A Past Life

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Last night, as the first snowflakes began to glitter down from the heavens and the howling, frigid winds blew, unwavering, through the streets of White Plains, I boarded a bus for home, tired from the day even as the night was still young. As the bus lumbered on through the icy blizzard, I marveled in the winter wonderland outside—the Christmas lights glowing empathetically from the cottages and the townhomes, the last workers driving carefully home to their immaculate families awaiting their return—all seemed still, simple, and calm. When I finally got home I turned the key and entered my tiny but cozy apartment which seemed to embrace me in consolation of the lengthy and bewildering day of work and life and love. I switched on my desk lamp and the Christmas lights I hung up last week and my homestead came to life. Sitting at my desk to collect my thoughts, I knew there were still hours of work to get done: monthly reports to write up, articles to draft, music to practice, books to read, and notes to study.

If you had asked me what my perfect life would look like a few years ago or even a few months ago, I’m not sure what I would have described. Quite possibly I would have mused about some idealized reality where I was spending my days in class, my nights gigging or listening to concerts and my weekends having dinner at nice restaurants or jazz clubs. I would have mentioned the great TV shows I would watch, the fun times I would have with friends, or maybe even the relaxing vacations I would take. I would talk about my caring and loving boyfriend (a complete fantasy of course) and the room I would own, decorated faultlessly, as though Martha Stewart herself had planned out every inch of it.

I’m sure at some point this was truly what I wanted—the ideal life. Even as I entered college a couple years ago, I think I would have talked about the same sort of rose-tinted, unblemished life. However, in the last year, emotional pain overtook most aspects of my life and these dreams of utopian grandeur faded from my mind. It was unexpected, not because it has not been present before, but because these feelings slowly and subtly took up more and more time and energy until, in a matter of months, a dark cloud hung over the entirety of my life. The problem with this type of depression, anxiety, and compulsion is that the road into it is easy, but the road out is tough, grueling, and full of even more pain than simply remaining in the darkness. There were days when I wondered if I would ever find the break in the trees, or whether I would keep wandering in the forest of despair for a lifetime.

Young adulthood is surely a tough time in life for all who experience it. It is the crossing of a bridge from the land of innocence and childhood joyousness into the complex world of adult responsibility, work, and above all, duty. Now that I have found the light, if for a brief and ephemeral moment, I can see that my despair came from the unrest of this drastic change in my life. It is hard to be told that you are on your own, that you decide what actions you take to create your life, that you have a great deal of responsibility that is yours and yours alone.

But now that I have graduated from both the childhood naivety and the anguish of the transition period, I can feel that I am beginning to let go of that past life. I no longer need that comforts of dependence any longer. With this new life there is a great deal of work to be done both on myself and for school and career as well—chores must be done, personal and mental hygiene must be kept up, and all the studying and work must be done each and every day. I should want to run in fear; in fact, for a while I did want to run on fear.

But worry, doubt, and fear are not the answer, especially in the real world. Now an adult, I know that things must be done without negotiation and I have an immense sense of duty in my work and responsibilities. Certainly it is a delicate and precarious balance between personal life, work, and sleep, but that balance must be kept up, regardless of circumstance.

With the leaving behind of my past life I accept responsibility for my actions, my thoughts, and my obligations. There is still a plethora of joy to be found in my life, but now that joy comes along with meaning, purpose, and a sense of having worked to earn it. Responsibility creates a more meaningful sense of joy.

As I looked out the bus windows last night, I knew that I could finally let go of my past life and of those empty dreams. That the work I am doing now is vital and important. That my life is not how I dreamed it years ago, but it is meaningful because in its imperfections I can find work to be done and in its triumphs and beauties I can know that my hard work has paid off. In the snowy darkness, I knew that I had found meaning and joy in the troubles I had been through and that my past life did not burden me anymore. And maybe that freedom to build my own life is the most beautiful piece of it all.

Here’s to leaving behind the past and creating the present…

– Ethan Brown Jones

Why Do We Fear Change?

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I fear that which I cannot predict yet I also fear the truth.

Why is it that we fear change so much? Life moves on around us constantly and it would seem that we are rooted firmly in the past, knowing not what the future holds and resenting ourselves immensely for that. We like stability and security, and so change scares us.

I have always felt like a person who’s prepared for whatever comes my way. But recently I have feeling substantially more fearful of the future. I will be moving not only towns soon, but also to a new state and region entirely, and I will be doing that alone. I think we fear change in this way because it is a loss of security, a loss of basic comforts that we must face alone. When we embrace change, we are going out on a limb and becoming someone new; we are doing that entirely on our own, and that frightens us.

In our everyday lives, although we may not realize it, we are constantly met by things that are normal for us and thus subconsciously comforting. And so when life changes, we are then forced to acquire new comforts and create new normalcy in our new lives. Newness is what scares us; we are afraid of the unknown future. But we must travel on in our lives, or we will never go anywhere.

Change is often the best thing for us, but it is also one of the scariest things. We fear change mainly because it means that all we have known will not be the same anymore which is undeniably terrifying for everyone on this earth.

As I look back at my life thus far, there have not been many changes of magnitude. But as I look forward, my career, my location, and my personal life are all uncertain which alarms me. I am a person who likes to be in control and the fact that I am not and will not be for a least a little while horrifies me.

What we all need to realize though is that we are the sole creators of our future and we have the power to change our destiny any way we want to. In my own life, I have realized that while I make the transition from rural Colorado to Long Island, New York, I must be willing to sacrifice some control for the benefits that the change will generate. And I must also be willing to step up and take control of my life to change my life the way I want to change it.

I was talking to someone the other day who was describing how she was close to retirement and scared of both a change in her future financial security and a change in her purpose in life. And the primary emotion I heard was fear, fear for the future and of things she could not control. And what I thought to myself was that this woman had a right to be scared. I understood her fear, because I have those same types of concerns for my future.

I think people are remarkably similar and vulnerable too, when it comes to their fears for the future. But what we all must realize is that fear of change is okay, but we must embrace change in order to move forward. Change is a piece of life and it’s the reason that life is interesting.

So accept your justified concerns as a way of comprehending your options. And overall, embrace your future and live your life the way you want to live it; change is just part of the journey.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Dead, Hopefully

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It was late January and as I drove my Honda along the long, dark highway, all I could think about was the all-encompassing death I was heading towards faster and faster every day. My career was in the toilet, my love-life was on its way to its death, my hope was dead, and worst of all, my ambitions were dead-and-gone. Death had swallowed my life whole, and now it was simply spitting out the bones one by one, leading me into the dark alleyways of despair. I breathed- in…out…in…out- the simple task of breathing seeming somehow more difficult than living another day on this earth.

Lost, desperate, lonely, and hopeless, I drove on through the night, a lone pair of headlights illuminating the suffocating darkness.

What was it that they used to say back in Catholic school?

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

What a load of bullshit. When God closes a door, he fucking slams it as hard as he can in your fucking face.

Career: unemployed; spouse: none, twice divorced; kids: none; life: DEAD. The only thing I had to show for twenty-seven long fucking years of life was my old shitty-ass Civic, Marge, as I called her. Marge was my one true companion; she seemed to love me no matter what.

I was driving on the highway towards… well… towards the end, wherever that was. I was finding my new life at the other end of a long, winding highway- how fucking euphemistically cliché. Bitter, that’s how Aunt Lois used to describe me, bitter, resentful, nasty, and her favorite one, fucked-up. I was as far removed from the fucking bitch as I could get; I moved across the country just to finally evade her grasp. Lois was a poised, elegant woman when she wanted to be, but Lois didn’t often want that.

Marge purred along as my mind wandered aimlessly through the dark.

Back in Illinois, I had always believed that it would work out, that I would make it big and never come back to this God-forsaken hellhole. My whole life had been like that, always running away from something. First it was my family, primarily Aunt Lois, and then it was my first marriage, and now, it was my entire God-damned life. Running…

Cities appeared and then flashed by, my destination was unknown, but I was sure that none of this was it. I was ready for death now, nothing could stop me. Happiness had left me. You know what they say; when life gives you lemons- fucking give up. Well, life gave me a whole fucking lemon grove, and guess what, I fucking gave up.

