My Thoughts on the Orlando Shooting

Hey, all. I know I normally try to keep things light on this website, but today for a few minutes, I wanted to talk about the shooting that took place last night at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

For anyone who isn’t aware, last night at around 2 AM local time, the United States experienced the most deadly mass shooting of its history and what has been deemed the “worst terror attack since 9/11.”

Some of you may know this already. But what you may not have been told yet is that the nightclub in question was an LGBT space.

I submit to the possibility that this was pure coincidence; after all, the shooter in question specifically pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call before the attack. I also recognize it could be coincidence that this fell not only within pride month, not only within pride week, but on the very same day as the Capitol Pride celebration. It’s possible by the tiniest of margins that homophobia wasn’t a factor when a target was selected for the attack.

As a member of the LGBT community, forgive me if this possibility doesn’t bring me enormous waves of warm fuzzies.

Yeah, yeah, I’m bisexual. I’ve never formally come out on this blog before, and I certainly meant to do it in a different way, but we can chat later about my personal life. This isn’t the time for me to recount my coming out story. This also isn’t intended to be a news article, so if you’re looking for detailed information about the attack, I’d kindly direct you to Google, where a plethora of much more reputable resources awaits.

No, this blog has always been me plastering the internet with my own feelings. However small or uninvolved my voice is compared to the hundreds of people actually present in Florida, I would like to add to the mix my own reaction to this event.

Something important you should know about me: I don’t get offended or angered very easily. I’m always up for people throwing a gay-bashing joke at me, and I’m so used to being called a faggot (maliciously or otherwise) that it rolls off my shoulders. I hold no grudge against people who disagree with my values. I believe in speaking out against discrimination without being angered or wound up about it.

But I think for the first time, it’s really hitting me that I’m a part of a world that simply doesn’t treat people like me the same as others.

I want to be extra careful with the lectures, because I also don’t believe in complaining. I’ve been through some pretty awful experiences because of who I’ve fallen in love with, but generally my reaction to this is to shrug and say “Welp, life’s not fair. Whining won’t fix it. Let’s press on.” To me, being LGBT has simply meant I’ll have a tougher time of things than others, and that’s my battle to face.

But this feels different. I think that’s because this had nothing to do with me; it had to do with an innocent group of people singled out because of a trait I share with them. I sure don’t live in Florida, but I did almost go to the Capitol Pride celebration this weekend. What if the shooting had taken place there?

I learned a lot of tough lessons growing up. I learned that it’s going to be difficult for me to be accepted by my more conservative friends and family. I learned that some people are going to treat me worse because I seem like some outsider. I learned that, no matter how supportive everyone around me has and will always be, the reason they feel the need to be supportive in the first place is because—for better or worse—I’m different. I’m cool with all of that.

But I never learned to look over my shoulder.

I never learned that this sort of thing could potentially happen to me. Emotional attacks? Lay them on me. I’m tough enough to handle heartbreak or isolation. But no amount of personal resolve is going to stop a bullet if someone sends one my way because of who I love.

After the Aurora shooting in 2012, my parents kept me home from movie theaters for a few weeks. To this day, that remains the most ridiculous instance of overprotection I’ve ever experienced.

That attack—which, incidentally, is second only to this in being the largest mass shooting in the USA—resulted in 82 people being shot, with 12 fatalities. The Orlando attack totaled in 103 people being shot, with 50 fatalities. In case you don’t feel like running the calculations, that’s over four times more fatalities and an increase of 25% in people who were shot.

Let’s get mathematical! Extrapolating my parents’ fears, this would mean I could be straight as an arrow and still need to be roughly 400% more cautious now than after the Aurora shooting. The mathematical factor which incorporates my queerness—and the statistical probability of me being shot dead because of it—is something we’ll just have to leave to the imagination.

That part shouldn’t be too tough; after all, it doesn’t take a forensics team to get to the bottom of why LGBT folks were and are targeted. Some people hate what they don’t understand. That isn’t complicated.

