Friday, October 11, 2019

The Key to Success


Every semester I have a handful of students who are like I was when I was an undergrad at San Diego State University in the early 80s. They come to class anywhere from irregularly to rarely, often show up late and are not too concerned about turning in assignments on time, or at all. Some of them simply disappear before the semester is over. I was that student and my success, or, rather, lack thereof, reflected my level of commitment. Why I was so nonchalant about school is a question I have asked myself many times over the ensuing years, but for many and related reasons, I did not place my education as a top priority. I was unmotivated to succeed. There are students who enter the semester with sufficient motivation and then become distracted by events outside their control, but for me and for the majority of students who do poorly, those unforeseen outside events are not the problem. We are.

Since finding the necessary motivation and returning to school many years later, I am acutely aware of not only what it takes to succeed, but also what it takes to fail. My grade point average after two years at SDSU was 0.7 – a low F+ to a high F, depending on where the line is drawn. Either way, it was not because I was not smart enough and it was not because my best was not good enough and it was not because I intended to fail – quite the opposite. I was always, perpetually, going to “get my shit together,” right up until the end. I did everything I could to fail, my GPA was, in fact, earned, despite the many excuses I formulated in my head. I did not purposefully fail, but I failed because I did not purposefully succeed. My experience with failure is extensive.

But so is my experience with success. After returning to school many years later, I found the motivation I lacked when I was in my early 20s. I did the things necessary to succeed. I went to class every day. I paid attention and took notes. I read the required material, did the required assignments and turned them in on time. Because my education was a top priority, I succeeded. On purpose. The action I took when I finally earned my BA and both of my MAs was the key to succeeding. It’s not rocket science. I now get to see my much younger self in some of my own students and it is painful. I do what I can to stoke the fire, but I cannot give them the motivation to succeed any more than anyone could give it to me.

I could list a number of factors that contributed to my early failures. The social and fraternity life at SDSU was certainly a distraction. My inherent introversion and inflated sense of pride prevented me from asking for help or even acknowledging that there might be a problem. I was, in fact, in denial that I was actually failing school. I was always going to straighten out and get it together next semester. Finally, in the spring of 1985, I was informed by the powers that be that there would be no next semester at SDSU. While it might have been possible to petition for another chance – claiming some real or perceived hardship – I did not even try. College wasn’t for me; I threw in the towel.

The circumstances that led me back to college in the early 2000s are many and varied, but suffice it to say that I had run into a dead-end, a veritable brick wall. It wasn’t as though I really wanted to become an “academic” (a label I accept but don’t particularly like the flavor of), but going back to school did serve, at first, as a refuge. It was the giant reset button my life required at the time and it gave me something worthwhile to do. Because it felt like something of a last resort (it wasn’t, but it was the path of least resistance), I poured myself into it. But I was not convinced that anything would change. I was not convinced that I had changed – yet.

After my first semester at a local junior college, my entire outlook on not only school, but also on myself radically changed. It actually started happening a few weeks into the semester. I went to class every day, I did the work assigned and turned in my assignments on time. I was participating in my education… in my life. I was getting good grades, mostly As, for the first time in my life. I didn’t feel any smarter (and today, I know I am not any smarter), but I did begin to see what most people (and most of my current students) see much sooner in life – doing the work precedes success. Those early successes were my motivation. The better I did, the more motivated I was to continue doing well.

I try to motivate all of my students. I share my extensive failures with them in the hopes that those who are walking the same path will see where they are going and change course. At the very least I hope that if they do end up failing, that they do not berate themselves for it. While it is true that not everyone is “college material,” it is also true that virtually everyone can be. It has very little to do with intelligence and for those who truly are not a good match for college, these same lesson regarding motivation and putting in the work apply to all things and all success. Putting in the work, whether that work creates the motivation or the motivation creates the work, is the key to success. It is the only key necessary.

Do I regret my failure at SDSU? Yes and no. If I found the motivation and did the work, I would have graduated with a BS in computer science (my major at the time, my degrees today are only tangentially related) in the mid to late 80s. That degree at that time could have made me a very wealthy man today. I could have been successful. But that not only did not happen, it could not have happened. What I have instead is a great deal of experience, some of it unpleasant and painful, that helped form me into who I am. I do not recommend taking the path I took, even though I eventually prevailed. However, I am grateful that my experience might help someone else see that oncoming train and take appropriate evasive action. My inaction guaranteed my failure. Action always precedes success.






Saturday, September 14, 2019

On Quality and the War on "Not Good Enough"


To be perfectly honest (if there even is such a thing), I have no idea what I am about to write. I know why I am writing, but I don’t know what. I guess that’s a good place to start, however. I am writing because that is a big part of who I am – I am a writer. Writers write and we don’t always have a plan. Art is often like that. There are infinite inspirations, some stronger than others, but inspiration is not always required – or, maybe more accurately, it can manifest as part of the creative process. I don’t paint, but I would bet that painters often stare at a blank canvas with no idea what they are about to paint. How many musicians have sat down with their instruments just noodling around when a song emerges? We are driven to create and I firmly believe that everyone has a capacity for creative works.

But… not everyone trusts his or her instincts, believes he or she is creative or, worse, that his or her talent is worthy of expression. I fight that demon on a regular basis. That is another reason why I am writing. The internal battle that tells me “I am not good enough” is an ongoing struggle, but I have been doing this long enough to know that if I don’t fight it, I lose. I write, therefore I am, yes, but when I write I also matter, even if no one ever reads this. I means something to me.

It took a long time to embrace this particular creative expression. I knew I could communicate using symbols arranged in some specific order to create meaning long before I appreciated that ability. I wished I had talent is some other art, I wished I could play the guitar or piano or that I could draw or sculpt or otherwise create beauty that was visual or aural or tactile. Maybe with sufficient training and practice I might have been able to develop one, but it is clear my where natural talent, my propensity to create, is: Words.

I am not the best writer I know of, not even close. There are many whom I admire and who can write in ways I can’t. Poets and lyricists are among them, but there are prose writers, too, living and dead, whom I admire as icons, their writing lives on some lofty plane that I strive to reach. That, too, is why I write. No amount of talent or drive is enough, art, like anything else, improves with practice. Since about maybe 15 years ago, I have had the drive that compels me to improve. Raw talent alone, for me, will not win the “I’m not good enough” battle, even though most of us are, objectively, good enough just as we are. It a two-edged sword. One the one hand, there is an external measure of “quality” that I have accepted as a defining part of who I am, and on the other hand, I produce something by which that quality can be judged.

Beauty, it has been said, is in the eye of the beholder. While that is certainly true to an extent, there is also a timeless, consistent and universal essence of what is and is not beautiful. Quality, is another form of beauty and quality, like beauty, is uniquely difficult to define. We know it when we see it, hear it, touch it, smell it, taste it, read it...  experience it in some way. Is quality, then, also in the eye of the beholder? That is a damned good question, but I think, intuitively, it exists outside of us. I strive for quality in my writing, I want it to be beautiful and… I know it when I see it. Could this be better, more “beautiful?” Undoubtedly. But it is good and it is certainly “good enough.”

One final thought on why I write is one that I am hesitant to admit, even to myself. It is certainly not the only reason and absolutely not the primary reason (that being a drive to create), but it is a factor, nonetheless. While my primary target audience consists of just myself, I do enjoy knowing that others have read and appreciated my work as well. It comes from a deeper place than the appreciation being represented by dollar signs. In the past I wrote for a living, but the acknowledgement that my pay provided paled in significance to the real words others expressed about mine. Whether the feedback had to do with the content, the style or some combination of both, the external validation gave me ammunition in the “I’m not good enough” war. Therefore, as much as I try to keep my ego in check, I would be lying if I said what others thought did not matter.

