Selfishly, I Admit, My Qualify of Life Has Improved Since COVID-19 Culture Began

I suppose it’s social media heresy in 2020 to admit this, but despite how weird the year has been for the entire world, my personal sense of well-being has undeniably improved since March, when the Powers That Be changed all the rules changed on how we are supposed to live our lives:

For me, it’s been more quality time with my family, an hour at the gym every morning instead of driving to work, and better efficiency at my job because I am not limited by the distractions of working in a real office… just to name the first obvious improvements that come to mind.

Yes, I recognize COVID-19 is a serious issue that has unfortunately taken the lives of thousands of people in the world this year; like heart disease, cancer, fatal accidents, diabetes, and suicide.

But I have refused to live in fear. Yes, I always wear a mask whenever I am required to. No, I never wear a mask when I am not required to.

I am one of those people who has a hunch that Covid will quietly fade away shortly after the upcoming Presidential election; this especially became apparent to me when public protests became popular during what seemed the most otherwise unlikeliest time. (No, I am not a Republican.)

This is a concept I wrote into one of the songs I wrote this year: “We all need therapy/Everything’s so tense/No hugs allowed anymore but it’s okay to protest…”

Just a few weeks into this pandemic, I was informed that I was being placed on furlough at my job, due to the government’s warnings about social distancing. While this news was disappointing, there was no interruption of cash flow, thanks to the unemployment checks that came seamlessly rolling in during those 6 weeks.

Back in January, we had already planned a vacation to Florida for July. We still took our trip and in no way did COVID-19 interrupt any of our planned activities.

Right after we got back from our vacation, I was able to start back to work again- but this time, exclusively working from home.

I work in Recruiting, which is like the sales division of HR. My job efficiency is very easy to track, as I have a certain minimum number of hires to make each month.

Since exclusively working from home, I have been able to easily exceed my monthly quota. Yes, I have put in more hours working from home than I would have at the office, but also haven’t had to deal with arbitrary stress of driving a total of nearly 2 hours to work each day.

Now, during the same time every morning when I would be driving to work (which inevitably created stress), I instead head to the gym for an hour (which relieves stress).

I am aware of the paradox in which the government, major news outlets, and much of social media tells me to fear COVID-19 and turn my life into a sanitarium; meanwhile, I see the same group of dozens of people at the gym every morning, six days a week.

No one at my gym wears a mask; nor ever has. None of us have ever shown symptoms of Covid. The only reason any of us don’t show up for a week at a time is to go on vacation.

My gym, in theory, is a perfect Petri dish; as is my daughter’s pre-school, which has remained open this entire time.

A couple of weeks ago, it was retroactively confirmed (with a valid medical test costing $80 per person) that multiple people whom my family interacted with back in May, had Covid at the time. We hugged these people, we shared meals with this people, and we were exposed in close living quarters with them for many days. None of us were wearing masks at any point.

I would suppose it would be miraculous if all 4 members of my family didn’t contract COVID-19, knowing that.

Most likely, we “had Covid” back in late May or early June. Indeed, I am very grateful that my family has the genes and immune system that allow us to be asymptomatic.

But even if, against the odds of science, I have not yet had Covid pass through my system, I still have no motivation to fear Covid.

I would rather enjoy the rest of my life, whether I have one more month left or 39 more years left, spending quality time with the people I love most.

And this has definitely been the year of quality time with family!

While I was on furlough from my job, I was able to spend the entire day with both of my kids; seven days a week.

Even when so much of the world was closed down, we took the Jeep out on dirt roads in no name towns.

I don’t fear Covid.

I have a more legitimate fear of randomly dying in my asleep every night when I lie down in bed each night.

Keep in my mind, I am a 39 year-old man who had a pre-existing existential crisis before all this happened. Really, if anything, Covid Culture has given me an even stronger sense of purpose and appreciation of life.

But, maybe I am nothing more than the exception to the rule.

 

Dear Holly: I Really Love the 4 Year-Old Version of You!

4 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

I wrote a song a couple of months ago called “These are the Good Ole Days.”

It is a reminder to myself that despite all the craziness in this world that we are living in right now, I have a true blessing with you as my daughter.

I know that years from now, I am going to bitterly miss living in the time I live in now, because I get to be around you everyday.

This 4 year-old version of you especially speaks to me.

You are in some ways the cure I need; the offset to my existential crisis that I have been working through for a couple of years now.

Your sweetness reaches me in a way that I need in my life right now.

It was meant to be that the 4 year-old version of you and the 39 year-old version of me would exist at the exact same time; right when we needed each other the most.

Love,

Daddy

3 Reasons Frozen 2 is Far Superior to the 1st Frozen Movie (Or It Isn’t, Based on the Viewer’s Own Current Perspective of Life)

There are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who prefer an upbeat, easy to follow story… and those who prefer a story that is more mature, mysterious, challenging, and darker.

I feel that I have always been very open about how overrated the first Frozen movie is. Over the years, I have expressed this multiple times in other blog posts.

My biggest beef with the first Frozen is that the true villain is not Hans, but instead, the parents; for psychologically damaging their daughters by ultimately locking them in their separate bedrooms without explaining why, while not allowing them to communicate with each other.

