Track by Track: reputation by Taylor Swift (for fans only)

 

 

Everyone interacts with the media they consume in a different way. This is my interpretation of what this album means to me. A few places I’ll reference specific verses from AZ Lyrics as needed. I’m trying to make this a lyrical analysis in the vein of literary analysis.

1.) …Ready For It?

 

Spotify

 

Seems good for a starting track, but that’s obvious. I think this track says that we are made for each other. In every situation they complement each other.

 

“But if he’s a ghost then I can be a phantom”

“Knew I was a robber/…/But if I’m a thief then/He can join the heist”

“And he can be my jailer/Burton to this Taylor”

 

Researching Burton and Taylor says they are the acting duo of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. No idea of the reference before.

 

Isn’t that the ideal relationship we all start out looking for? It’s something I wish for quite frequently and don’t we all at some point.

 

Message:

Sometimes people match up perfectly, but usually the relationship changes the partners to get that perfect match.

 

2.) Endgame (Feat. FUTURE and Ed Sheeran)

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This song combines rapping and singing. A lot of songs these days have that combination. It packs more details into the particular song. Basically, every song on this album has quick sung or spoken statements like this. It’s of note here because the first time I ever heard this enter pop was in a Dido album for 2015, then Bad Blood (Feat. Kendrick Lamar), and then on Ed Sheeran’s albums from + onward. And that’s a trend all over Pop and everything I listen to. I’m a fan of a lot of alternative pop, Halsey, Lana Del Rey, and others.

 

The song says I want to be someone you can always rely on.

 

“I wanna be your end game/I wanna be your first string/I wanna be your A-Team/I wanna be your end game”

 

By the way, Ed Sheeran has a song titled A-Team.

 

End Game is about two guys courting Taylor. Taylor wants to forget about everything except being in love.

 

First FUTURE says:

“You so dope, don’t overdose/I’m so stoked, I need a toast”

“You love it, I love it, too, ’cause you my type”

 

Taylor says:

“I just wanna be/Drinking on a beach with you all over me”

 

Ed Sheeran says:

“Now well, when I was young, we connected/When we were little bit older, both sprung”

“After the storm, something was born on the 4th of July/I’ve passed days without fun, this end game is the one/With four words on the tip of my tongue, I’ll never say it”

 

The argument is history vs. new and flashy. Both are appealing in different ways, but love is still there no matter how it ends.

 

Every friendship is different. Sometimes everything clicks and sometimes you don’t know what’s going on, because everything is so restrained. And depending upon how much both sides want it to work it works or doesn’t. That’s not the same as love. Endgame makes me think of friendship though.

 

Message:

It doesn’t matter what everyone thinks, but the person there with you at the end matters.

 

3.) I Did Something Bad

Spotify

 

Confession: this is my favorite song on here.

 

This song sounds like a whispered confession to me.

 

The verses are about two relationships that she knew wouldn’t last. But still it worked at first and failed later on. I’ll ignore the news postulating the truth behind the lyrics. Digging too deep into the real lives of famous people disappoints me too frequently for it to be very worthwhile. I’ve read the news a little about the Famous scandal, Tom Hiddleston, Joe Alwyn, and Nicki Minaj. But that’s about it.

 

A relationship with a narcissist is destined to fail.

“I never trust a narcissist, but they love me”

 

And it won’t work.

“I can feel the flames on my skin/Crimson red paint on my lips/If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing/I don’t regret it one bit, ’cause he had it coming”

 

And having a relationship with a playboy is doomed to fail.

“I never trust a playboy, but they love me”

“You gotta leave before you get left’”

 

A playboy goes through relationships like clothes. Each partner is used and put away for greener pastures with another partner. And the cycle continues. Then throwing names sometimes help.

“But if he drops my name, then I owe him nothin’”

 

There’s a reference to witch trials.

“They’re burning all the witches”

I was watching a video about the witch trials on OZY. Apparently a majority of woman prosecuted were widows that inherited property. And that seems what this is alluding to. Wealth makes you a target.

 

The chorus is a few repeating lines:

“They say I did something bad/Then why’s it feel so good?”

 

That line really puzzled me. According to this avowed Pentecost I talk to, bad things feel good because humans are corrupted all the way through. I dismissed that off-hand. Then maybe the outside appearance of doing bad and everyone outside the situation isn’t entitled to an opinion. That’s my interpretation of what this means.

 

Message:

People can twist things around to make you the bad guy, but that alone can’t make you a bad person.

 

4.) Don’t Blame Me

Spotify

 

This song sounds different than everything else on the album.

 

It’s a few layers of Taylor’s voice through the chorus. I heard something like this in an older Halsey song, Empty Gold and another from Badlands: New Americana.

 

It sounds like a gospel you would hear from a church choir.

 

Love is equated to a drug, madness, and a lifetime addiction.

“Don’t blame me, love made me crazy/If it doesn’t, you ain’t doing it right/Lord, save me, my drug is my baby/I’ll be using for the rest of my life”

 

I agree with those associations, and they aren’t new. Love feels good. And the connection makes people seek out love. And loving someone isn’t sane, omitting the wide acceptability of love. Fear of giving another person so much power to hurt you has a widely recognized name “fear of commitment”. And people look for love all their days, if a few things haven’t gone wrong.

 

This song is about the search for love. And that’s basically life. That’s why so much media out there is about finding love, holding on to love, and finding peace after love is gone.

 

One line was interesting.

“I once was poison ivy, but now I’m your daisy”

 

I think that’s about how before everything looked horrible, and now she’s happy and in love.

 

Message:

Love is something we will always need, and pursuing it isn’t a crime.

 

5.) Delicate

Spotify

 

This song uses a whispery voice to differentiate thoughts from what’s going on outside.

 

It starts with wondering if everything is alright.

“Dive bar on the east side, where you at?”

