"Oh, hello, you're back. And in one piece. Well, now it's time I do my part."

-- Greirat the Thief

Dear Nico,

Welcome back, ashen one. Appropriate that your Dark Souls III references nicely transition from your last post. You closed up shop last time lamenting the ashes, and in the time since, you have embraced your inner goth kid and learned to appreciate the beautiful melancholy of having demons. Life imitates art, it seems.

It has been some time, hasn't it? 2014 was when I last saw you. So let's get on with it, then. You're here for a complete report, are you not? Buckle up. This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About.1

In your life:

  • You moved back to Los Angeles after being able to prove your capability to do your job in the local area network of your choosing. You chose to be close to your family. You are happier because of this. You are writing this down because you want to remember this choice.
  • Have I mentioned Japan? You've now been to Japan. Kyoto is your new favorite city, taking the top spot away from Firenze (Mi dispiace, Italia. Ti amo ancora.2). You now have a basis to compare ramen and how it should taste. You lost your wallet in Shibuya. Your new favorite flavor is matcha. You visited the birthplace of punk rock in Japan, Koenji, and got to play punk rock music in a rehearsal studio. Some day, in the future, you hope to return to Kyoto for Hanami.
  • You now drive a Volkswagen Golf, and as of this report, this is the most loved car you've ever owned (okay, fine, you're still leasing it, if you wanna be a pedant about it).
  • There are two titles are vying for the top spot as Your Favorite Game: Dark Souls III, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In all your years of gaming, you didn't think the most impactful works of art in your life would come this late. You thought those events were left behind in your youth. You were wrong. And this taught you how to be more comfortable admitting you were wrong.
  • You are living in a small but space-efficient apartment. It's, uh, fine, I guess. You suspect that if it stays this nice, you won't be able to afford to live in this area for much longer as prices rise. You are thinking about getting a home loan and/or moving further away from the middle of the city. It sounds like a royal pain the ass because you are getting older and--surprise!--now have the new ability to throw out your knee and your shoulder.
  • LAPD has woken you up early in the morning on two occasions to ask about your neighbors. You live among minorities, and you are yourself a minority. These people are like you. Stay hands-off, but pay attention to make sure they're okay. If you see something, say something. 
  • You have realized that you ruined your sleep habits as a teenager and young adult, and part of that destruction has created an aural blind spot for alarms and the snooze button. After a time, this blind spot grows and when it gets bad, you can turn off the alarm from inside of a sleep state, waking up later and not remembering the alarm going off. You discovered that if you change your alarm ringtone every season, that you can maintain a regular sleep schedule. Your body now does not want to sleep past 9:00 AM, a time you consider sleeping in, and waking up any later makes you feel shitty.

In your world:

  • You are genuinely worried about the state of healthcare because of the political circus climate. You are worried because you work in the healthcare industry. You are also worried because your current government has made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in protecting you or people like you. You are cynical enough to realize that it is class warfare. This is a bummer.
    • As a reaction, you have started down the path to philanthropy. While this is the most money you've ever made in your life and that fact alone is weird for you to talk about, you actually don't make much for your field, and you're still pretty riddled with debt. However, your small contributions to causes you believe in help to quell the nihilistic existential dread that we're all idiots, every last human, because we think we matter, while the rest of the known universe really doesn't give an intergalactic fuck about us because there's so much more of it than there is of us that thinking of us as insignificant and pointless is fairly generous since we're closer to might-as-well-be-non-existent. So yeah, that's something.
  • Over the past few years, you've noticed a few demographics getting into skirmishes, and you are noticing a divide form between feminists, men's rights activists, and their respective loud and angry versions. This is making you wary of both groups, and troubles you because you call yourself a feminist, and know that deep down, the intentions of both groups are rooted in benevolence and justice. But recently, both banners have taken to arguing with each other in public in a zero sum game of Oppression Olympics. Both are toxic. At this point, you have personally experienced the dehumanizing of men, the trivializing and casual dismissal of your problems because of your gender. Until recently, you thought this was something only women experienced. You have also been disgusted and still can't quite comprehend how many men cling to old-fashioned, dangerously oppressive sexist ideas as a means to their goals, turning an otherwise worthwhile discussion about men's issues into a shit show of privileged whining at best, and hate-crime witch hunts at worst. The following are the actions you can take, and you are writing them down so you remember:
    • Do not excuse toxic masculinity. This does not represent you or your values. You originally perceived this expression of male outrage as the awkward teenager phase of men's already underdeveloped emotional capacity, their attempt to emulate early feminism and civil rights movements, but still immature and needing time to process. You were wrong. Do not let this poor behavior slide. Do not let people make straw men. Call people out on ad hominem attacks. Scoff at casual sexism because demeaning language like that is barbaric and beneath you. You long for the day when the definition of "man" is better than what it is. You have to become the definition you want. She lies and says she's in love with him, can't find a better man. You must change this. You. Become something worthy of love, not for the sake of love, but for the sake of progress. Become a better man.
    • Some who call themselves feminists believe that male privilege makes men immune to injustice. Either willingly or unknowingly, these feminists do not understand that despite male privilege, life is still pretty shitty on this side of the gender fence. They will dismiss your concerns about the male experience outright. They refuse to or simply cannot see outside of their own experiences. You can forgive them of that. But you have now made the choice to keep interactions with these types to a minimum. They are not interested in your well being, despite some claiming that they are. They will invalidate your experiences, and you'll be made to feel like you deserve it, and that you should be embarrassed of your own suffering. They will offhandedly reinforce ideas and say things that make you feel more disposable than you already are. They will tell you that they're not calling you trash, they're condemning "men," and you will feel shame for wanting to be able to call yourself a man, but you will also experience relief that you are not the monster they describe, and this will remind you of Stockholm Syndrome. This will make you question whether or not you are really a man. You know this will happen because all of this has happened to you already. Do not engage. This kind of conversation is not productive.
    • Stay sincere. You agree with the principle tenets of feminism, especially the parts about how we can and should treat human beings with respect. And to be clear, feminism is not concerned with improving the lives of men where they need it. Men benefiting from feminism is a side-effect of its humanitarianism. It is incidental. You can live with that because you know that feminism exists in the first place because Women Are Tired Of Your Shit™. It is an understatement to call it a long story. That said, if someday you do find yourself among feminists willing to listen to you relate the male experience without labeling it mansplaining even though it's two levels of manception because you'd be a man explaining man, you have to learn how to diplomatically and thoughtfully represent men's problems, among which are the topics of: homelessness, suicide, no protections from domestic abuse, mental health, an education system that leaves boys behind, overcrowding prisons and unequal punishments, the absence of laws protecting fatherhood, the pitiful support for veterans, the social acceptance of male genital mutilation, and the blind eye turned to workplace injury and death. Make it clear that you are not interested in taking rights away from women because that would be ridiculous, and you will express this by supporting women's efforts for rights that are not yet equal. Point out that you are not here to complain, you are presenting these problems to feminists because you admire their work and are seeking advice. You are operating under the assumption that women will care about your welfare once you make it clear that you care about theirs. Maybe. As of this report, you have yet to experience a support system for your male-oriented problems, so you aren't sure if it exists. But you have hope, and you hope you are not being naive.
    • Know that society has made it acceptable to speak about and treat men with casual malice, stoking the flames of your self-hatred, because men are the the very symbol of patriarchy, the abstract evil handing down oppression at speeds and frequencies faster than junk mail. You are an "other" to be feared because the privilege you were born with can be abused. You were born with the capability and social position to weaponize greed. This is so fucking dangerous, and its container is fragile, so handle with care. You are guilty until proven innocent. You are feral until proven domesticated. Know that if given the choice between saving your life and that of a woman, you will be left to die, because as remuneration for society valuing your work more than that of a woman for no good reason at all, so shall your life be valued less. People who tell you that your life "inherently has value" and that you are "deserving of love" are offering you shallow platitudes until society can prove that it does not consider you expendable. They'll tell you that you are being over-dramatic about this because they have not experienced worthlessness in the same way you have, and it will remind you of gaslighting. This is just how things are. Know that this is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. Trust in your empirical observations. And fortunately for you, you have discovered that one of your superpowers is a freakishly high level of bullshit tolerance. As of this report, you have consciously made a decision to be a pacifist. Remember the words of Gandhi: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. You might be martyred for wanting to ease the suffering of men. So be it. शुभ कामनाएँ3.
  • A privilege and a curse is to be part of America's invisible demographic: Asian and Pacific Islander. It's a blessing because there are few, if any, forces in direct opposition to you. You aren't targeted and scrutinized and susceptible to life-threatening danger like your black friends. You aren't demonized as the bourgeoisie like your white friends. You are allowed to say Assalamu 'Alaikum4 to someone wearing a hijab and nobody will bat an eyelid because your skin color is more yellow than it is brown. But being Pacific Islander in the US is also a curse because without representation, the zeitgeist can say anything it wants about you, and do anything it wants to you. You are different enough from "Americans" to be considered an outsider. People still ask you if you speak English, and you still answer, "Yes, I have a Bachelor's Degree in English." You do not have a national identity. If you are to trace your ethnic origins for identity, you are reminded that your ethnicity is rooted in a country that is currently using human rights violations as a drastic measure to fix its problems, and being one generation removed from that country, you have no idea how to feel about it. It is The end justifies the means which makes their efforts a crisis response in the name of the greater good, vs. What you do is who you are which makes them murderers. You feel like your failure to understand the Philippines makes you a man without a homeland. Walang bayan5You can't discern if this cursed blessing / blessed curse is true freedom or alienation.