Seriously, that’s messed up!

So as you can imagine, I was not overly anxious to finally see Frozen 2 over Christmas break. It was just simply going to be a movie I sat through as my fatherly duty.

Fortunately instead, I was relieved, surprised, and impressed- to the point I knew even within the first 10 minutes that Disney had made the bold move to give Frozen a sequel that it (and an audience who is now 6 years older) deserves; as opposed to a copy-and-paste-of-the-original cash grab.

Granted, there are many people who do not agree with me on this.  As I’ve been talking to people about Frozen 2 in comparison to the first, this what I have consistently found:

Either you love Frozen 2 and think it is far superior to the first…

Or you don’t like Frozen 2 at all because the first one was so much better.

I have yet to meet a person who believes both movies are equally good. No in-between.

You can even see this on Rotten Tomatoes, where the first Frozen got a 15% higher score on the Tomato Meter, but Frozen 2 scored 15% higher with the Audience Score.

I have come up with 3 reasons Frozen 2 is either much better (or worse) than the original. My theory is that a person’s reaction to Frozen 2 is ultimately a reflection of the individual viewer’s perspective of their own life.

  1. Major Character Growth: Taking place 6 years (in real time) since the first movie, Frozen 2 gives us a realistic look at what “happily ever after” actually looks like. That means we need to see Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf experience the next new challenge to help their growth as individuals. (That’s because happiness requires character growth.) Specifically, Olaf openly encounters a full-on existential crisis, as noted in his song, “When I Am Older.”
  2. More Complex, Introspective Songs: Instead of using the easily likable universal guitar chord progression (G-D-Em-C) exploited in “Let It Go” (similar to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”), Frozen 2’s lead track “Into the Unknown” actually requires much more of the song performer and the listener. These songs aren’t as instantly catchy as those from the first Frozen- they grow on you, just like Frozen 2.
  3. More Challenging Plot for the Viewer: The first half of Frozen 2’s technically falls into the category of a thriller/horror movie, as Elsa follows a mystical and ominous voice only she can hear; which serves as a metaphor of how part of the human experience is simultaneously following our hearts, while not allowing our own questions about the future to turn us into our own worst enemies. Some of my favorite quotes of Frozen 2 illustrate how the characters (and the audience) began to understand the importance of emotional intelligence as individuals:

Elsa: “That’s just your fear. Fear is what can’t be trusted.”

Kristoff: “My love is not fragile.”

General Mattias: “Be prepared, just when you think you found your way, life will throw you into a new path.”

That last quote ultimately reveals the theme of Frozen 2. This sequel forces us to come to terms with whether or not we are willing to move on from what life was like 6 years ago.

That is fundamentally what determines whether a person believes Frozen 2 is superior, or inferior, to the first.

Image credit- Disney.

My Wife and I Have Been Performing and Publishing Original Songs I’ve Written… Largely Due to Cancelling Netflix and as a Way to Overcome My Existential Crisis

Earlier this week I revealed the top 5 highlights of my 2019 in review: one of those is that my wife and I have been releasing songs that I have written. While I have published them on YouTube and shared them on Facebook, I have yet to really talk about the how and the why of it.

So here’s the story…

My wife and I both moved to Nashville to pursue music careers; she arrived in 2004 and I showed up in 2005. We met in 2006, starting dating in 2007, and got married in 2008.

Since then, my wife earned her Master’s Degree (2009), we had a son (2010), we become debt-free other than our mortgage (2013), we moved into a brand-new houses in the suburbs (2015), and we had a daughter (2016).

And then, my employer of 12 years shut down my branch, releasing about 40 people at the same time; giving us a 2 weeks’ severance pay and a hand shake.

For the next 6 months, while being a stay-at-home dad, I spent any free time I had on writing songs, and eventually releasing my newest song on YouTube, in 2018.

“Maybe It’s a Dream” is an autobiographical song exploring the concept of how “removed” from the human experience I felt after I started living my life with the knowledge that being offended or disrespected is always my own choice. It was me realizing how much of my time, energy, and emotions had been wasted on letting the free world affect my emotions, when it was my decision every single time.

Shortly after releasing that song, my 6 month stint as a stay-at-home dad/blogger/YouTuber ended when I gained employment at a Fortune 500 company; where I have been employed for more than a year and a half now.

That led to new inspiration for writing songs, as it ushered in my “existential crisis of 2019”.

My salary nearly doubled, putting my wife and me in a situation where we could finally start building our retirement. We are very grateful for all the help with investments, thanks to Charles Schwab.

This caused me to have to re-evaluate my identity, as I found myself at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid; no longer triggered by the fear or anxiety of money, or even my own emotions.

Therefore, I started coming to terms with my existential crisis (some would call it a midlife crisis); as I had basically reached all of my life goals before the age of 40.

My next song, written just a couple of months ago, would be called “Tripping on Existence”; which was my way of sorting out my experience. I found that going through an existential crisis at a younger age put me in a situation where few people I knew could relate; which only intensified my feeling of floating in the universe like Tony Stark in the trailer for Avengers Endgame.

