Written by Josh Breidbart

About Last Night…

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/11/10/11102016-a-quick-death/

It is my constant aim to not be the weirdest guy on the subway. You would think that carrying a patched-up bag and typing on a broken laptop held together by duct tape usually wins me the grand prize, but not in New York. Here I’m speaking of a competition where the weirdos really bring out the big guns. But today, on a particularly empty car, I finally got the gold, shoving a veggie sandwich in my mouth, smearing avocado across my freshly shaven face, and wiping it with the bag like some sort of animal. I didn’t really care. Normally I’m self conscious about the whole thing, because I don’t want to be the weird guy (though, thanks to high school, I have found the solitude it offers greater than the attention that gets me bullied). What I want is to be the good guy.

I want to do right by others. I really, really do. Peter Parker is not a character to me. He’s a goal. A spirit animal. My patronus. And I like to think, beyond the scared and the bad that I’m feeling, that others are just like me. That they are good people, or at the very least, that they want to be good people. That they have the potential for greatness.

I originally wasn’t going to talk about the election results, but they’ve hit me harder than I could have predicted, so it seems irresponsible not to. I have been more responsive to and involved in this election than any before it, maybe due to my ever increasing age, or maybe due to the particular nature of this specific circus. Though my liberal bias is no secret, I have refrained from picking sides or labeling myself by party. At the very least, I try not to think of one side as good and the other as evil. It can feel that way sometimes, but I don’t want that to be a shade of the colors I’m painting with. I’d rather just think anyone of any “side” just wants to be good, whether I understand it or not. And that seemed like enough for me.

When you are on the Hillary side of this election, after all the debates and promises and threats of what a Trump Presidency could mean, this result feels very “end of the world”-y. Hell, New York even looks the part. The day feels like a hangover from life. The overcast sky with perpetual drizzle makes it feel like… oh fuck… I promised I’d never say this, the most trite and overused metaphorical line in movies/tv/comics, and yet I am so out of it, fuck fuck fuck fuck me – !

A storm is coming.

Fuck.

I’m actually still on Italian time, so it’s hard for this not to feel like a bad dream I can’t awaken from. Last night felt like when you wake up having to pee, and yet you stay in bed, determined to go back to sleep and hold it in. I heard my phone buzzing, and I knew what it wanted to tell me. I had nursed my wife’s and my friends’ panic, and all I wanted was to get off the emotional rollercoaster that had been this election. I couldn’t stand to check my phone and know for sure that the boogeyman I had been taunted by had finally won.

It’s just so confusing. I have good things on the horizon, for both my professional career, and for Unlife itself. I want to express… less devastation. This should be a time of hope. Of greatness. I want to be happy for the future to come, and yet it has never felt more full of peril.

Is it? Is it truly? Or am I just a victim of the greatest virus of this election; the media. The ubiquitous windows to internet and TV let us gorge ourselves to the brim with coverage and forecasts, portents of an awful future. We’ve tortured ourselves with scary story after scary story only to find it come true. Is that what life is? Being bombarded by these awful dark tales? Or am I just watching the wrong channel?

I wanted everyone to vote honestly and truly, and to have a huge turnout, not because I wanted Hillary to win. I don’t even think she was part of that for me. I just wanted to see that people were good. That if you got everyone out there, you’d see that they’re good. That they just want to do good and be good and get through this life, not afraid and confused and suspicious of who their neighbors were, but brave and confident, standing side by side next to their fellow humans, no matter what they looked like or where they hailed from. Am I just looking at this wrong way? Is this an overreaction, like the prospect of President Obama storming people’s homes to take their guns away? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell.

But when I went to my job and saw others felt the same as me, I knew that we were side by side, still, maybe even tighter than before. We are now living through something that scares us, realistic or not. And I believe that makes us stronger. And for some brief moments of happiness, talking about childhood crushes and laughing about our weird sexual awakening from Gadget of the Rescue Rangers and Chester the Cheetah, we laughed. We forgot we were sad. Life moved on and for a moment it was one worth loving.

I look above at the current chapter and think of the pain I was exorcising as I wrote this, and how faint of a memory it is compared to how raw it felt. How raw I feel about this now. How that pain passed, and if that did, maybe so can this.

Zombies never die. And neither will good. I will never believe that good can die.