I hated Lois for who she had become, a crotchety, selfish, old cunt who did nothing but bitch all day long. Thank God her poor husband Lester had died so at least he was in a better place now- hopefully a very quiet, peaceful one. I had spent enough years of my life with Lois to realize that death was better than having to put up with that old bat.

I was close now, the road was about to end, one more path ending abruptly in death. Mine was just one life, would it really matter? I longed for death, for only in death was the pain gone, were the voices silenced, was the anguish extinguished.

But death was too fair, suffering was much more realistic. And so I suffered. And I still suffer, and I’m alive. I guess that’s good, being alive. I wouldn’t know if death is any better since I’ve never reached it.

I guess it’s safe to say that the road never ended that night- who knows when it will end. Life’s a bitch as they say, and you know what, so am I. I’m a fucking bitch, and that’s ok, there are lots of us out there.

I hope death is a little less unfortunate, that’s what I fucking hope. Oh well…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Lost in Life

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Lost. Looking up and having no place to go. We are lost, longing for some glimmer of hope, waiting for a rescuer that isn’t coming. We are alone in this life. When we trip and fall, no one cares. When we lose our way, no one is there to save us, and not a single person will guide us on our way without desperate imploration.

Waking up, we are dead before our feet even hit the ground. Our life has lost all purpose and we are just drifting on the gentle, savage waters of depression. Life is gray, the days are gray, the nights are gray; all is gray. Groping for our savior, we are drowning in the deepest black waters, sliding into forever while mercilessly adhered to the agonizing moments of today.

Our career has swallowed us up, and we are but another mindless, expendable employee. Frowning faces greet our every moment. Each hour seems to grow exponentially longer towards infinity, the excruciating days never ending.

We get in the car and just drive, hoping to god that life will just end. We drive on and on, driving on a journey towards nowhere, waiting for hope to come racing around the next curve towards us. The world goes on forever and we believe that if we just keep driving, perhaps we will hit the end of the darkness, that just maybe, our life will be cut short, thus ending our misery.

But we move on, because we don’t know what else to do. We have lost our way, and we are ignorant of which way to progress. We miss the life we used to live, and we miss the hope we used to feel. Locked in cynicism and depression, we see no hope for the future; but life moves on. We move on, and no one is there to hold our hand as we go forward.

We are alone in this world, and we are lost.

And life moves on…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Adrift: Thoughts on Now

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Time moves faster now; the days grow shorter; the nights grow darker; the stress grows more intense. Sitting at my desk in the golden glow of my desk lamp, the fervor is palpable, the air somehow charged in anticipation of the busy night to come. My muscles stand rigidly, awaiting their next movement.

The long list of to dos seems to reach ever-onward into the abyss; a million things to do and so little time to complete them in. Time is ephemeral, life is rushed, days are busy, tasks are never done, relationships are never visited, and people are forgotten.

It’s easy to forget the joy we once knew, the ease and docile carelessness e once felt, and the apparent comfort we once experienced. Life is mundane now, we feel nothing. Life is uneasy, it is stressful, and we are seldom carefree. Life is uncomfortable now; we are submerged in a constant state of longing.

We remember the people we once knew, the places we once saw, and the things we once enjoyed.

Life is volatile now. It is fast. It is rushed. We are never safe, nor are we ever truly happy. We feel angry, we feel hurt, and we feel irritated.

In the dark, we are restless; we stare out longingly; we await the events of our life; we reminisce; we can never forget; we can never remember.

Our lives are disjointed, everlasting, never-ending, ephemeral, terse, fickle, loveless, subservient, stressful, fearful, furious, pulchritudinous, and dreamy; the list goes on and on.

We will never be happy, we think; we will never remember all we wish to; we will never be as talented as we once were; we will never live our dreams; we are adrift and no one is there to save us.

And then we wake up.

And then life moves on.

And then we are living, NOW.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Rush, the Bustle… Overwhelmed!