There had been other songs I had written during my 6 months of unemployment, but that didn’t get released due to me getting a job.

One was called “Fort Payne, Alabama”; another autobiographical song addressing the paradox of how my hometown undeniably helped form my identity, yet ultimately prepared me to move away after college and live my own life in the next state over in Tennessee.

So after releasing that year-and-half year old song, I decided I wanted to include my wife on my final leftover song from 2018: “We’re Gonna Leave in the Morning”.

It was a song I written, fantasizing about being able to just “up and go” on a road trip to anywhere; just she and I.

This is a fantasy because we haven’t gone on a fun road trip without the kids, since… we had kids.

I finally got to show off my wife’s singing in one of my songs. I was so proud to share her with the world.

It is truly a song about us; written from my perspective. It is my version of a love song. A love song when you’ve been married for over a decade, have 2 kids, and live in the suburbs.

During the time we were rehearsing that song, I casually wrote a song called “The Meaning of Life”. We decided to record that as well; the song was barely a week old when we published it.

The song was me exploring the irony in that none of us asked to be born, yet it is up to us to determine individually what the meaning of life is, though we have no idea how long our lives will be.

My next couple of songs, which I determined I wanted us to record on that same night; were complete opposites in mood:

The loud and upbeat “(Subtitles) I Dare You Not to Fall in Love with Me” would serve as our very first true duet together; as the autobiographical song explores what was really going through our minds on the night we met: October 5th, 2006.

Meanwhile, the somber and reflective “You Won’t Remember My Name” was written to remind the listener how the default is often to arbitrarily make perceived enemies of the people on the other side of the political fence.

The last song of 2019 that my wife and I recorded is a cover of Patty Griffin’s “Long Ride Home”; imagining the regrets of a man at his wife’s funeral, after they had been married for 40 years.

This one was special because it served as my wife’s first solo of all the songs we performed together. I simply played guitar on this one, as I wanted to only showcase her amazing ability to sing.

I currently have 3 more originals that I have been practicing; likely to be released in January 2020.

There is the somewhat novelty Country tune, “Jeep Wrangler Theme Song”, explaining the micro-culture of Jeep Wrangler owners, along with our Jeep wave.

Another loud and fun song is “I Feel Like You Want Me to Care”, which points out the power (and humor) of refusing to give emotional control to others when they are eager to take it from you.

And lastly, I have an alternative rock power ballad (?) called “Shotgun”, addressing the ridiculously dangerous risk and gamble that two young people make when they choose to marry each other, for better or worse.

My wife and I both moved to Nashville a long time ago to pursue music. Could we have been doing this all along? Maybe.

But I don’t think it could have been this genuine, this mature, or this good.

We had to live more of our lives together first. We needed more life experience first. We needed to get to the point where we were financially set so we psychologically free to create and perform in the way we can now.

Ultimately, the gate opened as a side-effect of us choosing to cancel our Netflix subscription back in May of this year. That was what created the time and space for us to focus on these songs.

Our music is what happens when Netflix is out of the picture. That’s pretty interesting, actually.

My 2019 Year in Review: 5 Things That Defined My Life in the Final Year of the 2010s- Existential Crisis, Jeep Wrangler, 20th High School Reunion…

I only recently realized that we are actually coming to the end of another decade. This decade itself has presented several major milestones for me:

2010: I became a parent for the first time when my son Jack was born.

2011: I turned 30 years old. Parents Magazine chose me as their official daddy blogger- a side gig that was last the next 4 years.

2012: I became the manager of the retention department at my employer at the time, which triggered my fascination with emotional intelligence- especially, the concept that being offended is always a person decision.

2013: My wife and I became debt-free, other than our mortgage.

2014: We started building our new house.

2015: We moved into our brand-new house; having previously owned a town home. I also started my first YouTube channel, which currently has over 8K subscribers and earns me an average of $500 per month.

2016: Four days after my 35th birthday, my daughter was born.

2017: The company I had been working for the past 11 years closed down my branch, starting a 6 month stretch of me being a stay-at-home dad.

2018: I made by television debut on the Lifetime Network show, This Time Next Year. I also got a new job, at a Fortune 500 Company, where I have now worked a year and a half.

As for 2019, there are 5 particular events that come to mind…

1- Existential crisis: Having reached all my major life goals before the age 40, I came to a point where I had to re-evaluate my goals and ambitions.

2- Jeep Wrangler: After owning my Honda Element since 2006, I finally got a new” vehicle- a 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK 6 Speed.

3- 20th Year High School Reunion: My wife and I had a great time with the people I grew up with and graduated with in 1999.

4- Releasing Original Songs: So far, my wife and I have released 4 new original songs together on my YouTube channel. Despite both moving to Nashville to start music careers, we had never publicly performed together.

5- 1st Family Pet: Despite our “no pet” policy in our home, my son wanted a teddy bear hamster for his 9th birthday. Ultimately, the hamster quickly became my pet- or at best, the “family” pet.

Now, with the 2020s ahead of me, I shall enter the decade in which I turn 40 and became of the parent of two teenagers. That ought to be fun.