 

Then later everything is going fine.

“Long night, with your hands up in my hair/…/Stay here, honey, I don’t wanna share”

 

The chorus is the most telling.

“Is it cool that I said all that?/Is it chill that you’re in my head?/’Cause I know that it’s delicate (delicate)/…/Is it too soon to do this yet?”

 

That asks if it’s too soon for me talk about this. Do I feel closer to you than you feel to me?

 

That’s frequently my experience with friendship. I’m an oversharer. And sometimes that tanks a friendship before it’s actually a friendship. Blogging is the perfect way to overshare, hence this blogging journey I’m on. I’m tangled up in anxiety deciding what to share. Is this too much too soon? And when’s the right time? How will I know?

 

Message:

Relationships will always be complicated, but that’s one of the things that make a relationship work, that back and forth.

 

6.) Look What You Made Me Do

Spotify

 

This song paints a clear picture in my head of a Whodunit stage play. The victim is the lyrics of Famous. And possible perpetrators standing around, Kim, Kanye, and Taylor.

“Don’t like your tilted stage/The role you made me play”

“You said the gun was mine”

 

Then it goes on a little about betrayal and reversals of fortune.

“I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams”

That line implies that Taylor isn’t the party at fault. Everyone is casting her as an actress playing the villain.

 

“The world moves on, another day, another drama, drama/But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma”

The rhyming of drama and karma really impressed me at first but a few other words rhyme with drama. Pharma, parma, Dharma, and diorama.

 

The chorus is odd if you watch the music video.

“Look what you made me do”

That’s basically the justification people use when the do something they question inside. But the music video is about her rebirth as a new character for the media. That doesn’t really feel evil. It feels weak. The events didn’t cause the transformation but coincided. It feels like a woman balancing between being weak and being bitchy. That bugs me, but still I fall to that position as a gut reaction. I think most people feel that gut reaction, but it’s more important what we do after.

 

Message:

Sometimes things are meant to be a certain way, and nothing can change destiny.

 

7.) So It Goes…

Spotify

 

This song is about the duality of life. Everything can go both ways. That happens again and again.

“Cut me into pieces/Gold cage, hostage to my feelings/Back against the wall/Trippin’, trip, trippin’ when you’re gone”

When we’re together, I feel trapped. When you leave, I can’t handle it.

 

“‘Cause we break down a little/And when you get me alone, it’s so simple”

When we’re apart, the problems arise. But together everything fades away.

 

“And our pieces fall/Right into place/Get caught up in the moments/Lipstick on your face”

Everything should be perfect. but life isn’t that neat. Nothing can be.

 

“I’m yours to keep/And I’m yours to lose”

Anything can happen. Win or lose is life. That’s how things go. So It Goes…

 

“You know I’m not a bad girl, but I/Do bad things with you”

Again that duality. With you I’m a different person.

 

“Come here, dressed in black now”

“Scratches down your back now”

Everything started great, but everything is different now. And we can’t go back.

 

“But, honestly, baby, who’s counting?/Who’s counting?/1, 2, 3”

I’m trying to forget our troubles, but that’s just not possible.

 

This is something that happens to me. Everything has two emotional routes in your reaction. Positive and negative. Love and fear of rejection. Jealousy and happiness. Anger and sadness. Boredom and self-loathing. Laughter and embarrassment. Everything has that duality. That’s why stories like Mr. Hyde/Dr. Jekyll, Dorian Grey, and superheroes work so well.

 

Message:

Life happens, and the outcomes can’t be changed too much.

 

8.) Gorgeous

Spotify

 

This song didn’t make sense for a long time before I read the dedication in the Taylor Swift Target Exclusive Magazine Volume 1. It’s written for a baby. That explains a few things. And the writer’s want to make it possible that the song is about an adult I think. That’s a really far stretch though.

 

“That I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk.”

Because isn’t that what we do when we imitate baby talk.

 

“You should think about the consequence/Of your magnetic field being a little too strong.”

Aren’t we all drawn to the cuteness of babies?

 

“And I got a boyfriend, he’s older than us”

But isn’t that something you could hypothetically say to a baby when talking about an older person.

 

“You’re so cool, it makes me hate you so much”

This sounds a lot like that phrase “something makes my face as smooth as a baby’s bottom”. Those anti-aging commercials make me feel like they speak to the jealousy and slight anger that the young are young. And that’s a far stretch too.

 

“You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine”

That reminds me of the joke some people used to make about children: You’re so adorable, I wouldn’t mind taking you home with me.

 

”’Cause look at your face”

That really doesn’t mean a thing unless that face is a universal symbol of cuteness, or being gorgeous. Because people can be pretty in different ways.

 

“That I’m talking to everyone here but you”

That seems like something you would say to a baby, right?

 

“If you got a girlfriend, I’m jealous of her/But if you’re single that’s honestly worse”

Isn’t that another joke people make? A baby having the responsibilities of an adult. Like a job. Maybe a girlfriend. That’s basically the premise of Boss Baby.

 

“Ocean blue eyes looking in mine/I feel like I might sink and drown and die”

This probably speaks to how baby blue eyes are much brighter than the adult version. And babies stare into your eyes with unrivaled intensity because they’re studying you.

 

I have sometimes experienced this jealousy for a baby with it’s whole life ahead and all the open possibilities. And sometimes a wish that things could’ve been different when I was younger. Basically that’s the question “would you like a do-over? Would you do the same things again?”

 

Message:

Jealousy clouds every interaction with fog.

 

9.) Getaway Car

Spotify

 

The third best song on the album.

 

The sound is really cinematic.

 

I think it’s about cheating to get away from a relationship.

“I wanted to leave him/I needed a reason”

 

“Think about the place where you first met me/We’re ridin’ in a getaway car”

Meeting someone in a getaway car is impossible, so that must be a metaphor for something else right? A getaway car takes you away from a bad situation or something that doesn’t work.

