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

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

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

Dreamers, Always

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I have always considered myself a dreamer. I don’t just live for now, I live for the future and the past as well. I dream because I am happier in that perfect dream world, rather than the reality I live in. Dreaming inspires me to reach for the sky and challenge myself every day. When I dream, I’m inspired to get one step closer to my goals and make my own future possible. I am inspired to work as hard as I can to get what I want. When I dream, I am in love. Every person I am in love with loves me back. I am in my dream job, and I’m young and attractive, even in middle age. That’s my dream world.

I dream because in the roughest of times, dreaming and hope are all that get me through. I dream to be inspired, to be enlightened, to be loved, to feel hope. America is the land of dreamers, from the coasts of California, to the soaring skyscrapers of New York City. We dream because we want a better life. We want to have love, respect, joy, and fulfillment. The American Dream is about living the high life and making it big in the land of opportunity.

When I dream, I dream of New York City. I dream of the view from my downtown penthouse apartment window. I dream of meeting the love of my life, and spending every night wrapped in his arms. I can see the lights of the city and traffic far below my terrace. I can see the paparazzi following my every step and the legendary runway shows I am holding weekly. I can see my grand piano in the corner of my apartment, the golden lights hitting the top of it like glistening ice. I can see my design studio in the heart of New York, with my sewing machine and my sketch pad and a window overlooking Central Park. I can see the shiny hot pink limousine waiting outside the glass double-doors of my building just for me. I can envision the Broadway musicals I’d go to, the friends I’d meet, and the fame I would acquire. I can see my closet, as large as a small house, neatly organized and comfortable as a plush blanket. I can see my makeup, artfully arranged in the glass cabinet of my bathroom. And I can see the beautiful living room where I could sit with nothing but my gorgeous husband, and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

The reason I dream is to feel like I am weightless, without a worry in the world. I dream to envision what my perfect life is like, with the perfect guy, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect life. I dream so that I have something to work towards, so that I have something to live for and to remember when all else in my life seems like an utter failure. I dream to design, to move on, to remember, to live. I dream because I feel that I lack so much in my life, that maybe, if I wish hard enough, it will all come true. Dreaming gives me the strength to live my life, to challenge myself, and to work so hard that every single part of my dream comes true. I will be a dreamer forever, always loving and hoping and living.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Rain, Sky, Freedom

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As I write today, I look out the window at the dark and cloudy sky. The rain gently dribbles down from the clouds, soaking the green grass and making rings on Eve Ponds. I read today about all the people celebrating what a great country we live in. I want to celebrate, but I also am trying  to comprehend what country they’re living in. It’s clearly not mine.

As I write today, I think about all the things that I take for granted, all the freedoms that I forget about, but all the injustices there still are. On the one hand, I feel like I live in the greatest country on Earth. It is truly the land of opportunity, the land of dreamers. But on the other hand, I feel that there is still so much hate in this world and even in this country. We are free, yet unfree. We can say what we want, and live where we want, but yet we are stifled in who we are, and who we can love. We still have a long way to go in terms of equality, civil rights, and in simply loving each other more. When I look around I see so much ignorant hate infesting the beautiful places in this world, I almost cry. But I have not lost hope, there are still people in this world who are saving the virtues of humanity. There are still people who care about others, who love each other, who accept diversity, and who simply light up this world with their spirit.

I still believe in freedom, because as I look out on this gray-blue sky feeling the energy in the air, I know that I have more freedoms than I know. I am free to be me, the gay fashionista, complete with makeup, scarves, and v-necks. Yet in some places I still feel uncomfortable, like an outsider in a town that hasn’t seen someone like me in a long time. I shouldn’t have to feel like this. I shouldn’t have to feel like I have to hide who I am because of some nobody who can’t handle the truth. But that is the reality of where we live; it’s the consequence of freedom. Freedom allows hate. It shouldn’t, but it does. That’s the sacrifice we make though. All we can do is try to make this world more beautiful, more loving, and more accepting.

As the fireworks burst into colors above my head, I realize that I am very thankful for where I live. I am thankful for the spirit we call the American Dream. I am thankful for having what I do. And I realize that I love the fact that as a gay man, I am able to express myself without fear of persecution. I can look at things that way, but I will still work my entire life so that each an every one of us can have equal rights. I want every single person to be able to love who they want and be who they are.

As I designer, I live for the beauty of the sky above, for the rain coming down, for the dream we all share, and for the freedom to express. As a designer and an artist, I live for the freedom and liberty that all deserve. I represent freedom, and I will always be free. Freedom is what makes this land so great.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones