Taking control of my life with a little help from Fight Club

Incredibly, here is another blog entry so soon after the last. I can almost not believe it myself either, no. So of course, the fact that I’m writing this so soon to my complete disbelief means there’s one small caveat: it’s one more entry in which I talk about multiple things at once, rather than picking a topic and making it the focus for the day, crossing out the other choices in the one or two entries after. The difference this time is that, though these thoughts seem unrelated, they all came to me from reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club these past few days, having finished the majority of that novel today in my back garden in the sun.

Let me now preface this post before you go any further, because as I sit here working out what to say next I think this could end up as a weird and definitely lengthier entry than usual. It’s all there in the title. This is a post in which I’ll be talking about Fight Club; how it related to me on a personal level; and how badly it has made me want to really push forward with what I want to do with my life. Tying into the way that I felt I understood the book on a personal level, maybe I’ll also briefly mention how it’s made me think, “Fuck it, independence it is!” when it comes to the Scottish referendum in only nine days time.

If none of that sounds interesting to you then you’re best leaving now.

For those of you who are interested and still here, a refresher on my depression, which I last discussed here, is probably necessary, so skim-read that before going any further with this.

The thing I find quite fascinating about that entry is that I skim over what I call “an atomic explosion of all the emotions I had been keeping buried”, even though it’s actually pretty important. Long story short: in my first University course, I made no friends whatsoever, knew in my heart that it wasn’t what I wanted to do, told my parents, and when they didn’t believe me, exploded into messy tears that had my father crying too in private. It was an ugly situation to say the least, and the first of several mental breakdowns, leading me to an even more interesting detail I picked up on as I re-read this.

Despite having a breakdown of even bigger scale since then, and fairly recently too, it doesn’t seem like I’ve discussed that on this blog at all, even though it’s even more important. Longer story short: after these many years of depression, I recently hit the bottom of the pit when my parents finally saw through the facade I’d been hiding behind, and came rising out of it in my worst breakdown to date, loud and violent and furious at them, the world and myself; but in doing so came to accept that, yeah, I had been fucking things up for years now, but to hell with that – that shit ends now – and so came to confess to my parents that what I really wanted to do with my future was simply write, which felt great to get off my chest and since then I’ve been mostly happy. 

Weird that I didn’t talk about this on the blog though, isn’t it? Especially since I mention writing, amongst similar career choices, as part of a list I showed to my parents in my last year of high school, a list they then rejected for the most part, which I attributed to being one of the biggest roots, the source of my depression. Where I could’ve been more specific is that the list as you see it is actually in order. So I mostly wanted to be a novelist, then a comics writer or artist, and then a teacher of either English, Art, History or primary school kids.

This is all very crucial in understanding who I am.

Stay with me.

Now. Why is this recent breakdown important?

Well, it resulted me in reminding my parents of a list I wrote in high school, eventually telling them that what I’ve wanted to do most of all in my life, for as long as I can remember, is write. My reasons for this I also skim over in that blog entry, strangely enough. Vaguely I mention a small classroom of six students, actually Advanced Higher English in my last year of high school which I insisted I sit against my previous teacher’s wishes and then passed with even higher flying colours than before. Vaguely I mention two notebooks I filled with writing as a child, actually my very first attempts at writing novels, aged somewhere between seven and ten. And vaguely I mention my lifelong interest in creativity, though only name the drama classes I attended and this blog, actually having been so obsessed with more creative pursuits that I used the anonymity of the internet since I got my first computer to upload anything and everything wherever I could, these accounts with writing and art sadly forgotten or lost for the most part, and I couldn’t even tell you what could be re-discovered in the loft.

Vaguely I make this whole angry case for myself but ironically don’t face the subject head on, continuing to do exactly what I criticised myself for doing my whole life when compared to my sister, doing exactly what landed me in the whole sorry mess in the first place – fuck all.

So why writing?

No more dodging the question. 

No more dancing around a real answer.

Bite the bullet.

Put your cards on the table.

Open the fucking door. Say, come on in.

Why writing?

Because I enjoy it. Because it gives me satisfaction. Because I like words. Because I enjoy making sentences of words. Because I enjoy stories. Because I have stories of my own I want to tell. Because telling these stories through writing is the only way I know how. Because I enjoy telling these stories. Because I love my imagination. Because it’s a vast and huge and bottomless ocean of possibilities and it’s mine and no one else’s. Because this is how I’ve always felt since I first wrote and drew anything and realised each and every one of us has the capacity to do something amazing that makes us happy with our lives.

Because this is how it is.

Because I don’t want to do your boring, mundane, life-sucking job each day, you fucking vampire – I want to do what makes me goddamn happy and writing is the one thing that never fails to make me happy.