 

“X marks the spot, where we fell apart/He poisoned the well, I was lyin’ to myself”

That old relationship would never work, but I convinced myself it would.

 

“There were sirens in the beat of your heart”

Being with this new guy makes me feel guilty.

 

“We were jet-set, Bonnie and Clyde/Until I switched to the other side”

Defection back to the lover that she was getting away from. She confessed and ended both relationships.

 

Sometimes I need a break from my life. I find that in the pages of a book I’m reading, a story I’ve written, or mediation.

 

Message:

Things aren’t neat and tidy as we would like, but in the end everything works out fine.

 

10.) King of My Heart

Spotify

 

“you are the one I have been waiting for”

She found the love that has been alluding her.

 

At first everything seems fine being single.

“I’m better off being alone “

 

Then it happens.

“We met a few weeks ago”

 

“And you move to me like I’m a Motown beat/And we rule the kingdom inside my room”

We are perfect together when we’re alone. And what everyone else thinks doesn’t matter.

 

It doesn’t matter that the guy isn’t rich, but they are great together.

“‘Cause all the boys and their expensive cars/…/Never took me quite where you do”

 

“Your love is a secret I’m hoping, dreaming, dying to keep”

Again everything is great in private, but sharing will ruin things a little bit.

 

“Change my priorities/The taste of your lips is my idea of luxury”

Love is so important that it changes priorities.

 

“Is this the end of all the endings?/My broken bones are mending/With all these nights we’re spending”

Are you the one? Being with you feels good enough to heal me from everything that happened before with love.

 

For me, finding love has been dream that may never be realized, and that fact makes me a little sad. But that’s I choice I’ve made long ago, not to try given my status quo.

 

Message:

Love changes you.

 

11.) Dancing with Our Hands Tied

Spotify

 

Second best song of this album.

 

Love between her and someone else that remained her secret.

“I, I loved you in secret”

 

“My, my love had been frozen/Deep blue, but you painted me golden”

She’d wilted from love, and his love made her capable of love again.

 

“I could’ve spent forever with your hands in my pockets/Picture of your face in an invisible locket”

The way she loved him meant she was okay with loving him and keeping it her personal secret.

 

“You said there was nothing in the world that could stop it/I had a bad feeling”

He’s in love with her, but she didn’t think it would work out.

 

“And darling, you had turned my bed into a sacred oasis/People started talking, putting us through our paces/I knew there was no one in the world who could take it”

They were together, then people started to find out. That pulled them apart.

 

“But we were dancing/Dancing with our hands tied”

They can still spend time together, but not together like we were.

 

“I, I loved you in spite of/Deep fears that the world would divide us/So, baby, can we dance/Oh, through an avalanche?”

She still loves him. Can they be together again? At least they’ll have this. She would do anything to have this.

 

”And say, say that we got it/I’m a mess, but I’m the mess that you wanted/Oh, ’cause it’s gravity Oh, keeping you with me”

Everyone still sees the love between them even though they aren’t “together”. They are perfect for each other. It was inevitable they would be together.

 

“I’d kiss you as the lights went out/Swaying as the room burned down/I’d hold you as the water rushes in/If I could dance with you again”

If they end up in the same room again, she wouldn’t be afraid. She wouldn’t allow anything to between them.

 

The part about loving in secret used to be me, except it was a secret kept from me too, for years. I have experienced romantic one-way love and could never act on it. I’ve had to be satisfied with hiding it away like this song starts. Sometimes I feel like I’m living with my hands tied because of Duchesne muscular dystrophy. If I could be normal, I could do so much more.

 

Message:

Nothing should stop love. Until you realize that’s the point of life.

 

12.) Dress

Spotify

 

This song is obvious in meaning but a few things stood out to me.

 

“Our secret moments/In your crowded room/They’ve got no idea/About me and you/…/Made your mark on me/A golden tattoo”

No one see what’s between us, but it’s deep. We love each other.

 

This reminds me of the way social gathering feel like to me. I’m really good at one-on-one conversations and suck a talking in groups.

 

“All of this silence and patience, pining and anticipation”

This is longing for something.

 

I long for a lot of things but mainly getting cured.

 

“I don’t want you like a best friend”

I’ve always thought that was the ideal way for love to develop. Best friends falling in love.

 

“And if I get burned, at least we were electrified”

It doesn’t matter if this relationship implodes, at least we had these moments.

 

Basically my philosophy for life is “it’s better to have loved and lost than not having loved at all.” Or “it’s always better to know any experience even just once”. And not repeating it might as well hurt like hell, but it was worth it. My life has a lot of lasts. Last time I walked. Last time I breathed for myself. Last time I talked.

 

“Everyone thinks that they know us/But they know nothing about”

People know what we allow them to know. And they can never know/understand everything even if we tell them.

 

“Even in my worst times, you could see the best of me”

I can never do wrong in his eyes. He loves everything about me.

 

Message:

How we are together matters. And what everyone thinks doesn’t matter.

 

13.) This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Spotify

 

This song seems to match really well with the Great Gatsby.

 

The first image is right on.

“It was so nice throwing big parties/Jump into the pool from the balcony/Everyone swimming in a champagne sea/…/Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year”

 

“Did you think I wouldn’t hear all the things you said about me?”

Gatsby knew what everyone was saying and just didn’t care.

 

“But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand”

That is ultimately what happens in the Great Gatsby. The protagonist finds that hanging with Gatsby isn’t that great for your mental health.

 

Never had that experience of excluding people, but being the one excluded. That explains my interpretation of this song. The desired meaning is way off probably.

 

It started as a song about wrongdoers or mean people getting cut off for revenge after trying everything else first.

 

Message:

Some people aren’t worth the trouble.

 

14.) Call it What You Want

Spotify

 

If I’m with him, nothing else matters.

“My castle crumbled overnight/…/They took the crown but it’s alright “

 

“Nobody’s heard from me for months/I’m doing better than I ever was”

I don’t need anybody except him.

 

“Cause…/My baby’s fit like a daydream/…/So call it what you want, yeah”

That is because I love a great person. And I don’t care what everyone thinks.

 

“My baby’s fly like a jet stream/High above the whole scene/Loves me like I’m brand new”

He’s above it all. He just cares about loving me.

 

“Windows boarded up after the storm/He built a fire just to keep me warm”

I’ve hardened against everything, and still he makes me feel good.

 

“All the jokers dressing up as kings/They fade to nothing when I look at him”

Nothing else matters when I’m with him.

 

“And I know I make the same mistakes every time/Bridges burn, I never learn/At least I did one thing right/I did one thing right/I’m laughing with my lover”

Everything else is going wrong except her love for him.

 

“I want to wear his initial on a chain round my neck/…/Not because he owns me/But ’cause he really knows me/…/But would you run away with me?””

They are actually in love. And he’s her escape.

 

This is again the song that describes my dream of finding love from a different perspective.

 

Message:

What other people think doesn’t make people happy, but happiness is there in finding love.

 

15.) New Year’s Day

Spotify

 

It’s about a New Year’s party that’s a microcosm for how to love.

 

“There’s glitter on the floor after the party”

The party was fun but it’s over now. We have great times together, but after.

 

“Don’t read the last page/…/I want your midnights/But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day”

After the party, the good times are over. That doesn’t matter. How we are together when things aren’t so good really matters. It doesn’t matter how this will end, but right now we love each other. That’s what matters. I don’t want lose you, because we are great together.

 

“You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi/I can tell that it’s gonna be a long road/I’ll be there if you’re the toast of the town, babe/Or if you strike out and you’re crawling home “

It started out simple but I could tell it was going to be something. I’ll be with you through good, bad, and everything.

 

“Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you/And I will hold on to you”

Remember what we had, because it was something important that you’ll want to remember, and I’ll never forget.

 

“Please don’t ever become a stranger/Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere”

I don’t want to lose you and just remember what we had.

 

This is the ideal love I have in mind. Finding someone that sticks with you through good or bad.

 

Message:

Love is about choosing to be together no matter what and mutually not wanting it to end.

 

Conclusion

 

reputation is a coming to maturity album, becoming a fully fledged adult by accepting you can’t make everyone like/understand you. That’s the difference between adulting and staying a whiny adult. Everybody won’t like you, and what you do with that informs a lot of your future.

 

This album is all about accepting that perception of other people. Two people can grow together. What people think can change a little (…Ready For It?). We look for the person that will be with us at the end. I doesn’t matter what people think, if it can work (Endgame). Sometimes people won’t understand and nothing can change that (I Did Something Bad). There’s nothing wrong with looking for love, because it’s something people do (Don’t Blame Me). We can’t know everything in advance, but that makes life interesting (Delicate). People get what’s coming to them (Look What You Made Me Do). Life happens and what we do can’t change much (So It Goes…). (Sometimes things happen that change us in strange ways (Gorgeous). Things happen and only those involved in the matter have a say (Getaway Car). We find love in unexpected places that might not be approved of by everyone (King of My Heart). Love between two people doesn’t have to be known by others (Dancing With Our Hands Tied and Dress). Sharing something can ruin it (This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things). Everything else going on doesn’t matter except in the way we feel about it (Call It What You Want). Love is something special that can be elusive but well worth it (New Year’s Day).

 

New Year’s Day sounds a little like what people expect when two people in love don’t ever have plans to get married. Like how Gorgeous is a little about babies.

 

GK

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Evolution of My Writings

 

“Write what you know.”

–Mark Twain

 

That’s one of the most used writing phrases out there. It’s become a cliché. But what does that mean? Banalities frequently stick in my head. There’s a bigger lesson to be learned from simple phrases such as that one.

 

Writing that reflects first-hand experience feels more real than pure fiction. What’s the cause of that feeling? I ask myself that question a ton. Why do I feel, guilty for example? That’s what meditation is currently for me. Why am I feeling this way? The feeling that something is real or pops off the page. What determines the difference? I need to know to write well.

 

My experiences seem far removed from the everyday life of most people, hence the moniker, Radical Thinker. That comes from a few personality quirks. I don’t listen to other people unless some avenue of proof is available. Of course, that precludes generally accepted theories like science and any reasonable thought process. Still, external confirmation. That process invites deep thought and learning stuff through observation. Add that to the differences in my emotional landscape discussed here. Adding that to my medical condition gives me different experiences than the average functioning adult. I bridge that gap by observing and using my imagination for the rest. Like going to work. Like dating. Like being in a relationship. Like playing a cello. Like having bipolar depression. Like basically anything within the bounds of reality.

 

It can’t ever be the real thing. There’s something missing. The most impactful details are remembered. The rest is forgotten. Doing that in a fictional construct is really difficult. Those imaginings aren’t real. They fade away like a dream after you wake up.

 

I have two examples for you guys. First the song lyrics from Taylor Swift’s autobiographical song Out of the Woods.

Out of the woodc

That has the quality I was talking about. There’s just enough detail to seem real. It supposedly is. Two details. The camera and where they were. Giving just enough detail is nearly impossible without first-hand experience. The compilation of what should be remembered and what shouldn’t is one way to get the feeling of reality.

 

I have another example of feeling real. It taps into another method, the relatability of something. It’s from Ella Dawson’s blog, Post Grad Warriors. I’m a fan of her writing, read this for more.

Ella

That’s basically what happens to everyone after college. Sometimes you drift away from your college friends. And sometimes you’re bound for life.Sometimes you connect with people that were there in the background. Still, there’s connection. Still, there’s shared experience.