Now, several hundred words later, what I would write about is clear. It turns out that the “what” is the “why.” I did not know it going in and it is not the first time I have reflected my thoughts on what I do in what I do. My primary audience is satisfied. If that is all I get from this then that, too, is enough. Peace.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Love, Argumentation and Rhetoric



I have not written much of substance in some time. Additionally, with the exception of way too many Facebook/Instagram updates that were spawned from my most recent motorcycle pilgrimage, I have, mostly, maintained “radio silence.” It is not easy to keep my (virtual) mouth shut in the face of so much misinformation, half-baked truth and justifying interpretation, but I am, for the most part, succeeding. And I am for a couple of relatively simple and related reasons. Before I get to that, I should clarify that this has nothing to do with political or public goings-on. It is far more local than that. This has to do with the fallout from my decision to end a three year relationship, a decision that was somewhat complicated because we were living together for the last year of it.

Whereas I have spoken about the situation privately with friends, I have refrained, except in the most general and nondescript way, from making any public statements about it. That has not been true of the “other side” (which is who my once lover, soulmate, partner and best friend has devolved into). She has made certain claims regarding me and the situation that I will neither repeat or respond to, correct or otherwise mount a defense against here or anywhere else. At all. I ended the relationship for what I am even more convinced were very good reasons, not because there was no love. While those reasons are still present, it seems the love is not. It begs the question, but that’s not what this is about.

The simple and related reasons I alluded to earlier, the reasons why I will not rebut the claims made are not because they are not refutable. They are, and easily. If I wanted to “win” the argument, on technical grounds, I could, and not just because I am good at it. But, as should come as no surprise to anyone who has experienced these “matters of the heart,” logic, reason and winning mean very little. I have an overarching goal in life, one that is always achievable but often elusive. It is usually within my power to create… or at the very least, foster a climate for it to flourish. That goal is peace. Drama-freedom. Mounting a defense, or worse, a counter-offensive will not bring me towards that goal. It would do just the opposite. Reason number one – it cannot get me where I want to be, “winning” this argument will not get me peace. 

Aristotle
Related to that is reason number two. It is also simple but is grounded in the very essence of what I teach and study - rhetoric. Aristotle’s definition is still the most widely cited, perhaps due to its beauty and simplicity. He wrote, “Rhetoric is the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.” While its simplicity opens this definition to many interpretations, from the wholesome to the nefarious, Aristotle framed his treatise as an indispensable tool for democratic society. As such, rhetoric, used appropriately and ethically, is a means to achieve the common good, justice and cooperation. Persuasion, then, is part of the democratic decision making process, whether it’s a group of friends deciding what movie to see or the US Senate deciding what is the best course for the nation. Both decision processes involve people attempting to convince – to persuade – each other what would be best, what is right, how we should proceed. Each presents his or her reasons why we should go see the latest blockbuster or the tiny, sub-titled indie film from Greece (keeping with the Aristotle theme)... or even whether we should go to the movies at all. The hope is that all involved are persuaded because the reasons are good, that the little indie film is, indeed, a better choice and all will benefit from it. Unlike an argument, rhetoric is not about winners and losers. Ideally, everyone wins.

Lloyd Bitzer
For my current situation, there is no decision to be made. There is no way to proceed and as far as what is right, those who are important to me already know. I do not need to persuade anyone of anything and even if I could, to what end? While there is certainly a series of claims and counter claims – the makings of an argument - there is not a tenable rhetorical situation. In 1968, Lloyd Bitzer wrote that a rhetorical situation is an “exigence” (a concern, problem, or emergency) that could be remedied by the collective action of an “audience.” The rhetor would have to overcome any "constraints," or obstacles, that would prevent his or her persuasion from being effective. In public relations, the art of damage control in the face of a PR disaster is an exigence that can often be mitigated with effective rhetoric. While the “common good” is sometimes a limited group of people, it  might also be the public at large, especially when the charges are unfounded.

I am not experiencing a rhetorical situation. While the misinformation, half-baked truth and justifying interpretations are bothersome, even irritating, the only audience is one that does not have any direct effect on my life and is one that cannot be convinced anyway. There are constraints in place that prevent any rhetoric from being effective. What that leaves me is an argument that I can win, but will gain me nothing. My ego wants to mount a defense, but my soul desires only peace. In this battle, the soul has convinced - persuaded, for good reasons - the ego to let it go. There is nothing to be gained and only peace to be lost.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Artists, Bikers and Pendulums

It has been long enough and regular enough. It has become a tradition for me. This time of year, for seven of the past nine and again this year, I have been in the midst of a multi-state, several thousand mile motorcycle ride. And for the sixth year in a row (leaving in less than two weeks)  that ride coincides with the Mecca of motorcycle rallies, Sturgis. Riding to Sturgis was not my first extended motorcycle ride, and riding 500 miles or more in a single day now feels like a walk in the park, but there was a time when that sort of adventure was intimidating as hell.

I’ve been riding street motorcycles since I turned 18 years old. But for much more than the 38 years since, the allure of riding on top of two wheels attached to a motor has been irresistible. Although my active participation in that life has ebbed and flowed with the realities and responsibilities of life, at this point in my life and for the past decade-plus, I have owned at least one Harley and ridden as much as I could. That changed somewhat when my son had a serious motorcycle wreck late last year (I no longer commute on my bike), but I still ride – a lot.

A huge part of the allure is an image burned into my memory from some time in the mid to late 60s. My family was traveling from our home in the Santa Clara Valley (now more infamously known as “Silicon Valley”) to Southern California in our 1966 Chevy Impala station wagon. Somewhere on CA-99 (before I-5 was built) a pack of black leather clad, long-haired bikers came roaring by us. The details of who they were and what they were riding were more than I could absorb at that age, but looking back it isn’t too difficult to put the pieces together. It was the “Easy Riders” era, they were likely Harleys and it was likely some club ride.

I didn’t see any of what so many attribute to “one percenters” or “outlaw” motorcycle clubs. And I am not here to defend them or slam them. I know enough to say that we don’t know everything, it is not like “Sons of Anarchy” and, that like all other stuff of legend, there is some truth in it. It would turn out that what I was attracted to had nothing to do with the “pack,” it had to do with the machine itself. It was and is both a tangible and intangible representation of freedom. The actual tactility of being one with the machine, directly encountering the elements and the flooding of all the senses are the physical manifestations of freedom; but the attraction of non-conformity, the personal and varied expressions in terms of appearance and the pride that comes from the confidence of giving the middle finger to “middle America” who so often condemn such expressions is equally compelling. That moment left an indelible impression on my psyche, but it did not create it. I was, shall we say, predisposed to rebellion.

There are some people, probably a majority, who are okay with following establishment. There is nothing inherently wrong with “establishment” in the abstract – indeed, it is, by definition, established. However, simply because something is established, it does not necessarily follow that it is “good.” The truth of the goodness of most things established lies somewhere in the middle. The pendulum swings, slowly, back and forth along infinite planes – societal, social, fiscal, fashion, expression… ad nauseum – but it is the fringes that push it. We, the “bikers” (and artists, and adventurers, and other contextually, socially defined “extremists”) represent what is possible, what can be, because we live it.

Okay, I do not live it every day. In terms of attitude, my appearance, my transparency, sure, I live a non-conforming life. I, refreshingly these days, say what I mean and mean what I say. Interestingly, 25 years ago I would be viewed as even more extreme, based upon the “establishment” of the time. Such is the nature of pendulums. But I am also not some mid-life crisis “Wild Hog” or a “weekend warrior.” I still log around 20,000 motorcycle miles per year. That might sound like a lot, but it is on the low end for most “hard core” motorcyclists. I log most of my miles in the summer and most of those come in a relatively short period of time – my one long summer ride. However, in the interest of full-disclosure, my first trip to Sturgis in 2014 was not a ride. It was a drive and my motorcycle was on a trailer. While there are legitimate reasons why I could not ride, and although I thoroughly enjoyed myself anyway, I could not help but feel I had somehow betrayed myself. And I knew more than half of the experience is in the ride there – it’s the journey.

However, my street cred is not only solid, it doesn’t matter. We – all of us who push the edge, exist on the fringe and otherwise thumb our collective nose at convention are not doing it for recognition. We do it because we have to, it is who we are. Whether a “biker” (an establishment label that still does not sit well with me) or anyone else who is attracted to not just the edge, but what’s on the other side of it, we are the energy that moves that pendulum. We keep it interesting, stagnation fears us. That attraction I felt at five, six, seven years old? It was real and I never forgot it.

My university professors would be asking, “so what?” Where is the “so what?” I agree, it is time to get to the ultimate point in all this. I’ll do it with an example:

My first long ride on a motorcycle was planned for July of 2010. While I had several overnight - maybe two or three night – rides under my belt, this was the first really long one. There were many friends who were “going to go.” All but two of us dropped out for various reasons (maybe excuses). We were now looking at a daunting trip without the strength of numbers or any experience among us – neither if us had attempted anything like it before. The questions washed over me: What if I can’t handle it? What if my bike breaks down? What if it rains or even snows? What if I crash? It was almost enough to stop us. We both had sons in the Army fighting in Afghanistan at the time. We pushed past our fear (because that’s what it was) by comparing our journey to theirs. When put in those terms, we could not not go.

It was magical. We were gone 11 days, rode seven or eight of them, covered six states and almost 4,000 miles. I was finally living an extended version of the freedom I witnessed so many years before. It was eye-opening. Despite my non-conformity in many areas of my life, I was still unwittingly stifling myself, almost buckling under the crippling fear of “what if?” Since that trip, I’ve made many much longer rides – in terms of both distance and time – and although I have experienced my share of “what ifs,” they did not stop me. Ultimately only one “what if” ends it all, and it is the same for all of us. As far as we known, we only get one shot at this… why limit myself?







Monday, July 15, 2019

Real Reality

I opened my Facebook account in May 2006. It was not yet available to the masses, but at the time, many college students were able to create an account. The social media powerhouse then was My Space. I was active there briefly, active enough to not use Facebook at all until my first post in April 2008. I was again Facebook silent until October that year. With the exception of a couple of brief hiatuses, I have maintained a presence on Facebook ever since.

However, my Internet presence predates the World Wide Web (before the “www” prefix was part of any URL). I was active “online” in the early 80s with my Commodore 64 connected to a telephone line via a VICMODEM that transferred data at a screaming 1,200 bits per second (Bps) – today data transmission is measured in thousands of bps (Mbps) or even millions. A recent speed test on my home internet just returned a download speed of about 300 Mbps – that is 300,000,000 bits per second, versus 1,200 in the early 80s. Technology is a wondrous thing.

But even at those, by today’s standards, unacceptably slow speeds, the early Internet brought the world into our homes. I had an account with Compuserve which allowed me to communicate through my modem with other computers. Often they were campus mainframes, but more often it was one of a few “Bulletin Board Services” (BBS). Those virtual bulletin boards, I believe, formed the foundation for what we call “social networking” today. By the time closed networks like America On Line (AOL), the larger World Wide Web and browsers came around, the future was becoming clear. And it would be vast.

Fast forward to today, midway through 2019. I still have some old ties to those early days, though some time ago I dissolved one of my first. I had an early email account through Earthlink that still carried “.ix” in the suffix. That now obsolete designation stood for “Internet Exchange.” It was a designation that meant “email” before email was called email. It was costing me $10 per month to keep it and for simple nostalgia, it was not worth it. My associations with what would become a juggernaut, a little start-up in Mountain View, CA called “Google,” predates most everything since the fall of AOL. My gmail and Blogger accounts are the oldest, but YouTube is likely not far behind. In fact, both my Blogger and YouTube accounts might predate Google’s acquisition of them.

So what? Nice little slice of recent history, but so what? My journalism and English professors would be cringing – “You took how long to get to the point?” Yes, well… call it artistic liberty. The point of all this is not so much our history, but rather, my history, as preserved in these digital archives. For the past 10-plus years, much of what I’ve been up to, what I have done, things I have seen through pictures and videos, and, although some might see it as a lost art, my writing about what it all means, is all still there. Facebook, through its “Memories” tool has capitalized on this fascination with retrospection. Never before have I been able to garner such a clear picture of where I was one, two, five, eight, etc. up to a little more than 10 years ago.

Of course what is there, what has been preserved, is not all of the reality. It is the reality I have chosen to archive. But even with the actual digital record only reflecting what I want it to, the detail that is there is so fine that I can still almost feel what I was feeling then. Again, when these are good things, that is good, but even the bad memories I chose not to archive, or the ones that even at some later date I choose to delete, are triggered by the detail of what is there.

For example, I was married to the mother of my children on Feb. 7th, 1987. I was there, I remember when it was, where it was and much about it. I even have a photo album and a VHS video of it around somewhere. However, I don’t remember it every time Feb. 7th rolls around. There is no reason to relive it, nothing anywhere outside my own thoughts triggers that memory. The same cannot be said of July 15th, 2012 – the date of my second wedding. That was a disaster and among the dumbest things I’ve ever done. It, like so much else documented in my Facebook archives, remains as a very prominent part of my digital record – even though I have gone through great pains to eliminate key elements of it. Deleting it all is not so easy, however. Real friends and family gathered in numbers that had never happened before and probably will never happen again. The pictures and memories of the party (which is what I prefer to call that wedding and reception) are important to me. I can and did delete her, but the occasion remains. And it will come back next year, the year after that and as long as this digital archive survives. Indeed, the memories will outlive me.

Like so much else that has to do with “progress,” there is both good and bad. While I learned quite a lot from that fiasco seven years ago, I can internalize those lessons without rehashing them every year. Some things were meant to be forgotten, others benefit from the permanence of digital storage. The last three years are filled with wonderful memories with my now ex-girlfriend. There is nothing about her or them that in anyway “taints” those memories. There were absolutely genuinely good times I do not want to forget. I looked back on today’s with fondness, disappointed, perhaps, that things couldn’t be different, but grateful for the time we had.

Finally, the line between virtual reality and real reality is further blurred by how we remember. Like the public portrayal of ourselves in the present, the archival portrayal is not entirely real either. It is partially so, but it doesn’t ever tell the whole story. But that doesn’t mean no one knows what that story is. When I access my archives – even though I leave things out, I know and remember what those things are. I’d venture to guess that I am not in the minority – I’d bet that most people have that awareness. But it is wholly personal – no one else can really know the real story – in real time or by looking to the past. That burden and/or privilege is personal; it is ours and ours alone.

Coming full circle, the only real differences between what is recorded reality (history) and real reality (news) before and after the age of information are quantity and access. The sheer volume of information flooding our senses combined with the availability of access to anyone has changed the game. And it is a game. And games have winners and loser. More days than not, I am choosing not to play. Because better than a notch in my win column is peace. Peace is the ultimate victory. When I reflect back on this day a year from now, whatever I might be going through then, I will know and remember the peace I have today.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Irreconcilable Differences


Writing - writing anything – is hard, sometimes. Sometimes it just flows like a river, but right now the river is blocked. I am tempted to say that I’m not sure why, but I have an idea. It’s stress and the source of that stress is also known. Different people will phrase it in different ways, but there are some unpleasant things in life we all must navigate from time to time. Some of those things are universal, others are not, but the disruption and stress that comes from them is unavoidable. We all have to face it. Right now, I am in that mix, a “life on life’s terms” moment. This time it is the end of an almost three-year relationship that included a little more than a year of cohabitation. The specifics of what happened are not anything I need to, have to nor am I willing to talk about. It’s not important. Navigating it is.

Since we combined two households into one, the logistical issues of untangling a year-plus of entanglements is only part of the induced stress. This is not the first time this has happened. My ill-advised and ill-fated marriage ended in the dissolution of our cohabitation in this same house. That situation was significantly different than this one – that relationship ended due largely to many manifestations of dishonesty. It was also different because I moved out (and half-way across the country), too. This house was vacated and rented out for two years. Moving back to this house or back to the Sacramento area was never a sure thing – indeed, at that time it was a pretty sure non-thing. The passage of time softened my perception of what “home” is.

While there is no shortage of pain and hurt this time, there are also no “bad guys,” at least not from my perspective, I cannot and would not speak for her. And what others think or believe is not only none of my business – it’s none of theirs. Regardless, suffice it to say that I did not enter this relationship (or any relationship) with the intention of it ending it at some later date. I did not go through the considerable time, work, expense and compromise of making my home our home simply to go through more considerable time, work and expense to undo it. It begs some obvious questions: Was cohabitating a good idea? Was getting into the relationship at all a good idea? Further, if I was happy alone, or single, or unattached, or however one wishes to categorize anyone who is not in a romantic relationship, why take a risk with establishing one?

The answer to the first two questions is the same. Yes. It was a good idea to both get into that relationship and cohabitate. When applying the same two questions to that train-wreck marriage some years ago, the answer to both is not no, but hell no! Those were decidedly not good ideas and the signs were there. This time that is not the case. It was a good relationship, but there were issues that became intolerable. What those issues are, specifically, is not important. What could have been done to ameliorate them before it became too late is only important inasmuch as how it affects future actions and decisions. But that last question is a good one. Why would I get into a relationship if life was so good? If I was indeed “happy,” why take that risk (because entering any relationship always has risk)?

First, there are numerous kinds of happiness, contentedness, fullness and all sorts of other “nesses” that make up the substance of life. While I was indeed very happy with my life prior to this relationship, and especially in contrast to the storm I emerged from not too long before, I felt that happiness could be enhanced, or take on a new dimension, with a partner. It was a known risk. I thought long about whether I really wanted to make that commitment again. I dragged my feet, I stalled, I had some serious reservations about exposing myself to that kind of pain again. Perhaps due to the caution and slow progression, I had time to notice that we always had a good time when we were together. Ultimately, being together was good and made my otherwise good life better. It extended the level of whateverness and created a newness. Almost two years later, when the idea of living together was approached, I didn’t even think twice about it. It seemed obvious.

I should have thought twice, at least, about it. That doesn’t mean it was a bad idea, it doesn’t mean I regret the decision and it doesn’t mean I would have come to a different conclusion. It only means that I let emotion and the false narrative of “love is all you need” take an unwarranted precedence over the decision. In fact, if I had entertained the thought process of what could go wrong, it is possible that what went wrong might have been avoided or, perhaps, effectively mitigated. There are new and unknown factors that will necessarily materialize when such foundational elements of a relationship change. But that still doesn’t entirely address the last question.

There are two different ways of looking at what arrives at the same paradigm of the “family unit.” We are “supposed” to be connected in a romantic way to someone else. Where that comes from is likely part human biology – an evolutionary response that secures the proliferation of our species – as well as a social construct that drives us towards some connection. Indeed, isn’t that where so much homophobia comes from? This idea that men and women are “designed” to be together, to procreate, and anything that subverts that social tradition represents some kind of threat. Of course, there are numerous traditional relationship examples that contradict that “standard,” but the tradition persists.

Maybe I was looking for my own place myself in that tradition, too. I can’t count how many times, when I was unattached, someone would say, “you’ll find someone,” as though it is some kind of ultimate goal. As much as I think to think myself independent, a “loner,” and as much as I genuinely enjoy my solitude, having that one special person to share life with, combined with that social expectation, had an allure that was impossible to resist. Yet, to make any union successful, certain sacrifices, compromises, concessions and adaptations must be made. Unfortunately, even with a lot of foresight, planning and thought, unknown and, ultimately unacceptable situations can arise. That happened and although the positives were, in fact, positive, the negative could not be brushed aside any longer. I thought I considered all the potential “deal-breakers,” but this one I did not see coming until it was too late.

Unlike my short-lived marriage in 2012, I do not regret this relationship at all. It added richness to my life. We had a lot of fun, too many good times to list. It is sad that this fissure proved to wide to cross. It seems the official cause of so many divorces bares the label, “irreconcilable differences.” Usually that is code for something much more nefarious. Not this time. Our differences are not evil, they are not deceitful, they are not malicious and they are not adversarial. They are just incompatible. I wish they were not.