In my humble opinion, there exists only one way to battle this kind of discrimination: through a cultural shift, which I hope and suspect will happen over the next few decades. As the newer generations grow up, hopefully we can all recognize that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender literally makes no difference towards a person’s character. If someone is a kind, funny person, them being LGBT doesn’t make them any less kind or funny. Conversely, if someone is an obnoxious jerk, them being queer as a three dollar bill won’t make their company any less deplorable.

See what I’m getting at? People are people. Love is love. At the end of the day, we’re all human.

For fuck’s sake, let’s start acting like it.

A Tribute to My Best Friend

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

– Joseph Campbell

 

I think the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn growing up is that life has way too many goodbyes.

I blogged about this considerably back in my senior year of high school as I transitioned to a new chapter in my life. I was expecting that one. It still hurt when it happened, but I recognized it had to happen. The difference now is, I’m realizing that kind of transition isn’t unique to just the end of high school. Life is a steady flow of new faces and saying goodbye to old ones. And this past December, I said goodbye to one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

To clarify, you can relax; he isn’t dead or anything. But we did have to say goodbye, and I don’t expect we’ll see each other again. So, with this school year coming to a close, I’m concluding that chapter of my life the only way I know how: to write a tributary post.

Let’s get cracking.

I met my best friend in January 2015; my sophomore year of college. We were in the same math class together, and I saw this quiet freshman-looking type who wasn’t really interacting with anyone. So I switched on my social mode and made small talk. We got along well and became friendly towards each other. He was pretty reserved, so my attempts to socialize outside of class weren’t very productive at first. He was perfectly fine chatting during math, but not having Chick-Fil-A at the University Center after class.

Things might’ve stayed put, but I got this feeling in my gut that I can’t quite explain—have you ever met a person and you just get this instinct that you two were meant to be a part of each others’ lives? Well, something told me this guy and I were meant to be a part of each others’. And so, I kept asking to hang out. And eventually, we got Chick-Fil-A at the University Center after class.

Within a month, we were hanging out on the regular; ordering pizza and marathoning Breaking Bad, or bitching about our math homework, or forming inside jokes. And by April, we were spending evenings staying up until 3AM swapping stories. We talked about the best and worst of our past relationships with girls. We told each other about what we wanted for our own futures.

I think my favorite part of all of this is we both entered each others’ lives at the right time. Each of us was going through our own personal shit when we met, and we sort of helped each other get back on track with everything. We got along. We were best friends. Simple as that.

I know there are a fair number of guys who think the concept of ‘best friends’ is a bit gay. They don’t think two dudes should be important parts of each others’ lives. And yet, my best friend and I were. When I was in real trouble and needed a place to stay, he was the person I called. When he was upset, despite the fact that I was angrier with him than ever before, I still dropped that long enough to say, “Alright look, I’m really pissed at you. But you need someone to talk to, so for tonight, I’m going to stop being pissed long enough to be there for you.”

We had an especially bad argument in September that left us not speaking to each other for several days. And then, we went to a baseball game and spent the whole time talking, getting back to joking around, and it ended up being one of the best hangouts we had. We got really good at working things out.

Because that’s what it’s all about: being there for each other in spite of disagreements or arguments. That’s what best friends do. That’s what family does. And make no mistake, even if it was only for a year, he and I were family.

Did we argue? Sure. It was mostly little stuff, but it was still enough to be mildly irritating now and then. And at the end of the day, we were always able to clear the air with one simple conversation and get back to playing basketball or video games or whatever.

We didn’t always agree on how to hang out, either. I’m a movie fanatic and would’ve been happy watching a different movie every time we chilled; my best friend was more into watching WWE or training for American Ninja Warrior (no joke!) So we compromised. We spent summer 2015 watching a lot of movies and watching a lot of WWE. We also went to a Ninja Gym once, which was one of my favorite days. We showed each other our home towns and even made a midnight run to IHOP (it was a long day).

I don’t want to just make a laundry list of activities or bore you with tedious details, because no amount of description will be sufficient to encapsulate how important my best friend and I were to each other. No matter how many ups and downs we had with girls in our lives, we were always able to meet up, grab Subway and swap stories. “So, you’ll never guess what shit I had to deal with today.” And we’d lightly make fun of each other for it. And it was the best thing.

We didn’t know it at the time, but this one hangout we had in December 2015 would end up being our last.