 

I read something researching how to write well. It said, “use three senses when writing every scene.”[1] “Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay” by Adair Lara,  referencing Flannery O’Connor in “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” That also works. You add three sensory feelings in every scene you write. One of the pieces I saw on CritiqueCircle was published into a book. Here’s the first paragraph of The Boyfriend by Alex Pilails.

alio

First, there was the music, strobe lights, sweaty people, and the way they danced. That’s more than three senses, but this is an overwhelming place, a nightclub. So three senses make you feel you’re there. More depending on how intense the situation is. Fewer than three if it’s boring like a long sink to the seafloor. Sight first. Sound next if it matters, or smell. Something along those lines.

 

That’s a change for me, this checklist of senses.

 

Something else showed up when I wrote a couple of short stories. I actually have relatable personal experiences. They’re all personal emotional experiences. That’s where my extreme emotions come into play. Exploring their root causes is an added tool given to me by mediation.

 

That started as figuring out how to write creative non-fiction. Read this one, that one, and that other one for more. I used those new skills to write this post for Medium and this other one for BayArt. Writing non-fiction helped this change come about. I’m all about cross-application of knowledge and lessons learned.

 

That carried over to fiction writing where it could. I’ll write up a short paragraph on the feeling of guilt I felt this morning. Here it is:

 


Guilt

Guilt is that nagging feeling, the perpetual elephant stalking you from room to room, everywhere you go. It starts small, like the way big things always start. It seems insignificant at first. Then it grows and grows until it’s an elephant on your chest. It doesn’t have to be an elephant. Most guilt isn’t that severe. It’s a rock in your shoe that doesn’t go away until it’s dealt with. It’s an annoyance that hurts the more it’s in there. There are ways to scrub away the annoyance, the weight hanging around you. All it takes is an apology, but it’s not as easy as saying sorry. You get caught in the doldrums of your anxiety. Is an apology required in this situation? It’s not just you against your guilt. There’s another person involved, the one you wronged.

 

Are they hurt? Did the mistake bother you more than it should? Does the aggrieved see the wrong as you would, as you do? If not, there’s the pickle. Should you apologize and risk highlighting your mistake, your error. Well if you did, the elephant disappears, the rock vanishes. Then you get to pick up the cards dropped where they may fall. You have to move on and forget the turn in your fortune. What was once peaceful friendship became your torture for a while, but you mustn’t forget it. Those that forget are soon to repeat mistakes anew. Those that conjure the elephant, those that create the stone are always there. Never repeat the mistake, never call guilt forth. Mistakes are human, and we are human after all. But humans can change, and so can we.

 


 

There. My example of writing what I know. Guilt as the case is.

 

Featured Picture Credit: Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

 

GK

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Memoirs, Writing Fiction, and the Difference

Memoir is really very similar to fiction in how it’s written. They both follow the same structure. Events are organized in the framework of a story. The flow isn’t interrupted to preserve the totality of events. Things that pertain to the story being told are included. Everything else is left out. Fiction is an additive method. Memoir is subtractive. You take a subset of everything you remember and from that into a cohesive story. Events are picked from a multitude of things that actually happened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This selection of events is apparent in movies based on true events or a dramatization of the truth. Take for example, Steve Jobs. I’ve watched three versions of Jobs’ life. First, the biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, Jobs. Then the factual documentary Man in the Machine. Finally, Steve Jobs directed by Arron Sorkin and starring Michael Fassbender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each movie had a different angle. Jobs was about Jobs getting ideas and using them to be the best. Man in the Machine is trying to be as unbiased as possible. It was the most balanced but tried to talk about the relatively unknown things about Jobs. Steve Jobs was controversial in its directorial and writing direction. It omitted his accomplishments for the most part and focused on his relationship with his daughter, Lisa.

 

 

All in all, the based on true story movies tried to make Jobs relatable. And the perception of Jobs was he wasn’t approachable. He was a strict, straight to business type of guy. He had stringent expectations and expected them to be met. He was thought to be the driving force behind Apple’s success. Each movie took a different approach to humanize and create a connection with the audience. Sorkin focused on Jobs’ personal life and matched it to Apple’s performance/Jobs’ fortunes. Jobs started us with Jobs as a student that couldn’t really connect with anyone except when he started Apple. Man in the Machine used his relationship with the mother of his daughter.

 

Memoir and fiction follow the same pattern. First, we see the character before anything starts. Then, something happens they have to react to. Then, they try fixing the problem different ways and fail successive times. Then, something starts working. Finally, the character succeeds, finds something that changes their life forever, and the story ends. This matches the character arc of a fictional story. Fiction adds an external conflict. When the character arc is the main conflict, it’s a literary story.

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Some recent stories have a strong character arc and conflict arc that are nearly equivalent in importance. Take The Girl on the Train as an example. The character arc of Rachel’s drinking and the central conflict of finding Megan’s killer. Or Gone Girl. The internal conflict is how Amy feels about Nick and the external conflict is Amy’s murder. Adding a strong character arc to a compelling plot brings a story up by an arm and a leg.

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I recently read Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara. She is a prolific writer of memoirs and personal essays. She pointed out some key points. You have to be a hero, not a victim. It’s easy in this society and time to feel like a victim. You need a time in your life where you take action. A bad thing comes your way, and you fix it. Getting your car stolen is bad luck. Bad stuff happens. But if you track down the thieves, steal your car back, and you learn how to overcome a debilitating fear of confrontation. Then, it becomes a story that works in a memoir.

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You need to be done with the problem. If you haven’t found a way out, there’s nothing really there. Struggling and still struggling with the issue you want to write about, it is too soon. The writer needs perspective to make a memoir. You need to know the lesson and be detached enough to know what really happened. People read a memoir to gain a new understanding of the human condition. Something that can help figure out life, a little better.

