A Past Life

Forests Winter Beautiful Nature Snow Road Trees Wallpaper Mac

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

The News from the Workbench: December 10, 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

Today began as so many mornings do, with the blaring noise of the alarm breaking the cool serenity of slumber. Once the hopes of further excursions in the dream-world subsided, I was able to rise from my bed and look out on the world in all its glory, lit by the soft morning rays of sun cutting through the icy winter chill. After my morning run, somewhat longer today at around five miles, I was sufficiently awake, present, and chipper to begin working once more. But this morning was different, because when I walked out the door this morning, I was eager to get going and start working on my writing and my musical work for the day. I haven’t felt this ambitious or motivated in six to eight months.

Today, I thought I would touch on some of what has made me return to the basics, the fundamentals of my art and also what has allowed me to keep going after all the struggle and pain of this year. Only recently have I been able to return to the process of my art, my writing, and my music after months of strife, lack of motivation, and insecurity with where my career path has been leading me. Though it is hard for me to admit, I think that my personal life and the circumstances of my life have affected my work and artistic life over the course of this year, something I will always be ashamed of.

The last months have been filled with a sort of longing for the piece of me that makes me unique, what makes me essentially me. Every hour of every day has been spent in search of something that can’t be found, unsure of the road forward or of how to create the life I want to live and the art I want to make. It has taken me months to realize that this is a journey that for all of us is uncertain and never-ending. Upon reflection, I have been able to find new comfort both in the doubt and unease and in the small daily routines that center my mind and push the days onward.

It has been through reading the works of great authors, listening to the music of great musicians, and admiring the artwork of the masters that I have been able to find my voice again. What I have realized is that this voice I have found within myself can only truly be found in the tireless awareness of myself and of my actions. True, my path is deeply intertwined with the stories and paths of many others, but only in self-knowledge and personal discovery may I find the stories which must be told, the ideas that have yet to hatch, and the memories that are so crucial in my psyche.

In the last week I have had a much needed reprieve from the day-to-day busy work and lists of tasks and appointments. Time spent alone—thinking, observing, and remembering—has reawakened my soul. I no longer search for the unique energy of my actions and thoughts or for where my path should lead; I now search within my own mind and body for that true self that we must all find inside. My true self drives me towards my passions and I have now found the motivation to work once more. Motivation comes not from how I think I am perceived, but in what really matters to me.

So I read, I write, I play music, and I think. My voice has returned for now and I must remember how I got here. I must recognize that when one gets past the petty, menial, daily slog, inner truth may emerge and the drive for love, storytelling, and immersive beauty will return.

That’s the news from the workbench this week…

-Ethan Brown Jones

Lost Words, Empty Promises

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Source: topwalls.net

I didn’t think I would care this much, that the words of my life would be so significant. When it comes to words, I always used to believe in a sort of unalterable importance. There was this sort of mystical, unravished honesty to all words. I guess my beliefs go back to a time where words still meant something, a time still remembered in the trivial ideals of modern novels. Once, despite the corruption and dishonesty that plague our society, words had meaning, had weight and consequences. No longer is this true. As an entire country has been rearranged in the modern, technological age, the once-assumed significance of language has been forgotten. And so, as words lose more and more of their influence, I have realized I care about this loss of verbal and linguistic sincerity on a much deeper level than I once thought.

Take the phrase “I love you” for instance. At one time in my life, I believed these the most consequential and truthful words a being could utter. But as so much else in the world has changed, so has the depth of this phrase. Where once these words meant a depth of love so intense that it almost pained an individual, now they are used passively and unthinkingly.

This is not to say that certain virtues don’t exist in the lack of sincerity our words now hold. Far fewer of us are hurt by a nasty insult or a fight among friends. They didn’t mean it we tell ourselves; what does it matter anyway? We are probably right in some sense, what’s the use in getting overly emotional over a couple of words thrown without thought? Especially with the speed of life today and the growing number of responsibilities placed upon us, what’s the point in placing meaning behind words, our own or otherwise?

However there is an aspect that seems to be overlooked in all this: the unique emotional experience words once opened us up to. Where once we read books for the beauty of the language they contained, we now seem content with the same storyline regurgitated over and over. I pity the writers of today too though. How can today’s writers compete in the career marketplace when they actually take the time to write something decent and meaningful? They have to produce quantity to make a living, and inevitably, quality falls through the cracks.

