Inside My Head, Smokescreen’s Gone.

Emotions are a weird thing. It’s simultaneously possible to be fully enjoying yourself and dreading the situation that you’re in. I’ve written about this before, but it happened to me again recently. I was surrounded by people that I know. But, while fully enjoying that, I was also isolated. I’ve been thinking about that since it happened.

As weird as it may sound to some people, very often I’m at my most comfortable when I’m by myself. I’ve been very careful to not say that I’m “alone.” I very rarely feel alone or lonely. Being by myself and being alone are two completely different things, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve found a lot of outlets over the years. I’ve explained this in my entries. For over 25 years, I’ve been on social media sites and have been connecting with people that have similar interests. Those interests range from Professional Wrestling, old TV/movie references, music, and more. I have “real life” friends that I can go to discuss some of my interests, but if I don’t know which of them I can talk to, I have online forums where I can go. Social media can be destructive for some people. But, it’s really been an outlet for me. I really do believe that people that I interact with on those sites are what keep me from being “alone.”

I’m sure that if I gave it a lot of thought, I could pinpoint various situations from my childhood that helped create these feelings. But, I don’t know if I have the ability to do that right now. Detail like that would need a lot of time and effort.

The thing that I need to stress the most to anyone that reads this, and especially to any friend that has seen me recently, it’s very possible that you’ve been with me while I’ve been in one of these moods. I assure you that if I told you that it was good to see you that I meant it. I also assure you that if I said that I was having a good time, I really was. But, I also couldn’t wait to leave. That is more about me than it is about anything or anybody else.

I’ve been telling people lately that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” There isn’t sarcasm in that statement. It’s 100% true. But, it doesn’t mean that anything that anything else in this entry is invalid. It just means that I believe that I have a a pretty good concept of perspective of my current situation. I know where I am and I know where I’ve been. Where I am now is a lot better than where I’ve been.

I don’t know if I would be able to be in such a good place if I didn’t have my means of escape. My escapes are all of what I mentioned earlier, podcasts, movies, tv, concerts, and other events. And yet, sometimes while I’m attending those events, I want them to end so I can leave. And I may be fully enjoying myself while I’m there. I know there’s some mental/emotional contradictions there, but it seems so very normal to me.

If you read this and you start thinking that something’s wrong or that I’m not in a good place, don’t worry. I really am in a good place. But sometimes, I just don’t feel comfortable where I am, even if the most comforting of settings. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, it just means that sometimes I’m very much in my own head. And maybe that’s the best place for me.

As I’m Walking I’m Breathless, I’d Welcome Clarity.

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s OK, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – the Doctor

Why did I start off this entry with a quote from an (allegedly) fictional character? That’s really simple, because when I was thinking about this entry, that quote came to me. I interpret that quote from the Doctor as a way of saying that you need to change. You need to grow. You need to evolve. Specifically, you need your views on life to evolve.

Way too often I see people criticizing modern kids for spending too much time playing videos games, looking at their phones, and not doing more “manly” things such as sports. What I think people fail to realize is that they’re doing things that are right for them. They’re also doing things that some of us didn’t have the capability of doing. While I did have video games to play at my house when I was a teenager, I didn’t have the capability of playing with people all over the world. I was THRILLED when more than two people could play when multi-player games were available.
We didn’t have cell phones when I was a kid. And when cell phones were first available to me, there were barely any features. Heck, the first one that I had didn’t even have a clock on it.

People my age and older that would go outside and do play in their yards did that stuff because we didn’t have as many ways to entertain ourselves as kids do now. Our grandparents didn’t sit aorund and watch television when they were kids, because that wasn’t even a concept yet.

I remember back in the late 1990s when Pokemon cards first became really popular. I did not understand what the big deal about them was. And to be honest, I still don’t. But, to some people, they mean a lot. Their value isn’t necessarily monetary, it’s personal.

I don’t care about cars, football, or motorcycles. That doesn’t diminish me in any way. It just means that I have different interests. Just like the kids that collected Pokemon cards. Their interests were different.

I started this off with a quote and I’m going to use another one that I like, this one is from the late, great Bill Hicks. He said “All your beliefs, they’re just that. They’re nothing. They’re how you were taught and raised. That doesn’t make ’em real.”
I think that quote shows the point that your ideas can and should evolve.

When we were children, there were a lot of fairy tales that we were told. We were told about the existence of various fictional characters. We were told some of those characters would bring us gifts, give us money, or deliver candy in the middle of the night. Ignoring the fact that some of those things seem pretty creepy when you think about it, but there’s also a time when we stop believing the existence of those characters.