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Jumping up from bed at 530 AM certainly must have its perks, but complacency is decidedly not one of them. Even as one takes one’s first steps on the day’s crisp, new ground, the world is already racing along and the daily struggle to keep up initiates once again.

Papers and products fly everywhere as one rushes out the door, late as usual, coffee in hand. The sprint from the front door to the car is one of Olympic quality, and despite the traffic, one is able to maneuver the vehicle like a professional driver, expertly racing to work. Showing up at work goes similarly, slamming in the door with T-2 minutes till official working begins.

And so starts the day, rushed, stressed, and tightly-scheduled.

The rest of the day looks like any other, running from one meeting to the next, never a minute to spare. People stare as though astounded by the proposition of actually having places to be, an outlandish and extraordinary idea.

Coffee is always a necessity, but on days like this one, coffee is a means of survival and an indulgence clutched constrictively in one’s hand at all times. Food seems a luxury today, as does even the tersest of bathroom breaks, let alone breaks at all.

One’s desk is an oasis in a sea of endless desolation, an edifice among shanties, and a release for desperation and anxiety. The familiar little space seems so comforting in the accelerated world encompassing it.

The drive home is a small period of serenity, spent in quiet, mindlessly attending to the road ahead. The whoosh of air from the vents is refreshing somehow, like the fragrant sea breezes on a smooth, soft, seductive, sandy beach.

A glass of Merlot is all one can think about on that drive home, and luck would have it that it is waiting for one on the counter once home. The Merlot slides effortlessly, slyly, placidly down one’s throat and it instantly alleviates the stresses, problems, and pain of the day.

The chilly, crisp sheets unwind the pressures of the day, soothing the day’s wounds and roll one into dreamland. The thoughts of the day soar away making way for effusive aspirational dreams.

And tomorrow the day will begin again, the everlasting cycle of exhaustion and assiduity. Life moves on around us at a brisk pace every day, the question is whether we can keep up.

Love,  Ethan Brown Jones

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

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When looking at self-sufficiency, one must first look at the definition of its very core value, independence. And when I say independence, I am referring not to a perpetual state of solemn loneliness, but rather to an ability to find content and serenity in life’s silent, solitary moments. Self-sufficiency derives from the same foundational level as independence in that it too relies upon an innate ability to see merit in solitude. Self-sufficiency is much more than that though. It is a life-skill that will continue to develop as individuality and work ethic do as well.

But more than anything, self-sufficiency stems from an uncanny ability to remain poised, independent, strong-willed, and motivated throughout the multitude of experiences one undergoes daily.

There is a magnificent correlation between self-sufficiency and the ability to remain calm, collected, and eloquent in public. Likewise, to be self-sufficient, one must also be able to manipulate and finesse each interaction of life with great elegance and efficaciousness.

Self-sufficiency is additionally reliant on a skill set that aids in sustaining oneself independently. Primarily, organization is incontrovertibly necessary, utilized throughout each and every era of one’s life. But even more imperative to self-sufficiency is the ability not only to be tolerant of one’s seclusion, but to embrace and relish in that state of isolation. For some, being alone is an interval for writing, and for others it’s a time to watch TV or even cook, but a healthy adoration of solitary occasions is more than expected and accepted.

In the end, self-sufficiency has so much to do with contemplation, with independence, and with a deeply-rooted confidence in one’s own advantageous abilities. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate perfection of life, and we must embrace it for the sake of our own contentment and sustainability.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Solitary Comprehension

 

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When we look at a life, what do we remember? When we look at a day, what is it that sticks with us?

Waking up each morning at 5:35 AM reminds me of how much life happens when we are alone, utterly and truly alone. Darkness in the early morning is both all-encompassing and isolating. One thinks so much about one’s life in the solitary darkness that is the morning. One remembers the days gone by, the people they miss, the dreams they’ve lost.

When I wake up in the mornings, lying in the blackness, alone in my boudoir at night, and on the solitary drive to work, I tend to think about the people I love, the dreams I hope to accomplish, and the past as it will never be again. I think about the meaning of life, trying desperately, as many have for millenniums, to understand my purpose for existence. Comprehension of our own existence is the one adversity that we will all struggle with and most likely never overcome in our lifetimes.

