The Perks of Being an Internet Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Poster

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“CHARLIE (V.O.) Dear Friend, I’m sorry I haven’t written for awhile, but I’ve been trying hard not to be a loser.”

~Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Well, that was my goal anyway. In truth, after shyly launching my corner of the web to remarkably little fanfare in October, I developed a nasty case of what I can only describe as postpartum depression.

(What’s the writer’s Latin equivalent? Post-literatura? Post-scribum? Post-bloggum? Never mind.)

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Brian? Postpartum depression?!?” you ask. “Are you Not a Man as well?” That’s a legitimate question, and one I asked myself when wracking my brain to come up with a different analogy. Hell, I came up with a number of  increasingly implausible excuses why I wasn’t writing anything for public consumption. For instance:

  • I reasoned that since I was making a concerted effort towards making sure my family had everything they needed at the end of their day, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t taking care of my own needs/wants.
  • I was too emotionally drained after working at my other job to think about writing when I got home.
  • I hadn’t gotten everything on this site exactly the way I wanted it, and needed to prepare more.
  • I had a ton of brilliant ideas, but they’d already been explored by people wiser/more talented/more experienced/etc. than me.
  • I was so disgusted by the negativity spewed from every corner of the political and social spectrum in the final three weeks leading up to the November elections, that I couldn’t write anything that didn’t feel forced and inauthentic.
  • I had been abducted by insidious, seven-and-a-half foot tall aliens with the strength of silverback gorillas and the IQ of Stephen Hawking, but thanks to a moment of prideful carelessness by my captors, I was able to escape with no memory of the incident…UNTIL NOW! (Wait…that’s the plot of Cowboys & Aliens. Sorry!)

All of those excuses sound good but aren’t the truth, unfortunately. Those little guilt-assuaging sentences above punctuated the passive-aggressive manner I’d been living prior to launching this site. I was backsliding into habits I desperately wanted to break free of, but didn’t quite know where to begin. It wasn’t until I was able to slip the surly bonds of humdrum suburban living for an evening on the town two Saturdays ago that I received a refresher course in remarkable screenwriting. Since watching the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower over the summer, both my fiery ginger bride and I had breathlessly awaited the opportunity to see the film.

Starring Logan Lerman as the titular wallflower, Charlie, Perks tells the tale of an introverted high school freshman taken under the wings of two seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Klein). Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania over the course of the 1990-91 school year, this endearing coming-of-age film chronicles Charlie’s coping with the suicide of his best friend before the start of the school year, dealing with his first real love, and struggling with his own mental illness while seeking his place in a group with whom he genuinely belongs. It’s a fantastic body of work by some terrifically talented young actors, and the screenplay is one of the best I’ve read in a while.

While watching the story unfold, I couldn’t help but compare Charlie’s experiences to my own. This summer, I dove headfirst into icy, unfamiliar waters firmly outside of my comfort zone, and signed up for Ashley Ambirge’s inaugural copywriting workshop over at The Middle Finger Project (scroll down to the bottom of the page for my direct affiliate link to all her F-bomb-infused goodness.) I was terrified at the start of class when I realized I hadn’t written creatively in over a decade, so Charlie’s first-day jitters immediately struck home. Over the course of the next two months, I met online at least once every week with extraordinary people who continue to inspire me to this day. Like Sam and Patrick did with Charlie, Ash took a group of people with vastly different backgrounds and created a safe community for us all to learn, laugh, and collaborate. Near the end of the course, I shared that, for the first time in years, I felt I’d found my tribe.

The smell of buttery-fresh popcorn filled my nostrils as I sunk into my plush leather seat. As the credits were rolling, I contemplated how invigorated I felt. I realized that by watching Charlie grow from introverted wallflower freshman to confident, healthy sophomore, I had inadvertently injected a healthy dose of optimism that had been missing in my life since the workshop wrapped. You see, while I was excited to discover what my future held, I had been overwhelmed by the knowledge that I wouldn’t have weekly audio interaction with my new friends. Sure, we continue to communicate via Twitter and Facebook, but Ash’s digital recreation of a brick and mortar classroom had ended as surely as Sam and Patrick’s senior year.

Recognition dawned with the brightening Italian sconces in the dimly lit theater.  Whether wandering through the halls of high school on the path to adulthood, or rediscovering the idealism and energy of our youth in a cross-cultural internet classroom, it’s about the people we share our journey with that makes our lives worth living.  Charlie reminds us,

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

As my bride and I opened the door of the theater, we were greeted by a blast of frigid Arctic air and gently falling snow.  Eyes closed, I looked into the night sky, enjoying the tingle of the flakes instantly melting on my  skin.  In this moment, I was ALIVE.

As I slipped the key into the ignition, I thought with a grin, “I DESERVE to feel this way every day of my life.  It’s time to take the steps to make it happen.”

Time to get off the wall and participate.  Why don’t you join me?

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On zombies and growing old before your time

Photo courtesy KT Imagery 9/23/2012

Do you ever get the feeling that your life is incomplete? Despite making the right choices in the eyes of your friends and family, do you find yourself shuffling listlessly through your days, bemoaning your humdrum existence, and wishing like hell you could find something, ANYTHING, to make you feel ALIVE again?

Stop nodding so hard–you’ll give yourself whiplash.   Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Brian, and up until very recently, I was a zombie. No, not in The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, “I’m going to eat your BRAIIINS!” sense, (photographic evidence to the contrary be damned) but I certainly wasn’t LIVING.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somewhere between college and complacency, I made a wrong turn.  Without fully realizing it, I had become one of Teddy Roosevelt’s “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been exceptionally blessed. I’m married to an incredible, beautiful woman who still makes my heart pound harder than a jackhammer whenever she walks into the room. I’m father to a delightful son who is as whip-smart as he is compassionate and funny. I own a gorgeous home in a safe neighborhood that, thanks to a steady day job, I’m in no danger of losing.  I’m living the American dream, so why in the blue fuck aren’t I happier?

The answer came to me in an inspired performance by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs on Live on Letterman in May, 2011.  If you’re a fan of Ray’s raspy, soulful voice, or just folk and blues in general, you’ll love this:

One verse in particular hit me in the jaw with a crowbar:

It’s not living that you’re doing if it feels like dying.

In that instant, every late-night conversation, every heart-stopping scene, every melancholy verse I’d ever seen or heard converged in my mind, a cacaphony of carpe diem.  I had no earthly idea what my life’s purpose was, but I knew the path I was travelling on was taking me further away with each step.

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Like Ray tells us, “There’s nothing in the world so sad as talking to a man./Never knew his life was his for making.”  I’d been so busy making a living that I’d forgotten how to live. I’d awakened from my zombielike trance, and no matter how uncomfortable the truth staring at me felt, I couldn’t allow myself to descend back into that inky darkness.

No more lying to myself.

No more excuses.

No more letting life slip away.

NO MORE.

What will you do today?