My point about brining up the belief of those characters and things that we’re told is to emphasize part of what Bill Hicks about beliefs not necessarily being based on reality. WE need to evolve how we think about things, people, and society. WE need to realize that just because someone is riding an electric scooter instead of a motor cycle that the person on the scooter is not failing to live up to a standard of manhood. Again, it’s just something different that wasn’t an option before.

I’ve done my best to change how I look at life. By evolving how I think about life, I’ve become a lot less jaded and angry than I was in younger days. I don’t look at things that I don’t understand and belittle them. In fact, If I don’t understand something, I may use my phone (which has all of the technology that I didn’t have as a kid) and do some quick research on what I don’t understand. And maybe, just maybe, by doing that, my way of thinking about something will evolve.

I Opened My Mind to All the Love Forsaken.

Your perspective on things can really change how you feel. I know that’s a simple and somewhat generic statement, but it’s very true. My own perspective about a lot of things has changed lately, and I think it’s for the better. I’m doing quite emotionally and mentally well and I’m still enjoying myself. I’m going to use this entry to get into that.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have a few friends that have spoken to me about how awesome my life seems to be. While I don’t agree with the level of excitement that they’ve described my life to have, I have finally started to accept that I’ve done some things that some people see as pretty cool. And over the course of the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve really started to appreciate these things on my own. And while I do think not being to do much for a while due the Pandemic played a part of my appreciation, I know that I was speaking about it before that as well.

Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with someone that I knew from high school. This was the first time that she and I had seen in each other since we graduated. She was in my office to discuss some stuff related to my job and we just started catching up. She was someone that I never had problems with in school. In fact, she was always nice to me. The conversation was probably just about 30 minutes long, but it furthered this whole “perspective” thing that I’ve been talking about.

For various reasons, I don’t really have much contact with many people from high school or elementary school. I really did not have a great experience while I was there. I was bullied by classmates, teachers were not supportive, and the counsellors that were supposed to help me would belittle and insult me. I understand that it was a different time and that things would probably play out differently if I was in school now, but that doesn’t help the damage that was done to me.

Getting back to that conversations from a few days ago, we talked about some of the things that I just mentioned, about my own experiences there. And we also talked about what we know now about the kids that bullied me. We now know that the majority of the kids that were the bullies in school had difficult lives at home. They were taking out the home life frustrations on someone like me, who they perceived to be an easy target. I was different. I was the sci-fi geek. I watched Professional Wrestling. I read comic books. I liked hard rock. And I fit the mold of the bullied kid. But, while I do have an understanding of the situations that the bullies had, and I do have sympathy for them, it doesn’t make my experience better.

How does what I just said about the bullies tie into perspective? Well, I have enough perspective now to not have as much resentment towards them. By no means does his mean that I’m going to start hanging out with the people that caused me harm, but I’m able to understand them better. This also comes into play since I’ve recently been told that someone that caused a slew of problems for me is now working at a place that I often shop at. I’ve seen him there. But, I don’t think I’ll be starting any conversations at any point soon. Even if, he falls into the category of all that I’ve just said. I learned a lot about his childhood and his upbringing recently, and it wasn’t good stuff.

Just sitting here thinking about the person mentioned in the last paragraph gets my anxiety up a little bit.

I don’t think there’s a hypocrisy in being able to somewhat get past the issues that people caused you and still wanting to avoid those people. I see it as being mentally and emotionally safe. They have a different perspective of things than I do. It could, in theory, have a perfectly “normal” conversation with them and have them say something like “Hey, remember that time when we did (fill in whatever)” and while they may see it as a happy-go-lucky time, it may trigger a completely different feeling from me.

That reminds me of something that I mentioned in the conversation from a few days ago. I was telling her that another friend was telling me about a mini-reunion that some people went to at a local bar a few years ago. And when he was telling me who was in attendance, one by one I told him about things that they had either done or said to me in school, and why I was glad that I didn’t go to that event.

How did I start off by talking about great things are and then get sucked into a discussion about awful things used to be? Well, first of all, I didn’t write any outline for this entry. I’m just winging it. Secondly, I think it ties in pretty well. It’s all about perspective. I spent so much of life consumed by all that was wrong. I used to tell people that anger was the only thing that kept me awake, like it was my source of energy. As it turns out, that was a lie. The source of my energy is coffee, but I digress.

When I heard friends talking about how good things are for me, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. My mind wasn’t programmed to believe it. My default was set to miserable. I didn’t believe praise. I didn’t believe that there was any hope. I stressed about everything. I had good days, but overall, it wasn’t fun to be me.