In your head:

  • If I'm being honest, some parts of being in here are a little murky since you got that prescription to try to deal with your defective shoulder. It's working so far, and there's nothing debilitating, thankfully. You've noticed that a bonus side effect of this prescription is that the recurring despair you've felt since that one demon became part of your life seems to not show up as often. When it does show up, it's not as intense as it used to be. It's nice. But this cannot become a dependency. Stay vigilant.
  • You're trying to save money to get to Europe next year. You should really cut back on going out, you need to cook for yourself more, and maybe stop being so blasé about spending money just because you happen have it. While we're at it, stop gifting people expensive stuff just because you can. That's plain weird. And it makes you feel weird. And it makes people who you haven't gifted feel bad. If you have to throw money at people, throw it at charitable causes. Have you forgotten about your debts? Quit it! Get your shit together.

In your heart:

  • Look, dude, you have a problem. Well-adjusted people aren't as preoccupied with suicide as you are. I know you don't need it now, but you might later, and others might, too. Be sure to remind yourself and others that this is the number for the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Don't be afraid to talk about it.
  • You are partially out of the closet. You do not come out of the closet unless it is contextually relevant and useful, and even then, you suspect that people don't quite believe you or take you seriously. In most circumstances you conveniently omit this part of yourself.
    • You have learned that you are not the following labels: transgender, agender, gay, straight. As far as the other labels go, you are not entirely certain you understand those well enough to fit into them. You're comfortable with 'queer' as a catch-all, but you are also sensitive to the sad history of the word, and you would like to be mindful of and grateful to those who suffered before you so that you could wear that label without fear. You're here. You're queer. Get used to it.
    • You have resigned yourself to dying alone, and you are morbidly totally fine with that, so your sexuality might not even matter. Wait, are you asexual? Aromantic? Who the fuck even knows anymore? Get in touch with your ace friends6 to sort this out.
  • You are still lonely. But with how many hobbies you've taken up in recent years, at least you're not bored! You've fallen in love again with drawing, and you are making it a point to practice this. You can use this quiet activity as a healthy way to express your loneliness. You plan to joke about it, because humor is your coping mechanism, and you also greatly appreciate dark humor.
  • Your switch from Mac to PC has opened up new possibilities in music composition, being able to use old and obscure tools to make sounds you simply weren't able to produce before, and this exciting fact alone has reignited your love of music and musicianship. You should start another band.

I think that about wraps it up for this time period. I'm guessing that you're here because enough has happened that you'd like to remember. And you don't often come to see me because you yourself spend so much time in the dark. I get that, I like it there, too. But I'd just like to say, it's good stretch out once in a while. Thanks for stepping into the light.

Praise the Sun,

Your Shadow

 

  1. This is the name of a Modest Mouse album.
  2. "I'm sorry, Italy. I still love you."
  3. Hindi. Shubh Kaamnaayein -- "Good luck"
  4. "Peace be unto you" in Arabic for those of you new to a phrase used by 24% of the world population
  5. "No homeland", a makeshift antonym for tagalog's balikbayan
  6. "Ace" as in the first syllable of "asexual"