Good is mighty. Good exists within us all. I still believe, no matter who won, that there are good people out there who just want to do right by each other. And I believe, looking at history, further back than a certain Jewish genocide, that as mankind has continued, it has progressed. It has stumbled, stepped backwards sometimes, but it has also persevered, recovered, and achieved such greatness. It has always gone forward. Good has always fought the good fight, whatever that means, and marched onwards. The good guys may be the new President and his team. It may be the people who oppose him. It may be a factor we have no way of understanding yet. But good will keep going. Good always continues. Good never stops.

It’s weird like that.

Vote, Please.

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/11/08/11082016-a-tight-knit-community/

I’m back after my vacation in Italy. I’ll probably talk at more length about it next time, but for the moment, I think we should talk about what’s going on today, November 8th, 2016. Specifically, how we all need to make like Goku and share our energy. Advance apologies for those of our readers in other countries, but this is something I need to say to those of you in the USA.

I’m not here to tell you who to vote for; I’m sure you already know what I think (though I’m always open to friendly discussion, as long as it stays friendly). Tensions have been high, and the stakes feel even higher. The ultimate fate of the country is in the balance, every passionate person screaming who is right and, what seems more important, who is wrong. I only have one request today, on the day of reckoning:

Please vote.

The President of the United States should represent the will of the people and it seems as if this, more than any other recent election, really demonstrates how necessary it is to listen to the people and gauge their temperature – which appears to be at a fever pitch at this point.

The comments on this site have been incredibly well behaved, especially considering the clusterfuck most website comments sections are on this subject. I was hoping at least once I could have a conversation about this based on fact and not emotion, but that request seems to be impossible when our emotions are as supercharged as they have been recently. I think the worst part was how most arguments weren’t about how one person was right for the job, but rather how the other person was WRONG for it. Not even just wrong, but the end of our nation as we know it. Life or death, the fate of the universe, dogs and cats, living together!

I wish the conversation focused more on policy and leadership, but all we seem to be able to do is complain that we’re not being listened to. And I think the reason this election has been so chaotically heated is because so many people feel they aren’t being heard. But guess what: this is your chance to be heard. To be represented. And to all those cynics saying it doesn’t matter – it does. It matters, and this is what it all comes down to. Hell, I’m not even one of those people who thinks voting third party equals throwing away your vote. You need to stand up for what you believe in. You need to speak up, even when people say it’s a waste. Especially then.

Look.

I have seen more people get involved in this election process than ever before. Seriously, I can barely walk a foot without someone complaining about the other candidate. So many people with such strong opinions, many who’ve never thought about politics in their entire life. The amount of people who voting in our country has slowly been on the rise, 2008 seeing a whopping 131 million in the voting booths. And yet, that is still only 58% of our total voting population. And though that is the majority, it’s a small majority.

Where is everyone else?! It’s their country too. So why aren’t they involved? Maybe because they feel it doesn’t matter. Because they feel like their voice doesn’t matter, and they’d rather just put on their headphones and not be there at all. Removed from the election, from the drama, from the problems that plague our nation. Because this drama, this tension and anger – they’ve been difficult. It’s been nightmarishly tense, actually. Taking on the weight of something so big when you are so small in the grand scheme of things… unless you are actively out there, shouting with the rest of the crazies, what can you accomplish? You are one against many.

Except we should be many. We should be a united front. Instead, we are divided. You may not like our candidates, but they were chosen by the people who showed up.

So show up.

Quick aside: my teacher once blamed me for 9/11.

True story: It wasn’t because I’m a terrorist, a government agent, Jewish, or because we white males run everything. It’s because every person involved in a situation, no matter how tangentially, each one of them matters. Each one of us has a responsibility to the rest of humanity. Big small, black, white, Asian, gay, straight, male, female, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, everyone. EVERYONE. It’s obviously insane to say if I was more involved at an early age I could have prevented 9/11, but I also can’t remove myself from that butterfly effect.

The very same teacher who blamed me for 9/11 gave me my first voter registration form. With it he gave me the warning that this, what he was handing me, was power. True power. And it is. Not a sword, a gun, or the ability to write a zombie tale about a guy who’s sad. Power is not something wielded by one person alone. It’s too powerful for that.

Power is wielded by us as a group. It is us as a group coming together, speaking louder than we ever could alone. What happens to one of us happens to all. We bleed grow and die together. This President, whoever she or he may be, must represent the will of the people.

Let that will be felt, no matter what it may be.

Vote.

Just fucking vote.

