Well, At Least It’s Raining

I’ve always been comforted by rain. Much more so as I’ve gotten older. As a child, I was really scared of thunderstorms and especially tornadoes. As an adult, I guess they don’t scare me at all anymore. It’s not unusual for people to find solace in storms and rain, it’s a pretty common thing, but less common is feeling depression at the absence of rain. When it goes for too long a stretch of sunny days and beautiful weather I start to feel dry, choked, and trapped. Rain makes me feel relieved, nourished, safe. It feels like the world is growing around me. Like being tucked inside the branches of a primordial tree while the world develops around me, the sounds of rain touching everything, dripping from leaves.

This is a stressful time. I’m writing this on April 8, 2020. For the second time in my life, I am living through a major historic event. The first was in 2001 with the September 11 attacks, and the second is this, the Corona Virus outbreak. This feels different, and in many ways, worse, than September 11.

The thing about 9/11 that has always remained with me is how united everyone was afterward. And I’m not talking about patriotism or being united as Americans. Nationalism was as strange and upsetting to me then as it is now. What I mean is that people were all afraid. Everyone was scared, or angry, or unsure. But nobody felt safe anymore. And the fact that everyone felt this at the same time was comforting.

It’s a similar feeling to being at a funeral, or being near someone who’s dying. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never lost anybody I truly, deeply love, only family members like grandparents and stepfathers. I know that probably sounds cold, but I’ve never had a close relationship with my family, so it was a weird experience for me to be at their funerals and their wakes. The thing is, everyone seems to be feeling the same thing. Everyone is in shock, and everyone all his this air about them. It isn’t sadness, it isn’t depression. It’s the gentle shock of someone raising their eyebrows and smiling and shrugging their shoulders and saying “Well, here we are.” I don’t know how to put it into words, exactly. Nobody is angry, not at each other. Everyone is being… civil. And for some reason that I don’t entirely understand, civility and politeness are extremely important to me. It makes me feel safe when everyone is being civil. At a funeral, or at a restaurant after 9/11, everybody was on the same page. Nobody hated each other. Not yet. As a country we all became afraid of or angry at Muslims due to xenophobia, but it didn’t happen yet where I was, and all the sudden it felt like racist people weren’t racist anymore, bigoted people weren’t bigoted anymore. Of course that turned out not to be true but for the few days, weeks, months, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone. I was also eleven years old at the time so I’m realizing as I’m typing this that maybe my rosy view of things isn’t true, that people didn’t truly come together, but at least everyone was all feeling something at once, even if it was fear and uncertainty. The same way people are at funerals.

And that’s what it’s like during times of crisis. People suddenly stop dividing themselves so much. People come together. It sounds so cheesy and stupid but it is how social creatures work. We unite when we have a common enemy, and the common enemy might be death, it might be terrorism, or it might be fear.

I don’t feel that this time. Because this time it’s a virus, and exposing yourself to other people makes you vulnerable, and everyone is inside with their doors shut, communicating mostly through memes and Facebook posts. And I am here, stuck at my house, which honestly wouldn’t be so bad except that mom chose this moment in time to come stay with us, and she brought with her my aunt and my cousin, neither of whom I particularly want to see for an extended period of time, especially during a crisis when distancing is important.

It would honestly make me feel better if my mom would leave and take the company with her. I’d feel more at peace if it were just me and my brother here and the house were quiet again, while it rains and storms outside. I could go and play piano or something.

This has been a confusing time for me. I’ve been working at a job for about a year and a half, I won’t say exactly what it is because as of now I’m still employed there, but suffice it to say I work in retail. Last week I accidentally overslept by an hour and I was the sole person opening the store, which meant the store opened an hour late. My boss has been incredibly unspecific about how he intends to respond to it, and I haven’t been back to work in a week. At first i had two days off, but then I was told he didn’t have any updates about the schedule, and he’d get back to me when he did. Then another day passed, and another. Today I texted my co-worker (there are only two of us working there, along without our boss) and he told me he was fired on Monday. And that he was told they were going to fire me, and not only that, but fire me in such a way that it was phrased that I was being let go not because of the needs of the business due to the Corona Virus outbreak, but because of me oversleeping last week, and implied that I wouldn’t be able to draw unemployment if that were the case. I don’t know how unemployment works but if so, that’s incredibly dirty of them, bordering on criminal, since conspiring against someone to keep them from getting unemployment during a worldwide health crisis because they came in to work an hour late seems negligible at best and criminal at worst. Again, I probably shouldn’t be talking about any of this, but I’m so fucking frustrated. I’ve been a good employee and done good work. This is the first job in my life where I’ve made a consistent effort not to call out of work, even when I’m exhausted or not feeling well. I’ve called out of work three times, all because I was sick (one of them was anxiety related but the other two were actual feverish sickness).

Today I went to the store to ask my boss about it to find that an associate from another store was filling in for him. When I called him he refused to give me any specifics and just kept repeating “I don’t know, I don’t know, it’s all very confusing right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He wouldn’t admit to me whether or not he WANTED to fire me. I tried to call our district manager and he wouldn’t answer his phone or texts. I called human resources, who told me they’d look into it and get back to me, but they didn’t. I eventually got a text from my district manager saying “We’ll talk about this in the morning, and get it all straightened out.” I don’t know what that means. And even if I DO keep my job, I don’t actually WANT to go to work, because I don’t want to risk infection, I want them to temporarily lay me off so that I can get unemployment until this crisis is over so I don’t have to keep going outside and risking infection every day.

It’s been difficult here. I have a couple of local friends who I go to see when I’m feeling lonely and I can’t even do that. One of them is a friend-with-benefits who I have a pretty affectionate and sexual relationship with. I went to his apartment and he told me he was uncomfortable with me being there because I worked with the public and made me leave. I felt very hurt by that. And apart from someone coming over to visit me, I’ve not been able to see any other friends. I lost a Facebook friend this morning who I’ve known for a year or two because he didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t enthusiastically supporting Joe Biden, which is an entirely different topic that I don’t have the strength to go into here, but suffice it to say I think Biden is a buffoon with exactly the same temperament as Trump and even less grasp of where he is and what’s happening around him. I’m sick of watching the country being run by senile old men who don’t know what year it is, both literally and figuratively.

On a similar topic is that issue of my memory. For the last two years or so I’ve been developing memory issues that seem to be getting worse. I can’t recall what I was talking about or doing a few minutes ago, I need to make lists to remember things, I can’t recall words I need to use that I use on a regular basis when I’m talking or writing. It’s terrifying. I think that if something were to happen to my memory, if I were to lose the ability to retain information… I wouldn’t want to live anymore. It’s not something a 29 year old should be dealing with. And on the topic of being 29, I’ve spent the last year in an existential crisis about turning 30 and having achieved absolutely nothing in my life. I’ve become so contemplative, trying to understand the meaning in every aspect of life and being continually surprised to find that there is so little meaning in anything we do as people.

We just wake up in the world and drift through our lives and then one day we die. I’ve stopped believing we go anywhere. It’s a beautiful idea, that I might wake up in some fairy grove and rub the dust from my eyes and see the spirits of the dead around me, beckoning me to an everlasting paradise of sunshine and rolling green hills and clear blue skies, where all the fantasies of my life can come true, where there’s endless love and hope and adventure. But it’s so silly, isn’t it? So juvenile. So entirely human to believe that the universe owes us an afterlife, owes us meaning. The universe doesn’t owe us anything. We exist and that’s it. There is no meaning apart from the fact that we exist. Some things exist, some things cease to exist. Consciousness is not a magical spirit essence that lives inside our bodies, we are brains firing electric signals encased in flesh and bones. I would LIKE for spirits to be real, I would like for magic to be real, I would like for fairies and dragons and flying on angels wings to be real. But that doesn’t mean it becomes real.

You see, this is the kind of thing I’ve been doing all year. Trying to understand the deep, psychological and philosophical meaning behind everything. I’m going through a kind of puberty that I went through as a teenager, a philosophical puberty where I’m asking questions about existence, only this time they’re not accompanied by the hope that as I get older I’ll understand. They’re accompanied by the realization that not only will I never receive an answer, but NO ONE WILL, and no one has, and that is the state of existence in which we live. It is terribly unfulfilling but that doesn’t make it less true.

So, how do you keep going? How do you keep living when you realize that there are no fairies and magic, that Santa Claus doesn’t bring you presents and Jesus doesn’t monitor your thoughts and send you little miracles when you pray and ask for them? Julia Sweeney inspired me years ago by saying that the fact that we only have this one brief life makes every moment mean MORE, not less. And she’s right, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the sense of fulfillment from before, back when we believed that the universe had a grand order to it, isn’t lost. I’ve never read Paradise Lost but isn’t that what life is, the loss of the lies we believe from the time we’re children? What might life be like if as a child I’d not been taught that God was watching us, that we go somewhere when we die? What if I’d had the chance to grapple with these questions when my brain was still forming and come to accept them without existential angst, how much more fulfilling might my life be? And what better choices might I have made?

I’m angry at the circumstances of my birth. I live in a capitalist society where boys with families who have more money than I do got to get cars when they were sixteen and go to college and make friends and have sex and go to parties, but I was raised by simple, dense, southern baptist Christians who did the best they could but didn’t know any better. I was born smarter than my parents and the people around me and I grew up being told by teachers and adults how bright I was and how I’d change the world when I grew up or I’d be a great writer or a great artist, but I’m almost 30 and I’ve achieved nearly nothing. All I have are hundreds of low quality recordings of me and my piano, and this blog where I’ve written down my thoughts. And also the fear that someday someone will read through my old posts not to better understand me and the journey I’ve been on, but to search for a hint of moral infraction with which to cancel me and try to hurt me. I have to be measured and careful about what I say now, because if I have an outburst of emotion on the internet it will be captured and eventually used against me.

There are things that have happened in my life that I desperately want to write about, here in this blog, that I can’t, because I know from the experience of confiding in people that I can’t trust people with dark thoughts and regrets, I can’t trust people to treat me with compassion or decency. People are so selfish. America in particular is so selfish.

I wish I’d been born in England. I wish I had a family that lived in a nice house with two floors, and a dog, and I had two brothers, and my dad went to work and my mom took care of us, and when I was scared or sad I could go in my brother’s room and cry and be consoled. I wish I had a real family that I could love. I wish I didn’t lay my head down wondering where I’ll be sleeping in two months, if my mom will kick me out again, wondering what I’ll do for work, wondering if I’ll ever be able to go to school, wondering if it’s too late, too late to become a musician, to become a novelist, to achieve something. Wondering if the grey in my hair that used to be charming because I was so young to have grey hair is becoming a part of who I am now. Because soon, I won’t be young anymore. I’ll be young overall, but not really. I won’t be socially young. I’ll be thirty. And I won’t have a promising future anymore. I’ll just be… some guy. This is where my ship has landed, the island on which I find myself. This will be the life I’ve found, and it’s not even a life I’ve built. I always said I’d never be thirty and still living with my mom, never be thirty and still be fat, never be thirty and still have no album, no book, no prospects, never gone to college.

But it’s all come true. And I’m sitting here in my room, with the only comfort being the cool feel of the air conditioner as the rain comes down much more gently outside than it was half an hour ago and I started writing. I want to talk about how I’ve taken up jogging in the last couple days, but I just can’t. Everything feels so futile because despite everything, despite how hopeless my life feels, I can still imagine a life that’s fulfilling, with friends and lovers and people who give me what I want and need out of life, and the chance to go to therapy and to go to school and to have a job I actually love.

But it’s just not here. Nothing is the way it should be. This is not what I thought my life would be, and I’m heartbroken, because I’ve just wasted so much time. So much time that can’t be bought back for anything. And I’m mad because what else could I have done? This was the life into which I was born. Not poverty, but not wealth either. Not a family who loves and supports me, a family who holds me down and suffocates me. Even when they try. My mom isn’t trying to hurt me, but she does. She can’t help it, it’s who she is. And I’ll never truly be happy here. And I don’t think there’s any way out of this situation, out of this life I’ve found myself in. This is just… where I am, and who I am. And how can I possibly be strong enough, clever enough, determined enough, to find a way out?

I’m sad. I’m unfulfilled. And I haven’t truly fallen in love again since the first time when I was fifteen. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again, that pure unbridled happiness I felt with Michael when I was fifteen, when the world was so full of promises and opportunity and I had a bright future ahead, and I was going to be a great writer, a great musician, a great person. But I’m just a guy, in his mom’s house, on my bed, typing in the rain. I don’t even know if I’ll have a job tomorrow afternoon. And the world is crumbling around everyone, we’re headed toward an economic disaster because a virus has brought the entire world to it’s knees. It’s like all those apocalypse movies about the year 2012 except it’s happening, and it isn’t zombies, it isn’t nuclear war, it’s so simple. It’s a virus. And I’m stuck here in this house with these thoughts swirling around in my head, and the only thing I can do in the day is go jogging down a dirt road or go driving aimlessly.

I haven’t given up hope, it will always keep burning in my chest, that I’ll find a life for myself that makes me happy. But right now, I just don’t see how it can happen. I don’t see how life can change.

A Day Not Wasted

I remember, in hazy detail, the moments when, as a child, I decided I hated school and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

I remember standing in the great open hallway of my elementary school after coming inside out of the rain. It was still pitch dark outside, so it must have been during the time of year when the sun takes it’s time to rise (is that summer or winter? I’ve never quite understood how daylight savings time works). I can imagine a squeak on the floor from the wet shoes of kids all around, and the low humming murmur of talk as people went toward their classrooms.

So much of this is based on a memory of a memory of a memory, that I likely blended several different moments together. But I remember talking to a teacher, and I remember her being much taller than me. It’s funny how you forget what the world looked like as a child, when everyone and everything is taller than you, when you’re slinking around just beneath everyone’s field of vision like a cat. You always look up: look up to talk to people, look up to ask to be picked up by your parents, look up to play video games or see the television. I remember a teacher telling me that school lasts for twelve years, from kindergarten to first grade all the way up to twelfth grade, and I would be eighteen when I graduated from high school.

I remember a feeling of hopelessness in the pit of my stomach. I had always felt uncomfortable coming to school. As a young child I was very close with my mother who raised me alone after I’d been through traumatic early childhood experiences of abuse, and I trusted her completely and felt upset when I was away from her. This isn’t unusual, any child misses his mother. But what bothered me so much about coming to school was that it was mandatory, that I was being forced to come here, and what’s worse, five out of every seven days, for all of my forseeable future. When you’re six years old, you don’t have a concept of what it will be like to be eighteen one day. Eighteen might as well be thirty-two. To be in the first grade and to be eleven years away from any hope of escape from something I never asked for was unbearable. It felt so unfair. Why did I have to come to school? Why did I have to wake up so early, why did I have to leave my mom and my home where I felt safe and where I was happy? I was a smart kid, what use did I have for coming to get an education, especially when so much of that education in the early days was stuff I’d already picked up on my own?

Anyone can relate to this feeling. People cope with it in different ways. I don’t remember when I learned that you have the option of dropping out of school at the age of sixteen, but I remember contemplating if I might one day do it. I also remember my teachers rhapsodizing about the importance of a high school diploma. “With a high school diploma, you can do anything in this world!” Funny, the lies we’re told, but I guess in 1996 it didn’t seem to be a lie to the people saying it, maybe at the time a high school diploma really could get you further than it can now. Now there are people with bachelor’s degree who work menial service jobs.

I always looked forward, from the very beginning, to the final ending of school. I had absolutely no desire to go to college, I wanted school, this thing that I never asked for which was foisted upon me without my consent, to be over. It seemed to me that I’d waited with the patience of a saint for it to finally finish, and as the end of high school finally approached, I felt that maybe I would soon feel some grand sense of release, the relief of the final day of the school year when summer break comes, except stretching on boundlessly for the rest of my life. A world of possibilites where I don’t have to be trapped, locked inside of a building for seven hours a day.

When we’re kids, we don’t really understand the concept of going to work. The monotonous routine of school is designed to emulate the monotonous routine of nine-to-five office job. As I said, people cope with it in different ways. Some people love the structure of a school day, and they take that structure into their adult life, thriving on the steady, unending repetition of Monday through Friday, nine-to-five, and the relief of weekends. There were of course times when I too appreciated the routine, even in it’s monotony, because of the sense of security that comes with a routine, and with knowing what to do without being told. Knowing which hallways to walk and which bathrooms to use and which classes it’s safe to break out a sheet of paper and draw on the back or read a book instead of doing your work.

As an adult, I sometimes long for the structure of a nine-to-five job, but the closest I’ve ever come was a few years ago when I worked for an Amazon seller, in their Quality Assurance department, and worked eight-to-four every Monday through Friday. At first, it felt safe, and I relished the weekends, but eventually it began to feel even more suffocating than school, because now there was no purpose the way their had been with school, I wasn’t going to work to earn my way towards something like a diploma, I was just going to earn a paycheck, which I would use to sustain myself until that paycheck ran out, and then live on the next one, and the next one, without end. I had my high school diploma but it had earned me nothing more than a spot being a cog in a machine which so closely emulated the one I’d been a part for twelve years in school, except now I was no longer a child, the object of everyone’s hopes, being praised for how bright and articulate I was, encouraged that I would some day be a great writer or musician or actor. Now I was just a guy sitting at a desk, listening to podcasts and sending emails to Amazon for eight hour blocks, pausing for an hour in the middle to reheat last night’s dinner and read a comic or play my PSP at lunch.

It was all just leading toward nothing.

And really, it hasn’t changed much.

I turned twenty-nine in May of this year, and now in November, six months later, I am still facing the same existential crisis that began a month or so before my birthday: what have I done with my life?

It’s a question that haunts my every waking moment, and a thought that creeps it’s way into every conversation I have. I’m very bad at keeping things hidden, it hurts me terribly to do it, and I have to talk about my feelings, whether I mean to do it or not, and over and over again I find myself confiding in people that I feel I’ve wasted my time up until this point, and on a deep level I feel that my youth is coming to an end. Of course, people older than thirty will say that thirty is still young, but teenagers and people in their twenties, myself included, see thirty as a milestone, a sign that you’re an adult now, that you have yourself figured out, you have your shit together, you know who you are and where you’re going and what you’re going to become.

But I am just as aimless now as I was ten years ago, just as confused and naive and afraid as I was when I was six, looking up hopelessly at a woman explaining to me that I was serving a twelve year sentence in public school. It seemed to me an injustice had been done toward me, that I’d been imprisoned for a crime when I’d done nothing wrong. Adults tell you, as a child, how important education is, but you don’t understand it or care at the time. Even kids who excel at school don’t really understand the necessity of it, and every school child has either heard the words come from a peers mouth or sometimes out of their own, “What’s the point of this? When am I going to use any of this in real life?”

It’s funny though. Because you use everything in real life. Every piece of information you’ve ever absorbed is woven into the fabric of the way you see the world.

I’ve always seen the world differently from people around me, and I know that that’s a pretty common thing to say nowadays. Everyone fancies themselves an outsider and an underdog and thinks that their perspective is so unique that no one else could possibly understand. It isn’t really true, it’s just that the people who do understand are far away, or you haven’t met them yet. And being a bright little boy in North Carolina in the nineties and early two-thousands, who would grow up to realize he was gay, he never truly felt a connection with Christianity, and never saw the world through the narrow, limited view of his family or the people around him, you can imagine how hard that must have felt.

Part of what scares me so much about “becoming an adult,” that is to say, turning thirty, is that I still view the world with the same childlike naive confusion that I felt back then. I’ve learned, of course, I’ve become wiser over time, I’ve had my life experiences, and layers upon layers of trauma, emotional distress, and more anxiety than any person ought to be forced to endure, even though I know there are people who endure much worse than myself. But part of what makes life hard for me is that I have an essentially fragile constitution. Emotionally, I can’t handle confrontation, change, or danger. I have a need to feel safe, stronger than most people’s need, and so I repeat certain rituals to make myself feel that I’m safe. For most of my life this has been playing video games (RPGs especially), while simultaneously watching television (usually sitcoms or other light-hearted comedy shows). It makes me feel safe to come home, eat, and play video games while listening to Youtube essays or episodes of funny shows. I don’t even laugh, usually, it’s just the light-heartedness that makes me feel safe.

