How well do you know that profile photo?

You appear online as a Facebook profile. A Twitter feed. A LinkedIn page.

Somehow, those lines of code and that stream of data (that you don't always have control over) become how people define you.

Isn't there something wrong with that?

There are parts of me, of everyone, that will never be translated through static text on a web page. The way a person truly listens when you speak, or the way their eyes light up and their speech quickens when they tell you a story, or something as simple as the smile they flash when they hear something witty. Those aren't things you find in someone's "activities" or "likes" or 200 character bio.

What is this obsession with "knowing" someone online? Have we really not yet come to the conclusion that it does not work that way? That who I am online does not equate to spending five minutes with me in person?

As communication becomes more and more digital, there is discussion of a growing distance between people. As connected as we are, or as we can be, truly knowing a person seems like a luxury.

Scribbles and Scratch-outs

Our lives are messy and imperfect. They are not these over-filtered and hyper-curated versions of reality we perfect for the Internet. Scrolling through Instagram often feels like looking at portfolios for a "best-looking-life" competition.

I wonder about this obsession we have with displaying a façade of perfection with such competitive fervor. Is this really a game? What constitutes winning? Is winning even a possibility? At what cost comes such a victory?

I realize that's a lot of questions and no real answers, and to say that I'm not at least somewhat concerned with how my life appears online would be false. But I have to wonder what these constant attempts at one-upping our friends and all those other people on our social media feeds is doing to us.

It is no secret that life is messy and full of mundane moments. Between all those #vscocam meals and #nofilter sunsets, we all lead somewhat imperfect lives. At least I know I do.

My creative process is messy. A clusterfk really. Pens, ink, scribbles, scratch-outs, piles of paper on the desk and floor, and the occasional dash of bourbon. Then finally, some letters on a page or pixels on a screen. That mess of a process is a major part of my life, more so that the product of than work will ever be. There is more of who I am to be seen through those ink spots and doodles, the marginalia of my life, than in the well-lit, artfully-filtered, square-crop photos that fill my social media profiles.

To me, the scrapes and bruises, the little failures and subsequent triumphs, and all the steps and missteps between the start and the glossy finished product are far more interesting. Tell me what worked and what didn't. Show me the rough sketches and the red-marked edits. What did you learn that brought you here to this beautiful finished piece of work?

I will admit I often worry, probably too much, about sharing my process or whether or not I chose the best filter for my last Instagram post. Deep down, I think I know it shouldn't matter. Yet I still get a twinge of anxiety each time I pull out my phone to share a bit of what I'm working on. Who doesn't?

Like many of the issues that have come with our newfound ability to share every waking moment of our lives, I'm not sure what the solution is. Or if there even is one. That said, while I do care about how I appear online, I truly give a damn about making and sharing the best work I can. In order to do that, expect less of those over-saturated competition entries and more posts of my messy and imperfect process and life.

I encourage you to fearlessly do the same.

Give a Damn

This is not something that you do for others. This is not about how others perceive you. This is how you live life and motivate yourself to do something. You are not here to sit around watching who-knows-what on TV all day. You can, and should, do something.

This, is how to give a damn.