 

A few things are in the way of me writing personal essays. When I write about myself, the writing comes out snobbish and stand-offish. I have allows been a little showoff. For years, I never knew why I wanted to prove my intelligence. Recently, I found the reason behind it. I have always felt less than everyone else because of my physical limitations. I always felt a little trapped by my condition. My way out and to feel better about being “less”, I try to feel equal by proving my intelligence more than balances out my physical weakness. That realization changed a lot, but I still worry about falling back into old habits.

 

When I have in-depth conversations about my intense emotional states and the inner workings of my mind, the person on the other end doesn’t understand me. That’s because I’ve never tried telling people even a percentage of that stuff. I have trouble relating to other people. I’ve been anti-social for that long. I’m slowly improving there.

 

This is an example of a recent conversation where I try to get better at explaining something.

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Recently saw Collateral Beauty. It’s about a father that recently lost his 6-year-old daughter to cancer. He writes letters to Death, Time, and Love and they reply. Towards the end, there was a really emotional scene where he admits his daughter is dead. I actually had tears forming a well in my eyes but didn’t allow any out. I pulled away emotionally.

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Why didn’t you let your tears come? Don’t you think you’re cutting out emotion unnecessarily?

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Whenever I describe something in too much detail, it doesn’t make sense. I need to fix that before writing a memoir. I’ll try my usual description first.

 

Emotional history: Started as a person with normal reactions to my emotions. Feeling them and becoming numb when some emotion became too much. Everyone does that except it isn’t going to happen frequently for most people. For example losing a close loved one. That might happen a few times. Simple sadness was enough to make me numb after a little while.

 

Then I started to decrease the threshold before I became numb. It worked for a time, and I reached my goal to fit as a male in American society. At one point, I was unable to feel anything.

 

Then, I slowly reduced the threshold when numbness happened. Through that still ongoing process, I thought I was rediscovering something I lost. That moment, watching that movie, I was in a struggle to stay there and feel. Becoming numb would have been slightly easier. There was a standstill and anything could tip the balance. Something did.

 

A better image. Everyone has three parts to their psyche. We’ll ignore the superego. There are various names that work for superego like conscience, mother’s voice, God, and hindsight. We’ll ignore that.

 

There’s a childish side or you at your weakest, id, baby, or the person you would be without an external influence. Then the protector, ego, or what the world made you into. The protector usually acts in small ways. Like covering your face, when you cry. Hiding you away, when you’re boiling mad. Putting on a brave face, when you’re really scared. It basically reacts to what the baby wants and finds a socially acceptable way to meet those needs.

 

What happens with normal emotions? The protector does those little things. When something too much happens, like the death of a close loved one, the protector says, “Baby, you need some time in your quite room. I’ll be with you the whole time. Too much is going on out here.” You become numb while the baby has some time away from life.

 

For someone like me, the baby cries bloody murder when something sad happens. Everything is exaggerated beyond the average. A baby like that spends too much time in the quite room. That baby never gets to experience a lot, because a lot of things are too much.

 

I increased the sensitivity of my protector to the baby by showing the protector more emotional states. Like an abused child, the protector grew more attuned to the tormentor, the whiny baby. Then the baby spends less time out and then none at all.

 

Right now, I’m dismantling the safe room. If an external threat appears, the deconstruction stops or reverses temporarily. Very similar to the process of growing up.

 

That’s still a little confusing.

 

The other part is sharing too much. The vulnerability of it. We’re all scared to sharing too much. That allows the possibility of getting hurt. The more you share, the greater the rejection. I feel like I should share my life’s lessons. I’ve been through a lot. Moving to a different country at five and never going back. My medical experiences that vastly over date my time to 28 years of age. Then the lessons meditation taught me. Finally finding meaning in my life. There is a lot I could share. There might be a memoir in my future. We’ll see.

 

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Going Back: High School

This previous summer, I went to my ten-year high school reunion. I think the best thing is to describe how I was during High School. I was shy and more anti-social than anyone I knew. A lot of things that could have broken my shyness came my way, but I’d always been too stubborn to let it take. I made a few loose friends during school hours, and that was everything I knew about being social. And I was satisfied with that. Frequently, I was lonely and my imagination grew to fill the space. That’s how I coped.

 

Anyway, that was over ten years ago. It’s kind of embarrassing that I’ve been looking forward to the reunion for around five years at the point it was announced. I had developed a few ideas about reunions that likely fit with my emotional state through a vast number of years after high school. I had misconceptions about the whole thing. I thought two kinds of people went to reunions. First, those that had their best years in High School. That fit with the jealousy I had for people that could navigate the social landscape way better than I ever could. Then, the people that wanted to show everyone how they had changed since High School. I put myself into that group even though I hadn’t changed a ton until two-three years ago. I credit meditation and writing with those changes. Being ignorant in social matters doesn’t work for a writer, writing, and marketing. I was wrong. Popular media is way off.

 

I went as a test for myself and to see people from years ago. There were a few things I needed to know about myself. A personal test motivates me the most. I needed to check if I wanted to talk to people and could overcome my anxiety/insecurity/shyness. Basically, if everything I’d worked on was good enough. Also, I wanted to test if I could use my new communication device in a social setting with real world conditions. And if I could network and hand out business cards. And if having someone driving my chair worked good enough.

 

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Photo by Bulkan Evcimen on Unsplash. Enhancement by Graham Kar.

 

I went in with my nurse, a wheelchair driver, and the medical supplies I always have with me. I meet one of the people I’d wanted to see. We had a nice conversation, and I gave a business card. Success! And somehow I engaged in a conversation with someone new I never remembered meeting before. That has never happened in my entire life, if you can believe that. The device wasn’t loud enough in the ambient noise of the reunion. Using the device was much harder with the distraction of the people around but still manageable. A few people called my name and I smiled at them. I had no idea they wanted to talk to me until near the end. Communicating that to my driver was near impossible. I couldn’t think at my best in the slight crowd. I could’ve typed it on my device but it never occurred to me. At that point, I decided to go out to the patio for something different.