Now, bad days happen. Bad things happen. Setbacks happen. It’s part of life. But, my perspective is different. I’ve escaped into a part of my mind where things are good. I enjoy my routines. I enjoy doing things. I have fewer toxic people around me. The support system that I always hoped for is actually there. And my perspective now lets me know that they’ve probably been there for a while, I just couldn’t see it.

The Truth is That Our Youth Was a Carpet Laid in Stones.

As I always state in my late June entries, my birthday is in early July. Because of that, I really do see my calendar years as distinct halves. And I will always start to look back at what’s happened over the past six months and, in this year’s case, look at the 45 years of my life that I’ve completed.

I really enjoyed this past year. I think that’s been pretty obvious by my entries here. By no means has it been perfect, but it’s been very good for me. My mental health has (for the most part) been good. It was a very fun year.

2020 and 2021 basically blend together in my mind. They’re just one long chunk of time when not much happened and I didn’t get to do much, but that goes for just about everyone. I ended 2019 really doing well. I was enjoying myself quite a bit and did a few things that I thought were “surreal.” When the Pandemic started, all of that stopped. But, my mood never changed. Things continued to go well for me, just differently.

When things started to open up in 2021, I was able to somewhat pick up where I left off in that surreal life. And due to conversations that I’ve had with some friends (two in particular), I’ve realized that when you look at my life from the outside, it looks like it’s a lot of fun and just really good. I’m very much aware that what you see on the outside doesn’t always match what’s happening on the inside. But, I think those conversations have helped me feel as good as others think I do, if that makes sense.
And, it’s not lost on me that one of those conversations was with someone that’s a big part of the surrealness.

So while my inward happiness and my outward happiness appear to be in sync right now, that voice in the back of my head that was dormant for a while has started to remind me that this could all be temporary, especially as I’ve looked at my bank account recently. Not much triggers my anxiety more easily than my finances. And while I’m still doing so much better than I was a few years ago, I’m not doing nearly as well as I was just a few months ago.

This is not going to turn into anything to do with politics when I talk about my financial situation. I’m way too informed and aware to know that the world’s economy isn’t great right now and it’s not there’s way too many factors involved for me to place blame, although I can, and even though I said I won’t get political, I’ll just say that a lot of us wouldn’t be in the situations we’re in if there was ever a “Trickle.”
But, I digress…

Anyway…

My bank account is a lot lower than it was a year ago. Yes, things are more expensive than they were a year ago, but I also made a major investment last year. Just about 13 months ago, I had LASIK surgery. And even though I had four years to pay it off, I’m almost done with payments on that. I also bought myself a new laptop computer, which I’ve also paid for in full. While some people may think that fully paying for a laptop and being 80% with the payments for my LASIK in one year is HUGE for me. A few years ago, I was at the point where I was telling people that I couldn’t hang out because I didn’t have enough money for gas and tolls.

Which brings me to my next point:
Gas and tolls. The price of both is so high right now and that has played a factor in my bank account being lower than I would like it to be. I know that I need to adjust my mindset and start thinking more like I used to about doing things.
I do want to make it very clear that while these thoughts about money are in the back of my mind, they’re still just in the back of my mind. They haven’t manifested into full anxiety or panic yet. And before I start going down this path and depressing you, as well as myself, let me quickly get to the end of this entry.

It’s my hope that when I look back at this entry one year from now that I can say that I’m, at the very least, still doing as well as I was when I wrote it. I really am in a good place right now. The good is outweighing the bad. I haven’t always been able to say that. I know that I have a lot of work to do on various things over the next few weeks and months. If I’m able to get that stuff done, I think it’s very possible that this good ride that I’m on will keep on going for a while.

Tears For a Hopeless Case.

When I first started thinking about what I was going to write about in this entry, I thought about some of the conversations that I’ve had over the last few weeks. I was going to talk about the incredibly kind things that have been said about me or done for me recently. I was going to talk about a conversation with someone that I knew from high school and how I thought she was one the “popular kids” but she described herself as “very depressed” during that time. I was going to talk about how many of friends are doing so many good things and how happy that makes me, but as I sit here trying to figure out what to say in this entry, it’s very difficult to look around at the world and not feel sad. While I am personally (still) doing very well (mentally), there are just so many reminders of things that are wrong and how the “powers that be” don’t seem to want to attempt to fix anything.