Pain in My Neck

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/27/10272016-the-choices-that-matter/

Last Saturday was my birthday, and my body chose to christen the event with unrelenting neck pain. Whether it was how I slept or the way I tilt my head while Mercy hunting in Overwatch, my birthday gave me a taste of the problems that come with age. I remember long ago, on my 25th birthday, my boss at the time patted me on the back and bestowed a golden kernel of knowledge upon me: “It’s all downhill from here.” Cynical as it was, I knew there was truth to his words, but I hoped I would be the exception to the rule. Turns out it’s not different at all, is it Steve?

I woke up early, the band of pain between my head and body unyielding and unbearable. My psychic connection to my wife seems to be at an all time high – she woke before I uttered a sound, roused from her slumber by a dream manifestation of my voice, telling her that I needed her. I never spoke the words myself, but there she was when I needed her most. Though there was little she could do, just having her there kept my internal screaming from becoming external. I told my parents about the situation later and they shrugged. This was just another part of growing old: emotional connection at an all time high, physical condition at an all time low.

Was it really all downhill from there? Were my later plans of a fun day of debauchery in vain? I got to do literally everything I love, from gaming, to drinking, to writing, to being with my favorite person. And yet, it was all marred by this stupid thing, apparently a manifestation of the very event I was supposed to be celebrating. The whole experience made me think of what I was bringing into my next year of life.

See, the biggest fear I had was that this pain was a result of stress. With me, stress often brings on weird tics, from arm pain to a twitchy eye. It’s never evidence of any physical problem, merely the manifestation of my body buckling under a strain. And I wish I could just turn it off; I know the call is coming from inside the house. But knowing is only half the battle, and the internal continues to wreak havoc on the external, and so this seemed like just the newest front in that endless war, in which my enemy is myself. And I was scared because…

I don’t want it all to be downhill from here.

Like everyone else, I feel like I’m perpetually on the cusp of some ephemeral victory. That moment that makes everything I’ve done and worked for, all that anguish, worth it. That will allow me to enjoy without guilt or fear because life isn’t so bad right now.

Days later, the pain in my neck subsided. Maybe I really did just sleep on it wrong, Or maybe my body is finally ready to let go of whatever tension or anxiety was in my way. Maybe it’s only downhill because it’s finally getting a little easier.

What Makes You Angry?

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/25/10252016-be-reasonable/

Perhaps it’s just the decades of growing up on anime, but I often feel you can’t judge a person until you fight with them.

It’s not like I enjoy fighting. Fuck, I actually can’t describe how much I hate it. It’s so raw and painful, fueled by whatever force you can muster, light or dark. I think we’d all be happier with less conflict in our lives; inside, we all just want to be liked, agreed with, supported in what we’re trying to accomplish. No one, or at least very few, would seek it out. Sometimes, we even isolate ourselves just so the prospect of a fight can never rear its ugly head. And though I have disagreed with a great many of people in my life, I will often bite my tongue for the preservation of a relationship. Anything to avoid a fight. Fighting isn’t really on the top of your average to-do list… until you want to.

Actually, ”want to” isn’t really the right way to say it, though maybe not 100% inaccurate. It’s more like when you “have to” fight. When you get swept up in that unrelenting river, that truly honest moment when your principles are challenged and can no longer be compromised. Sometimes it’s a major stand for your beliefs, or maybe just the straw that broke the camel’s back, the specifics of the fight often don’t matter compared to what the need to fight back represents. It’s a feeling so primal that we can’t help it when it comes roaring through us. And for that, I kind of respect it.

Because it’s honest.

I don’t trust teams or couples that don’t fight. Obviously, there’s a difference between a couple that bickers now and then and a couple that is continually miserable around each other. It’s the difference between eating lunch and gorging yourself until you throw up. If you take something far enough to ruin your life, in that case, you need to stop. Any good team should not be constantly at each other’s throats. But fighting, the right kind of fighting, says that there is passion and pride on the line. It loudly declares your desires and what you truly care for. It’s why I’ve been very “you do you” this election; if people really feel the way they do about Trump or Clinton, I want to know. I want to be a part of the conversation. I want to know who that person is that I’m talking to about these important issues, what makes them happy and what brings their piss to a boil. What pushes them to that breaking point where they put it all on the line? Something they love? Something they hate? Something they don’t understand?

To me, a lack of fighting feels sterile, cold, and dishonest. It means you can’t be bothered to engage, or it’s not worth that effort. You’ve dosed yourself to the point where you’ve mentally peaced out of the situation. And I’d rather talk to or work with an asshole that cares about something than someone who can’t be bothered to believe in anything.

I’m not going to wax poetic about how fighting means you’re a better person or how willingness to fight indicates some moral standpoint. It’s more that when you fight, your shell comes off. The raw nerve, once exposed, yells and screams about what it wants and needs. And you see what has been hiding underneath. Revealing where you stand, and why it’s worth all the fury. Whether it’s something worthwhile, or something more selfish than that.

I guess I just like the truth, even when it hurts.

What makes you angry?

Zorak64

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/20/10202016-so/

Long ago, when the internet could only be accessed through a free AOL starter disc and keeping your family off the landline, I had the pleasure of picking my first instant messenger handle: Zorak64. The name combined my two favorite things: cartoons and video games. But it was more than that. Zorak was the first character I used as an avatar in general. It’s not like we had a lot in common, him being a giant mantis bent on chaos and destruction and I… well, video games felt like enough for me. Still, he made me laugh like no one else could, and he expanded what I expected from cartoons, from inventiveness to depth of humor. Zorak remains to this day one of my all time favorite characters, his voice, and his very presence on TV brought to life by the now late C. Martin Croker.

2016 has been a devastatingly heart breaking year in regards to celebrity deaths. People who were larger than life, have left a massive void. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Darwyn Cooke, Chyna, Muhammad Ali, Miss Cleo, Fyvush Finkel, Gene Wilder, and too many more to count. Even the ones that didn’t directly shape my mind were layered in the background like music. Their very names feel even further away as I write this. I have not openly said much about these deaths in the past. It never felt like my place or I had strong enough words to say. They lived. They touched us. They’re dead. It sucks.

And yet, here I am, dedicating an entire blog post to someone whose face I never actually saw until he passed.

The thing is, the passing of C. Martin Croker hits me harder than all of them, and I have to wonder if it was because he was never a man to me. Just a mantis. But he was also the man behind the scenes, and the voice of two other Adult Swim favorites of mine…

And he was a trailblazer. Adult Swim’s very existence can be traced back to him. He planted the seeds of adult cartoons today. But to me he was more and I fail to articulate what I mean by that. A person can act, misrepresent, lie, which is why a legend is so powerful. But because Zorak was never a man to me, never really C. Martin Croker at all, he was and remains a powerful avatar of after school and late night laughter. He was a pillar that held up my inner temple of imagination, and without him an irreparable crack in the structure has appeared. Though the building stands as strong as it did before, I see how that pillar made possible a host of others that came after it, all holding up the assembly that is Josh Breidbart, the oldest of which is just a bitter-sweet memory.

I’ll never grow tired of his voice. The attitude. The confidence, even in the face of exploding. After Croker’s passing, I found myself watching hours of Zorak’s best moments. From his cynical mischievousness on Space Ghost to the more kid friendly oddness of Cartoon Planet. I still remember the screams as Zorak was blown to bits for the 100th time by Space Ghost. I just can’t shake it.

He’s impacted my life in a thousand ways, memory upon memory. I still remember in college, jumping in a car for an improptu road trip with close friends to watch the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in theaters. And his death moves me so much because…

I guess because I hadn’t thought of Zorak in a long time, and I only got to remember him once he was gone.

And that seems cruel.

My sympathies to anyone as affected by C. Martin Croker’s death as me, but I must admit to my own selfishness. I never knew the man, though it seems I missed out. But I guess I never wanted the real person anyway. I wanted the mantis.

Because now I miss him.

The FG

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/18/10182016-how-hard/

In response to THIS POST, I asked Zack if he could identify a “style” in my art. He told me yes, but that it doesn’t show as much as it could because of some ingrained bad habits. Specifically, by the countless hours I’ve spent reinforcing those habits through earlier drawing projects, instead of practicing better ones. Basically, that the thing holding back my drawing was Fenix Gear. It’s something I’ve known for a while, and has followed me through creative, professional, and personal work. I am unable to let go of Fenix Gear.

Story of my life.

Whether it’s writing, art, or just how I live my life, Fenix Gear is the barometer that I look to, imprinted on me as indelibly as the scar on Zoe’s face. And it goes deeper than you may think. It’s not just a comic or a series to me. Fenix Gear, for about a decade, was my one and everything. It was only after its first 5 issues were complete and I was able to focus on other things that I was able to step away from it, and its removal from my life was like getting divorced, but never quite getting over my ex. I was never able to fully step away, never able to escape it. It haunts me, sometimes even haunting Unlife. I’d even say FG speaks through me rather than me speaking on it’s behalf. It’s almost as if my conscious self doesn’t have a say in this project.

A while back, I was asked to try and get in touch with my inner child and, for the life of me, I couldn’t. The idea was that connecting with him would allow me to see what I really wanted. But the only thing I could locate was, unsurprisingly, Fenix Gear. Leylie had somehow taken on the avatar of my younger self, Zoe the stubborn, uncompromising heroism I believed in as a child and was devastated to find missing in the adult world, and Carolyn representing an incipient sexuality I was struggling to understand. A lot of who I am had become so messily intertwined with what I wanted that couldn’t untangle it all. For better or for worse, Fenix Gear can’t be gotten over because it is now one and the same as my inner… me, I guess.

I wonder if that’s bad or if it gives my inner self more form. Honestly, it has given the child inside me a much clearer voice. I understand what it wants. And with that knowledge, for the first time, I know how the series as a total would end. Maybe I’ll write it one day, the last Fenix Gear story. It is outlined. All that’s left is to write it…

But I struggle to start. Not because it’s too hard. Hell, it’s the clearest script I’ve ever imagined. Rather, because it still feels like a backwards step. It feels like a regression when I’m trying to grow past it. I don’t want to forget it, but I don’t want it to control my writing sensibilities. And who’s to say this ending I forsee is really the end? I may think of another. A continuation. Keep the ball in the air forever. And even if it was the actual end, can I really sacrifice more time when I am trying to move past it? When I want to be a greater writer and artist, how long can I swim in the seas of the past? All I know is that ignoring it isn’t working. Something has to give…

I thought, after writing this, I could put it out of my head for a bit. Instead, as I get off the train for work, I am taken past the F and the G trains. FG. Constantly around me.

Go figure.

The Denald

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/13/10132016-the-worst-house-guest/

The other night, I was about to head home I heard about the bombing in Chelsea. With information scarce, Twitter was the only news source that was updating rapidly, and it was there that I stumbled across a tweet that appeared to be from our potential next president. It read:

“A bomb went off in #Chelsea tonight. We have to get tough, vigilant & smart! Got to ban all Muslims immediately! Immediately! Immediately!”

It was a pretty fucked up thing to stumble across from someone who could be your future leader. I quickly screencapped the image to show to my friends. But when I returned to his twitter page to link directly to it, the tweet was gone.

It seemed clear: he’d deleted the tweet.

What followed for the next hour was a nervous panic. I was holding something I considered to be a lightning rod for an already frightening Presidential race. Though it had always seemed that this certain politician was untouchable, this was something so… well, deplorable… that even he was trying to get away from it. And now, a screencap sitting on my phone, I had been handed something whispered to me through Spider-Man comics for years. Great power. And with it came a great responsibility.

I won’t deny I sweated a bit. I knew if I tried to spread this image or repost it, it could bring unwanted attention into my life. The center of a political firestorm is the last place I want to be; the periphery is bad enough. I don’t want to spend my time battling a troll army over incriminating tweets and the fate of the country. I want peace and quiet to talk about zombie pugs.

Shaking, I finally posted it to my Facebook wall. I didn’t condemn anyone, just saying “This guy is running for president”. I was nervous. Would I get a cease and desist? Would it go viral? Nothing I’ve ever done had gone viral. What’s it like? How would I appear to the general public? A saint or a troublemaker? I considered walking it back, maybe asking my friends to be at the forefront instead of me. It felt too big and laden with issues that have nothing to do with me. Then again, I took the screenshot because the previous sentence is a fucking lie. Someone who wants to be my president, my representative in the world, presuming racism as a certainty, riling people up with hate and bigotry… that has everything to do with me. Ignoring it is just giving it my tacit approval. And trying to ignore it has gone a long way towards preserving the bigotry and resulting social fault lines that have fucked America so hard in the last few… months?

Years?

Since ever?

The idea that certain Americans, certain people of certain beliefs and backgrounds aren’t invited to the conversation because “we don’t like them” is an acceptable answer makes me absolutely sick. I have usually voted less in line with what will serve my interests best, financially or otherwise, and more in line with the kind of leader I want. With the person who I think best represents what this country should be about.. And if something like this was necessary to stop someone trying to lead the country in a direction that made me nauseous…

I washed my hands. The tweet was already being shared. It had begun. Whatever came next, I would be ready for it. And even if I wasn’t, I’d weather the storm.

But as it turned out, I wouldn’t have to.

Double checking my work was never my strong suit, even less so spelling. Not surprising, then, that after being shaken by the news of the explosion, I missed one critical detail. Below is the actual screencap:

 

2016-10-10

 

As it turns out, Denald Trump is not running for office. I removed the image, apologized for the misinformation, and that was the end of that adventure.

What’s weird is that I feel so betrayed by the whole experience. I got so caught up in the what could be that I missed what it was: just a parody account. It was race baiting at its finest, except this time the race was a political one. I wonder what would have happened if it was real. If it had gone viral. Did I overreact? Does it matter?

I don’t think so because I did my part. I shared the words I thought he said, and took them back when it turned out I was wrong. And sharing what you know – including any new information as it comes in – is you should do it. You should take responsibility for the things you believe are important, and if/when they are proven wrong, you should face it and try to learn.
Otherwise, you’re just lying to get attention. And isn’t that an awful thing to do?

A Right Lie

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/11/10112016-just-a-little-taste/

I think the only things trickier than learning a language is understanding the foundation that lies under each word. This can be said of writing, or even the stranger you made small talk with the other day. There’s genuine care, disinterest, maintenance, or practice. Even networking, my absolute favorite of them all.

There’s a position of honesty I like to take with friends. I want to be honest with everyone, but it’s not really possible. Between jobs and family, there are certain tightropes you just have to walk. Friends are different, letting you put the weights down, hopefully, and be your authentic self. But even with friends, now and again, you have to bend that rule when a white lie is more fitting than the truth. Actually, not a white lie so much as a coded message. A dare to see between the words and discover what’s really being said.

We all have that friend in the bad relationship. You try to be supportive, knowing all the while that if they want to be released from the chains that bind them, they should stop running away from everyone with a key. Miserable as they are, they’re the ones who forged the chains to begin with, and you’ll never convince them that they were a bad idea. They have to figure it out on their own. But in the meantime, I send my coded messages and hope they’ll understand.

“Listen to your heart.”

“Is this really making you happy?”

“You should do right by you.”

What I’m really doing, though, is saying:

“You know you want to leave. You bring this up to me over and over and you want me to say it. Do I just say it? Well I’m not gonna because I’m not taking the weight of responsibility in this from you. Look, this clearly does not make you happy because you never have a positive thing to say about this relationship. So stop wasting their time and yours and fucking go.”

Something like that, right?

But I can’t say that! There are few quicker ways to make a friend shut down completely. And do I really need to put the weight of their happiness on my shoulders? If I steer them wrong, if they hold me in that regard, could I possibly live up to my own hype? Wouldn’t it be great if this wasn’t necessary? To have to pierce the veil of what it means? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if a word could just be a word, and we say what we mean?

But maybe that’s why I like writing these blogs. Because I can just say what I mean. But I do like lying now and then and, well… I wonder if that’s where Unlife comes from.

Maybe it should be called a Right Lie.

Just Kidding You

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/06/10062016-falling-in-love/

One of my jobs involves working with children, and I was once prompted by them about how old I was. Some guessed 17; others guessed that I was closer to 40. The thing is, though I am nearly 31, a part of me still sees myself as 11. And I don’t have the mental wherewithal to ever consider myself the oldest in the room – even when I am.

I enjoy working with kids. I’m really supposed to be taking care of them, but it honestly feels more like I’m being paid to play. It’s been eye opening, moving from the adult world into thinking like a kid does for eight hours. And it’s not like I’m trying. It just feels like a suit that somehow still fits after 20+ years at the back of my closet. And more than that, the job has inspired me to write – and the stories it’s inspired have been ignited by the sparks of adventure and imagination that were so familiar at that age, rather than the sometimes painful working through of problems that writing as an adult can be.

Lately, I’ve considered using an Unlife chapter to do something in the former vein. A world martial arts tournament. A zombie apocalypse chapter. Unlife – Dark Souls Universe. There are so many options available. I may step away from what it means for James to be a man so I can be a boy for a bit. I guess that’s why I haven’t done it before now; Unlife is about growing up, and to live in the realm of fantasy and cartoons is intrinsically child-like…

Right?

I mean, that’s what I’ve told myself all this time, and yet, now I have a job doing just that… so was I wrong?

I have Mica call James “kid” because it fits with how she sees him and how he can sometimes see himself; a boy wandering into his father’s closet for a tie so that people will think he’s a man. But what makes you a man? Opening a business? Giving back to the community? Falling in love? Simply aging? Or is it just a construct? We all choose our definitions, and they’re all arbitrary; the answer is much more ineffable in nature.

The thing is, at 12, 30, and probably 100, I have loved and will love cartoons and adventures, video games and comics, and everything that makes me… me, I guess. What makes me happy. These things fill me with both glee and a sense of contentment. I smile, my mind is clear, and I feel at ease because I’m being honest with the people around me and with myself. In enjoying them openly, I’m no longer trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. No longer trying to hide the fact that I’m still a child and fooled you all.

Did I fool you? Did I ever fool those kids? I guess it doesn’t matter if I did. I’m tired of trying to fool people…

Look forward to the coming interlude by the way. It’s gonna be a scream.

Single Player is a Multiplayer Activity in My House

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/10/04/1042016-opening-that-door/

The other night, Jena and I held each other, something amiss, though for the life of us, we couldn’t identify what. Who would have thought, days later, that the answer would be video games?

Our lives have been somewhat “different” lately. I’ve acquired a slew of part time and freelance jobs that now take up most of my time, my house-husbanding taking its first backseat in… well, ever. Jena is also busy at work, and upon arriving home every night, spends hours studying for the GREs, preparing for her future. And on top of all this… is something I’ll get into in a future blog post. For now, let’s say that we’re in the middle of a diet, the most difficult I have ever experienced in my life, and the phantoms of what we had been needing have never made us feel farther apart.

So we started falling into a routine when the dust of the day settled. I would play Overwatch with friends while she read. Before, video games were a solo activity for me. Or at least, a solo activity I shared with Jena. Overwatch, a game based on teamwork with friends, is a very different experience for me. As a game that’s reliant on interactions with others, it has done wonders for my neuroses when it comes to working with others. I credit a lot of my ability to work in a team in my new job to my practice with Overwatch. It has been a hugely positive experience in my gaming life.

And yet, playing it had created a rift because of how foreign this kind of gaming was to the connection Jena and I shared.

Jena had always been reading or playing her own games as I played mine, but she often found the soundtrack to that time being my solo-play experiences. I may have been playing alone, but we still played together. I was not on my headset interacting with others, but just her, watching over my shoulder and pointing out things I missed or cheering me on at the destruction of another obstacle in my way. And it was a norm. It was a comforting escape that wasn’t sex; it gave our life a normalcy. Everything else in the world could wait because we were on our own satellite of fantasy, orbiting, but still off planet. It’s hard to go back sometimes, with our other priorities pulling at us. Not to mention, with the allure of Overwatch being my flavor of the month(s) in gaming, our private satellite has had maybe a few too many visitors.

Still, the other night, Battle.net was down for maintenance and the two of us were too fried from our own responsibilities to pick something to do, even cooking dinner. Instead, we tried out the new PS+ games. And I do mean we, as I forced Jena to play Badlands, a game featuring an adorable set of silhouettes dying repeatedly. It was a somewhat challenging co-op for her, but her previous Bloodborne training had paid off, and after a few hours of that and Lords of the Fallen (or as I’m going to call it, Dumb Souls), we felt a return to normalcy. The thing that has been shockingly absent for some time now. Maybe since… I can’t even remember. Maybe since Overwatch came out, actually. But it was a return to our private sanctum, as if we never left, that made the world feel less scary for a moment. It was just normal. Our normal.

Tonight will probably see a return to Overwatch, especially with Jena studying late (or maybe not; L’Shana Tova, everyone). I wish I could cheer her on as she studied, but my racket is more distracting than not, so I will keep my comments to the headset. But I think I will try to give Overwtach a more background placement to the foreground of my game playing. Especially with us now full steam ahead on Badlands, I think a normality, even when we haven’t been actively craving it, would be good from now on. A sense of return. Because sometimes, playing alone is the only way we feel like we’re together, and when we play with others, we’re apart.

And at the end of the day, I’d rather feel that even if I have to go it alone, I have someone behind me cheering me on.