I Don’t Know Where I Belong or Where it All Goes From Here.

2017 is just about over. This entry will be my annual look back at the year that was as I ask myself the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Last year, it was easy for me to answer. I simply said “YES.” I actually did use all capital letters to emphasize it. I can’t say anything as certain as that this year, in fact, I’m not even sure if I am better off than I was a year ago. There’s just too many questions to have definitive answers.

Just under two weeks ago marked my 1 year anniversary at my job. In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I liked it, so far. Well, after one year, I still like it. I don’t know if I could say that I got off to a rocky start there, but it was a totally new environment for me and I had to learn something completely from the beginning. Over the year I’ve become one of the more trusted and relied upon associates in my department. And those words aren’t just coming from me, they’ve been said to me by higher ups. I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t do nearly as many 5k races as I had in previous years. In fact, I only did three in 2017. I made excuse after excuse as to why I didn’t run them. Sometimes there were schedule conflicts and other times I just said “I’m not ready.” I didn’t come to close to setting any new records for myself during the three races that I completed, and I actually ran my 2nd slowest ever during one of them. But, I did finish all three. I hope to do a few more races in 2018. And I’m going to do my best to erase the reasons/excuses that held me back in 2017.

One thing I am very proud of us is my (small) contribution to making one of those races happen. I am part of a committee in my town that does a lot of community organizing and events. Getting my town’s 5k race back from the dead was our crowning achievement. Many people in the group did A LOT more actual work than I did to get that race going, but I did have some contributions and as I said, I’m very proud of it.

Last year I wrote about how much better my social life was than one year earlier. I was in a relationship that I was very happy in. Sadly, that relationship did not last. But, there’s no regrets or ill will in any aspect of it. Sometimes those things just can’t be sustained. It happens. And as 2017 ends, I’m actually hopeful about my social life. I think there’s a chance for something. I’m not pushing the issue. I’m letting the cards fall where they may and I’ll see how it plays out.

I said that two of my biggest regrets in  2015 and 2016 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself, yet again in 2017. I didn’t come close with either. Maybe in 2018…
Maybe…

One aspect of my life that isn’t better than last year is my financial situation. I’m in a complete paycheck to paycheck cycle. I don’t know if there’s any way out of that at the moment, but I’ll keep going. It’s what I do. Of course, the political climate and situation in America also contributes to the fears I have about my finances. I don’t believe for one second that the direction we’re going will help me, or anyone in my situation.

Building on that, I do have hope for America’s future. I saw a lot of things happen in 2017 that give me the feeling that we will see a change. I think we will see a progressive movement that will help the greater good of society and not just a select few. That change has actually already started, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Much like 2016, I saw friendships develop and strengthen in 2017. Some people that were just acquaintances became very good friends of mine. I reconnected with some people that I hadn’t talked to for a little while. I even talked to someone (online) that I hadn’t heard from in close to 20 years.

My overall mental health isn’t too bad. I still have my reoccurring feelings of isolation, a lack of belonging, desperation, anxiety, shame, and overall depression. I’m pretty sure they’re always going to be there in some form or another. But, as weird as this may sound, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be depressed. There’s such awareness and so many support systems available now through social media that I think people have new ways to reach out. I know that I often browse various forums and will reply to posts about depression from people I don’t know. If nothing else, I want them to know that they’re not alone.

My blogs got some attention in 2017. As usual, some got more than others. One entry that I’m particularly proud of was the one I wrote about Brian Pillman. In my mind, I wrote that entry for me and the few members of the “Cannon Cult” that used to talk to Brian on AOL in the mid-90s. I thought a few others may read it, but I didn’t expect it to get such attention from Brian’s son. I also didn’t expect someone that was writing a book about Brian to read my entry and then (through a “Cannon Cult” member) reach out to me for stories. And believe me, I certainly didn’t expect to see my name in that book as a contributor after one of my stories was used. I’m so proud of that. It’s actually a bit surreal.

But now, with 2018 only a few hours away, one of the questions I’m asking myself is:
How does one truly start fresh in a new year when we just start our routines over?

I have 365 days to figure that one out. I have a lot of things to figure out in 2018. I have things I want to accomplish. I have places I want to go. I have things I want to do. Some of my goals are really simple. Some may not be as simple. But, like every single year, my resolution for the new year is just “to make it better.” I don’t know what exactly that means yet. But, as I said, I have 365 days to figure that out. With any luck, when I write my 2018 recap, I’ll be able to say that I hit goals and accomplished a lot. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

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There’s Comfort With the Wealth of Gold. Increase Demands. Release Me From the Scenes of Old.

When speaking about Christmas, Charlie Brown famously said “I know nobody likes me, why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”

I don’t currently feel that way about the holiday season, but I have, and I easily could again. This may entry may scratch the surface of that.

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of family gatherings at holidays. My memories of family events during this time of year is mostly of disagreements, disputes, spite, bitterness, and anger. Most of which would climax during the times we were supposed to be most joyous and festive. As a child, when the mostly annual holiday season arguments were going on, I would retreat into my room and find comfort with whatever was on TV. And depending on how close it was to Christmas, it was very possible that “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” was on one of my local PBS stations.

I don’t feel particularly at ease discussing details for the reasons for the annual arguments, other than to say it was due to differences of beliefs that my parents had. Those beliefs were ones that were never outwardly expressed, until something was said or done in contrast to the other one’s beliefs. There was a lot of passive aggressive behavior that would always blow up into full fledged arguments during this time of year.

To be honest, that was very normal for my household. As I stated, it was basically every year. There is no doubt that it helped make me very sour on December’s holidays and anything they were supposed to represent. Of course, working 20 years of retail didn’t help that either, but that’s a different story. Family arguments never got resolved. They just got glossed over and then everyone went on as if nothing happened, but the issues lingered until they bubbled back up to the surface and it started all over again, but with more resentment.

Hiding from problems is also a family tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for me. I hid from much of these arguments. I had to. It was survival. But, while hiding from them, I found comfort with TV. I found comfort in my own world. I found comfort with solitude.

The reason I specifically brought up “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” earlier is that I still watch it every year. Of course, now it’s via DVD. I find great comfort in watching it. And now, since most of the fighting is done, I can watch it without the specter of Christmas Past hanging around.

In fact, I’ve realized that I have developed similar traditions of my own for various holidays. They all pretty much involve watching a specific TV show or movie that is related to the holiday or event. And they probably involve drinking a specific seasonal beer that is also related to the event. There’s a comfort level for me with these traditions. Comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing, sometimes it’s just all you know. There’s a fine line between comfort and complacent. I’ve written about how comfortable sadness can be for me in a previous entry. 

The thing is, I don’t think my personal holiday traditions are sad. They’re things I’ve developed over the years that started out as coping mechanisms and have turned into things I actually look forward to. I admit that sometimes there is a sadness to being by myself for much of these events. I do spend time with friends and family during holidays. I’m not completely isolated. But, I really do feel like an outsider during many of these events. I don’t share the same joys of the holidays. They don’t mean the same things to me that they mean to others. My anxiety usually picks up a bit during these times because I’m just not comfortable in the social settings. Even with the people I’m closest with.

As I’m writing this, I’m starting to ask myself if I’m enjoying myself while being miserable. Or am I miserable while enjoying myself? Is either scenario possible? Is it just who I am? Is it just what my programming is? I really don’t know these answers. But, as usual, I’m putting these thoughts and feelings out there with the hopes that just by doing so, things may one day be more clear for me. But until that day happens, I’m going to keep doing what I do during holidays…

I’m going to find some place I can enjoy the little things, even if that place is just in my mind.

I’m going to find a way to enjoy my TV shows and my holiday beer(s), because there’s solace there.

And even if there’s no true celebration from me, and even if I’m not exactly at ease in my settings, I’ll find a way to be comfortable, even if I’m not.

Can’t you see? All circuits are busy. Please try back again.

I had a blog entry ready to go. I just had to put the finishing touches on it. That usually means I would scrap it and start over, but keep with the theme. But instead, I’m saving it for later and writing this one. This will be a jumbled mess of random thoughts. I know that already. It’s just the mood I’m in.

Originally, I was going to write an entire entry about the three 5k races I ran this year and while I completed all of them, I was disappointed in the race results. The last one I did this year was the fastest of the three, but the 2nd one was my 2nd slowest ever. Somehow I thought I could stretch that story out into an entire blog. It was too whiny and that’s not the tone I wanted.

Then I thought about writing about the slew of sexual harassment allegations coming from Hollywood and TV. I was going to say how incredibly normal this type of thing seems to be in their bubble. How things that are being alleged now had apparently been talked about behind closed doors within their community for years and nobody did anything about it.

Maybe I would write a full entry about gun violence and how every single time a mass shooting happens we (as a society) say “now isn’t the time to discuss the issue of gun control” and it then fades from our memory until it happens again and we say “now isn’t the time to discuss the issue of gun control.”

I could talk about how the President of the United States says outrageous, slanderous, childish, and often untrue statements on Twitter on a daily basis. I was going to say how I’m not surprised, shocked, or even phased by that any more. I could have stated how I’m really bothered that this has become our normal.

I considered writing a blog about how bad my blogs had become, in my view. I felt even stronger about that one after reading one I published on year ago today, which you can read by clicking HERE if you want to. That one was actually one of my better ones.

As I’m living paycheck to paycheck, I thought about another financial rant. But what’s the point of that? Writing about that again isn’t going to help my financial situation. Well, maybe it could if someone with influence reads it and publishes my work and I get to be a famous author. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I almost wrote a blog about complacency and depression and I thought I was straddling the line between the two. At one point in that entry I was going to say that I was depressed about how complacent I am about certain aspects of my life, but also how the complacency almost keeps me away from a full depression, so maybe it’s good.

There was also a chance of me talking about relationships. I haven’t been in one for a few months. When the last one ended I didn’t get nearly as depressed as I thought I would. I was bothered by that. I was also bothered by being bothered by it. It didn’t make sense to me. None of that does. But, it made perfect sense to me at the same time. How messed up is my head that a lack of depression upsets me? Seriously. Think about that. Was it because my expectations weren’t met?

As far as relationships go, I could talk about how I’m cautiously optimistic about things right now. Maybe something is going well, maybe I’m delusional, maybe nothing is there.  Maybe I’m working myself up worrying about it as I’m writing this paragraph.

I could write about the news in Manhattan today. There was a mass murder. I don’t know more details, because they aren’t available yet. However, I’ve already seen a drastic difference in how it’s being covered depending on the ideology of who is talking about it.

Or maybe, just maybe I could tie all of these unrelated topics into a tight little knot. I could say if we took better care of each other, if we provided for each other, if we made sure that people on the lower end of the economic system were helped up, maybe just maybe a lot of the issues I could have talked about today wouldn’t exist.

I could write about that, but who would read it? My audience is small. Who among the few readers I have would, or could, do something that can truly help the world? Could I be the one by writing this? Could you be the one that reads this and gets inspired? Of course, that all depends on if you can navigate your way through this maze of randomness.

It’s possible I could just write about how I doubt myself so much that I don’t know how to end this entry. It really bothers me that I don’t know how to end on a high note. I’m almost comforted by knowing that I don’t expect this entry to be read by that many people. What does that say?

 

Proud to Serve the Country that Served him Weak.

Just a little bit more than one year ago, I was having a conversation with a celebrity. He had just finished talking to a group about some of his issues with depression. I thanked him for speaking out and told him that his voice holds a lot of weight because of his fame. I also told him about my blog and how I don’t believe my voice is as impactful as his. He made it a point to let me know how I was underestimating myself and even if I’m not reaching as many people as he may be, I may still be reaching somebody. I thanked him again for speaking out and for saying that to me. It stuck with me.

While, the celebrity was right, I may reach someone, the power of a celebrity voice IS powerful. As of the time I’m writing this, I have 225 followers on Twitter. I have barely more followers/friends on another site. The amount of people that could see my writing is not that large, and the amount that actually do read it is pretty small. But, that doesn’t stop me from sitting down (at least) once per month and writing something. I have something to say and if ONE person gets something from it, I’ve done well.

Celebrities often get criticized for expressing their opinions on social issues. I don’t understand why. As I said, their voice has more relative weight than mine based on the size of the audience they can reach. And that is exactly why I’m proud of the players in the NFL and MLB that took a knee during the National Anthem recently. This goes back to last year and Colin Kaepernick not standing during the anthem. I wrote something about it then, and I’m writing about it again because the issue is quite newsworthy and it needs to be discussed.

Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to social injustice. At no point was his protest designed to do anything but that. That’s what the issue was about and that’s what it is still about. It was never a protest of America or a protest of the anthem. It’s a Constitutionally allowed gesture that he did to get attention on himself so he could get attention an issue he felt strongly about.

A flag is just a flag. An anthem is just a song. Saluting them is not a mandatory thing in a country that prides itself on freedom. It’s not a mandatory thing in a country that allows freedom of expression and assembly. It’s not a mandatory thing in a country that was founded on and prides itself on peaceful protest. It will never be a mandatory thing as long as the founding documents are upheld.

The NFL stars that did not stand are not protesting the United States. They are not anti-America. They are not anti-police. They are not anti-soldier. They are anti-injustice. I’ve seen pictures go around recently of Rosa Parks with the caption “Thinking NFL players are ‘protesting the flag’ is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation.” I’m not going to explain to you who Rosa Parks was. Quite frankly, you’re a lost cause if you don’t know already. But, I brought up the thing about her because of how relevant it is. Don’t let the story be something it isn’t. This is about social and racial injustice. It always has been and it shows how while we’ve made some progress, we still have miles to go.

Some critics of the NFL protests are saying that the players should be proud of the flag and what it stands for. I agree, they should be. But the flag is just a symbol of the country. It’s a symbol of a country that brags about being #1. It’s a symbol of a country that says it’s the “land of the free and home of the brave.” It’s also the symbol of a country is which minorities are treated like they don’t matter. The middle class is treated like they don’t matter. The poor are treated like a burden. The flag represents those people being held down. It doesn’t currently represent them being lifted up.

Donald Trump ran his campaign last year talking about the “forgotten men and women” in the United States. What about the people that aren’t forgotten, but barely acknowledged? What about the ones that are ignored? What about the ones that don’t have a fighting chance? What about the ones in which the American Dream is just that, only a dream? That is what the protests are about.

People need to be more offended by policies that allow the Middle Class and minorities to be driven into poverty. People need to be more offended by government officials that won’t properly condemn true racism. People need to be more offended by racial and ethnic profiling that exists in the country. People need to be more offended by people being oppressed and suppressed by a system that isn’t designed for them to succeed.

I’m a 41 year old white male. Some of you think I’ve had all the chances in the world to make something for myself. But have I? I’m a 41 year old white male that lives paycheck to paycheck. Any time I come close to getting ahead financially, I face a setback. I admit that I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and yes I am aware that I do have certain advantages because I’m white. That isn’t a good thing, by the way. It’s part of the problem. Why should the color of my skin matter? But, this entry is not about me. I’m not trying to make it about me. I’m going to keep struggling, but I’m going to keep fighting. If you’ve read my other entries, you know I’m a survivor. But, I digress…

The main point of this entry is this: The celebrities and athletes speaking out are the voices of the voiceless.

I know some people stopped reading this entry the second they saw Colin Kaepernick’s name. They have their pre-conceived notions about him, his protest, and his reasons. They won’t pay attention to any facts about the protests. They just believe what they’re told to believe about who and what the protest is offending.

But, a song is just a song and a flag is just a flag. They both stand for something, but until every single one of the citizen of this country are given truly equal rights, equal freedoms, and equal opportunities, the flag and song don’t stand for much. And if I were a celebrity with a bigger audience then the small amount I reach, I wouldn’t stand for the anthem either. I don’t stand for injustice. I don’t stand for inequality.
You shouldn’t stand for it either.

Dim My Lights, One by One.

I remember who did it. I remember what they did. I remember where they did it. I remember when they did it. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember it because it’s impacted my life. It’s impacted what I’ve become. It’s impacted and influenced how I feel about myself. It’s impacted why it’s not easy for me to trust. It’s impacted so much.

What is it that I’m talking about? I’m talking time I wore a nicer shirt and a sweater when I was in 4th grade and someone pointed at me and laughed. I’m talking about the time in 6th grade that I was scratching an itch on my nose and the girl in the seat next to me said I was picking my nose and from that day on she ALWAYS referred to me as “snot.” I remember when I went to school with braces and headgear and was mocked. I remember going back to my house almost in tears about it and being told there was no choice, I had to wear it and how scared that made me. I remember in my Jr. year of high school someone taped a sign on my back that said “rat boy” in reference to the overbite I had at the time. I remember the looks on the faces of everyone that pointed and laughed at me. I do remember ALL of it. I remember how scared and helpless I felt early in my freshman year of high school while walking back to my house and I was in the parking lot of FoodTown when a few kids took all of my money ($1.50) while one of them had his arm wrapped around my throat. I remember each and every person that played a part in that and how happy they seemed at the time.

There’s more events that I remember. And honestly, most of what I’ve just mentioned has NEVER been talked about. Not in writing and not verbally to anyone at all. I was bullied and picked on so much and so often in school that I felt that I deserved it. It was what was supposed to happen to me. Why else would it happen so often if it wasn’t something that was supposed to be? I remember being shoved into a door as I was tying to exit my eight grade social studies class. I apologized to the kid that shoved me, because I felt I was obviously in his way. That’s how bad it was. That’s how awful my I felt about myself.

Yes, I know that I’m talking about events that happened well over 20 years ago. Why am I talking about them now? Because they helped create me. These incidents, and how they made me feel then have played a drastic part in how I’ve felt every single day since then.

I stated that I didn’t talk about these things then. Why not? Because it would get worse if I did. A group of classmates harassed me in sixth grade. I told my mother. She told a teacher. He told the students. They got worse. I didn’t want it to be any worse than that.

Unfortunately, I usually couldn’t talk to my parents about it. My mom’s response was always to report it. I knew things would get worse for me if that happened, so I stopped telling her. My dad just doesn’t know how to handle situations like this and isn’t someone I could turn to. Also, my parents had their own ways of making me feel small. Honest, thoughtful, positive communication wasn’t something I was surrounded by. I know it’s a term used by some to mock others, and that annoys me to no end, but the truth of the matter is that I didn’t have a “safe space.” And in many ways, I still don’t. One day, I may explain this a little bit more, but now isn’t the time.

Think about what that does to someone. Think about what it does to someone in his (or her) formative years. Think about being afraid to go to school and not then not getting the help you need at home. Think about being afraid to report being hurt, physically or emotionally, because talking about it could make it worse. Think about how horrifying of an experience every day life was.

I spent much of my after school time in my room. My room was my sanctuary. I read comic books. I watched a lot of TV. I listened to the radio a lot. I did this all in my room, which was the same room that I was sent to as a punishment when I was younger. My sanctuary was also my prison. This was also a conflict for me.

Writing  all of this is making me very anxious. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I haven’t ever spoken about some of these things. But, recently I’ve read a few stories about bullying. I read stories from people that were talking about incidents from their own school days, by students and by teachers. I’ve read stories of adults possibly being bullied and how that may have triggered a full depression incident in someone. Those things that I read opened up some old memories and feelings in me. Some of the things I brought up here and things I hadn’t thought of in a very long time. But, here I am. I’m now in my 40s and I’m still feeling anxiety over things that happened when I was 14.

I’m sure that more will come to me after I publish this. I’m sure more memories will bubble up to the surface. This is not a matter of letting it go, or getting over it. I also don’t feel it’s as simple as forgive and forget. It’s not even as simple as just moving on. It’s trying to move forward, but with an anchor tied to my feet. Letting go of this baggage is not easy. I do my best to unpack it, little by little, but it’s a mighty arduous process. And honestly, I don’t know when more memories might get triggered. This one was simply started by me reading a few posts on Facebook.

I assure you that I wish none of this happened to me. I wish it didn’t happen to others. But, it did. And it still does. It shouldn’t. We, as a society, and as a culture need to do what we can to stop bullying, harassing, insulting, and abusing others. We need to be more understanding and caring to those that it happens to. I’m here to talk about it. I’m scarred, but I survived. Others like me didn’t survive. It was just too much for them.

We need to better. We need to be better for today’s youth. We need to be better for today’s children. We need to be better for each other. We just need to be better.

Running Twice as Fast to Stay in the Same Place.

Sometimes it seems that I have very little to show for all of the progress that I make in life. I could probably end this entry right there. I’ve made my point without having to elaborate. But, I don’t think that accomplishes anything. But then again, considering the theme of this entry, does it even matter?

Last year at this time, I was working multiple low paying jobs and barely getting by. Now, I’m working one higher paying job and doing better, but I haven’t been able to really get ahead. I won’t go back to the situation I was in last year. It helps that I literally can’t. One of the jobs I worked last year no longer exists. And I bring it up as a reminder to myself that I am actually in a better situation. Yet, it’s hard for me to believe it.