As of the time that I’m writing this, the Uvalde, Texas mass-shooting is the most recent mass-shooting of note to happen in the United States. By the time that you read this, it could be pretty far down the list of recent ones. There is no humor in my last sentence and I take no pleasure in typing that sentence, since it’s probably going to be accurate.

Every single time a mass-shooting happens in this country, ther same conversations start. One side says it’s time for action to prevent more of these events. The other side says “now is not the time to politicize it.” And as they argue those two things back and forth, the conversation gets lost in the shuffle until another mass-shooting happens. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Another constant discussion when any sort of gun violence happens is how we should address mental health concerns and not worry about the guns. Well, yes, we should address mental health concerns. We should always address that. But, the fact that mental health issues are worldwide and mass-shootings are not also gets lost in the shuffle. A society that has access to the abundance of weapons of mass destruction (guns) will have significantly more mass destruction than a society without them. It’s a pretty simple fact.

Usually, the blog entries that I have the most difficulty writing are the ones about my own personal stories. In particular, the stories that are hidden deep in the back of my mind. The ones that I say that I’m starting to “scratch the surface” of and that I’ll “re-visit at a later time.” But, I’m really struggling writing with this entry. I was going to say that I’m not sure why, since gun related deaths have not impacted my close friends or family, but I think part of what has me so emotional about this topic is how easily this could impact the people that I care about. Not just my friends and family have kids or are teachers. But, anyone, since the American epidemic of mass shootings is not relegated to just schools.

Accidents happen all of the time. Some accidents have tragic results. We may be powerless to prevent those tragedies. Mass murders are tragic, but they’re not accidents. They can be prevented. In order to prevent them, action must be taken. Laws and regulations need to be passed and changed. We’re in the 21st Century and it’s time for society to evolve past the senselessness that doesn’t help anyone.

I don’t want there to be any more stories about Americans being shot to death in malls, places of worship, movie theaters, concerts, schools, or wherever. I didn’t specify “Americans” just now to proclaim any sense of patriotism for America, I did it because as the facts show, over and over again, America is the only place where this happens, over and over again.

Our indifference to human beings getting killed for no reason whatsoever is, quite honestly pathetic. Change has to happen. For the sake of humanity.

Lights Around are Flashing and in Meat a Razorblade.

The reason that I started this blog is to “unpack my baggage.” I wanted to use it as an outlet to express my thoughts and opinions on things. I really wanted to do it for the sake of my mental health. I also started posting on this particular site because MySpace was no longer a viable place for me to write blogs. But, regardless of where I post these entries, I’ve done them pretty consistently for a while. According to the “dashboard” on my site, this is my 119th post.

The two biggest problems that I’ve encountered while writing entries have been not having anything to say or realizing that there are things that I just can’t talk about. “Not having anything to say” is usually a good thing for me, since the majority of my entries have been dealing with depression, anxiety, and whatnot. If I have nothing to say, that probably means that I’m doing well, which I have been lately.

Often, I’ll “scratch the surface” of an issue that I think that I’m comfortable talking about, but then as I start the writing process, my anxiety will start to spike and I’ll have to stop. Whatever the topic usually never gets published. It’s something that I’m either just not able to discuss or not willing to publicly share. There does seem to be a common thread of topics/areas that fall into those categories, but for reasons already discussed, I’m not going to get into them now.

Whether I can or cannot discuss certain topics doesn’t diminish the value that I’ve found in writing the blog. It really is a healthy outlet for me. It’s a (public) journal of my story. Sometimes I’ll go back and read older entries to get an idea of how I was feeling at a certain time or about a certain topic. I usually walk away from those re-visits with the feeling of “I’m so much better off now.”

Some of my entries have been a lot more deliberate and planned out than others. For example, I may have had a thought about being bullied and over the course of a week or so, I’ll write notes to myself of things that I may include in an entry. There’s been times when I’ve had two or three entries at a time in my mind. There’s also some entries that I go into without a single concept for and struggle to find anything to say…

This is one of them, sort of.

There is a topic that I want to discuss now, but I want to make sure that I put the necessary effort into that entry. By no means is it about a deeply hidden dark emotion story from my life, but it’s just something that needs to be done correctly. That means that I need to put thought into it and there needs to be the right amount of references to other entries. There will be research for this one.
It could very well end up being next month’s entry, or it could be a few months away. That may depend on how the next few months go.

I’m still riding the highs that I’ve been on over the last few months. I’ve had a lot of good times lately. I’m still enjoying what I consider to be a pretty surreal ride and I’m still just doing well. The downside to me doing well is that I really have nothing to discuss right now. And, to be honest, that doesn’t bother me at all.