(I don’t want to get into why he and I had to end our friendship—the short version is, his living circumstances changed a month later and he decided it would be too taxing on us both to keep up the friendship).

That last hangout was Thursday December 17th, and we saw Star Wars Episode VII on its opening day. He didn’t especially want to, but he knew how much it meant to me, and I think it was a fitting end to the friendship. We made a day of it and ended up ordering pizza like normal, watching our favorite TV show like normal, and going to the movies like normal.

I only have one regret: at the end of that long day, he and I said goodbye. We thought it was just for winter break, but it ended up being for good. And during the drive home, I realized, “Damn it—I forgot to tell him thank-you for everything. And that I love him like a brother.” I meant to say it. Because 2015 was our year, start to finish, and it was one of the best of my life.

I accept that this whole thing won’t ever quite be settled in my mind, but I also recognize that this is part of life and people have to deal with this all the time. It’s far too often that the world shoves two people in each others’ lives only to pull them back apart, and you’re left wondering why. I don’t have an answer, but the thing I do know is that my life is forever better for having had my best friend in it. And I wish I could have been half as good of a friend to him as he was to me. At the end of the day, none of this is anything I can change. But I can appreciate it, and I can take the best of it with me as I move forward.

For one last time dude: Godspeed, and thank you for being part of my life when I needed it the most. You will be missed.

Dear Society: Sheltering Teenagers Helps No One (Thoughts from a College Student)

It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”

 –  Nathan Scott

Six months! I would apologize, but this hasn’t even been my longest absence, so I’ll simply repeat my usual promise that I’ll never give up entirely on this blog. It might be a few more months before my next post, but there will always be one.

Today I wanted to discuss what it’s like to grow up as a teenager in today’s society. Why? Because as I approach the hilariously old age of 21, I’m looking back on my teenage years and realizing that, to put it nicely, there are some things seriously wrong with how kids are being raised, both by parents and their school systems.

How, you ask? Well, I should begin by saying I’ve grown up incredibly blessed with a plethora of good fortune. I have two happy and healthy parents who love me endlessly, my family lives comfortably, and I’ve been smart enough to get into college and survive as an engineering major (so far, anyway). A good bulk of teenagers reading this are hopefully lucky in similar senses. So why do I say we’re all getting screwed? Why have I, for years, been so fundamentally unhappy with how I transitioned from childhood to adulthood?

Picture this! Growing up as a teenager twenty or thirty years ago, life was different. Kids got jobs at 16 to maintain their shitty cars. As soon as they could drive, they roamed around and basically came and went from the house. They had to sweat a bit to make ends meet, but by the age of eighteen, they had gotten enough practice living as adults that they were ready to take off the training wheels.

(Or so I hear, anyway. I wasn’t exactly around thirty years ago).

These days—at least with how I was raised—growing up is completely different.

Here’s what inspired this post: today I was sitting in class trying to stay awake when I realized I didn’t have a single idea how to do taxes. TAXES. The only thing you have to do in this world apart from dropping dead.

Rant time: why the hell didn’t any teacher in high school bother to sit down us wide-eyed little 16- and 17-year old selves and say “here’s all the information you need about mortgages and loans and taxes”? Is the point of high school not to prepare kids for the real world? Why is it that I—and every other peer of mine—has reached their twenties without having been taught a single strategy for managing bank accounts or sketching out retirement plans?

BUT THANK THE LORD I KNOW THAT THE MITOCHONDRIA IS THE GODDAMN POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL.

All that being said, I’m not here to rant about being ignorant towards taxes, specifically. One YouTube video can (and will) fix that as soon as I finish this post. Instead, let’s dig deeper.

I earned my driver’s license a few days before senior year and had to wait 42 days before I was allowed to drive. “It’s not you we don’t trust; it’s everyone else.” When I was allowed to drive, it was only a few miles and for short periods of time. I wasn’t allowed to make the commute to my college (which is around 70 miles away) until my junior year at the University, and I also wasn’t allowed to own a car until that point.

And I know what you’re thinking! Hey, why didn’t you just buy your own crappy fixer-upper car with the money you had saved up from your high school job? I would have loved to! Except I wasn’t allowed to have a job in high school. Which, by the way, was uncannily common amongst my other friends as well. Why didn’t I get a job in college? Because I would need a car to get there.