 

I meet the other person I’d wanted to see out there. The device didn’t work outside. I tried for a solid 30 minutes it seemed like. Then I figured out having the device up was sending the same message as if I was using my phone. I put the device down and returned to the person I was in High School. I silently nodded and smiled while other people talked in front of me and other people spoke for me. I wanted to talk the whole time though. It was two hours into the reunion by then.

 

I returned to the main reunion room. I would have to leave within thirty minutes to make it into bed sometime before eleven. By eight thirty, I had to leave. A have a ton of medical stuff to do before going to sleep. By the time I was back inside, people were beginning to get drunk. The late arrivals were sober still. I don’t drink and rarely eat anything through my mouth. A few people looked stunned to see me. Another test passed. I could finally read facial expressions.

 

I was disconnected from my emotions, facial expressions, and physical manifestations for so long that determining facial expressions in others was impossible. I always had intense emotions and during high school everything was buried for some degree of normalcy. That hid a large part of the social learning most people were going through in the teen years. That reunion night, I read facial expressions and responded with my own instinctually. I got the expression of stunned then surprise. I hurriedly looked away as she looked into my eyes. Accidentally, they moved up in an eye roll. If anything, I was too honest. You’re surprised I showed up? Well, I don’t care. I’m here, deal with it. At that point, I didn’t have anyone else I’d wanted to see.

 

I wanted to talk to people that used be unapproachable. I could use the device indoors. Typing up phrase before hand is a must at parties and crowded places. Sometimes reading the communication device is easier than hearing what it says sometimes. The backup system is abysmal in comparison, allowing people to speak for me. I need to drive my chair around. Body language is a huge part of social interaction. It’s not something that can be delegated.

 

It was a learning experience, and I’ll never forget it. I’ll fix all the mistakes I made. I rarely make a mistake more than once these days. I’ll figure out this social stuff like I figured out everything else. Nothing can stop me. Hard work can get you anything. Here are a few words about change from Tony Robbins.

 

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

— Tony Robbins

 

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash. Enhancements by Graham Kar.

 

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Introversion Introspective

 

There is no such thing as a born introvert. I may not be able to point out a specific research article or anything to back me up. But I do have my story. Maybe that’s enough.

 

All of us remember singing or dancing with exuberance as children. An awkward home video of a child singing not very well, what did you expect, not all of us are the next Taylor Swift. I my case it was a magic trick involving a camera cut. I stood there wobbly on my uncooperative ankles. A big flashy toy weapon hung in my hands. The camera cut on cue. I hid said sound weapon in a cardboard box. The camera started again with me holding nothing. A trick of the camera disappeared a toy thing.

 

Other memories of my singing along of ABBA for some ungodly reason. Dancing around with my sister as she spun me around by both hands. Listening to a ton of the Beach Boys, I had no idea what they were singing about. Something changed when I was around other kids my age. I clammed up and became shy. My parents never discouraged that behavior or modeled something different.

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Some traumatic event or more realistically a series of such events leads to introversion. The science suggests nature and nurture contributes to the continuum. I was always the smallest, weakest kid, so very few people were always nice to me. This initial trauma forced a tight limit on the number of friends that felt good. For, me that grew into focusing on a few close friends with the general exclusion of others. This started out well and good. The reality doesn’t sink in during childhood. Without exception these first dozen or so friends moved away, and I never saw them again. That’s a traumatic experience if it happens again, again, and again, and I almost forgot again. These friendships were all from my first elementary school.

 

The last two-thirds of sixth grade were in a new school. Unlike my old school, there weren’t many black or brown students let alone teachers, wah wah wahh. Let’s say some people didn’t like me very much as the wheelchair bound Indian kid. One kid, Mathias was showing me the lay of the land. Five dollar mechanical pencils were the equivalent of Letterman jackets. I didn’t really feel like investing in one such meaningless mark of social status. I had the cash but didn’t go there.

 

It was probably stupid considering what I did next. I got a broken Pilot G2 pen from Johnson, fixed the sucker, and never took it out. Then I asked the class jokester to see his whatever mechanical pencil. That kidder told me it was on his desk and I could look at it. Mathias stood right beside him giggling like the funniest thing was happening. I should have seen it as duping delight. That wasn’t on my mind because everyone was so nice. They always looked happy to see me, said Hi insistently, and were really friendly. Like a sap, I cruised down the really long hallway back to the classroom and looked. I was mad. There was nothing there.

 

I’m not trying to make an indictment here. That single event struck a fissure already deeply ingrained from everything before. Mathias and I became friends. I ignored Mr. Joker from then on. I also think the timing had a lot to do with it.

 

Just as the Fates turned on me, six months later they saw me back into their good graces. The school district boundaries changed and my middle school wouldn’t be the general vanilla of Osseo. The relative cornucopia of Brooklyn Junior was my future. That’s when my anti-social period began.

 

I wasn’t looking for friendship any longer. I hit the books for really the first time. I made a few loose friends but no one expect me valued those friendships. My mind turned over this intrinsic human need of companionship to my imagination.

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I watched everything and I mean every single thing going on. Using these observations, I storied their lives as I saw them. As flawed and isolating as this was, it created the components I now use to write. A few interesting characters were Harry, Gwen, and Veronica.

 

Harry was Mr. Cool. I felt he was really struggling in Honors. Basically, Harry was hitting above his average. His wardrobe needed work but the girls loved him as a friend. I could never really talk to girls throughout middle school or high school. Harry was my hero in that way.

 

Gwen was someone I always felt a connection to. I never worked up the courage to say a single word to her. The news got around to me through the usual ways. Did I mention the fact I hear like a bat. Eavesdropping was my skill that sometimes helped but usually kept everyone at arm’s length and gave me enough to feel a connection without interacting. Gwen was in the school play. Years later, I found a lot of similarities, more about that later.

