letters to lana del rey (20)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about the concept of children today.

If you want children, it completely changes the way you live your life. I have always known that I wanted kids, and because I did from an early age, it affects how I approach every part of my life. I live life for the sake of living life, but I also live life for the prospect of having children in the future. The desire to have children is a force that drives my will to life itself. The mere opportunity of having children is enough to shape life for the goal of having children. Because the opportunity exists, there is an instinct to do it.

Lana, if the concept of having children did not exist, I would live my life very differently from how I am living my life right now. For one, achieving financial stability wouldn’t be nearly as important as it is for me right now. I would spend more time taking risks in other countries, as opposed to settling for covered opportunities to explore without taking risks. Realistically, I don’t need that much money to have a comfortable life. My hobbies include reading and writing, which is pretty much free given the advent of the internet. I also like listening to music, but I don’t really feel the need to spend $300 on Billie Eilish tickets. Life could be simple like that.

If the concept of children didn’t exist, I think I would be more comfortable dying whenever. I would take more risks skateboarding in traffic or buy a motorcycle. Instead of going into finance, I might’ve worked for the State Department in some far away territory, switching countries every couple of years. It all seems like a distant life — a life where the family unit did not exist, where I could live life without consideration for my future.

But alas, the possibility of having children exists, and I feel almost religiously obligated to do so. It is biological. It is cultural. It is an instinct, but it is also an instinct that seems more real than I am. Even if I perish, the instinct to progenate continues across species, across worlds. Eventually, my genetic line will end for sure. Whether it be the expansion of the sun or the heat death of the universe, everything comes to an end. But, in my life lifetime, I still feel like I have a duty to create a life for my children. It is one responsibility out of many.

letters to lana del rey (19)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about how strange our lives our lives are. You learn as much as you can for the first third of your life in school, and then you work for the rest of your life until you die. You still learn, of course, but there is a sort of necessity that work has that education does not. You need to work to survive. If you stop working, you stop making money. When you stop making money, you cease to survive.

In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud marks the transition between hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian societies as being the point in time when we surrendered our happiness. In many ways, I disagree with this characterization. It’s not terrific to live in our current society. But it was also not great living in a hunter-gatherer society. Your life is still dependent on forces outside of yourself. If there was a hurricane in Philly, I still have a couple weeks of dried pasta and uncooked rice stored in my basement to sustain myself. If there was a hurricane in Philly and I were a hunter-gatherer, then I would be dead.

At every point in time, humans needed some means to sustain their existence. Staying still meant death, and people need to do things in order to continue their existence.

Since I don’t really like doing things, that naturally makes me unfit for society. In society, you still need to do things in order to lay claim on life. But, at the same time, it’s also not as if I particularly like not doing things either. Being bored is a pretty bad sensation, and I try to do things that prevent me from being bored. It seems that a lot of moving forward in life is a balance of between wanting to do things and wanting to not be bored. On balance, it seems that life is still best lived doing things, even though it is required that things are done in order to live.

The wheels on the bus go round and round. Until the bus crashes and the wheels stop. That’s death. I suppose that death doesn’t need to be that violent. Not every death is a brain aneurysm or a heart attack. There are slow deaths, like cancer or AIDS, more aptly described as a series of malfunctions that lead up to the bus stop working. One way or another, the bus stops moving, and the stoppage is eternal. There would be nothing to do anymore. You cannot do anything when you’re dead. Once we were alive, then we die, then it doesn’t matter if we want to do anything or if we are bored anymore.

letters to lana del rey (18)

Dear Lana,

I think the feeling of disassociation is an interesting one. Disassociation can only be felt when you’re in proximity to other people. You can only recognize the invalidity of your own existence when you exist in context to others. When you are in solitude, existence is certain.

I used to describe the feeling of disassociation as feeling like a fake memory. I still accept that characterization to a large extent. It is the feeling of fading out of existence, as if the moment others reflect on the validity of their memories means the demise of your experience. In many ways, I feel that this feeling is amplified with the advent of Zoom. Disassociation can exist in any group setting, but I feel that it is especially amplified with the assumption that your existence is only validated by a shot of your room captured by a hole in your computer. Otherwise, it does not exist at all.