Can you perhaps spot something wrong with this picture? By the time I stepped out of my house to move into my college dorm for the first time, I had still never had a job, never owned nor maintained a vehicle, never had any experience managing finances, and most importantly: I had never been allowed to make my own mistakes.

I’m most certainly not here to criticize how I was raised. I’m thankful every day for my impossibly amazing parents, and I realize that if my biggest problem is them loving me too much, I probably shouldn’t be ranting at all. But I’m going to, because these issues I’m describing are a) much more widespread than my own household, and b) way too important to not talk about.

Our society is screwing teenagers by coddling them. Parents and schools say “oh, we just don’t want you to have to worry about working, or maintaining a car, or being under too much pressure” but that’s the exact stuff that turns kids into adults, man! We have to grow up sometime, and in my opinion, parents and schools of the modern day are shoving fundamental skills aside because, “worry about that when you’re 18.”

In my opinion, when a kid hits 18, they should possess all the life skills needed to be out on their own paying rent, being able to get a job, dealing with crappy cars, and protecting themselves rather than letting others do it.

Now. Do I think it’s a travesty every time a parent sends their kid a care package? Of course not. I love how much my parents and I have stayed in touch and any time they want to help out (such as paying for me filling up the car or sending me pizza money) I’m sincerely grateful. But I wouldn’t blame them in the slightest if they didn’t, because it isn’t their job anymore. And more than anything, I wish I’d been put through the ringer at the age of 16 or 17. I wish I’d been able to own a crappy car that breaks down on me, or had to work at a menial job…hell, I just wish I’d been able to go to a football game without being forced to carry a rain poncho with me.

Because here’s the secret: now, every time I go outside and it looks the slightest bit like rain, I change into my shortest of sleeves and let that glorious downpour soak me to the bone. Why? Because I was never allowed to do that as a kid. At night when it’s freezing out, I’ll sometimes walk around in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Stupid? Yeah. Why do I do it? Because never once was I allowed to be stupid when I was growing up.

Parents—especially the amazing ones, like mine—are so driven to protect their kids from everything. But hardship, and mistakes, and pain…those things shape us to be stronger. And dealing with life experiences (such as jobs and cars) early on can help us teenagers learn how to overcome those challenges for when we’ve truly grown up.

And now here I am—finally filling out my own job applications, driving my own car, managing my own finances—and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ve had to spend a few years playing catch-up, and that was a sincere worry on my shoulders.

In short, to any parents with teenagers: I know how scary it can be letting your kids go, but it has to happen sooner or later. Just be mindful of when they’re really going to become adults, so you can make sure they’re ready to face the world when they step into it.

And high schools? If you’re going to make me sit through a class where I learn how to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and craft glue, the least you could do is make sure I know what the fuck a FAFSA is.

Life Goes On (2014-2015: Year in Review)

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

–  George Eliot

 

I hope that what is left of my blogosphere fanbase will be relieved to hear I’m not dead! Though it’s been four long months since my last blog entry—which is by far the most extensive hiatus I’ve taken on this site—I most certainly haven’t given up on my entries here.

That’s how it usually goes, right? Overly ambitious writer kid tries his hand at a blog, cranks out posts for a few months, then burns out and the site fizzles into woeful obscurity. I don’t intend this to be me or the work I’ve built here, but I certainly don’t promise to increase my posting frequency…it has been a busy few months.

Speaking of which! Let’s get to the good stuff.

It’s been two years since I graduated high school. TWO. I’d like to think that the speed with which time passes will become easier to contemplate now that I’m in my twenties, but it hasn’t so far.

For me, this school year has been the most transformative one yet. I didn’t begin it on the most upbeat note…in fact, August of 2014 was perhaps the gloomiest era of my life. This had to do with a lot of things, most of which I’d prefer not to get into here. But I couldn’t wait to get back to college.

Once I did, my friends lifted me up exactly as I thought they would. I launched into a new semester of great memories, challenging-but-exciting new courses, and—most of all—an indescribable feeling of being where I belonged.

