Letter to Stories
I wish you never came into my life. You’re demeaning, you’re manipulative, you’re addictive, and you’re depressing. You make me want more of you and you make me want to create you myself, and yet you never satisfy me. You tell me you can be found everywhere and in everyone, and yet you always look the same. You can wear different clothes or put on an accent, but you’re still the same. You’re a jackass.
You’re the only reason I care about sports, the only reason I care about politics, and sometimes the only reason I care about my own family. Sometimes I change my life to make you more interesting. Make you what I want. But I can never change you as much as I want. You take me out of reality in a way I never asked for. You take the spotlight away from reality in documentaries that are meant to shed light on something important, but you’re often too selfish to care. You make me mad, you make me cry, and sometimes you make me feel completely lost, hopeless, and alone.
I admit you’re not always the worst. You give me hope. You help me understand life from different perspectives. You make me laugh. You help allow me to empathize with others. You teach me and you inform me. You inspire me. And for that I thank you.
Thank you, Stories.
I seldom find it easier to be honest than to lie. I'm currently sitting on a train headed to Virginia for the weekend. I'll be spending time with a friend who I haven't seen in years, but it's one of those friendships that is so strong it doesn’t matter how rare we talk, the connection is always there. I booked the train ticket last week after I quit my job. It was fully an impulse decision after feeling overwhelmed. There's no future job in the lineup. I just wanted to get out of where I was, and I figured leaving my problems would be better than facing them.
The last time I went to Virginia, I watched my friend's parents experiment with fighting. They dabbled with passive aggression, active aggression, taking their anger out on me (their kind, appreciative guest), verbal abuse to each other, verbal abuse to my friend, and physical assault. Similar to running away, these kinds of fights did not fix their problems or even explore what they were at all. It just made things worse. Farley, their yellow lab, was so scared he would hide behind the television. One morning my friend and I tried to take Farley for a walk, but he just looked at us as if to say, "there's no point." Although we spent most our days in Virginia with my friend's parents, I still had a good time. They cooked tomato soup one night, and that's been my favorite food ever since. The previous champion of that title was cream cheese on rye bread. I admit despite enjoying that one evening thoroughly and being pleased with the taste of the soup, the night ended with another brawl between the parents. There was leftover soup (which I was excited about because they said I could take some home in a Tupperware container), but after the mom said, "the way you exhale air out of your lungs makes me want to slit my own throat," the dad grabbed the leftover tomato soup and threw it across the room. Farley came out from behind the television to lick some soup, and I never saw him come out again.
It's been six years since that trip, and now they're divorced.
My friend still lives with his mom in that same home and their names are Jon and Lily Donaldson.
Everything after the first sentence was a complete lie. That's how easy it is. It didn't take long to write that. Two minutes, maybe. Just hunting and pecking on my Lonovo laptop. Half thinking about the words I'm writing, half thinking about my past relationships. In reality, I am sitting in my apartment, alone, writing. My roommate, Josh, has a pet beta fish that I can't stand. So when I say alone, I mean I'm with the fish. I had many pet fish back home in Texas when I was a kid. I had two of each kind, and would name them #1 and #2 (for example: the two beta fish were Zapdos 1 and Zapdos 2, and the two shrimp-like things I called Bartholomew 1 and Bartholomew 2). I really liked my fish. One day my brother and I took their tank outside to clean it, but my brother tripped, and it shattered on the flat rocks in our backyard, killing Zapdos 1, Zapdos 2, and all the others. I was angry, but I didn't show it. It was an accident. I told that story in therapy recently, and my therapist told me it was a traumatic experience. She also told me my past breakup was a traumatic event in my life. I thought trauma meant sexual abuse or watching your father get shot, but I suppose there are many different kinds of trauma.
For the rest of this "story" I will be completely honest. Most of what I wrote, after admitting to lying, was also a lie. Lies are so easy you can mix them into the truth, often going unnoticed. When I lie, my amygdala (the part of brain that regulates emotions) becomes desensitized from dishonesty, making it easier to be content telling more lies. If you want to become a pathological liar just keep on telling lies, and trust me, you'll get there.
The stress induced from lies can often help lead to depression, and unfortunately I am well aware of that now. So if you're a right brained thinker or have a thick corpus callosum, then you'd be better off painting a canvas or using your divergent thinking to explore real matters, rather than using that quick information processing to decide what lie to tell.
I hope the day comes where I never lie and never consider it an option because there is no benefit to it.
And thank you Felicia for helping me realize this was a problem. Maybe I'll learn to make hummus one day.
I am currently sitting on my bed, alone with my computer. I've taken a break from forcing myself to publish something every week, partly to take more time with things, partly because I haven't been in the best head space.
I will begin to resume publishing things a little more frequently, and they may be nonfiction stories, fiction stories, short ramblings, or anything else. I'll do whatever I'm feeling. I'll be taking more time to edit things, specifically some film and television scripts I'm working on. I'll be focused on writing and performing with my sketch group as well as my improv group. I have some short film projects in the works. And I'll be dedicating more time to reading. But my number one priority will be stand up.
I have a half hour stand up show November 24th, as well as several shows between now and then. I am working to make the November 24th show something I really care about, and I'm excited.
As for my real number one priority, I'm focusing on getting in a better head space. Recently, I fled to Connecticut for a couple days in the middle of the week just because I felt like running away. Honestly, running away is underrated. Hang with the birds on the water, sit in silence watching butterflies, talk to yourself, sneak onto a private beach and watch the sunset - good stuff. But I'm going to find other ways to be peaceful and feel joy without hopping on a bus all the time.
To me, stand up comedy is an incredible way to figure out the world, yourself, and everything in between. Gary Shandling was the first person I watched who really seemed to use stand up as a way to explore life as deeply as possible, but you can see it in all the best comedians. Gary Gulman's special that just came out ("The Great Depresh") was another thought-provoking and hilarious special that really makes me excited for stand up. And literally anything Maria Bamford has created.
Fighting the urge of running away, as well as the urge of staying in bed, I will keep trying to put my focus into writing, performing and making things I care about. And much more importantly, enjoying the beautiful people in this life. When I feel I'm my full self, I feel giddy just thinking about people, and I feel love and joy from the awe and splendor of this world. Only then, can I truly spread it to others. Sometimes, I feel I spend all day just walking around, sitting around, talking to people, and that just might be the best thing.
When I first reached the water in Connecticut, simply looking up at the sun made me laugh. I hope everyone, including myself, can get to a point where the sun brings a smile to our faces everyday.
©2023 Jake Schick