I Was Born in Another World, Strictly Connected to a Piece of My Mind.

I’ve often talked about the lack of a sense of belonging that I’ve had. To be honest, that goes pretty deep and it goes very far back into my story. It’s not just outside of my house, but within it as well. Even amongst the people that I’m genetically closest with, I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’m not going to use the entry to bash anyone and I’m not just going to discuss familial issues. There’s baggage there that I’m not necessarily emotionally able to unpack. But, I am going to attempt to scratch the surface of some deep stuff here. Some of it may be repeats of themes from previous entries, but I think it all ties together and leads me to where I am now.

I’ve been on the outside looking in for so much of my life. It’s been that way for so long that I really don’t know if it’s a choice, reaction, or instinct to keep a distance. But, I’m also at the point where I’m a part of so much that if I withdraw a bit now, it’s not an issue.

I don’t have religion in my life. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. My lack of religion comes from my choice, partly due to parental behavior, and partly just to do a lack of religion. For a very long time I’ve been good with this. I’ve grown to despise the concept of organized religion for many reasons, but I’ll not going to get into many of them here. My household was a mixed religion house. That was basically never an issue until every holiday season when my parents decided to make it an issue. As a child, I was told that I would be allowed to choose which one I wanted to belong to, while one of my parents strongly pushed me in their direction and would also flat out get very upset with me if I indicated anything other than wanting to chose theirs. I chose neither. Not one of theirs, not another option, none at all. Again, as I said there’s various reasons for it.

For much of my life, I didn’t have strong bonds to family and relatives. Again, there’s various reasons there. Some of which are as simple as a family feud that I got dragged into. But, while others patched things up, I took a bit longer to do that. I’m sure someone with a degree in psychology could dig deep into why I stayed away longer than everyone else, but I don’t really think that matters too much now. I have open and (somewhat) regular communication with the limited amount of relatives that I have.

When my classmates started forming all of their cliques in junior high school days, I was pretty much out of most social circles. Every once in a while, someone would invite me to something, but that was rare. It was even more rare if I was allowed to go, but that’s a different story for a different time. However, sometimes I would hear gossip about how some people were saying stuff behind my back at those few things that I was at. It made me not want to attend things much.

As I’ve said before, I spent a lot of time by myself. While most kids were doing things outdoors during summer vacation in high school days, I was probably in my room watching re-runs, late night talk shows, and movies. I was reading comic books. I was very much in my own world.

I didn’t always feel safe in high school. The long-haired kid with glasses and an over-bite was an easy target for bullies. And target me they did. So, retreating to my own world was what I did.

My interests, Star Wars and sci-fi movies, Marvel Comics, Professional Wrestling, to name a few, were very much fringe things that it wasn’t “cool” to like then. I didn’t have the Internet or ways to discuss my interests with people.

I was by myself, even when I wasn’t alone. I didn’t belong anywhere.

Fast forward to the last few years.

I still spend A LOT of time by myself, but I’ve never felt less alone. Ironically, I’m probably more emotionally distant from most people than ever before, but I’m so much more content and so much more connected. This is definitely a topic for another time, but I digress.

As I was saying, I’m not alone. I have found so many ways to channel my interests. For someone that has as many “strange” interests as I do, message boards, social media, and streaming services are a wonderful thing. If I want to find a clip of a talk show that I watched 30 years ago, I have access to it. If I want to discuss that with someone, I can go to a group online to discuss it. I even have a decent amount of “real life friends” that share some of those interests and we can have long talks about them.

I am definitely still in my own world. I’ll always be there. I’ll always be a bit of an outcast. But, I’ve found people and places that accept that. I’ve found people and things that welcome that. All of the old-school social norms that people cling to that I’ve rejected of I’ve been shunned from are very far back of my rear-view mirror. I don’t need them. I’ve found what I need. And right now, it’s just to be where I am. It took me a long time to get there, but where I am now is where I belong.

Closed Was the Door to My Past Perception.

Sometimes before I write an entry, I’ll go back and read some other ones just in an effort to not repeat too many things. I haven’t done that today and I don’t plan to. I know that I’m going to be repeating some things from older entries, but I think it’s okay in this case. Because, I’m still in a good place and I want to attempt to get into that a bit.

One of the biggest problems with my own mental well being throughout my life has been my lack of ability to believe that things are good for me. Even when I may be at a peak, I’m waiting for the rapid decline to happen. And there were a lot of factors there. It wasn’t just that I was a pessimist, but I had very strong influences in my life that were putting me down, insulting my interests, bad mouthing my beliefs, and in general not being supportive of me. After (many figurative) trials and (too many judgement) errors, it doesn’t seem like many of those negative influences are around me any more.