The second year of college is an intriguing one. Much like the second year of high school, it’s accompanied by a newfound surge of confidence. The ‘same routine, new year’ type of thing. In my case, that was especially true: I had the same awesome suitemates, in the same dorm room as freshman year, with the same friend group.

But of course, each year has its own challenges. School got, like, hard. (Imagine that!) And my best friend and I started having problems.

You’ve probably read about my best friend from high school. This was the person who was by my side through my entire senior year of high school, that amazing summer after, and even freshman year of college. But of course, going to different schools takes its toll. We started arguing a lot. And we had awesome times to make up for it. And then more arguing. And life went on.

Then something happened in February which I will never forget: I met a super cool dude in my math class. Quiet kid, but I got some feeling (no one can really explain these things) that we’d get along. So I obnoxiously persisted in trying to make conversation until we finally started talking. Then hanging out. Then deciding to be roommates next year.

Having to let my former best friend go was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. And making a new one was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. And now, even as I type, we’re chilling watching TV, trying to wrap our heads around how this school year is at its end.

Don’t get me wrong. My life hasn’t been all full of sweets and roses. Several weeks ago, I was hurt by several friends in a more sharply devastating way than I’d ever experienced in my life. And one of the people involved was said new best friend. For a while, all the people involved hated one another. And we all reconsidered why we’re here. What ‘friendship’ really means. How much someone can apologize for how much they hurt you, and how far forgiveness can reach.

And life goes on.

And now we’re all okay. Certainly we’re more grown up, and stronger, and perhaps a little less wide-eyed than before. (Because yes, it is possible to be naïve even at twenty years old.) Because growing up doesn’t end once you become an adult. We all grow, all the time. We find friends and love them and hurt them and make up and love them again. You make a best friend who becomes your brother, then one day you find yourselves to be strangers, but perhaps even then your story isn’t finished. It’s just on pause for a little bit.

Life goes on. It simply does. No matter how much you’re hurting, or loving, or living. Whether you’re at your worst or on top of the world. People keep going, life moves forward, and in every pain there is a lesson. In every person, there is both good and bad; dark and light; hate and immense love.

That, I think, is what it’s really all about. What growing up means. You become nuanced and discover how everyone else is, too. You get knocked down, dust yourself off and get back up. You lose friends and gain new ones. You hold onto the memories of the previous year and the previous summer and previous people. And life—

Well, you know the rest.

To everyone who has been there for me in this past school year, thank you. And for anyone wondering if life gets better or worse: well, I can’t answer that. But I can tell you that it stays interesting.

Here’s to another interesting, amazing year.

Summer 2014 in Review

“One day at a time, this is enough. Don’t look back and grieve over the past for it is gone. Do not be troubled about the future, for it has yet to come. Live in the present and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”

–  Unknown

 

It’s that time of year again. Whether you’re in middle school or high school or college, it’s almost time for classes to start. Summer has come to a close.

Every year, the night before I return to school, I write a post summarizing the summer. And since I head back to college tomorrow morning, here we are now.

I had a lot of anticipation riding on this summer, because it’s my first one since college. I had no idea if the friends (and ex-girlfriend) I said goodbye to last year would be exactly the same, or completely new people entirely.

This summer was by far full of some of the best memories I’ve ever made, and some of the worst. It was a constant ride of ups and downs, and in the end, I’m still not sure what to think of it.

Since I’m a college kid, classes ended nice and early, mid-May. I came back from college and felt all the immediate comforts of home: this great town, my high school friends who were dying to catch up with me, and my younger brother (AKA my best friend), who I’d managed to stay best friends with all year, despite us living a hundred miles apart.

The warm welcomes lasted for a few weeks, but by June, it hit me: I needed to do something productive this summer besides work on my book. Especially considering that said book received rejections on all pending full requests shortly after I got home.

Low point.

So, I applied for a job hauling books at the local library. And got called in for an interview. High point.

And didn’t get the job. Low point.

So I helped remodel my family’s house. I hung out with my ex-girlfriend without it being weird. My brother and I went on a trip with our Boy Scout troop to Ocean City. All high points.