Excuse me for being vague in this next part, but there’s still some things I don’t publicly like talking about at least not in this forum. But trust me, there’s a lot of material here that will likely be talked about at another time.
I feel that I’ve made significant progress in fixing and cleaning things in my house, but they are usually undone, sometimes instantly. I like progress. To see the progress I make be undone is frustrating.
But, just like my house, it seems like there’s no fixing certain people in it. Of course, in order to be fixed/get help, you have to first admit there’s a problem. And I guess it doesn’t matter how many times the exact same issues are pointed out.

Maybe I fall into that category too. I KNOW I would be better off I wasn’t in this house, but it is 100% not financially possible for me to do anything about that. So, while I’m here I want it to be as pleasant, nice, neat, organized, and peaceful as possible. There’s very little support for me in that effort. It’s so devastatingly defeating to have to return to this every day.

Over the last few years I’ve started exercising a lot more than I used to. But, considering how little I used to exercise, anything would be more. But, in all seriousness, I was doing very well there. I was doing DDP Yoga every day, going to the gym a few times per week, and running outside regularly. The results were evident. I had lost weight. I was running my best 5K race times. Things were going well there. They WERE.
Now, I still do the workouts, but I’m not getting the results. The name of this entry is “Running Twice as Fast to Stay in the Same Place.” It’s figurative for most of this, but literal for this portion. I’ve gained weight and slowed down. I don’t see results. Unfortunately, it’s defeated me more than it’s motivated me.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is considered to be the definition of insanity. Maybe I’m insane. I know that things need to change. I don’t know how to change them. That’s another problem. What can I do in my life to produce different results? How can I make actual progress? What will it take?

Maybe I need to use my disorder and make order out of it. One of the symptoms of the type of depression I have is the need for routines. Some people are critical of that and think it’s bad to plan out things as much as I’ve been known to. Well, maybe I need to do just that. Maybe I need to make a plan and stick to it as much as I possibly can. Maybe I can get some more positive results that way. Maybe, just maybe I can take this alleged weakness and make it a strength. If it’s a negative trait of mine, I’m going to make it a positive.

Of course, this does present a problem for me. The more I plan things out, the more stressed out I will become if I don’t hit goals. The more I plans things out, the more anxiety I feel when I’m limited on time. But, I don’t know if there’s any other options for me right now. I think I have to go for it. 2017 is 25% over. I’m going to map out specific goals for the next 25% of the year. And I mean day by day plans. What workouts I’m going to do, what days I’ll go to the gym and what days I’ll just workout at my house. I’ll plan what days I’m going to run outside, weather permitting, of course. I’ll plan when I’m going to relax. I know that sounds weird, but it (sometimes) works for me. I need to start planning (healthier) meals too.

The bottom line is that I need a plan. If I don’t know where specifically where I want to go, how can I get there? There’s no turning back. I need to move forward. Progress must happen. If I have to get a little stressed to get the results I want, then maybe I have to get a little bit stressed. I’m going to revisit this entry in 3 months and I’m going to write a follow up to it. I truly hope that I have good things to say about it.

 

It Must Sound Too Far Fetched, but You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar I Ain’t Going like the Rest.

I’m 40 years old. I’ve spent much of my adult life struggling with my esteem, my self worth, and my financial worth. I keep trying to crawl up to be above the Poverty Line. I’ve also spent a great deal of my life being told how awful the place I lived was. I was told how bad my house is. I was told how my interests and beliefs don’t matter. I was taught to believe I would never amount to anything. I was taught to believe the place I lived was no good. I was taught not to like my surroundings. I was taught to believe there isn’t any hope. And much of these teachings came from inside my own house.

I’m one person. I’m only one person. I’m one person that’s been in a holding pattern in life. Sometimes I say I’m rebuilding. Sometimes I just think I’m building. But, I’m just one person. I’m one person that has the same opportunity as everyone else in the United States of America has. I’m one person that has the same chances and the same rights as everyone else has, right? In theory, yes, but in practice?

Imagine the story I just told about myself from a different perspective. Imagine you came from a family in a much more economically challenged area than I live in. Imagine you came from a family of people that weren’t granted equal rights as everyone else until 50 years ago. Imagine, while you were able to go to school and get a job like everyone else, you weren’t paid the same. Now imagine that it’s now illegal for you to not have the same opportunities as everyone else, but you’ve been behind the curve for so long that it’s more difficult to catch up. Now imagine just after you’ve been granted these opportunities, the economic system in the country you live in drastically changes and doesn’t seem to help out the people on the bottom and in the middle as much as it does the people at top. And imagine you’re told by the people in your community that there’s no hope and the people outside your community always look down upon you and let you know it. Just imagine how frustrated and angry you may be?

As I said, I’m just one person. Imagine it’s an entire race, or ethnicity, of people. It’s not hard to imagine, because it’s what’s been happening for years. I know people will read this and immediately start talking about how there’s welfare and other social safety net solutions to help the poor communities, but do you know what would help them a lot more? A reversal of fortune due to a reversal of economic policies currently in place designed to help very few.

When discussing something with a former co-worker, I mentioned towns like Paterson, Newark, and Camden. They’re all in New Jersey and they’re all predominantly minority in demographics. They’re all crime ridden areas. And they were all once thriving areas. When I said something about those towns being bad areas, the reply was “what do they all have in common?” Yes, the implication was they’re all bad because they’re minorities. Well, how about they’re all bad areas because society has left them behind. They’re bad areas because for 35 years, this country has catered to the rich and has left the poor behind. In a cause/effect scenario, they’re not the initial cause. The places they live and the conditions they live in are the effect.

In 1981, the “Trickle Down Economic” plan was put into place. It lowered taxes on the wealthy and raised taxes on the middle class (multiple times). The idea was if the rich had more money, they would create more businesses. More businesses would mean more jobs. More jobs would mean more people would make more money. More money would boost a somewhat stagnant economy. It’s been 35 years. The trickle never happened. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer. And the hopes of many people, communities, and cities diminished.

I have been working multiple jobs for a few years now. I have been spending more money in that time period than I had since I used credit cards. I’ve also been saving money. Of course, I have almost no free time now. Just imagine if I was able to make the amount of money I make per week, working one job, and only 40 hours. And imagine if everyone else had the same opportunity. We would have a thriving economy. It’s a simple concept.

And before anyone states that if I had better jobs or a better education, let me state that I have worked full-time jobs for over 20 years. I’m currently working multiple part-time jobs due to circumstances beyond my control. But while working full-time jobs, I was still under the poverty line. 32-40 hours per week and needing a second job just to be able to afford enough enough gas in my car to get to the grocery store to buy enough food to last until my next paycheck, but I’m just one person. I don’t have children or anyone else relying on my income. I’m just one person.

I’m just one person that has read a lot about history and politics. I’ve read enough to know that after all of the social programs that were put into place in the 1930s by President Franklin Roosevelt after the Great Depression, our country thrived. People had jobs. They had protections in place to make sure they had job security. People earned enough money working one 40 hour per week job that it wasn’t necessary for two parents to work in one household. In many cases, the father worked and the mother stayed home with the kids. That simple trait isn’t an option for most people now.

Our country’s infrastructure was built in the 1940s and 1950s. Our Interstate Highway system was constructed and paid for by tax dollars and tolls. The country’s highways and bridges have fallen into disrepair over the past few years as less and less tax dollars have come in.

Is it a coincidence that we don’t see as many “one bread winner” households now? Is it a coincidence that our roads look the way they do now? No, it’s not. The Trickle didn’t happen. And it never will.

Our inner cities are failing. The people in those places are not to blame. Many of the people in those cities have never been given the chances that their somewhat recently acquired rights have granted them. Those cities don’t have tax revenue. They don’t have anything in place to keep them going.

I admit this entry is a bit disjointed. But, I’m trying to cram in as much as I can into as short of an entry as I can because I actually want people to read it. With more time to commit to the entry, I could probably load it with quotes, statistics, and other researched facts. But, as I’ve said a few times, I’m just one person.  I’m one person that has read a lot about social and economic issues. And I’m one person whose voice has often been silenced.But I’m one person that based on skin tone, many of you think has had a better chance than people that look differently than me. To some degree, I have had more chances, but that doesn’t mean the system is set up to be in my favor. The chances granted to me often come from how I look and who I know. It’s not necessarily due to anything else.

I’m just one person. But, I’m one person that knows how the system is played. I’m one person that knows the game needs to change. I’m one person that has a voice, even if it’s only really heard here, and only by a handful of people.

Change is needed. And change often starts with just one person.