I make it a point to get out on the field at least every other day).

As fun as being a spectator is, I LOVE playing.

The best part about all of this – the “kicker” if you MUST (that one pained me to write) – is that I’m to the point where I can’t imagine life without soccer.  I can’t imagine not looking forward to a game.  I can’t really seem to remember what it was like before I met “She Who is Legend and Hangs Out With Lalas,” or “Hey, We’re Both Named Justin.  Eternal Blue! Forever Green!”  I really can’t remember not being excited about a game, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, breaking down formations, or waking up at 6am to watch Celtic play.  It’s become a pivotal part of my life and I’m ever thankful for the experience.

So THAT is what the USMNT game was like for me.  It wasn’t just a win.  It was one hell of a metaphoric house-warming party and I couldn’t be happier.

Also, I got to hang out with Hercules Gomez (one of the starting strikers for the National Team).  He’s an awesome dude who, in another life, I feel as if I’d be best friends with on account of his eloquent sarcasm and charm.  Here’s your proof.

“You guys know the dude in the white shirt is Hercules Gomez, right?”
“psh… yeah… we know… we saw him earlier…” (then mini freakouts and decision to get a picture with him)

So soccer.  Pretty freaking sweet.

‘Til next time…

At the Dubliner.

See ya, Space Cowboys.

(For rooting interests, I support the USMNT/WNT, Celtic FC, the Bolton Wanderers, and the Seattle Sounders).