July was full of its own highs and lows: I learned I had an inguinal hernia which would require surgery in August. Low point. But hey look, at least I didn’t take that job at the library. High point.

I then went on the best week-long adventure of my life.

Anyone familiar with scouts knows what Sea Base is. It’s a nationally recognized scout summer camp in Florida, and the older scouts in our troop headed there at the end of July for a week of sailing, fishing, staying up super late talking about life, and becoming much closer friends. The last night of the trip, we stayed in a hotel and ordered heaps of pizza and watched Ted on the flat screen.

Highest point.

August, like last summer, proved to be infinitely less fun.

I had my hernia surgery at the start of the month, and I got to spend the next two weeks bedridden watching the entire Harry Potter series, followed by every episode of The Office, in a row. I can’t decide what kind of point that was.

Then, in the final weeks of August, I did wonderfully productive things like re-sending my query letter out to a new round of agents, and packing, and getting myself pumped for the upcoming school year. And I did terribly upsetting things like have a falling-out with my brother, which I’m unsure is going to be resolved.

And now, I’m here. Same place as I was a year ago, the night before I left for college. Boy, it is astounding how life can feel like it moves so fast and so slow at the same time, amirite?

Let’s examine the end of last summer vs. the end of this one.

The blue are excerpts from my end of summer post last year.

Honestly, right now, everything’s happening way too fast for me to take any of it in. And I’m at the point where I can’t even imagine what my life will be like three days from now, let alone a week or a month or a year, like I used to. A year ago, around the time I started this blog, I had a pretty good idea that I’d be going to college right now. And I knew it would be busy. But did I know I would date the girl of my dreams, then have to break up with her? Or make a really awesome new best friend? Or get a full request from a literary agent?

No. I didn’t.

That makes me both excited and nervous for what life will be like one year from now, or even one month from now.

Hey, here we are a year later! I’m sitting at the same desk. Same computer. Sure, it has a new keyboard and monitor, but I’m still blogging, and I still have that same lingering nostalgia that keeps my thoughts going.

I have not had another girlfriend yet.  I got three new full requests from agents.

I want to go to college and have fun, but I don’t want to get sucked into anything and come out a different person. I love who I am, and more importantly, I love who my friends are. And if there’s one thing I’m really scared about, it’s that I’ll come home and find that they’re different.

My friends are the same. They’ve grown up, but they’re the same people. So am I.

I still don’t drink, by the way.

Today with my best friend was the more fun kind of goodbye, running around the neighborhood and of course, talking. It’s funny how in a lot of cases, that’s all you need. And when we said bye, no, it wasn’t emotional or anything like that. Mostly a “see ya,” same as the rest. But the difference with this was how fun it was, not to mention that it was the last of my goodbyes before I go. It was the perfect way to end summer and have a final social event before I go off to college.

This touches on my biggest regret of the summer. Last year, I saved my most important goodbye—my younger brother—for last, and it was the best one. I wanted to do the same thing this year, but we’ve both been super busy lately, and that combined with a lot of pressure on a lot of different fronts led to what I keep calling a “falling out” but what I’d like to think is really just a blip on the radar.

Needless to say, this summer overall was a bit less cut-and-dry then last year. Leaving home can be emotional, but the nice thing is, everyone makes a big DEAL of it, so it feels proper. The summer after college? That’s the awkward phase, the stretch where you’re trying to figure out if you should hang out with your new friends or your old ones and do you still have to do chores and why does it feel like half of your life is somewhere else.

I loved this summer, and I made a lot of great memories. I made a few not-great ones as well, but in the end, everything is what it is. Life goes on. Home is still home. Friends are still friends. Your brother is still your brother. And it all works out in the end, somehow.

I’m sad to say goodbye to summer, but I’m also hopeful for what this coming year will bring. Hey, my old friends and I survived one year apart from each other…we can do it again.

So, I suppose one big thing about me did change from last year: back then, I believed no friendship was permanent, that this all was about letting each other go and moving on. But now I know that true friendships really are permanent, that there are some people in your life who you’ll always love, even though you no longer walk the hallways with them anymore.

Let’s hope this year is the best one yet.

Here’s to permanence.

On Writing: How Are Teen Authors Perceived?