My life… it’s been scary. There’s been a deep, abiding fear for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to stay up late at night, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and tell me and whoever else was assembled there at her apartment about the traumatic experiences of her life: how she was a long-haul trucker for decades, the people she met, how she met a young soldier on leave from the military riding home on a motorcycle to surprise his family for his own birthday, and how she later found him lying in a ditch, having collided with a truck that’s lights were broken and how she cradled him, dying, in her arms, and in his terrified and hallucinating state thought that it was his own mother holding him, and how she cooed him gently, telling him he was safe, that mama was here. She told us about her abusive, alcoholic husband, who held a knife to throat of his young daughter (my mother), and laughing sadistically, told her that he was going to take away the thing she loved the most, because it would hurt her, and how she held a shotgun toward him, waiting for the moment when he finally pushed his daughter away and she had a clean shut, and then pulled the trigger and blew him out the front door into the yard, and how she dropped the gun and chased him out, grabbing blankets and shirts and pillows on the way, to stuff the gaping, bleeding wound in his stomach and keep him from dying before the ambulance arrived.

My grandmother’s stories were frightening, sad, and left all of us who listened to them sitting in amazement. She made supernatural things seem possible, because she was such an effective and believable story teller that when she attributed something to God or to divine intervention, it was easy to believe she had to be right, because she was so good at telling the story. The most convincing one was about my own mother, who before her birth, apparently died while in the womb. She was told at the hospital that she’d lost the baby, and she refused to accept it, so she just left and went home. After a few days she got sick, and was taken back to the hospital where she was told the baby was beginning to poison her blood stream and had to be removed. She was still in shock, and at the same time she was in the hospital, so was her own grandmother, in a room across the courtyard from her own, so that she could see into the room where her family gathered around her grandmother’s bed, and when she saw them begin to cry and saw someone pick up the phone and heard the phone by her own bed ring, she knew it was her family calling to tell her that her grandmother had passed away. And it was around those moments that she felt the baby inside her kick, and she frantically called for a nurse, who frantically called for more nurses, and a flood of medical professionals and equipment was brought into the room and they began running tests on her, and my grandmother, distraught with grief and confusion, grabbed the sleeve of the doctor nearest her, and asked “What has happened to my baby?” And as though it were a line being delivered in a movie, he said to her, “I cannot offer you a medical explanation for what has happened, ma’am, but I can say this: the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.”

It was, during these moments in the middle of the night, listening to my grandmother tell us her life stories, that I felt something mingled with the weariness of being a sleepy child who stayed up way too late: a consuming fear. The kind of primal fear that there’s something inside the closet and if you look up you’ll see it’s eyes staring back at you, that if your foot escapes the confines of your blanket a hand will reach up from beneath your bed and snatch you under. It was that same fear. I can’t really explain to you what it is, but it’s been with me my whole life. I don’t experience it all the time. But it’s the feeling that right now as you read or write or talk, there is someone standing just behind you, staring, their eyes boring into the back of your head, and that if you look just over your shoulder you can catch them. The feeling that there’s someone in the back seat of the car waiting to come up behind and strangle you, someone whose face will suddenly appear in the bathroom mirror when you close it. The feeling of the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end that have since the dawn of humanity signaled danger from predators.

You might have felt something of what I’m saying and looked behind yourself just now. I did while I was writing it. It’s a common feeling. But it hits me in very acute ways, sometimes. And it’s not an incredibly common occurrence, it’s not something I deal with on a daily basis, but that’s partially because I have learned to surround myself with things that make me feel safe, like video games, bright lights, and most of all, funny TV shows. Like I said, I don’t always laugh, but the light-heartedness makes me feel safe.

For the past few days I’ve been dealing with this fear I mentioned, because I’ve been binge watching or binge listening a Youtube channel called Found Flix, narrated by a guy who goes through the plot of movies and explains what happens, as well as elaborates on twist endings and theories about future movies. He speaks in a somewhat monotonous voice that becomes a little grating after a while because he’s always gently shouting to be heard by his microphone, but the videos are each about fifteen to twenty minutes and they’re addictive, so I occasionally will fall down a rabbit hole watching them. Whenever I do, I usually end up watching and listening to his videos until late into the night while I’m playing video games, and as I get sleepier, I begin to again feel that creeping dread, the sense that someone is just behind you. Walking outside to my car is terrible during times like this because my house is in the woods and there’s very little light, and the cats outside make disturbing shapes before I realize they’re cats.

And so, here I’ve been, the past few days, feeling a little vulnerable because of how often alone I am at home (I live with my brother who is always either at work or in his room with his door closed), and also feeling an encompassing void with how I’ve been spending my time off. I’ve had three days off this week, today being the third (though not consecutive), in which I’ve done more or less nothing on my off day.

When I do have a day off, it usually starts the same, I wake up, I probably jerk off, I get up and drink coffee and play video games and watch shows or Youtube videos for a while, because it’s what I do when I’m relaxing. Then a few hours have gone by and I remember that I need to do something productive with my day. For me, productivity is writing or going to the gym, and I always intend to do both, and often do neither. I almost always drive somewhere.

Driving is the thing that makes me happiest. I usually feel the excitement someone might feel about going to Disneyland when I know I have a long road trip ahead of me. I love getting my car cleaned out, getting a trash bag ready for all the food I’m going to eat along the way, and stopping at the gas station to get snacks and soda for my trip, then starting up a music playlist or an audiobook and starting my GPS to prepare for a drive that may take hours and hours. I feel an incredible sense of hope and potential when I’m on the highway, and when I’m inside my car I feel safe from the outside world, where I can control the temperature and the music and the entertainment, and I can pull over whenever I want or go to a rest stop or a restaurant whenever I want. I feel most in control of my life when I’m driving. My car is a safe and happy place for me, the place I feel most at home, probably more so even than in my bedroom, because my bedroom is at my family’s house, and being with my family is not something that makes me feel safe.

I have so much that I need to do.

My greatest regret in life is that I haven’t gone to college, and it’s not just because I need a degree, but because I want to have the experience of being in college, of being around other young people with fresh ideas who want to go out and live life, to find a friend group, to have a lot of sex, to try drugs and drink, to meet people who share something with me, to feel a sense of belonging I’ve never had, to have the ability to go to someone else’s dorm or apartment and just sit on their couch or lay in their bed. The commune, the safe brotherhood of other people, their friendship enfolding me. This is what I’ve pined after my whole life, and what I’ve never truly experienced, instead spending my days alone, on the couch or my bed or in a chair, playing video games and listening through headphones to music, to audiobooks, to podcasts, to Youtube essays, to TV shows.

My goals for today were to begin, yet again, the process for applying to college, which I’ve started many times but never finished, to go to the gym and do some kind of physical exercise to help me toward losing weight and overcoming both the type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea I struggle with, and to write in my blog, this one in fact. I’m writing this over on Blogger, rather than on my usual WordPress blog (although I’m likely going to cross-post is there), because even though I’ve been blogging since 2010, I often feel the need to reinvent and start over new. I’ve tried on several occassions to number my blog posts, so that I can say “I can’t believe I’ve actually reached number one-hundred!” or something, but there’s just no good way to do it, because my blog entries have been written at different times for different reasons with different potential readers in mind, although always they’ve been for me, and not really for anyone else.