There wasn’t one specific moment when a light went on or one any specific thing that turned my mindset around, but I think it was more a series of things. Various people, places, and things have helped me a bit there. The simplest way for me to look at thing is that maybe I all of my mental health puzzle pieces were in poured out and I was able to piece them together. The isolation of 2020 and 2021 really did contribute to that, I think. My solitude helped. My ability to appreciate the simple things was heightened.

Back in 2014, I was at a specific concert. At that show, I realized how much that specific band, its fans, and their shows meant to me. I had seen that band many times before then and I’ve seen that band multiple times since then and the members of the band have become friends of mine.

Just a few years ago, a friend of mine was listening to me talk about some of the experiences that I’ve had and she said something about how great my life seems to be. I did what I would normally do at that time. I dismissed the comment. But as time went on and I continued to be amazed by how surreal my life can be at times, I started to believe it. And now, I’m at the point where not only do I believe it, I accept it.

I’ve often said that “it’s good to know people.” Well, that’s true. Knowing the right people can be beneficial. But, more importantly knowing good people can increase the quality of your life. And right now the people I know are good people and they’re the right people for me.

Just about two months ago, I happened to be briefly seen on television. The circumstances behind that go in hand with what I said about knowing good people and the right people. A lot of people contacted me after that moment. The one comment that stood out to me the most was how incredibly happy I looked and how it was obvious that I was enjoying it just based on my big smile. Once again, I believed the comment. And I accept it.

None of what I’ve brought up here is to brag about people that I know. I’m bringing it up to emphasize that the good/right people that I know are positive influences in my life that provide me with positive experiences. For far too long, I had too many toxic people in my life. Way too many people that would make it impossible for me to experience such a smile that I mentioned a few minutes ago. I would also cling to that toxicity. I felt that it was where I needed to be in life and my where I was supposed to be.

To be honest. I still don’t where my life is “supposed to be.” By most conventional standards, I’m not where I’m “supposed to be” at this stage of my life. But right now, I’m where I need to be. And I really think that knowing the right people, who are good people, has helped me realize all of that. I know where I’ve been. I’m not focused on where I “should be.” I’m where I am, and for once, I’m not questioning if it’s good or not.

Refill the Porous Shell With Words That Mean So Many Things.

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” 2021 was a year. It happened. For the most part, I enjoyed it. There’s truly very little about the year that personally went too badly for me. Not all of it was perfect, but it didn’t suck.

I did have some health concerns earlier in the year, but after a few visits to some doctors, those concerns were alleviated. My gratitude for my health insurance has never been higher. I don’t know if I would have even asked any doctors about any issues if I thought things wouldn’t be covered by my insurance. And to be perfectly honest, I would not have been able to afford any of the tests that were done if I didn’t have my coverage. The first day alone would have financially broken me.

I managed to avoid COVID-19 for the entire year. Unfortunately, I know too many people that weren’t able to avoid it. I didn’t lose anyone to it, but I know some people that were pretty sick from it. I really hope to not have much to say about COVID-19 in my 2022 year-end blog entry.

At the end of last year, I spoke about how I didn’t run any 5k races in 2020 (for somewhat obvious reasons). I had hoped to get back on track (literally) in 2021, but that didn’t happen. Some races did happen in my area. But, I didn’t participate in any. I certainly wasn’t in good enough shape to compete in them. And while I’ve often said that finishing a race, regardless of my time, is an accomplishment to be proud of, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have any finishes that wouldn’t upset me if I had competed. Which brings me to my next area of opportunity for 2022.

I’m ending 2021 at basically the same weight that I started it, which is heavier than I should be. I did get back to the gym a little bit during the year and I did workout a little bit, but I didn’t do enough. I know that. I am going to refocus my efforts to getting myself back into somewhat good shape in 2022 and hopefully, I’ll lose the weight that I wasn’t able to lose during 2021 (and 2020). I’m basically going to start at the beginning again of a workout program and go from there. I’m not able to start off where I was. I need to get myself back to that point and then beyond it.

And speaking of workouts, each and every year that I write this year-end entry, I lament my inability to have ever done a Black Crow pose during a DDP Yoga session. This year, I can proudly report that I did one well enough that I think I would be given credit for doing it successfully. Granted, it was only once, but I can no longer say that I’ve never done it.