“Some people break all the rules and get published. You could cross a road blind-folded and not get run over. That doesn’t mean that crossing the road blind-folded is a good way to live a long life.”

–  Nicola Morgan

 

This post hits home, because I’m a teen author myself. I have been since I turned thirteen, though I’m not exactly one of those types who scores a major book deal by the time they hit puberty. I fit into the much larger category of teens who write books but haven’t broken into the industry yet. I have, however, gotten four full requests from literary agents, including the woman who represented The Hunger Games…so, hopefully that bumps me slightly towards the “publication” clan.

It seems like teen authors are everywhere these days, doesn’t it? When I started high school, NO ONE knew that I was a writer, not even my close friends and family. Why? Because I felt like zero other teenagers were interested in that sort of thing, and of course when you’re fourteen, the last thing you feel like being is different.

Now? 180 flip. Not only do I enjoy being weird and breaking social norms, but teens who like to write are becoming more and more common. Okay, maybe teens who like to write full length novels are still a bit rare, but even that movement is blossoming thanks to NaNoWriMo (which, incidentally, I’ve never done. Hmm…)

But how are these teen authors perceived by adults?

We teens would love to believe that everyone sees us and immediately starts rooting for us. “Oh, you’re only FIFTEEN and you’re trying to get a book published? Bless your precociousness! May you lead the charge against a society that believes kids can’t change the world.”

Let me be clear, I’m all for the “kids change the world” movement and even hope to be a part of it. But unfortunately, I think most adults take the pessimistic approach: they see a teen writer and think “good hobby, but you’re probably way too young to succeed at something like this.”

Want to hear the best part?

I agree with them.

Hypocrite! you guffaw at your screen. Caleb, you’re saying teens shouldn’t be authors, yet here you are doing the THING.

Not quite. First and foremost, I absolutely do think teens should write. I think all teens should test to see if they like expressing themselves that way, and if they find they do, then write and write and never stop. Whether it’s for yourself or the blog world or whomever, if writing (or ANYTHING!) is your passion, I believe it’s not only healthy, but important, to embrace and pursue it.

No, no, when I say most teenagers probably aren’t a good match for the publishing business, I mean just that: the publishing business. The get-a-literary-agent-and-sell-to-a-publisher business. I don’t think the majority of teens are cut out for it.

Do I still sound bitter? Alright, nitpickers, check this: most PEOPLE aren’t cut out for the publishing business, whether they’re fifteen or ninety-seven or forty-three or twenty-eight. But beyond that, I’ll build my case.

Hey, teenagers. Yes, you people. I want you to picture yourself, who you were, one year ago. And I’m willing to bet that you would literally throw that person down a flight of stairs if you met them today.

There are worlds of psychological findings—not to mention common sense—that show how prone teenagers are to dramatic development as they approach adulthood. What high school senior dresses or acts how they did coming into high school? We grow up, yo.

It's Reality!

But here’s the thing! Let’s say an ambitious teen author slapped together a novel by the age of fifteen and started querying agents. Now, what do you think the twelfth grade version of that author would think of their book, if they glanced over it three years later?

Sounds like a horrifying situation, doesn’t it? It is, my dear readers.

I would know. I lived it.

I tried to be one of those hotshot teen authors. No, correction…I wanted to be the first hotshot teen author. (Yes, teens have gotten books published occasionally, but how many of those books have done that well? And don’t you dare cite Eragon; I’ll fry that fish later.)

I wanted to be the breakout kid, the one who actually becomes a bestselling teen author and actually turns a profit and actually makes it before finishing high school.

Then I grew up and realized that maybe, that was a tad unrealistic.

Is it good to have goals? Of course. Is it good to pursue them? Yes! But the thing is, when I first started trying for publication, I hadn’t grown up yet. I followed all the querying rules and I knew what I was up against, but sadly and quite simply, I just wasn’t good enough yet.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone with a similar dream. Maybe you HAVE grown up by age fifteen and are ready to go! But I’m just saying, I wasn’t, and while I wasn’t necessarily a terrible author, I was no where near ready to be published.

Which of course begs the question I know some people are thinking.

How do you know you’re ready NOW, you nincompoop?