  1. Wake up. Hit snooze a maximum of once. Getting out of bed is key to giving a damn, because if you don't make it out of bed, well, you're never going to get anywhere.
  2. Don't just consider taking a shower. Do it. People respond better when you present yourself as well-put-together. Smelling nice is part of that.
  3. Pick out some clothes that are more than just sweat pants and a t-shirt from the last college function you attended. Looking like a sloppy college kid doesn't tell the world that you want to be taken seriously. But hey, maybe you don't.
  4. Check the mirror before you head out the door, you did brush your teeth, right? Maybe tell yourself that you're the best or you're going to have a good day or some cheesy shit like that. Say it out loud. You don't even really need to believe it, something about saying it out loud might make it stick after a while.
  5. As you stand waiting for the next whatever you have to do to start, resist the urge to pull out your phone and check FaceTwitStagram for the 87th time today. You're not missing anything vital in the digital world. Instead, look at the people around you. Ask someone how their day is going. This time, really listen to the answer instead of thinking about what you're going to say next, or worse, what you're going to have for lunch.
  6. Pay attention in class, in a meeting, or with a customer. Or, uh, don't. If you don't care, try making it look like you do. Maybe it will make you start caring about what you do and the people you're around. That's never a bad thing.
  7. It's probably time for lunch now. Resist the urge to sit alone and stare into that little chunk of glass and metal and light for your entire meal. Catch up with someone you haven't seen in a while or, whoa, meet someone new. Assuming you're a remotely interesting person, you'll probably have something to talk about. Make sure not to check your phone as people talk to you, it shows people that their time and what they have to say isn't interesting enough for you. That makes you an asshole. Most people don't want to be assholes.
  8. Act like you do care about the quality of the work that you put out. If you're folding t-shirts, make those the best damn folded t-shirts the world has ever seen. If you're behind a register, talk to the people that you're helping, show interest in them beyond, "Your total is $8.76 sir," and they're likely to show an interest in you. If you're answering email at the office, make your responses clear and make every effort to help the people you work with. This stuff matters. It makes you feel better and people are far less likely to think that you're just a lazy millennial with no direction.
  9. Look at your social media persona. Do you really need to get into those stupid little arguments with people on Facebook? Do you really like that photo of someone's dog? Is there really a point to all that noise? Maybe it's time to put that aside for a bit. Not completely, but maybe you should spend more time engaging with the world in front of you than worrying about the digital world.
  10. Unless you're an absolute hermit, you're probably involved in something outside of school or work; a club, committee, some odd sport like pickleball. Look at your involvement in that. Did you follow through in creating a budget for the next meeting? Did pull your weight helping put on an event? Are you the best damn pickleballer you can be? If not, you should try more. Prove that you want to be there. Not for others, for yourself.
  11. Assuming you've done the work that you were supposed to do (riiiiight) it is probably time for some "you time." You could fire up the Xbox and pwn some noobs in Call of Duty and of course you have to catch up on the last season of Downton Abbey, but there are some many other ways to spend that time. Read that book you've been meaning to finish. Learn something that you would never learn in a classroom. Do something!
  12. At the end of the day, look back in the mirror. Was your day any better? It isn't nearly as hard as it all may sound. Be present in your own life and be a presence in other's lives.

All of this is not to say you cannot like playing video games, watching sports, reading blogs, or even checking Facebook. This is about focusing your attention on your every day actions and the way you present yourself. You should give a damn about something. Be interested. Be passionate. Be well put together. You don't need a sixty dollar haircut; handmade Italian loafers; a thousand dollar suit; just utilize what you have and make it work.

Look like you give a damn. Act like you give a damn. Live like you give a damn.

whatever this is

In some capacity, I have always been a writer. The heavy boxes of filled journals, diaries, and notebooks stashed around my apartment and my parent's house is proof of that. Now, I go through a Field Notes Memo Book every two weeks and I have no less than six fountain pens full of ink.

I wrote my way through elementary school developing a cursive that later became the foundation of my calligraphy. My mom insists on keeping a twenty-page chronicle of my summer vacation (complete with Yelp-quality reviews of the places we went, Carl's Jr. and Pizza Nova were highlights) that I wrote in third grade. Prolific may not be the word, perhaps thorough is putting it politely.

Pen and paper got me through the bullying and depression that came with junior high and high school. I wrote with a lot of anger and self-loathing, but it still helped me find myself. High school debate taught me how to sharpen my words and wield them in arguments with a semblance of finesse, much to the chagrin of my parents I'm sure.

College saw more notes and a bit more disposable income. I picked up a Lamy Safari my junior year and never looked back. My love for good pens and paper quickly became an obsession (with no help from Brad of The Pen Addict.

I picked up other passions along the way: photography, calligraphy and lettering, running, cycling, but I always return to writing as a way to work through my thoughts. Which brings me to whatever this is.

Given the number of notebooks I've filled (nineteen and counting in 2014), I have something to say. I want to share — my passions, my thoughts, my fears — little pieces of who I am. Sometimes, it will be things I need to hear myself. My hope is that putting them out in the world will make them stick for me, and maybe help someone else too. I can't promise it will always be good, but it will always be me.