If I had a car right now, I would drive to the supermarket to purchase a bottle of wine. I think alcohol emulates the psychological feeling of disassociation into a physical phenomenon. You are more-or-less fading out of existence, as a memory does. There is a tingling, but the tingling resembles a tingling when you slowly feel your fingers again after they have been soaked from throwing snowballs. It is restoring vitality, and it is through the matching of physical and psychological sensations that this balance is restore. I also haven’t had wine in awhile, and wine tastes really good.

It reminds me a bit of the ending of Book of Illusions by Paul Auster. When the narrator saw the unreleased film, a writer was working on his novel. There was a girl who was fading out of existence the more a writer wrote his novel. She was taking care of him as he worked on his piece. When he finished his novel, the girl was on the brink of death. He recognized that he valued the girl more than his writing, and he threw his manuscript into the fireplace. Only then the girl returned from fading. But, at the same time, the girl wanted to fade out of existence. It was a pretty clear example of the manic pixie dream trope, as the girl was literally the invention of the writer. He clinged onto an idea of associative infinity as opposed to accepting the ephemerality of emotional disserverance.

There was also that scene in the Wizards of Waverly Place movie, when Selena Gomez’s character was looking through her hand, still muddy from falling on the ground of the imaginary battlefield where her wizard battle took place, knowing if she couldn’t become the family wizard and force her dad and mom to fall in love that their lived were condemned to never have existed. There was also that scene in Back to the Future, when Marty observed himself falling out of existence when his dad and mom were drifting further apart. In an instinct to preserve his existence, he sought to end his dissociative state. But what if the instinct of preservation and the instinct to associate were divergent?

Now that I think about it, Marty’s mom literally had the hots for Marty. I’m sure my boy Sigmund would have something to say about that.

letters to lana del rey (17)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about missed opportunities just now, specifically how missed opportunities affect us in the long run. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how all missed opportunities have done for me is propel me to write about how many opportunities I have missed.

Usually, when I get sad about the past, I would just get another tattoo. Since this isn’t exactly the best time to get a tattoo, I’ve decided to take a chill pill on that.

Lana, I think only yearning for the future keeps me from sinking back into the past. It’s such a strong instinct — nostalgia. It isn’t necessarily reflecting on the past with rose lenses. I know my past was pretty horrible, and I know in many ways my past has limited me from achieve all that I wanted to achieve. But, despite not having the greatest time growing up, there’s always an instinct to think about that time, particularly during my adolescent years.

I think, for me, my adolescent years were the worst years of my life. They were magnitudes worse that whatever I felt during college, yet they are also the years I find myself reflecting the most on. They are years that happened. I am experiencing the years that followed. Now that I am happier than I was in college, I notice that I think more about the future now, as opposed to attempting to understand my past. I don’t really read Freud or Camus anymore — the subject matter no longer interests me. I have less of a need to attempt to understand why things happened the way they did.

Thoughts that do interest me: my career, my relationships, my network — it’s very adult-like.

I still write a lot, and I’ve been taking up new hobbies like singing and drawing, but at the end of the day those are just hobbies. I’ve stopped looking at any art or writing I create as me creating something of importance. At the end of the day, I am still just trying to make sense of my current life as it stands. And as for the current life as it stands, it is a pretty ordinary life. I am not trying to be extraordinary any longer. And because I no longer feel extraordinary, I no longer feel my art and writing have any sort of importance. I am just an average guy trying to live through life, like all the other average guys out there.

I wrote a short line in the dedication section of my last book:

Here’s to forgetting about the past.

Despite all the personal writing I have done in undergrad — over 200,000 words scribbled on various Google Docs and blog posts — I still have so much to go in terms of understanding how I became the way I am. I have, for sure, made progress. There’s a difference between how well I understood my intersectional identities before and after I dumped all of my thoughts into various sheets of paper. But, at the end of the day, I realized that I would never achieve what I set out to achieve even if I dedicated my entire life to understanding my past. It just doesn’t work out that way. A much more productive and fruitful way to spend my life is to just forget about my past and think towards the future. There is so much that is uncertain about the years to come. I have plans, but I am not too attached to my plans at the moment. I understand that plans can change, and I am no longer attached to this identity of mine that clings to plans as if my plans were my dear life. The world ahead something else,

I realized that writing isn’t that hard. Dumping your thoughts on a empty Word document doesn’t take that much time. I remember, in my angsty moments, I could churn out 1,000 words every hour. Anxiety and stress are great motivators for writing, and I don’t care enough to actually edit my writing. That would imply that I care about my writing, and I’ve never really identified with being an artist. Being an artist means caring about creating art, and I never really considered the stuff I put out writing worth reading.

The hard part is to achieve mental fortitude, which depends from person to person. It is about overcoming the past in any way possible. For the longest time, I thought overcoming the past meant attempting to understand it. I read so much literature and philosophy in an attempt to understand my past. But now, I realize that isn’t it. Conquering and understanding never meant the same thing. Overcoming the past means forgetting the past.

letters to lana del rey (16)

Dear Lana,

Today, I was thinking about how I became more mentally stable over the years.

There has been a lot of serotonin memes going around in the meme pages that I follow. The prevailing sentiment is that people’s issues will be solved by having more serotonin. I get the point of the meme — it references some psychiatric literature that claims depression is the result of some imbalance of hormones — but it is one of those memes that makes me question why people feel the need to ascribe pathological underpinnings to all of our emotional issues.

I read an essay a couple of years ago offering a sociological perspective to our current mental health crisis, particular in regard to the role of pharmaceutical industry in quintupling the number of depression diagnoses over the past couple decades. One of the biggest takeaways from the essay is the claim that people are becoming more and more uncomfortable with being sad, which results in people searching for a pathological explanation to explain feelings that are realistically very common. Obviously, big pharma eats that shit up.

Don’t get me wrong, Lana. I have taken antidepressants before, and I get the point of them. But, it seems that people around me always ascribe their feelings to some external cause.

It’s the same with capitalism. Some people always blame capitalism for their issues, and I don’t understand why. For sure, there are many valid critiques of capitalism. But, no one lives in a purely capitalistic society. It seems when people are blaming capitalism they are more blaming society more than blaming capitalism. I used to do research on the relationship between capitalism, burnout, and art. I wrote a couple of solid essays on it, and it was quite interesting. But, somewhere down the line, I realized that I couldn’t take myself seriously because it seems so abstracted from real life.

Having more serotonin won’t make people happy. Abolishing capitalism won’t make people happy. Concepts like serotonin and capitalism are real, for sure. But, oftentimes, I feel when people are talking about them as source of their problems, they are attributing their emotional turbulence to sources outside of themselves, so they don’t have to address the more fundamental issues that are real to their lives. I don’t know, Lana. That’s just my two cents.

letters to lana del rey (15)

Dear Lana,

Sometimes, I feel I get so caught up in the future that I lose sight of the present.

The future is full of possibilities; it is so uncertain and has the potential to be so amazing. I want the future to be amazing. The past was difficult at times, and I want the future to be different from the past. I don’t think I’m willing to relive the past again; I would rather have an easy life than a life full of wanting. But, since I did want to achieve something in my past, I eventually got to somewhere that will allow me to have a future that I want.

Lana, sometimes I forget that the future is the product of the present. What is the point of planning out the future if it ignores everything that is happening at the moment? It seems quite far-fetched, don’t you think? The present is quite satisfying, but I feel like I’m constantly looking for ways to escape the present. I guess holing up in the same room all day has started to nibble at my willpower. It’s an coping mechanism, I suppose, for people who have been confined to a place for a while — the yearning to escape.

I wonder, when Dantès was confined to the Château d’If, did he maintain his sanity by imagining the feeling of the sea splashed against his ragged skin one day?

I haven’t been to the shore in awhile, Lana. I really like large bodies of water, and its quite unfortunate that I have not gone to a large body of water in a while. I miss submerging my body in the ocean, eyes stinging from opening my eyes under green waters. I miss finding salt crystals in my hair the next day, tasting the sea once again in my morning shower when I run water through my hair. I miss finding sand in my buttcrack.

All I wanna do is get high by the beach
Get high by the beach get high

letters to lana del rey (14)

Dear Lana,

I watched an episode of Spongebob today. It was Season 12, Episode 25: Escape Beneath Glove World. It was the first Spongebob I watched in a while, and by a while I mean since I was in elementary school. To be honest, it was a lot creepier than I remember it to be.

The episode brought up some interesting commentary on the authenticity of human and machine consciousness, not to mention some eerie critiques on the prison industrial complex that utilizes prisons to propel scientific advancement by subverting ethics.

The setting was in an amusement park complex called Glove World, a direct allusion to Disney World, filled with its own rendition of a cryogenically frozen founder that continues to be commodified. It reminds me of the actual Disney World, brimming with an image of artificial paradise that hides a internal surveillance and enforcement system observable by some authoritarian regimes. When I went to Disney World as a child, I was able to overlook the sense of fakeness, mostly because I wasn’t able to perceive it. Now as an adult, I am unable to have the same experience without this connotation.

The thing about Spongebob and Patrick is that they never grow up. They went to Glove World in the early seasons, and they continue to go to Glove World with the same fascination. The disillusion I feel with Disney World has never occurred to them. The idea of Spongebob and Patrick themselves represents this idea of adults who never become adults, instead remaining children even as they participate in the workforce.

This attitude of viewing the world like a child allows them to be happy for sure, but it also does not allow them to see the world in all of its grotesqueness. Spongebob is unaware that he is being pretty blatantly exploited at the Krusty Krab, instead viewing his job as the greatest job in the world. He could very well be enjoying flipping patties — it is very satisfying, I admit — but I wonder how much of it is a defense mechanism that creates a sense of double consciousness to justify the absurdity of his experience?

I wonder if I actually want to be Spongebob. I would be happy as Spongebob. He seems happy, right? I want to be happy. Do I want to Spongebob? I don’t think I want to be Spongebob.

letters to lana del rey (13)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about the concept of the family unit today, mostly because I was studying up on annuities. The family unit seems pretty arbitrary, to be honest. If I die, then I will most likely leave my estate to my immediate and extended family. I understand why my immediate family is important, but I don’t really understand why my extended family is entirely relevant. They are people that aren’t too relevant in my life, so why is it so customary that your inheritance is split within your family once you die?

It reminds me of my friends who don’t have entirely good relationships with their family — how they identify more with their friends than they do with your family. I understand the intuition of it all, but I don’t think I would ever live that way. Unlike family, you choose your friends. You choose the allocation of your time in your day. In general, you spend a significant amount of that time with your friends. Yet, because you choose them, friendships are also guided by implicit principles that friendship and finances go separately. When you go to a restaurant or a hotel or a sports game, you split the costs. Even if you don’t split the cost, there is an implicit credit system that facilitates planning.

I don’t know, Lana. Leaving your inheritance to your friends seems… off. Family, on the other hand, seems to be separate from credit systems. You don’t really think in terms of owing people things as family unit. You give as much as you are asked, and you take as much as you are comfortable asking. When you die, you can’t really use your money in the afterlife, so you just give it to whoever you feel comfortable giving it to. In terms of the people in your life, only family represents a state of implicitness that is free from transactional guidelines. But, I’m still not sure why that is. It seems that there is something inherent about it.

letters to lana del rey (12)

Dear Lana,

I used to believe that I wanted to hang out with “interesting” people. There used to be people in this world who shared their life story or their thoughts on the world, and I would be enamored and enthralled by their experiences and by their insights. They would possess some sort of wow factor to their existence, and I would eat that shit up because I believed that I was boring and I would be more interesting by associating myself with people that were “interesting” to me.

Sometime in the past year, I realized that people who were allegedly “interesting” can be quite drab. I’m not sure when the realization settled in. I think I just became disillusioned to a lot of people in my life who fell from grace. It’s not that they turned out to be less interesting as I originally thought they were; they were still just as interesting, but the appeal of being interesting in the first place faded away. I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with people who prided themselves on how interesting they were. Being interesting to hear from isn’t the same as being fun to be with.

Lana, I feel like this is a relic of my clout chasing days. It was all a part of a past when I believed I could be more interesting by associating myself with interesting people. I realize that this isn’t what I value anymore. I used to think that being interesting was the most important thing in the world. I’m not sure why I felt that way anymore. It seems like such a ridiculous concept to me — boiling the value of friendship through a dimension of perceived interestingness. When I say it out loud, it become even more strange.

It’s so weird, Lana. Why was I ever like that?