I’m not influential enough to have my posts read by a wide array of people, but I like to imagine that one day I will be successful and people will care about what I have to say, and they’ll scour the back logs of things I wrote throughout my twenties to see what I had to say then. In the current 2019 climate of combing through someone’s back log to find incriminating evidence with which to label them problmatic and decide someone is “cancelled,” I’ve made some of my old posts private or deleted them altogether. I don’t think it’s wrong to keep your old thoughts up online, I think it shows growth. I don’t want to be judged in my thirties for something I thought in my twenties, but that’s the world we live in, and I’m hoping that pretty soon people will come around to the idea that everyone is problematic, everyone is always growing and evolving, and people shouldn’t be held responsible for an insensitive or bigoted thing they said, particularly without intent to offend, years and years ago.

So, I’m hoping this post will be entry number one in a new chapter. My old blog isn’t going anywhere, but I’m toying with the idea of trying things out over on Blogger and starting a “new” blog, which is something I’ve actually done in the past and ultimately gone back over to WordPress, but I’m going to try it again just to give myself a bit of a reason to keep writing. With a fresh slate I can keep coming back here and journaling, which is essentially all that my blog has truly been all this time.

I often feel that the past decade of my life has consisted of so much wasted time and potential. It’s a harsh thing to say because it implies I wish I hadn’t have met the people I’ve met in the past ten years, and there are people who I love today who I wouldn’t want to disappear, but still, if I could go back and do it all again, I might do things very differently. The first thing I’d do is find any way, no matter how difficult, to get far away from my family and stay far away, something which I still haven’t managed to accomplish today. But college would have helped me find friends, find a support group, find a way out. I wish I’d gone to college when I had the chance to do it without so much fuss, and without needing to juggle a full-time job along with it to survive.

A friend of mine from high school is now an English professor at a local community college who promised she would help me to get applied, and now all I have to do is just do it. I wanted to start the process today, along with putting in applications for a new job as I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable where in my current job, but I didn’t get any of that done. I did, however, write this, meandering as it may be, and that is something. My friend, the English professor, says that she knows I’m a good writer, that she can tell I’m talented. I know this too, but it’s hard sometimes because of an issue which I’ll talk about at length another time, the fact that I have difficulty finding my own voice, in every avenue of life. I assimilate the styles of my friends and influences and emulate them, and I don’t know if there is a truly unique voice within me, unless of course I’m wrong about what the concept of originality really is, and every unique person has always been reinterpreting the world around them and reflecting their influences through their own prism, which of course I know is true, but it’s still difficult because I don’t know who I am yet. I don’t know my own voice as an artist. I appreciate my innate ability to emulate the writing style or musical style of other people, but I also have the fear that someone else will see right through me: this passage reads just like Anne Rice, this song sounds just like Tori Amos, that kind of thing. And the reason I’ve been writing tonight in an ornate, circuitous style is actually because I’ve been reading Anne Rice, and there’s a particular quote that really struck me today, from Interview With The Vampire, that I feel really captures how I feel about the way other people affect me, as a writer, as a musician, and as a person:

“I didn’t know I thought these things. I spoke them now as my thoughts. And they were my most profound feelings taking a shape they could never have taken had I not spoken them, had I not thought them out this way in conversation with another. I mean that my mind could only pull itself together, formulate thought of the muddle of longing and pain, when it was touched by another mind; fertilized by it, deeply excited by that other mind and driven to form conclusions.”

The narrator, and my favorite character in Anne Rice’s chronicles, Louis, also in the next paragraph refers to “the great feminine longing of my mind being awakened again to be satisfied.” I feel that way too. I have my own thoughts, my own style, my own music, but it waits to be touched and fertilized by someone else, that’s the starting point, and then I’m off. But I don’t have the starting point. It’s funny, because as I hope I’ll write about at length, I have a real reverence for the male aspect of life, for the male form and the male mind and the mind being, and I wish so dearly that there were a movement like feminism for men, that was about the empowerment and appreciation of men without the toxicity and chauvinism that tends to ordinarily imply, a wholesome place where men could appreciate and respect and love themselves and one another as men, and to organize around the issues that face men which need societal addressing (i.e. male victims of abuse, circumcision, the favoring of the American court system toward mothers even when they are unfit parents, etc.). And here I have what Anne Rice, who herself has said she doesn’t really identify strongly with any gender or see people with any gender, might describe as a feminine mind, a feminine longing to be fertilized by another. Tori Amos fertilized my musical mind, Anne Rice fertilized my writing mind. And I hope there are more and more who will fill me ideas that I can transform to create my own stories, my own music, my own voice made up of others, as all voices really are. A chorus of voices in one person.

We’re all made up of the experiences of our lives: the squeaking shoes on the floor of the school as the kids march in from the rain, my grandmother recounting her harrowing life stories through the smoke of a cigarette, the days and nights sitting in quiet, sedate calm with a video game controller in my hands, looking in the eyes of the first boy I fell in love with on my fifteenth birthday, the moment another, different, young man first pressed his lips against mine two years later, the shiver up my spine and weakness in the small of my back as I was kissed and finally, finally, felt safe. The aching hours spent in regret that I’ve done so little with all this time that I’ve been given.

Struggling, even on a day when I feel I’ve accomplished next to nothing, to believe that the life I’ve been wishing for, the day when the loneliness will finally end and the world will open up like the highway on a long drive, when I will feel the warmth and safety of smiling and laughing friends beside me, and the warmth of lovers in my bed at night, will finally fill my life with the meaning and the purpose and the hope that I’ve been longing for since those first days of sexual awakening when I was thirteen and thought surely it would be years and years and years before I ever felt the satisfaction of someone who loved me. I thought that by thirty I might have begun to understand, but I am confused by life’s questions now as I was then, and afraid, afraid of being alone as well as being without purpose.

This is my small attempt to find meaning in a day that doesn’t go wasted.

It Isn’t Raining

It Isn’t Raining

She’s there at the bottom of the lake
The mother I never had
Waiting for me to join her
Waiting for me to hold her
Like she could have held me back then

He’s hiding in the cavern
The father I dreamt of loving
Waiting for me to kiss him
Waiting for me to lay in his lap
To keep me warm the way he never did

When I needed so much
I faced the wall and said not a thing
Cause what could I say
What good does it do to beg fate
For things it never gave you

It isn’t raining, but I wish it were
I’m not crying but I wish I was
The human capacity for suffering
Is really something, isn’t it?
How many days you can wake up and do nothing
And keep on getting up again tomorrow
When there’s nothing to do but jerk off and read
When there’s nothing to feel but a hot biting need
When the sugar in your blood has grown too sweet
So you can’t even feel both your feet
And the way your body gives up just served to remind me
In the end everyone leaves me behind

I said I’d be nothing like you
But a prescription and a street drug are points of view
And my feet won’t stay awake
So the handsome European man gives me more pills to take

It’s not raining but I could use it
Time isn’t real until you lose it
I wish I were anyone else but this
And it’s here that I lie
And it’s here that I’ll die
I wish I could be a rain cloud in the sky

Cancelling Pro Jared Was A Mistake

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the hellscape of existence that is life in 2019, particularly as it pertains to existing on the internet. Today we’re going to talk about online drama, “cancel culture,” and the people who get caught in the crossfire.Let me catch you up to speed.

So for those of you who don’t know, Pro Jared is a Youtuber known for doing video game reviews, particularly reviews of RPGs like Final Fantasy or action adventure games like Legend of Zelda. One of my favorite genres of Youtube video are long-form reviews, particularly about video games, so I’ve seen Jared around before but honestly I never binge watched his videos or anything, just occassionally watched some of his Final Fantasy reviews. I didn’t know too much about him, honestly, just that he was one of those guys on Youtube who rants about games, but at least he’s not one of the Angry Video Game Nerd knockoffs who make a show of being enraged by games in an effort to be… erm, funny, I guess you could call it.

But I digress.

Earlier this year, in May of 2019, there was a sudden waterfall of allegations against Jared. The first thing that happened was that his wife, a professional cosplayer named Heidi, announced via Twitter that she was leaving him. She apparently didn’t bother to tell him, just announced it on Twitter and blocked him. So right away, we have some idea of what kind of person she is, but let’s not get into that just yet. After that, there was a sudden barrage of people coming forward to say that Jared had had inappropriate sexual conversations with them, some of these people being underage at the time of the conversations (and we’ll come back to that, too). Even more damning were screenshots from several people of the sexual conversations they’d had with Jared, and people who’d subscribed to a private Snapchat account run by Jared, in which he was sharing nude pictures.

Now, I could pretend that I became interested in this situation out of concerned curiosity for all parties involved, but I’ll be honest with you: I’m a bit of a pervert and I was just curious about what Jared’s dick looked like. For the record, it’s fine. It isn’t my place to comment on it, but it’s a nice dick, and that’s all I’ll say about that. At any rate, while I was poking around Twitter and Reddit I also saw the screenshots of conversations he’d had, and to be hones they looked pretty damning. I don’t know much about Jared and I knew absolutely nothing about his wife Heidi before this (being a gay nerd who lives in a bubble I don’t have much need to follow hot cosplay girls on Twitter), so it was difficult to piece together a narrative of exactly what happened.

As far as I can tell, it seems that Jared and Heidi had a tumultuous relationship and that at some point they talked about opening their relationship or becoming polyamorous. It’s unclear who’s telling the truth about what, but what did happen is that Jared received a lot of messages from horny fans who wanted to get sexual with him, and he created a second Tumblr account specifically for this, with caveats posted that it was only intended for people ages 18 and up. At some point, his Tumblr account was hacked and everything he had was lost or deleted. It’s during this time before his Tumblr was hacked that two underage people, both named Charlie, allege that there were sexual messages sent between themselves and Jared.

So, shit hit the fan pretty hard, pretty fast.

The company Jared worked for, Normal Boots, issued a statement saying that he was no longer affiliated with them. People at the time all assumed he was fired but we know now that he chose to step down in order to prevent other members of Normal Boots getting caught in the line of fire.

And the fire was bad. I only saw glimpses of what was going on, but it was utter chaos. The moderators of Pro Jared’s official Subreddit removed him as a moderator and then turned the entire thing into one big dumpster fire attacking Jared, making jokes memes about him, and generally mocking, jeering, and behaving like animals.

Now, it’s a little understandable, in a way, isn’t it? If you hear credible rumors that someone is a sexual predator of some kind, you might take joy in cancelling them, in derailing their careers, in standing up for people they victimized.

The thing is, there was almost no response whatsoever from Jared. He issued a response on Twitter basically refuting all of the allegations made against him and gave a very measured plea for people to reserve their judgement until they’d heard all sides. And then he went radio silent for months.

A few weeks ago, he came back to YouTube with a 45-minute video detailing his experience over the past few months and specifically refuting the claims made against him.

And I have to say, he makes a pretty good case for himself.

Now the thing about the video is that it’s clear he’s choosing his words very carefully. I’m guessing he probably ran the script for the video by his lawyer before filming, and it’s clear that he put a lot of consideration into what he has to say. Because of that, the video does come across feeling a little TOO manufactured, and he doesn’t seem like a guy trying to really talk to you, but like a guy reading a prepared statement. However, he IS a guy reading a prepared statement, and understandably so, so I can’t exactly fault him for that.

He addresses a few points.

Firstly, that he did have sexual conversations with fans, and he did send them dick pics and receive pictures from them, and that he made it known from the outset that he was only willing to do this with other consenting adults. He very rightly says that what any two consenting adults choose to do is between them and it isn’t anyone else’s place to judge them. He acknowledges though that there may have been a power dynamic at play he hadn’t seen coming: he’s a famous Youtuber and an internet celebrity, so even with the best of intentions, he automatically holds some power over people he’s being sexual with, even if they are consenting adults. He admits that there is a power dynamic there he hadn’t considered and apologizes to anyone who felt they were manipulated by that dynamic into doing something they might not otherwise be comfortable with.

Then he addresses the serious allegations, which are the claims from the two Charlies that he knowingly solicited nudes from them and sent nudes to them after he learned they were underage. He first tackles the argument from the Charlie who lives in the UK, referred to as Chai so as not to get too confusing. Chai says that he sexted with Jared sometime in May of 2016, before Jared’s Tumblr was hacked, but he provides no screenshots and no other corroborating evidence apart from his word that it happened. Jared points out that without any evidence, it’s just Chai’s word against his, but then he does point to something very interesting.

Chai wrote an article for a website discussing his experience with suffering a head injury near the end of 2015, which resulted in Chai being hospitalized for months, during which time he was sleeping for the majority of the day, and after which he developed issues with psychosis, delusions, hallucinations, and short term as well as long term memory loss. Chai claimed the exchange with Jared happened during May of 2016, during which time, by Chai’s own admission, he was spending his days and nights in the hospital, and when he wasn’t hospitalized he was suffering from delusions and memory loss. Chai’s motives also become murkier when you consider the fact that he has his own Tumblr blog in which he writes erotica about Youtubers, specifically gaming Youtubers like Jared and the Game Grumps, and appears to have vivid sexual fantasies about them (no shame on him for having sexual fantasies, just that in context it seems convenient, right?)

The second accuser is named Charlie, and because Jared went out of his way to refer to them with non-gendered pronouns I’ll assume they’re non-binary and do the same. Charlie actually included screenshots of their conversation with Jared, however Jared very quickly knocks down Charlie’s entire argument by showing the full unedited version of the screenshots which clearly show that at the beginning of the conversation, Jared asked point blank if Charlie was 18 or older, and Charlie not only agreed, but also made a point of saying “Oh yeah of course, I wouldn’t be asking for nudes if I wasn’t, that’s messed up.” Jared points out that after Charlie started getting questioned about his experience, he immediately began to backpedal his accusation by saying “I never said he knew I was underage, just that he was coercing me” or something like that, and openly begins contradicting himself as soon as his narrative is questioned.

Jared also points out that both of the accusers put up links to their Paypal, Amazon Wishlists, and in Charlie’s case, art commission page, on their Twitter as soon as they started to garner attention. They’ve also both deleted the tweets in which they accused Jared of coercing them while they were underage. Jared asks, why would they bother to do this if they were lying?

I have to admit, Jared’s defense of himself makes a lot of sense. He very rightfully points out that since his Tumblr was hacked by someone looking to do the most damage possible to him, and they had access to his chat logs and all of his personal information, why didn’t the hacker leak any of the conversations with underage people? Probably because it didn’t happen in the first place.

Again, Jared’s defense, it feels a little forced in places. Clearly the man is under a ton of stress and he can only be expected to be so calm, but as I was listening to the way he spoke, I thought to myself “If I were in his position, and I were accused of something that I knew I’d done, and I were going to lie to try and defend myself, is this the way I would sound?” Well, yeah, I think it is. We’ve all had the experience of lying that we didn’t do something when we know very well that we did it, and that was the way he sounded to me. I felt an inherent gut feeling of suspicion toward what he was saying.

Here’s the thing: I never WANTED the accusations to be true. I don’t think any good person DOES want these things to be true (a lot of people DID want them to be true but we’ll circle back around to that). But I have to listen to my instinct and ask, “Do I think he’s telling the truth?” Well… it’s hard to know. I will say that I felt a little reassured by the fact that his video has a huge like-to-dislike ratio skewed toward likes, and that the majority of comments on his Twitter and YouTube channel are supportive. I know that this is just relying on POSITIVE mob mentality rather than NEGATIVE mob mentality, but there is a sense that, well, if his argument were so flimsy then someone else would have pointed it out by now, right?

I’m sorry if I’m sounding a little confused right now, but the truth is that I am. I don’t WANT to believe Jared did the thing he’s accused of doing. But if he did, then he did it, and no amount of wanting it not to have happened is going to change that. But the evidence certainly does seem to favor his version of the story.

We’ve all heard the saying that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. I want to believe that the truth is that Jared was a guy in a failing marriage who wanted out, and who longed for companionship and sexual fulfillment, so he started a Tumblr blog for the purpose of being sexual with other like-minded adults and ended up jerking off to nudes from fans in order to feel some kind of fulfillment. I don’t think that’s some kind of impeachable offense. There’s a lot of sex-negativity from the crowd that’s been shaming him, saying it was untoward of him to run a sex blog while his wife was sitting to the side being ignored.

And so of course we come to Heidi. I never liked the way Heidi presented what she had to say, from the beginning. There are a lot of people in the world, and especially on the internet, who love to get up on stage and play the victim, weeping and clutching their chest and saying things like “I’m not mad at Jared, I wish the best for him, I just want him to get the help he so desperately needs,” and “I am a victim of abuse and I stand with all other victims,” and generally making a show out of how hurt and damaged they are and how BRAVE it is for them to FINALLY come forward and make the HARD decision to come public about this because they just couldn’t sit in SILENCE any more, OH THE MELODRAMA OF IT ALL.

I don’t claim to know the truth of the relationship between the two of them, but according to Jared, he became unhappy with their relationship and tried every alternative to breaking up, including therapy, before finally asking her for a separation. She said that she wouldn’t allow that, and basically threatened to ruin his career if he broke up with her. And it looks like that’s exactly what she ended up doing. I don’t know the woman personally, but it says something about her character if her method of breaking up with her husband is to cut contact from him without his knowledge, release a public statement impugning him and accusing him of cheating on her (when it seems clear to me in context that they opened their relationship because it was failing for both of them), and blocked him on Twitter before he could respond to her.

So.

After all that, at the end of the day, what are we left with?

Well, Jared is picking up the wreckage of his life and his career, because someone decided to cancel him. No one gave Jared a chance to defend himself, no one waited until they’d heard his side of the story, people formed a mob and went out of their way to belittle, humiliate and bully him in a public forum.

I saw the shit they were posting on Twitter. It wasn’t a group of concerned individuals worried about the impact a predator abusing his position of power had on an underage fan. It was a jeering, sneering crowd of villagers gathered in a town square, throwing apples and shit on the accused. Everything I saw were jokes about how Jared had a little dick, jokes about how he’s got an ugly face, jokes about how creepy he is, jokes about how ridiculous it is that a guy as ugly as him could get a girl as hot as Heidi, memes with Jared’s face or his dick pasted into them. It had nothing to do with morality or victims or abuse, it was all about gathering around and having a good laugh at someone else because these people felt it was morally justifiable to do so. After all, he sexted with underage fans, so he’s fair game now, right? His human dignity doesn’t matter anymore, he forfeited that when he agreed to share nudes with underage fans, nevermind the fact that we don’t know that’s what happened yet, we’ve seen enough, and we’ve found him guilty, now it’s time for the public execution.

Cancel culture is a toxic plague on our current discourse. It infects every aspect of the way we interact with one another online. Once the mob has decided someone’s guilt, they do not get a chance to defend themselves, there is no fair trial in the court of public opinion, that person is immediately seized upon and devoured by a crowd of onlooker thirsty for blood.

Mark my words, this is going to result in someone, not Jared, but someone someday, being wrongly accused, and that person taking their own life because of the harassment and the humiliation. Someone on Twitter is going to come forward and accuse someone famous of grooming or harassing or raping or otherwise sexually abusing them, without any credible evidence, just to try and get attention from it, and the person who is accused is going to become so overwhelmed by the cruelty of being a public spectacle that they’re going to kill themselves before we all learn that the accusation was false.

But wait.

Aren’t we supposed to believe accusers? Aren’t we supposed to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to come forward and open up about their experiences when they’ve been harmed? After all, it was because people chose to step up and tell the truth about their experiences that Bill Cosby, Kevin Costner, and others were found out, right?

Well, the truth there isn’t a right answer to this. The truth is we all just have to use our own personal discretion. We live in a culture and in a moment in time where everyone’s thinking has become completely black-and-white: someone is either wholly innocent of any wrongoing or they’re pure evil and they’re scum who must be washed clean from the face of the Earth.

The truth is more complicated. There have been innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of the Me Too movement. Aziz Ansari was accused of raping a woman, even though by her own account he asked for her consent several times, and she agreed, but later regretted it. That isn’t rape, it’s called having an awkward date and feeling ashamed of yourself the next day, and it happens to everyone. Chris Hardwick was accused of being physically and sexually abusive and before he even had a chance to defend himself, he was fired by AMC and by the Nerdist, until a few days later when every woman he’s ever dated all stepped up to say no, absolutely not, this person is lying and Chris is not like that. Johnny Depp was accused of accusing Amber Heard and he said absolutely nothing to defend himself, and a year later we discovered that in fact she was the one abusing him all along.