Another goal that I miss every year is my goal of reading 12 books during the year. I got through 7 in 2021. I started 8. I’ll finish that 8th in a few days. I will try for 12 (or more) again in 2022. I really do enjoy reading, but I don’t seem to find the time to commit to it, which gets more and more difficult every year as I get more and more responsibilities and other things happening.

If there’s anything that is drastically different for me at the end of 2021 is that I now have 20/15 distance vision. I had LASIK done during the year and I no longer need glasses to see things far away. It’s made my driving, watching a baseball game in person, and attending movies experiences a bit different and better. I do need reading glasses now, which I’m wearing as I’m typing this. The LASIK basically reversed my vision. I no longer need help seeing things in the distance. But now, I can’t see things that are directly in front of me. That’s ironic, because some people have been accusing me of that for years.

Financially, whether I’m better off than I was one year ago is debatable. My bank account is about 1/3 of what it was at the end of 2020. However, I didn’t do much in 2020. I didn’t go on many long drives. I didn’t go to many concerts or events. I also didn’t start financing my LASIK surgery or my new laptop in 2020. In 2021, I did attend concerts and sporting events. I did go on a few long drives. I did start the aforementioned financings. I also had the pay for one of my job responsibilities get reduced due to the significant decrease in time needed to dedicate to the position. However, I also do make more now in my base salary than I did one year ago. So, there’s no complaining about my finances for 2021.

In some ways, I really feel that I became more comfortable with myself during the year. I’ve really started to appreciate a lot of things that I didn’t before. In many cases, those things are simple things that I like. And it really is simple. It bring me joy, I appreciate it. Those things are as simple as my social networking routines, my TV watching habits, or even the podcasts that I listen to. But, I also really do appreciate the relationships that I have. I’ve made a few new friends during the year, and I’m grateful for that.

In an early 2021 blog entry, I mentioned that there may be an “Easter Egg” hidden throughout all of my 2021 entries. I was able to pull that off. I’m not going to reveal what that is yet. There was one very specific thing that all of the entries has in common. I will offer the old-school Marvel Comics No-Prize to whoever figures it out.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2022 to be better than my 2021. It’s simple, it’s to the point, it’s achievable. But, I think it’ll require a bit more effort than I put forth in 2021. I hope to be able to things during the year. I hope that the Pandemic ends. I want to not have to worry about that any more.

But, to answer the question that I asked at the beginning of this entry, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Honestly, yes. I really think that I am. I hope that I’m able to say the same thing again next year.

2021 Album of the Year

1- Amenra – De Doorn
2- Garbage – No Gods No Masters
3- Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility
4- Steven Wilson – The Future Bites
5- Whitechapel – Kin
6- Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra – Songs for the Apocalypse
7- Lord of the Lost – Judas
8- Dave Neabore – Retro Inferno
9- White Stones – Dancing into Oblivion
10- IDLES – Crawler

For all that was wrong with 2021, and there’s a lot, it was a really good year for new music. Six of the ten bands that are in my Annual Top 10 list are appearing for the first time. I actually gave some consideration to doing a Top 15 for the second time, and I easily could have, but I kept it to a Top 10. Yes, I did copy this paragraph from last year’s entry and just changed the year.

Amenra is a Belgian band that I had never heard of before 2021. While watching an interview with Professional Wrestler, Malakai Black (aka Tommy End), I heard him mention Amenra as one of the bands that he had been listening to a lot of. I went to YouTube to find what I could find from them and I was blown away. I also noticed that they had a new album out in 2021 and I ordered a copy of it. What I got was De Doorn. The vocals are not in English and feature a lot of screams. To be honest, I have no idea what they’re saying, but it doesn’t matter. The melodic sound of this album works so well. There’s only five songs on De Doorn, and they all flow together. I won’t recommend specific songs on this album because it’s something that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. It’s such a good listen. I’ve also recently purchased a few other albums from Amenra and I hope to enjoy those half as much as De Doorn.

Garbage is one of my favorite acts, and their albums are usually very good. No Gods No Masters is no different. Although, I do remember when I first heard the album, I recognized the distinct sound that Garbage produces, but I thought it may need to grow on me. And since I’ve ranked it as the 2nd best Album of 2021, it’s safe to say that it did grow on me. The lyrics on the album really do reflect the times and Shirley Manson’s take on the world. If you’re a fan of this band, I wouldn’t skip this album.

Some of my favorite tracks from the album include the title track, “the Men Who Rule the World,” “Uncomfortably Me,” and especially “Godhead.”

