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I’m drinking red wine from a mug to quell this melancholy.

I dreamt of going mushroom hunting with my father–microphagy is the precise term. (This was a welcome departure from the week’s worth of dreams about being stabbed, or bitten in the back by voracious zombies while riding Eurail). We were in the forests of Mt. Hood, hunting in his prime-picking spots for shiitakes, and came across a bizarre hybrid. It was the love fungi of a carrot stick and a shimeji mushroom. And, we just stared at it in such awe. We knew we had found something new and were speechless. I woke with this feeling–the splendor of discovery–and wishing things could be imagined into existence.

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A Brief History of Criticism

My first literary critic was this asshole in the fourth grade. He read a short story I wrote: a mystery following animal characters that had no business getting their plot-development-on in the jungle climate of the Amazon. Suspend disbelief. And fuck it, I was eight. My classmate said it was “good.” Then, came the “but” parade. That “but” that introduces criticism to come. Le sigh. I indulged him, listening passively to all suggested revisions.

Fast forward to sixth grade, an author’s chair, end-of-year pow-wow. Ms. Mowery had us hand in our short story free-writes in one of two piles—pile one for grading only, pile two for an anonymous read-aloud. Pile two’s incentive was the allure of extra credit; read: crack for any over-achieving middle-schooler with nothing much going on in their life. I put my whopper of a short story, ten pages of chicken scratch, single-spaced, in pile two. I wasn’t particularly proud of the piece, but I was proud of the effort. (One of procrastination’s finest, completed in the wee hours of the morning it was due.) Ms. Mowery read it aloud and my skin felt like it was on fire. A slow, quite burn that had my insides on broil and my outsides paralyzed—the medical diagnosis is situational Ebola. She paused and reread a line of mine reeking of pretention and exhaled this drawn out “huuuhhh…” Surprisingly, most of my peers were quiet (or asleep) for the duration of my narrative’s debut. Otherwise, the experience only reinforced how much I don’t like to hear what I have to say read back to me from people I know. It reminds me of my lack of confidence in something I think I love, the indefinite meaning of “huh” and that anonymity only offers fleeting comfort.

There was also my grandpa. A constant in terms of encouragement that I never truly tapped. He knew I was a weird kid—a kid that spent summers in his casa in Florida drafting elaborate floor plans on scraps of graph paper and secretly crafting feature screenplays. I can picture him eavesdropping on me as I whispered fragments of dialogue-in-progress to myself, like a mad adolescent (or an up-and-coming schizophrenic), in vacant rooms of the house. He introduced me to Sophocles, Ibsen and O’Neill. He shared his short stories with me and I selfishly kept mine to myself. A year or so before he passed, he USPSed me his first published novel, which I never opened till after his death because I’m awful like that. Inside the inscription read: I hope you find this interesting! Now it is your turn to produce an original work. I look forward to seeing it (or selling it, but I’m ninety-five percent sure it says seeing it)!

He never saw/sold anything of mine because I couldn’t get my shit together. Couldn’t get my discipline-on Chuck Norris-style. Couldn’t take criticism well enough to give a rough draft its due reincarnation. Like my fourth grade self, I have yet to master the skill of accepting criticism constructively, gracefully. In short, “good” and “but” are two of the worst words in el linguaje de inglis para mi. Good will always be subpar and but often equates to a cessation of listening. I hear, but defense systems come up, full-force.  Huh is pendulous in nature. And, if you don’t pry further, you’ll remember, or misremember, the intent of huh.

So, I’m saying this to myself (and anyone else out there in the cyberverse orbiting around M107), it’s time to produce. Get over the self-imposed shades of meaning that you’ve attached to the words good, but and huh. Don’t be a victim of situational Ebola. Be a doer. Not a what if-er. Throw out the training wheels and floaties and everything else that makes you feel safe, because they’re holding you back.

Do you have “it”?

It seems that many conversations of the past, and more so of the current (boom—awkward use of parallelism for you), orbit around the “it” factor. Do you have “it”? Do you have that perfected cocktail of intrinsic talent, matured experience and elastic resiliency that keeps you bouncing back from failure better than before–you, but the update?

No, early-30s is not old. But, it’s not young. This is the tragedy of us millennials—most of us made it to adulthood, went to a decent university, have a degree (or degrees plural) and established/settled into careers (residing in varied locales along the spectrum of satisfaction) relatively unscathed. We have benefits packages—CDs and 401Ks and tax deferred annuities, oh my! We get paid sick and personal days and still manage to justify playing hooky from work. Many of us have picked ourselves up from the fallout of heartbreak (and/or divorce, or divorces—yikes!), have scraps of an evolving family we created, or own a socially acceptable pet, or a socially unacceptable pet, routinely devote time to hone the skillset of obscure hobbies (because we want to work the topic into conversations with strangers and up our virtual cool-quotient), a house in the burbs, a condo/co-op in the city, have epic, well-decorated passports, have experimented (insert all applicable variables under that umbrella of a term here); and yet, we still—feel—gipped. Somehow…

Maybe it’s because a lot of us were told we were special in our childhoods, but—yes, but—only a few of us really are—special. We have decided, and collectively so, that our identity and reaching “it,” whatever “it” and its permutations may be, are one. We are as much defined by “it” as we are by our DNA. Our well-inflated egos (nurtured for decades by parents that told us we could be anything) kept us buoyant and in denial even. “Training wheels and floaties are for pussies!” we told ourselves. “Get them off!” And, off they came. Maybe we took them off too early. Yet, secretly kept them in our closets (for safe-keeping, we said). For the day when reality hits us hard, the day when our cocksure attitude expires. Or, maybe we never needed them in the first place. A few scraped knees and some water in the lungs builds resilience–float like a butterfly and sting and shit because the day will come when–wedomakeit! It’s just not as easy as we initially thought.

I think I have “it.” I think writing is my “it.” But, maybe it’s not “it.” Maybe my writing is just as worthless as all the nameless stars in the galaxy. Like globular cluster M107, this blog is a simple dot in the cyberverse—definitive web address, the equivalent of coordinates on an x-y plane, but nothing more than an unmentionable, light years from being relevant… Time will tell. For now, my training wheels and floaties are still in my figurative closet hunting dust bunnies because I am uncertain and I am afraid and I don’t like admitting it. It’s probably time to clean out that closet.