This is what happens when we allow ourselves to lose any sense of objective rationale and just start believing people are pure good or pure evil. I’m sorry, but we can’t simply believe EVERY accusation made by EVERY person, EVEN if that means that we create an environment where real victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward, because the implications of that are too grievous: if everyone who makes an accusation is presumed to be telling the truth, then invariably SOMEONE is going to take advantage of that situation and tell a lie or distort the truth to make themselves seem like a victim.

But why would someone lie about this kind of stuff?

I don’t know. Why do people do anything? I don’t have that answer. I’m only human, I tend to side with accusers too when I first hear an accusation. I think that what a lot of good people do is that they hear an accusation, and they think to themselves “I don’t want to believe this is true, but I’m going to assume it is until I see a good reason not to believe it.” That’s the natural way humans respond to conflict: we believe whichever side we heard first. But the truth is foggy. The accuser may be telling the truth, but a distorted version of the truth based on their perception. The person accused might be telling the truth in their defense of themselves, but a distorted version of the truth they have to believe in order to protect themselves.

The fact of the matter is, when people found out Jared MIGHT have done something awful, they lost all human empathy for him and allowed themselves to morally justify humiliating and harassing him, making fun of his dick, making fun of his face; the most base kind of insults, the kind of thing you’d imagine a gang of school children doing.

A big part of this is that people WANT someone to be angry at, they WANT to cancel someone, they WANT there to be some hot new drama and some new common enemy to hate. James Charles, Pro Jared, whoever it happens to be. And it always passes quickly and people are always thirsty for someone new. This is a dangerous and toxic cycle of negativity where we vilify people in order to justify cruelty toward them because we can feel morally justified in doing so. But people all deserve human empathy, human compassion, and human dignity and respect. Even people who might have done something awful. There’s a reason we have an entire court system built around the precept that people are innocent until proven guilty. We have to give people the assumption of innocence until the person making a claim against them has presented good evidence to the contrary.

It’s not that I’m never on the side of victims. Many times the victims are telling the truth. I absolutely believe Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth about Brett Kavanaugh, if for no other reason that his response – snarling and crying over his high school calendar when he’s goddamn judge who should know that isn’t any kind of evidence for his own innocence – was the way a guilty person would have responded.

I wish Jared had been open from the beginning, I wish he had been more human and open with people about what he was going through, but WHO CAN BLAME HIM for keeping to himself, refusing to engage, and creating a very carefully curated response that he issued months later? If Jared had come forward and tried to be open and vulnerable with anyone, he’d have been further humiliated.

At the end of the day, I can’t say that I truly believe Jared is innocent. I don’t think Jared seems to be a bad guy, and I think that he seems like someone in a shitty marriage trying to get his rocks off with fans, regardless of how unhealthy that is. If, however, he really did have inappropriate conversations and sext with people he knew was underage, then he should come forward about it and be honest and accept the consequences, even if it means ruining his career.
Jared ends his video with some powerful words. “Nobody likes cancel culture… until they get an opportunity to cancel someone.”

I hope he didn’t do what he’s been accused of. But at the end of the day, it isn’t my decision to make. If he truly did something illegal, something morally reprehensible, then his accuser should take him to court and prove it. If they don’t, then we can’t assume they’re correct, because we simply don’t have the evidence. I can’t sit here and say that I wholeheartedly side with Jared, because there’s a part of me that would feel terrible if I somehow sided with an abuser. But I also can’t impugn him based on the incredibly flimsy online testimony of the people who came forward to accuse him, especially since their story doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny.

Calling out abusers is fine. But accusing people and assuming their guilt without giving them a chance to defend themselves creates an environment where any one person’s moral shortcomings at any point in their life can cause them to be cancelled. And if you’re the one who becomes successful and ends up being cancelled, you might suddenly wonder why mob of onlookers can’t treat you with any understanding or compassion, and remember how it felt to become just as bloodthirsty as they were.

I’m not saying that the minor moral infractions of every day people like displaying abusive behavior in a relationship or cheating on someone, lying to a loved one, things like that that we all regret doing, are on the same level as grooming underage kids or raping someone, but the level of moral indignation from places like Twitter and Facebook are exactly the same. We treat every moral infraction with the same gravity. And our thirst to be outraged is only going to keep eating us up inside, and eating up the lives and careers of innocent people caught in the crossfire.
It looks like Jared has mostly come out okay, after all this. His subscriber count is steadily on the rise again, and the majority of comments he’s receiving are supportive. If someone has a good defense of themselves, it looks like they do ultimately come out alright in the end. But Jared isn’t unscathed. He was publicly humiliated, had his personal conversations jeered at for the world to see, was the subject of cruelty and malice by strangers, all because someone made an accusation. If he is truly innocent, then every last person online who engaged in the bullying against him should be deeply ashamed.

Jared ends his video by asking people to consider carefully how they respond the next time someone is called out or accused of predatory behavior. I agree, but I have something else to add to that.
Predatory behavior is not an unforgivable sin. We live in a messed up world, and people get hurt, and they hurt others and themselves to cope with it. Abuse is cyclical. I was abused as a young child and throughout my life, and I turned that abuse inward by hating myself, and also outward by being emotionally abusive toward boyfriends, friends, and people in my life. We cope in our own ways. Maybe Jared WAS taking advantage of his fans, without meaning to. Maybe he WAS, even in a situation where he knew the fan in question was a consenting adult, exercising his power over them to coerce them sexually, and maybe that made him feel powerful. Maybe that’s what was happening.

So what next? Is he unforgivably evil for doing a bad thing? NO. He’s a human being, like anyone. Even hardened prisoners can reform themselves. We’ve reached a point in our own communal moral outrage that if someone does anything abusive for any amount of time, they’re permanently cancelled and forever labeled a predator or a villain. That’s now human behavior works. We’re complex, fucked up, emotional creatures. We do good things and bad things, we all have the capacity to harm others within us. This is one of the most basic lessons about humanity we’re all supposed to have learned by now. If Jared DID exercise his power over fans in a predatory way, without realizing that’s what he was doing, we can acknowledge that’s wrong and still have compassion for him and try to understand why he did it. Remember I’m talking about a scenario in which he only spoke to consenting adults, if there really were underage fans involved then it becomes more complicated but I would personally still feel sorry for him and want him to get help if that WERE the case.

At the end of the day we have to use better judgement, we have to treat people with dignity, and we have to remember not to let our compassion die and turn into a jeering mob the moment someone tells us it’s okay to do so. We have to treat people, and ourselves, better, because this toxicity is eating us from the inside out as a culture. We’ve become so addicted to the feeling of righteous indignation and uniting against a common enemy that we’re willing to case anyone as the enemy on the flimsiest of pretenses because we enjoy the feeling of hating someone together. This kind of communal hate-bonding is killing our souls, and the discourse online has become so toxic that no one can survive it. We have to stop looking for reasons to hate people and start finding it within ourselves to look at things objectively and treat people with decency.