When I am alone, I try to dig as deeply as I can into the depths of my soul, groping for the answers I so perilously desire. But alone time also leads to magnificent insights into the existential truths of life. The biggest asset we all possess in life is that of our ability to think critically. For when we delve deep into the mind, only then do we begin to really understand life, love, emotions, and relationships fully.

One can spend a lifetime thinking about living, but without immersing oneself in life, one can only begin to comprehend the vast number of minute complexities that make up the incredible existence that is life. One must think and learn and grow every day in order to better comprehend everything that life discloses to one.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Balancing Life

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Being a person who is balanced within all aspects of their life is so often taken for granted these days. We all juggle a lot with how busy all of our lives really are nowadays. But it isn’t recognized quite enough when and individual stands out from the crowd as being a balancing artist. Very often, these are the entrepreneurs of our world, busy day and night and always running off to one meeting or another. But what is the real secret behind living a balanced lifestyle, one might ask.

We are constantly stretched thinly between our career, our friends, our love-life and our family-life. And all too often, when one aspect of life gets just a little too busy and a little too taxing, the rest begin to slip through the cracks. When work starts to expend all of our energy and absorb all of our time, our love dies out. And when we spend too much time vacationing or watching TV, our love life and career fall flat almost immediately.

The day we learn to balance our lives impeccably is also, unfortunately, the day we lose something we love or something goes wrong. It’s the day that we get fired, broken up with, feel lonely without friends, or get fed up with the constant state of exhaustion we are lingering in.

Our lives are in constant motion, and so we must learn to keep up if we have any hope of retaining sanity, health, or even happiness. Balance must be reached daily, or life falls apart. Without love, we are lonely; without friends, we are lost; and without our career, we are purposeless and moneyless too.

So too, is it important to balance our imagination with the reality around us. For without one, there is no hope of existence for the other. We must remain grounded while hopeful, joyful while lonesome, and balanced while the world caves in around us. For we are gods in a sea of dying angels and rebels in a world of depressing realities, and we will always be survivors battling life solitarily but perseveringly.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Questioning the Dark

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What is it that drives us on each day? Is it stamina, or personality, or love? Maybe it is simply the hope that tomorrow will be better, brighter, and happier than today. Maybe we are driven by the realization that hard work pays off more than lazing away each day in slumber. Are we driven by fate, or simply a desire for truth and reality? Do we live each day just waiting for the impossible to strike us? Or are we waiting for our rehearsed daily routine to suddenly give us fulfillment and contentment? What do we dream of in the thick black night? Do we dream of death, a life waiting to be lived, or a life that is not ours and never will be? Do we ask ourselves why? Why am I here? What is purpose? And relative to the former, what is mine? Do we realize the hate that breeds around us, or are we simply content that ignorance is bliss?

Sitting in the lonely, suffocating dark, more questions seem to plague me than there are answers for in this lifetime and maybe even this universe. And yet, I’m okay with it. There are only so many minutes in a day. These questions can’t all be solved in a day, or a year, or even a decade. Perhaps a lifetime of pondering will suffice; perhaps not.

The day we grow up is the day we lose our sense of reality. When we leave our childhood, we set sail on a sea of a million queries, each one separate, but relatable to the others only in that there is seemingly no answer. Maybe we learn the answers to what’s my purpose or who am I when we finally leave the nest for college and beyond. And maybe we feel content in our daily routine in our young adulthood. But I’m sure that no matter how sure of ourselves we appear to be, each one of us is concealing the dreaded feeling of longing, the insatiable lust for something more in our lives. We all hope that one day in the distant future these catechisms and doubts will go away, but I impugn whether they are ever truly expected to be cast away.

I believe that sitting in the dark with nothing but our thoughts and a busy mind to interest us, we learn the most about both our own nature, and human nature in general. But questioning life and ourselves is just a guide along the path to enlightenment, a necessary step if you will. So question, doubt, deny, challenge, and realize, life’s questions remain unanswered for a reason.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones