Jedidiah Jenkins

By: Thomas Belskie
October 16, 2017

If there’s one person out there right now who inspires me more than anyone else, its Jedidiah Jenkins. He’s inspiring not just as a writer (he’s an incredible writer), but as a person. A few years ago Jedidiah quit his job and decided to ride his bike all the way from Oregon to Patagonia and write a book about it, which is insane. But his reasoning for doing so was anything but insane. Listening to him talk about why he did decide to do it makes all the sense in the world to me. I’ve never heard a more eloquent perspective on living and what it means to be alive:

I want to be aware of every day I’m alive and I want to make it to 85 and be exhausted because I have been alive and awake every, single day. I think that’s the duty of being an adult. When you’re a kid, everything is new, so you don’t have to work for it, you’re just astonished by it. Once you’re an adult, that’s a choice. You choose adventure for your own life. But it’s not about the bike. It’s about getting out of your routine and that could look like anything. And that’s what I’m doing here, that’s why I’m doing this bike trip. Because I don’t want my days to control me. I don’t want my life — the calendar to be my boss. I want to control my days. I want to choose the adventures that I go on and I want to choose a mind and a soul that’s wide awake because, in a sense, it turns your 100 years on this planet into 1000. And so, I mean, that’s why I’m doing this bike trip.”

One of the most insightful things Jedidiah says in the short video about his trip is that, “the routine is the enemy of time. It makes it fly by. When you’re a kid, everything is astonishing. Everything is new, and so your brain is awake and turned on. So every passing second your brain is learning something new, learning how the world works, and so the muscle of your brain is activated. And as you get older and your brain has figured out the patterns of the way the world works, ‘this is how you make money, this is how you graduate school, this is how you get a mortgage, this is how you have kids — I’ve got that on lockdown. I know my car, I know how to go to work every day, I know how to check out,’ all these things. And once your brain establishes a routine, it stops — the alertness goes away — the fascination with the way the world works.”

I feel like I am at about that same point in my life as Jedidiah was when he had that realization. I think that’s why his story resonates so much with me. I’m realizing my 30’s are rapidly approaching and the idea of settling into a routine for the next several decades scares the shit out of me. It scares me enough that I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to take a path that lets me avoid having the coming decades whiz past me only to wake up one day an old man who just never took a shot.

A few months ago I was thinking about going back to school to get an M.B.A. and in a temporary bout of insanity, I even took some classes. Thankfully I snapped out of it.

He wrote a book about the experience and his Instagram┬ábio says “My book comes out 2018” So, I hope that means early 2018. I can’t wait to read it, but in the meantime, I’d urge everyone to check him out on Instagram and read his posts. I don’t think anyone does it better than him.

‘Mercy, Will We Overcome This?’

October 3, 2017
By: Thomas Belskie

I keep seeing a lot of reactions to the horrible, horrible mass shooting event that occurred in Las Vegas and I see a lot of prayers going out, a lot of people calling on God or Jesus. They’re nice sentiments, but I think we need to wake up to what’s actually true.

Praying won’t do anything. The world has needed Jesus and/or God for a long time and let me tell you something, they ain’t coming. That much is clear. If they exist at all, they’ve been asleep at the wheel for quite some time. No diety is coming to save us from ourselves. I understand the impulse, but no one is coming to the rescue. It’s just us.

It’s pretty horrific and uncomfortable to confront the fact that life is so mercilessly random. To think that someone has a plan, that someone is in control and that everything happens for a reason provides a refuge from that discomfort. So like I said, I can understand the impulse to tell ourselves stories to make sense of it all. But we need to stop. We need to realize that we’re the only ones who can fix this.

I try to subsist on a low-information diet as much as I can. I bury my head in the sand because if I don’t do that I fear I’ll fall into a deep pit of despair. But eventually, I need to breathe and so I take my head out of the sand. And every time I come up for air, things seem to get worse. I’m a relentlessly positive person, for the most part, I believe in human beings capacity for change and transformation. So I always have hope. But lately, I can’t seem to escape this sinking feeling that eventually, human intelligence will indeed prove to be a “deadly mutation.”

For a few seconds just contemplate the fact that we have a very large amount of people in this country who passionately and with great enthusiasm, lobby for the right to produce and carry weapons that were designed for war, or put another way, weapons that were designed for the explicit purpose of killing humans. In fact, in their fantasy we would have more guns on the streets, more individuals armed and carrying concealed weapons. I don’t want to mince words, you’d have to be mentally deranged and/or totally f***ing stupid to think that scenario makes us safer.

Also, contemplate that we know climate change is happening. We know it’s not good. But here, in this country, we celebrate and promote ignorance and a disdain for intellect along with a brazen disrespect for science. We’re not going to do anything about it, and we’re going to break our arms as we pat ourselves on the back celebrating American exceptionalism.

Lastly, contemplate the thousands of nuclear weapons spread out across the globe. Yes, thousands. A handful would surely bring the planet to its knees and yet we have nearly fifteen thousand throughout the world. When I look at all this along with the sharp divide, not just at home, but all over the planet, when I see the roots of discontent taking such a strong hold everywhere and I think about these things rising to a fever pitch…it’s hard to believe in any god.

This is on us. We’re the only ones who can provide the solutions we so desperately need.

Some Thoughts About the Pro-Life Movement

September 21, 2017
By: Thomas Belskie

There’s a lot of hot-button, political issues where I just can’t understand or wrap my head around why people feel the way they do. I stare at them in disbelief or curse their stupidity under my breath as my insides slowly boil with rage when I listen to them espouse their backward, irrational, and often what I would consider, dangerous, beliefs.

But there is one issue where I can understand the other side. Pro-lifers, while I personally may not agree with them, I get where they’re coming from. I can wrap my head around that. I mean, who would want to kill babies? You’d have to be a sick person to want that, right? I have no problem wrapping my head around the impetus to want to protect the unborn.

Unfortunately, that’s where my understanding stops. I’d have a lot more respect and might even agree with the Pro-Life movement if they didn’t so strongly align themselves with one party because of this one issue.

If you want to tout yourself as pro-life, fine. But it is the height of hypocrisy to vote for candidates who want to eviscerate the “welfare state,” after-school programs, gut funding for public education, and destroy teachers unions among many other policies that would have disastrous impacts on poor and underprivileged children.

I heard a joke, shortly after the “president” unveiled his proposed budget plan that went something like, ‘how do you get Republicans to care about kids?’ The punchline, while funny, was also sickeningly true: ‘you jam them back in the fetuses.’

I don’t want to attack anyone here, but rather implore the Pro-Life movement to consider the bigger picture. Give these unborn children you are fighting so hard to save a real shot when they come into the world. If you’re pro-life, you should be for all life. You should demand that your party do more.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the anecdotal Fox News report about some women who receive eleven welfare checks every month and hasn’t looked for a job in years and is just totally scamming the government. It probably makes you mad, but it’s small potatoes. The overwhelming majority of people who benefit from social welfare programs are children.

Don’t just fight for them to be born, keep fighting for them long after that. It’s the only way you can possibly stay morally consistent. I can respect moral consistency.

 

9/11 Anniversary

September 11, 2017
By: Thomas Belskie

It’s amazing that it’s been 16 years since September 11, 2001. I still remember my 7th-grade teacher reading the memo aloud to the class and switching on the news. I remember not knowing what the World Trade Center was. It was confusing and pretty terrifying.

It was a big moment in this country’s history. In many ways it sent us down this path we’re on now. The country was united for a brief time, but there was a lot of fear.

People took advantage of that fear. Slowly chipping away at civil liberties and freedoms, using that fear to divide us. We’re more divided now than ever before.

9/11 was a terrible, unimaginable tragedy. But the response from ordinary citizens in the immediate aftermath and the days and weeks that followed was one of Americas finest accomplishments.

There haven’t been many fine accomplishments recently, if at all. Let’s get back to looking after one another and caring about what happens to each other. 9/11 was a wake-up call and it brought us all together. Let’s remember that togetherness and how strong it made us. It shouldn’t take another event like that to unite us.

First Novel Update

As none of you know (because no one reads this blog, yet), I’m working on my first novel. This will be my first “update” about it and my progress.┬áThe working title is “Breaking Free,” it will probably be told entirely from the second person point of view, and I’m approximately 5,000 words in.

I don’t know exactly what it’s about yet, but I have a good idea where it’s heading. My goal is to have it finished by January 2018. It’s probably going to be on the short side as far as novels go, maybe between 50,000 and 75,000 words.

From what I’m told and read, writing an entire novel in the second person is a horrible mistake, but I don’t care. One, because I’m a badass and it’ll be great anyway and two, because who cares? I’ll be lucky if five people who aren’t my friends or related to me read it anyway so I’m just going to go for it.

The Courage to Write Badly

By: Thomas Belskie
August 2, 2017

Have you ever googled “how to write?” It’s OK, I have. I’ve done it more than once. After you lose that initial enthusiasm that propels you forward on a new project, it can be very difficult to force yourself to keep going. You get stuck. You abandon the project. You do things like google “writer’s block,” or “writing advice.” You do anything and everything besides actually writing.

Now that I’m a slightly older writer, I am at least able to recognize the points at which this phenomenon is occurring. I still suck at pushing through it, but at least now I can see it coming.

It reminds me of when I played soccer in high school. During conditioning we were required to run miles upon miles upon miles, or so it seemed and I was always one of the slowest times. I was quick in short bursts, but I didn’t seem to have the stamina. The truth is, I did have the stamina. I was just immature. I gave up too easily and I didn’t push myself.

Today, I am undoubtedly in worse shape and have less energy than my 17 year old self. But I can run those miles in a faster time than I could back then. The reason is because I’m able to recognize that point where I need to keep pushing. I know that there’s always more left in the tank even when it feels like there isn’t.

Sure, now I have less time than I did when I was younger, but I’m getting more done on a daily basis because I know the only way to keep producing and to finish projects is to push through that wall.

That wall is the fear of writing badly. Writing badly means your not a good writer. It means you’ll never make it. It means your a failure. It means your family and friends will laugh at you. The people who told you that you couldn’t make it will smugly tell you that they told you so. Right?

Wrong. That’s not what will happen. Not even close. There’s probably dozens or maybe even hundreds of quotes attributed to Ernest Hemingway and other famous writers about how terrible first drafts always are, the importance of rewriting and editing your work over and over again, and the amount of shitty writing that is almost a prerequisite to ever producing anything of any merit.

Every writer must have the courage to press on, the courage to write badly. Its the only way to finish anything. Its the only way to get anywhere. No one sits at a keyboard and just writes a perfect novel or screenplay or any kind of creative story. It doesn’t happen. Some people do it quicker than others, but its a struggle for everyone. Reminding myself of that every now and again provides a great deal of comfort.