The Path Of The Shadow


When I was younger, ninjas (and their related turtle manifestation) were heralded as the epitome of cool. In looser terms, to be considered a ninja is to be regarded as deftly talented and, where applicable, so damn good at what you do that other people don't notice.

As I grew older, ninjas were less revered and more relegated to myth and even cartoony caricatures. That's fine, after all, how realistically applicable are ninja principals? Who uses martial arts or cryptic Eastern fortune-cookie-esque philosophy in their day-to-day lives?

When I became a musician as a teenager, the name of the game was glory. It was to learn how to compose and perform music that spoke to people's souls, a truly transcendent kind of communication. And those who were best at it were well-regarded, revered, and their popularity spoke to their effectiveness and importance. It was a proportionate measure of worth. And in the same way, the same reverence for talent in music is true of art in general, and especially true when I became a blogger. On the Internet, the art was the written word. The best bloggers used their words and social interaction to affect the world in a way that really connected with others on a human-to-human level - to transcend the limitation of monitors and keys and get at the human condition behind all of the tech. To become a wordsmith on the web gave you the ability to render someone across the globe to become awe-struck.

Personally, regarding these kinds of awards or even blogging in general, I'm gonna admit here and now that I always kind of feel left out of that kind of social circle. I'm not one to garner recognition - features, promotions, awards, a pat on the back -- those aren't in my repertoire.

I guess I'm supposed to be involved in those circles, but blogland treats me very differently. Word gets out that I know how to make and fix websites. My method of communication is often emails and gchat, private backchannels outside of the glory-reaping, crowd-facing part of blogging. I stay outside of the public eye, and incidentally that is exactly how I conduct my professional life. I realize that for business development I should be promoting myself, making myself more visible, but I am realizing that I am actually kind of uncomfortable with self-aggrandizement which makes little sense since I'm supposed to be a blogger and talking about myself is part of the point.

Working in the background behind a soundboard at the venue, or working behind an FTP account among lines of code -- those are both thankless tasks.

However, without the support of a sound tech or a coder, musicians and bloggers (respectively) would not be able to get at that sought-after recognition.

These days, I realize now that I was never set on the path to glory.

I was always intended for the path of the shadow. 

And you know what? I think that's pretty cool.

In Which My Past Returns To Haunt Me

Being distracted with the inconsistency that is my life, or rather its relationship to work work work, I forget that there was a time I was a different person.  That Nico wasn't worried about finding roommates to make rent, pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines, getting debilitatingly drunk on weekends to wash away the stress, and trying his damned-est to find a free moment to hang out with friends (or to blog!).

What freaks me out is that I can't even remember what it felt like to be that guy. Oh sure, there's blog entries from that era and I can read about it, but from what I do remember, all I can really say is he wrote a lot of prose and poetry despite getting only a handful of things published, he played guitar incessantly despite having only 2 to 3 shows a month, and he did a lot of drugs despite not really having the income to support it.

That, and he let the world get to him despite having every reason to be content; but that's what happens when guys like that get dumped.

No, don't RSVP for the pity party because it's not even booked.

It's been so long that I forget that there was this time in my life where I was all but broken after that one girl left me.  It was a 3 year relationship (on and off during some portions).  But in the end, she got involved with a guy that actually turned out to be a way better fit for her than I ever was.  Of course, one is never able to see these kinds of things at the time of their occurrence, but an interesting added element to that heartbreak you can only get in this age of the interwebs was that I discovered the entire time I was with her, I played the villain.

No, I never hit her, you sick bastards.

I'll start from the top:  The Better Man, as we'll call him because I like Pearl Jam, had his eyes on her for as much of the time as I did. Come to think of it, she must have really turned heads when she first moved in to my college as a freshman, a year and a floor below me. I was with her for a while, much to the distress of many other suitors who were likely better matches for her.  I just happened to make the first move.  I had no idea this would lead me to be the envy of every other guy until it was all over.  And now that I can remember that time vaguely, I remember some acquaintances saying, "Let me know if this is out of line, but your girlfriend is hot."  It's no wonder so many other guys treated me like an asshole.  I just chalked them up to socially awkward experiences, but it now makes sense that there was a collective resentment being held against me.

And what is villain Nico like?  And what is the hero like?  Where I'm a musician, he is a writer. Where I have a portfolio, he has teaching credentials. Where I am amazingly useful, he is amazingly charming.

Yes, I just described Better Man as charming. What? He is.  And how would I know this? Only in the age of the interwebs can I begrudgingly have become a fan of his at the same time as my relationship beginning to deteriorate. The quality of his work with the pen (keyboard?) far exceeded that of mine and this was an initial source of jealousy when they first got together.

But like a lot of things in life, I got over it eventually.  Things are civil between her and me; friendly to an acquaintance level, even.  I became a fan of Better Man's writing.  So much so that when he was feeling down, I would be rooting for him.  When he was up on a cloud, I would imagination-five him.  And this is a startling paradigm shift, especially since there were days when he used to characterize me as the biggest douchebag evar.  Not in any malicious way, just as an effective hyperbole.  And his audiences would agree.

All of this is to say that in a recent post, Better Man regrets that he hadn't beaten me to the punch - to have those extra three years to add to his relationship.  In a sense, that's sweet, but it also got me thinking about what I would be like if those 3 years I had spent with her were all of a sudden taken away from me.  It also brought to mind those other girls that I had outright rejected because I was in a relationship at the time... what if I had been single?  What if the memories I have involving her, that will stick around with me for the rest of my life, were with someone else?  That one dancer from New York?  The adorably nervous freshman girl that gave me some flattering compliments after having played a show at a party?  The girl who sat with me for a couple of hours on my couch while it was still on the lawn while I was waiting for my roommate to help me carry it in?

The thought stunned me into a daze, and my entire college experience blew up into a giant flow chart of possibilities that grew until I had to shiver to shake the image out of my brain.

Better Man says he regrets not having been with her sooner, but I think that if she hadn't been with a musician, she might not appreciated Better Man as much as she does.  After all, the "I wish I did" regret isn't something you can learn from as much as the "I wish I didn't" regret.  But knowing how good they are together now, I think I am okay with the thought of him being there for her first.

Imagination is a powerful thing...

I always tend to toast to the future.

It's because the past freaks me out.