 

Veronica was this person in all my Honors classes. I can probably still describe a ton of things that contributed to my story of her. I thought of her as a girl ahead on the maturity front, more open than most, a social butterfly, and a good person. This has no basis in truth, but I like to think it does.

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Now the part where I un-learn the lessons from all bad stuff delivered my way. I wasn’t that easy, in fact it was the hardest thing I had done up to that point. A few things motivated me to turn back the damage and try again. I lost the physical ability to speak. Very few people know that but there it is. I had stopped going outside and living some time before. The 20’s depression so many millennial’s have, had just ended with the beginning of my fiction writing career. I knew that marketing would be a big part of my future. I needed to escape the cage of my own creation.

 

This reclamation of my social self began with the common social medium of my generation, the attention trap that is Facebook or fb. I friended anyone I recognized from High School and on back, including everyone I imagined knowing. I didn’t recognize a few. This changed nothing because either the request is accepted or ignored. No friend requests are ever declined.

 

Then rejection therapy. I said hi to every single accepted friend. It was an internal battle each and every time. After the first hundred rejections things became a tad easier. I found a few people to talk to.

 

So I’ve exposed the possibility of rejection and faced it en masse. The next step was to learn the social lessons I passed over. I fb messaged like an awkward new-born. I talked about anything that worked. Each message ran a laundry list of worries through my head. Did I say the wrong thing? Should I apologize? This one I agonized over for days and weeks at a time. I projected my conscious into a shade of this friend and searched this new soul to understand what my friend was going through. I agonized, literally agonized this question. I’m not a nice person or a mean person. It isn’t possible to bridge the gap from being okay to being nice with an apology. I spent years ruining friendships thinking I could apologize my way to being a nice person.

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In time, by that I mean years later, I was ready to break through years of social anxiety with a final Karate chop. I made a list of secrets I had always been terrified to share with anyone. It was the usual stuff like bad experiences and the things you cherish the most. I forced myself to type them out and send them like clandestine missives, all on the very brink of a panic attack. My friends are the greatest, and I hope everyone can say that.

 

I went from a child having fun and not knowing better to a cynic with too many bad experiences. Now, I’m a speculative optimistic trying to get back everything I denied for years. People need friends. It might be easy to say forget them. If they can’t appreciate me, it’s their loss. I might be easy to say my friends love me. Do they really or just the part you show them. We all can have epic, radically honest, complete friendships. All we need is the motivation, the guile, and the bravery to confront the possibility of loss. Without that, what is the point to this maddening, meandering, mess we call life. There is no life in a vacuum.

 

Take life into your hands and make it your own. This is one story of my life. Take anything helpful and ignore the rest.

 

GK

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Thriving in Spite of Reduced Ability

 

Throughout my life, a few things have remained the same. I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscular disease that slowly weakens me. This results in a lose of ability over time.

 

I have found things that are inherently impossible for me now. Walking is an example of that. Everything else is possible with motivation and hope of getting better. Those are the two things required to be the person you want to be.

In the beginning of my life (before age eight), I knew there was something different about me and didn’t quite know why. Firstly, I started using a wheelchair. The issue of my emigration from India provided another possible source for my differences. Some version of this probably went through minds of other kids about themselves. Everything changed a little after understanding this wasn’t the end of my difference, things would surely get worse.

 

Let’s be clear about something, I never thought of myself as disabled or damaged. I am just different, like a person with green eyes is different from a person with brown eyes. Never allow another person to define what and how you can do anything. Living without a hindrances is a great gift, but beating what everyone thinks is a greater reward. As with all things, the more effort employed, the better the outcome. This way of thinking changes your perception of yourself. You know for a fact that you are not less able than anyone else. Never put artificial limits on yourself.

 

I have never attended a support group. Almost everything I’ve gone through deals with itself, apart from the first near death experience. This isn’t an ongoing struggle. This is who I am or who I always was. Nothing that comes your way is beyond your ability to cope, whether that means sharing your story with others or dealing with it in your own way.

 

This brings me to my experiences with other kids when I was also that age. Every year throughout high school, I along with other kids struggling with purely physical differences attended a gathering. You know the almost forced gatherings setup by well-meaning adults for discussion.

 

We were asked questions to setup conversation, so-called icebreakers. Would you take a cure if it was available? This is one I remember well. The majority answer was no, excluding myself and one other among the 50 or so others. My reaction to the majority sounds in my head. Why? The answers went something like this: it would change who I am.

 

I reacted with silent cynicism and confusion. This makes no sense. A cure isn’t retroactive (someone won’t go back in time and cure you at birth, anyway that would make a cure much easier). How can you possibly refuse the cure when it is almost my deepest desire? Then it hit me. My 15-year-old self thought they simply can’t hope because the low likelihood hurts them too much. It helps them cope. The disease is an ingredient of who they are. If the question wasn’t hypothetical, they would stop lying to themselves and say yes. That was what a teenager would think. I stopped bothering with other people as I grew older.

 

I now think a cure just administers physical improvement, keeping you the same person inside. If the cure would change more than that, the disease has too much power. That is the generally accepted conclusion, a really bad disease limits what opportunities that person has. I admit that without Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, I would have a different job, but I don’t think my personality would have changed that much. I would be more social than I am now, but isn’t that a good thing? Limitations are a bad thing. Never cripple yourself without trying. A battle that is lost in the mind, is pointless to fight.

 

This post is getting a little too long for one day (hands tired). The key lies in finding your purpose. Take what qualities you have. In my case that is a fighter personality, maximum effort yields maximum results, observation of everything, railing to challenges, and keen memory. Find what you are supposed to do. I am supposed to push through the expectations of others, show them they can do great things, and show them what I can accomplish. Never give up or die trying.

 

GK

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