I never know what to expect from a project that Mike Patton is a part of. Tomahawk is no exception. This group has put out some incredibly rocking albums. They’ve also put out an album of nothing but Native American songs. Tonic Immobility is more of a “normal” album from Tomahawk and one of the better ones from their library.

The opening track, “SHHH!,” hooked me and the rest of the songs kept me interested all the way to the last track, “Dog Eat Dog.” I also recommend “Fatback” and “Business Casual” as songs to listen to.

Steven Wilson’s the Future Bites was originally supposed to be released in June of 2020, but it was pushed back until January, 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Wilson’s solo work is a hit or miss with me. But when it’s a hit, it’s usually very good. This album was a hit. The first single “Personal Shopper” (released in January, 2020) features a guest cameo by Elton John and really made me want to hear more of the album. When I finally did, I liked a few more songs on it as well.

I recommend tracks such as “Self,” “12 Things I Forgot,” and “Eminent Sleeze.”

Whitechapel was recommended to me a few years ago when their last album, the Valley, was released. I liked it and it made my 2019 Top 10 list. Their latest album, Kin, is another good one. There is so much raw emotion in their songs. It’s sometimes difficult to convey that with growling vocals, but they pull it off very well.

Some of the tracks that stuck out to me include “I Will Find You,” “A Bloodsoaked Symphony,” and “Orphan.”

Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is another act that is new to me this year. I saw a friend raving about their album, “Songs for the Apocalypse” on Twitter and decided to check it out. The first song that I heard was “Bring Out Your Dead.” I couldn’t get enough of that track.

“Down in a Hole” (not the Alice in Chains song), “Alone in the World,” and “Born of the Sun” are also good songs to check out.

YouTube suggested Lord of the Lost to me in 2020. While they’re basically a gothic metal band, I found them to be an interesting mix of styles. Reading more about them, I learned that their lead singer and founder, Chris Harms, says that he’s been influenced by Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Lady Gaga. As I said, an interesting mix of styles. Their 2021 album, Judas is a double album with 24 total songs on it. I expected to lose interest while listening to the album, but I didn’t. It held my attention. That says something. By no means are all tracks great, but there’s definitely enough very good ones with “For They Know Not What They Do” as the best one.

I also like “Priest,” “Viva Vendetta,” and “the Heart is a Traitor.”

Dave Neabore is the bass player from one of my favorite bands, Dog Eat Dog. Horror movies and movies scores are a big interest to him. During the year, he released Retro Inferno, an album of 1980s style synth music. If I wasn’t already aware of him, this album would not have been on my radar. But, I gave it a listen and I really enjoyed it. The opening track was good enough to keep me interested and I kept listening.

“Space Driver,” “Destroy All Robots,” “Electric Sky,” and “Samhain” are currently my favorite tracks from the album, but it’s a good listen from start to finish.

White Stones was founded by Opeth’s bass player, Martin Mendez. Their 2020 debut album, Kuarahy, sounded like Opeth demo tapes and songs that didn’t make the cut with Opeth. However, their 2021 album, Dancing Into Oblivion, is MUCH better. It’s so much better that I may go back and listen to Kuarahy again just to see if I like it any more than I did originally.

Some of the better songs on Dancing Into Oblivion include “New Age of Dark,” “To Live or To Die,” and “Freedom in Captivity.”

As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2021. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):

– Anneke van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies are Always the Brightest: As much as I love her voice, this album didn’t do anything for me.
– Carcass – Torn Arteries: This is a solid album that could have easily made the Top 10.
– Dion – Stomping Ground: Another VERY solid album from Dion. This is a great blues album.
– Ministry – Moral Hygiene: If the Top 10 wasn’t so solid this year, this album would be high on it.
– Moonspell – Hermitage: A good album, but not a great album.
– The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Dance Songs for Hard Times: See Moonspell.
– Sumo Cyco – Initiation: This was a fun listen, but I don’t see myself going back to it often.
– Those Poor Bastards – Old Time Suffering: This is definitely not their best work.
– Tom Jones – Surrounded by Time: Tom Jones has a great voice. I enjoyed this album when I heard it, but it very easily got lost in the shuffle.
– Vola – Witness: This is another band that I was introduced to this year. I really liked this album, and it came very close to making the Top 10.

Steven Wilson’s band, Porcupine Tree, has reunited and will release an album in 2022. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet was good enough to be my Album of the Year. Can they do it again? Clutch may also release a new album in 2022. They also had an Album of the Year with 2004’s Blast Tyrant. I don’t know who else will be releasing new records, but I look forward to listening to some new stuff during the year.

A note about eligibility for my 2021 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2021.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.