As I write this draft I realize how I dramatize this subject. I’m still writing for emotion and meaning, others must be too. Yet it is hard not to feel like a lone ranger on the final frontier when I look at the new best sellers list and wonder where quality writing died and when meaningless stories became perfectly acceptable. I just hope there are others out there on this night that are working equally as intensely on this same craft of writing.

Good writing to me isn’t even so much about the writing itself. Good writing is about passion, emotional experience, and simply taking the time to sit and think before thoughts are even put into words. Half the struggle of writing, at least for me, is just finding the motivation to sit alone for a while, contemplating experience, life, knowledge, and everything in between.

Writing can even be as simple as writing a letter once and a while (assuming I’m not the only one still writing those!). Journaling has so much to do with the practice of writing too. If we just had a few more people in this world sit down and think about their life, actions, and words I guarantee we could fix so many of today’s ailments. Maybe it is simply naïve optimism, but I truly believe that with a little more writing and a few less empty words, we could become a better people.

I once believed in that indescribable power of language, but it seems now to be just and empty promise, words lost in the space between reality and utopia. One day, hopefully that promise can regain its prowess. Just a few thoughts from a writer on a dark night…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Skyline Destiny

Flying in, I could feel the electricity in the air, the constant state of unrest, and the love of productivity balanced with longing for the life of the party. Outside the small plane window, buildings so tall that they could scrape the underbelly of the plane were lit up, bright and perpetually awake. Everyone was out on the town from the paupers, to the wealthy, to the college kids, to the happy families from Brooklyn and Queens. New York City looked alive, as it did almost every night. From the moment we disembarked, the air was muggy and warm, even at that late hour.

The city of love welcomed us with open arms. That night, I too fell in love, not with a person, but rather, with New York City itself. It was that night when I finally felt everything that I had worked for truly come to fruition. All my work and long hours had led up to this trip, to this city.

You know how people say that they saw this one person, they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight? That’s exactly what I experienced that night. The moment I laid eyes on New York City, I fell instantly, completely, and hopelessly in love. I felt like I belonged there- like it was meant to be- like I was already at home in that beautifully-foreign oasis.

One of the best things about New York City is the incredible diversity of people, lives, landscapes, and personalities. Each street is a new neighborhood, each area full of a very different set of people. Every street is more glamourous and lovely than the last. But it is also as historic as any museum and as modern as the empire it represents. Everyone is so unique in New York, but many of them remind me of myself- dreaming always, working constantly, staying up late every single night, bitchy as ever on a regular basis, and opinionated about everything.

Maybe one day I’ll call New York home. And maybe one day I’ll get tired of all the hustle and bustle. But for today, that’s all still in the future. Today, all I can do is dream, work, and wait to see what my future holds. For now, I hope it’s a skyline destiny, and I think it will be. The city is as diverse as I am, and love is love. I made a promise to myself and the city that night that one day I would make it there and I will find it hard to renege on that. I belong in New York and I always have. One day at a time, one little step at a time, one day closer to my skyline destiny.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Way We Live

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The way we live is the way that the world is. We live for the beauty in everything that we see. We live to become better, to become brighter, and to become more alive.

We follow our dreams because it is the only thing we know how to do. We follow the people we hope to become, living each day, hoping that it will matter. Every day we wish for the life we want to live, but it is a long way off. We dream because we must have hope, we must will ourselves to live on.

We work tirelessly day-in and day-out, pushing forward into the unknown, groping for the future we so desperately wish to possess. Work becomes us because work is the final frontier; work is the path to our dreams. When we are young, we believe that dreams just come true, that one day we will simply wake up, and our aspirations will have become reality overnight. But soon we realize that the world is so much more intelligent and complex than that. To see a dream realized without contemplation and magnificent labor is to have created a volatile and unsustainable dream. We find out that in order to maintain happiness and to sustain that dream, we must work every day for it.

We live to work, to learn, and to help the world become a more beautiful place. The world is our canvas and we have to paint a more beautiful picture, leaving our own unique mark on history.

Our own unique perspective fuels us; we charge on, moving towards an unknown, but unexpectedly spectacular goal far off in the future. And we are successful, not because of outside influences, but because of our on interior drive for success. We change the world because of the way we live, the way we choose to live each and every day of our lives.

We are the ones who’s light’s stay on many hours past dusk as we work on into the night. We are the ones who are up at dawn and ready to change our lives, our careers and the entire planet each moment.

We are not alone, we are living together and for each other; our purpose on this planet is to love one another and make the world a more equal, loving, and prosperous planet overall.

