Something Someone Needs To Hear

Let's think about driving for a second. You get in the car with the full intention of pointing a certain direction and steering the thing however it needs to be steered to get wherever it is you decided you wanted to go. 

What you don't do (at least, I hope you don't) is get in the driver's seat, crank the thing up, put a brick on the pedal and say "That's my car! I'm just along for the ride! I wonder where it's going to take me today..." And then bitch and moan when it runs right into a ditch. Or worse, another car.

That's your life. Literally. You're in the driver's seat. Stop just going along for the fucking ride. Steer the goddamn thing. 

I'm not so naive to think that you'll think it's just that easy. But I would argue that you actually realize it is, you're just not empowered to do anything to about it. 

You are. If you're unhappy, just fucking stop being unhappy. It really is that easy. It absolutely takes time and is a process, but the first step to not being unhappy is to take the first step in the process. If you feel overweight and unhealthy, go to the gym. Stop eating bullshit. Empower yourself to feel the way you want to feel. It won't happen overnight, but the change in your demeanor will be nearly instantaneous. You just took control.

The same goes with hating your job (start something at night and work at it until you can quit the job), feeling stuck with a boyfriend or girlfriend (just fucking break up with them, being alone isn't that bad if you actually like yourself), hating yourself (change! It's not you that you hate, it's how you perceive yourself, and you can easily change that perception by changing your behavior -- and if your perception is guided by what others think of you, well that one's simple enough -- change who you're around). 

Start steering. And while there are miles of road between you and the goal, at least you're driving and not just along for the ride. Because there's no getting around this: when you die, it's YOU on that deathbed. It's you facing your past and thinking through things you wish you'd done differently. And if you're satisfied knowing that you're going to look back at right now and say "Boy, I wish I'd..." instead of saying "I'm glad I..." Well, that's on you. 

But fuck you if that's true. Seriously. FUCK. YOU. You're wasting your life, and I cannot abide waste. Just like people on the road who don't know how to drive and get in my way and slow down the process of getting from point A to point B, I wish you'd just go ahead and pull over and get the hell off the road. 

But my first wish is that you'd wake up and start steering your life toward where you want to be. 

If you woke up this morning and asked yourself "Where's life going to take me today?" you asked the wrong question. You should be asking "Where am I taking my life today?" And if you woke up thinking FML (Fuck My Life) and that you have no control and that life sucks and everything is bad and blah blah blah... You need to realize two things: 1) you're in control of your own life, and 2) if you're miserable, you're doing it to yourself.

And don't delude yourself into thinking that accepting where you are in life is the same as being happy with who you are or what your life has become. You can accept all sorts of things about yourself -- who you are, your talent, your skill set; that certain things don't work for you. But never, ever accept the notion that you don't deserve better. Anyone who tells you that (or even suggests it) doesn't love you and never will. 

No one's stuck anywhere. You feel stuck, sure. But you're not. There's a door in every room. Open the damn thing, walk through it, and go somewhere that makes life better. It's a cliche for a reason: The journey begins with a single step.

The secret to winning at life is not getting what you want, it's heading where you want to go.

UPDATE: 8:09 AM:

If you think I'm just filling you with platitudes, let me share with you something I just wrote as a response to Amber in the comments of this post. Amber (who is very sweet, despite not knowing who I was at NYCC) said:

Oh, Joe. ..Joe. Joe. Joe..... While I agree with you on the fundamentals about taking the baby steps needed for a change, I doubt you realize how difficult it is. LIFE does get prohibitive. Whether it's nature, the economy, or other outside forces, we do not have complete control. I realize you're making a generalized blanket statement but when people are out in these cities protesting about their student loans and no jobs and some of us are driving off to jobs that don't provide enough hours or medical benefits -- trying to make those desired changes is like pounding our head against a brick wall. I disagree with you. It is not that simple nor easy.

To which I responded:

You act as if I wrote this from the perspective of a life led with no adversity. You're relatively new to knowing me, so I'll give you a short rundown.

We were dirt poor growing up (literally; I lived with my grandfather and my room was a dirt-floor basement). My mother worked two jobs to keep 3 kids fed. My birth father was a horrible alcoholic. I spent most of elementary school and junior high in clothes that wore out after 6 weeks, while all the other kids I knew were well off. 

I mowed lawns in high school to afford decent clothes, until I got a job at 15 after football and wrestling practice from 6-10pm every other night. I worked horrible shifts in retail, three of them a day for the six short months I spent in college -- where I volunteered in the computer lab to learn HTML in my off hours so I could spend at least some of my time doing something I liked. 

During the first dot com boom, I quit college (which drove a wedge between my adopted father and I, as his dream was for me to play football at a prestigious college -- and when I didn't do that, he settled for just "college") to chase a dream of doing web development for a living. And it worked out for me. 

I travelled around the world and lived in some very exciting places, and did just fine -- until the crash, when I had to take a job paying 1/3 what I was making during the boom. But at least I had work -- and thank God, because my wife and I were close to $70,000 in debt (not including the house note) thanks to a sudden and continual drop in income all the way around.

So I started writing on the internet, hoping that after a year or two, I could hone the craft into something -- ANYTHING -- that would pay, since software development had long since lost its luster for me and I was miserable (despite working around great people). So once again, I volunteered my time to something I adored hoping -- HOPING, meaning "without a plan" -- that something would pan out. And it did. By freelancing for magazines and selling my own self-published books and consulting with clients I had built during my development days -- all while maintaining my day job which paid 1/3 what I needed to "survive" at the time, my wife and I paid off all of our debt.

I worked my ass off. I put in the hours. And today, we're in a great position. I've built a business that provides work to artists, I work for Fark.com and I write articles for CNN (or will, starting this month) and Huffington Post, I've published a book with Penguin and didn't like it so I went back to self publishing (five times the work and one fifth the sales, but much more rewarding), I've lost all the weight I put on during the highly depressing dot com crash (over 100lbs!) and keep in the gym at least 2 hours a day, and somehow I still manage 6 hours of sleep a night.

So yeah, I know exactly what I'm talking about here. 

Choose a direction and start going. Don't let anything stop you. You can't afford to pay your debts? Work harder. Can't find a job? Create your own. Can't afford where you live? Move. 

It. IS. That. Simple. 

 So, yeah. There's that.


My third book, Mentally Incontinent: The Third, is available for preorder now! Go get it!