Well, I don’t. Maybe I’ll never be published. But that’s exactly why I have only ever tried for publication through the traditional querying method. No self-publishing, no teen writing contests, nothing. I play the big game, same as every other prospective adult author out there. This novel of mine is going to sink or swim completely on its own, damn it, and it’s very slowly starting to swim amongst interested agents.

That’s why I think I might be ready.

I used to think that when/if I ever became published, it would have something to do with my age. I even hoped it would. Now, I don’t even consider it as a factor. For one thing, I’m now in college, and I legally am an adult, even if I have a little bit of teenage time left. But more importantly, this thing is working, highly respected agents are interested, and it has zero to do with any marketability related to being a teenager who writes books for teenagers. For all they know, I could be some English professor trying their hand at the YA genre.

ntrnt

Would that angle help me, maybe, if I put my age in my query letter? May…be. Would agents—subconsciously or otherwise—read my novel through a skeptical lens, knowing I’m barely out of high school?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure they would.

My point is, I don’t want my age to influence any success I may have (if any) as a writer. I don’t want to be some wunderkind who breaks convention.

I just want to be a plain old, regular, boring, published author.

On Robin Williams’ Death, and Depression

“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”

–  Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

 

I was hesitant to write about Robin Williams, because it seems like everyone in the world has already. However, being a teenager, I’m one of many people who grew up with some of Williams’ films, my personal favorites being Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Flubber, and even a re-watch of Hook several weeks ago.

I recently read something online that compared Robin Williams to that uncle who you don’t see very often, but always makes you laugh when you do. I agree with this in full.

The news of his passing has been all over social media for the past few days, and I could sit here and spout what everyone else has already said: how tragic this loss is, how our prayers are with his family, and most notably, how ironic that a man who made people so happy was so internally gloomy.

I think that’s perhaps the most heartbreaking part of all of this: an entire generation of people owes this man a million laughs, and that wasn’t enough to make him feel like he had a purpose in this world.

But once again, I’m repeating what countless others have already noted. So instead, I’d like to deviate from my usual light theme of this blog and talk for a minute about something serious: depression, and getting help for it.

I should say outright I’m not nearly the most qualified person to comment on this. I’m not a psychologist, and I’ve never been depressed personally. But I am a teenager, and every day of high school and even sometimes college, you look around and see the kids who are having a tougher time with the world than others.

What do you do? It’s not exactly social convention to run up to a total stranger and go, “Hi, talk to me about your problems.” There is an incredible emphasis in high school about minding your place, which I’ve always hated.

I have a “helping person” mentality. I briefly touched on this in a previous post. I am one of those people who feels an incredible urge to help others with their problems, and to be there for my friends no matter what. If someone complains about a bad day on Twitter (which, come on, is pretty much the reason Twitter exists), I’ll send them a couple of humor pics from iFunny to cheer them up. If someone texts me saying, “Hey I have a problem,” I’ll listen to them for as long as they need.

I don’t do this because I see myself as some saint, I do it because I think that’s how everyone should treat each other. No, I don’t want the world turned into a place of constantly outpoured emotions, and I don’t want to give people excuses to whine about the tiniest of inconveniences. But if someone needs, like, help, I think that every person, particularly teenagers, should be willing to listen to a friend in need.

And if you are that friend in need, then the best thing I can say is, look for someone who’s willing to listen. The world isn’t full of heartless people; at least, I’d hope not. I would hope that deep down, no one actually wants a tragedy like this one. It’s just that sometimes, people become too consumed—for want of a better term—with their own lives and busyness. And if you think that feeling alone equates to no one caring about you, just look at this awful event. Robin Williams felt alone. The man was a master of laughs who moved a generation, and he felt alone. If only he could see the outpouring of love and sorrow now that he’s gone.

What I’m trying to say is, to anyone who feels alone, don’t give up on the world. This place is full of good, caring people, and it shouldn’t take something as awful as suicide to remind everyone of that.

The world is a sadder place with Robin Williams gone, and I know many of us will miss him immensely. However, in accordance with the request of his wife, I would prefer to remember all the joy he brought people rather than the sadness created by his passing.

Rest in peace Mr. Williams, you’ll always be loved.