This is the way we live, and it’s the way we should be living. Because this is the life we were meant to live and these are things we are supposed to be doing. And we must continue on, learning, living, thriving, working, loving, and thinking every day. That’s the way we live.

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

Audrey Brooke

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Cool, crisp, blue-gray air buffeted Audrey as she slipped out the front doors of her apartment building. She walked quickly on the way to the subway, conscious-as-ever of the work that lay ahead of her. The office was just three subway stops south, and given that she was virtually alone on the train, it didn’t take long before she was strutting up the hard cement steps and into the cold, New York winter air.

It was 5:30 AM to the second as Audrey glided up the icy front steps in her red leather pumps and black fur coat. She was a very punctual person, and the fact that it was a cold winter day was no excuse for tardiness. The lobby was deserted and virtually silent except for the harsh click of her heels on the mosaicked floor. She greeted the doorman cordially and strutted on, eager for the day to begin. After a lengthy elevator ride, she stepped briskly out and, arm outstretched in anticipation, slid the key smoothly into the shining silver lock.

The warm office lighting glittered on, as if it had been excitedly awaiting her arrival. And for a woman like Audrey Brooke, things always awaited her arrival. The view was lovely as it always was in the early mornings, Manhattan at its finest, she liked to say. Her purse bounced gently and quickly found a comfortable resting place on the side table against the wall. Her office was spotless as usual, she liked it that way.

Audrey looked stunning as always, red leather pumps, a black Vuitton bag, a light-mint dress that met her perfectly at every curve (not that there were many), and a glistening sliver necklace with matching earrings and bracelets.

It was typical Monday morning, if that were a real thing in the office of one of the most powerful people on the planet. Editor-in-Chief was the official title inscribed on her door, but she was so much more than that.  The black leather furniture and imposing adornment of decorations in her office hinted at the level of her power.

She was an elegantly dazzling young woman with golden brown hair and piercing blue eyes. She was effortlessly tall, strikingly authoritative, and above all, poised and charismatic.

The largest publishing company in the world, Brookestone, lay in her hands and her hands only; she liked that- being in charge. But what went unsaid in this office was the fact that Audrey Brooke was about to become not only the most powerful woman in publishing, but also one of the most powerful women in the entire world.

Audrey had the check signed and everything was in place for one of the largest buyouts in history. Audrey Brooke, the woman whom so many had forgotten when she was young, was about to show the world that she ran the news, the magazines, the books, the internet, and so much more.

Audrey Brooke was finally going to get what she waited so long for, and everyone else, well, they would get what they had coming soon enough.

Audrey’s blue eyes seared through the glass as she felt the warmth of the immense power she was about to gain course through her veins. Nothing could stop her now, and nothing would. For beneath that saccharine veil lay a much darker personality, one that was willing to kill, one that would use any means possible to get its way.

This was what Audrey thought about as she stared out onto the world in the earliest hours of dawn.

Today was her day, hers, or no one’s.

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

Masterpiece Composition: a Life of Words

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Words flow; they define; they articulate; words alleviate and reminisce; they sprout and flourish and simmer; words swell, protrude, decipher, transcend, and inspire; words are the pulchritude of life.

But what really makes words uniquely glorious is that they express everything that can be expressed and go beyond and beneath reality into the consummate realms of knowledge, perception, and thought. Writing is the sole art form that has the power to inform and evoke in the exact same piece. Writing makes us remember, ache, aspire, and imagine. It makes us analyze our lives in ways that no other art can.

A single word can induce cerebration on an incogitably variable range of subjects. The word “home,” for example, may cause us to think about our own house, and then possibly the unending, unmanageable list of chores we have to do. We may think about our childhood house, the friends we knew then, and the person we were. The word may compel us to consider the very subjective definition of home that we ourselves possess as well as the scientifically factual definitions of what a home or habitat looks like.

It is in this way that we discuss language and its potential for greatness and spiritual simplicity. Language is deeply connected with our comprehension of the world around us. Each and every analysis we make is linguistically based. We observe the world through the lens of language.

Words take us to places we can only dream about. Those words grant us access to the inner sanctum of or own mind where our deepest, most complex thoughts come from. They elicit our most potent and intoxicating emotions, carrying us to places we remember and places we are yet to go.

But, most importantly, words are what we crave, what we devour, what we’re stimulated by, and what defines the fabric of our lives. Words write the script of our lives, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

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