Fuck your promises of meeting me at the top of the ladder. You’d only step on my fingers when I reach the final rung. Fuck your money. It’s dirty, unclean, stained with the sweat of other hands that brought it there and I don’t want it. Fuck your rules. They’re stupid and I won’t live by them. Fuck your key to eternal happiness in exchange for a handshake and signed agreement to do what I’m told. You’re too late – I know what makes me happy.

This is my goddamn life and I won’t let you fuck it up.

So step aside because you’re in the fucking way.

None of this is meant directly at you, reader. You could be anyone, which is amazing. Me, I’m twenty two years old, but you could be fifty. Sixty. Thirty three. The same age. A teenager. Ten. A girl. A boy. Gay, straight, bisexual or asexual. Maybe you don’t even know yet.

You could be black or white. Transgender. You could be a friend or someone I don’t know and you could be from anywhere in the world. Maybe you’re Asian or maybe you’re Russian. An American, Indian, Italian. Scottish like me, or maybe English, Welsh or Irish.

Maybe you’re married or a widow or alone. Maybe you’re in your first relationship. Maybe you’ve never been in a relationship. Maybe you have lots of friends or maybe you have none. I don’t know you, so I don’t mean you any offence. 

But maybe you are living in the disillusionment that you’re doing what makes you happy, yet know in your heart that that isn’t true at all. Maybe then I’m talking to you in a way and, depending on who you are, then maybe I do mean you offence, I just don’t know.

But the most incredible possibility of all is that you could be someone who knows exactly what I’m saying, who at the moment they found this blog entry thought that it was about goddamn time they made a difference with their life. Someone who is sick to death of others holding them back or blocking their way, maybe kept on a leash like me by parents who want to raise you in their perfect image.

And maybe now you’re saying, no.

No, I won’t let you do this to me.

No.

Step aside, get out my way.

This is my life and I’ve picked which road I want to take and I will not look back.

Not for your empty promises. Not for your money stained with dirt and the sweat of hands it was passed through. Not for your shitty rules. Not for a handshake and a lie we’ll convince ourselves is true as you hand me a rusted key.

None of that means anything to me, so I won’t take it. Starting today, I’m in charge, I’m my own boss and I know what I need and I’m going to do everything in my power to get it, and if you’re against me then you either need to get out of my way or join me.

Now stop.

To cut all this ritualistic chanting short, this is what Fight Club taught me, though I suppose “brought me to terms with” is the better expression.

When I first started reading the book, I told my Facebook pals how it reminded me a great deal of some of my favourite novels, namely Trainspotting, The Outsider, The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and more. It was therefore no surprise to me then, after finishing the book and heading to Chuck’s website, that amongst his recommended books was Trainspotting itself and a few others that hadn’t occurred to me but certainly are very similar, such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Great Gatsby.

The point is: all these books resonate with me in some way on a personal level. These are the kind I re-read many times. Hell, they’re the only kind I read at least a third or fourth time and they’re the best in the world, and now this joins their ranks.

It’s a quotable book, just as all of the above are. At the start the narrator tells us that our life is “ending one moment at a time”, that “you are not special” but “the same decaying organic matter as everything else”. Yet in the end, speaking to a doctor who he calls God, he says this: “We are not special. We are not crap or trash, either. We just are. We just are, and what happens just happens.” Although not perfectly optimistic, it’s a remarkable change in character. And lets not forget that even though the book is filled with much more cynical lines, it’s also filled with many truths too.

Take for instance his sudden idea that “maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer, maybe self-destruction is the answer” to his unchanging life. Read some of the first paragraphs of this entry and you’ll realise that I had a self-destruction of my own – a massive mental breakdown at the end of which I revealed all. Stepped behind the curtain reluctantly and angrily in the mask of someone else; came out from behind it naked and as a more honest and happier individual, my true self.

Yet like I said, I’m not perfectly happy, not yet, just as the narrator at the end of this novel doesn’t get a happily ever after either. Consumerism is a big theme of the novel and it again it’s something that struck close to home. In the past I’ve chatted to myself about buyer’s remorse on this blog, having indeed done so fairly optimistically in a post more recent than that of my depression talk, though I realise now that that was actually complete naivety on my part. If it hasn’t been obvious since that entry’s publication then let me make it clear: the amount of books I’ve purchased since then has increased tenfold. And only on Tuesday night did I make the most ridiculously huge single purchase of them all, and in finishing Fight Club the next day did I stare in horror at my bank account and realise I didn’t need any of this.

Another quote: “The things you used to own, now they own you.”

But what can you do about it? Me, I’ve shit to sell. A lot and lot of shit to sell. Shit I don’t want, shit I don’t need. It seems insanely well-timed that sometime in the near future even the house I live in will be sold and my family and I will be moving to another.

That’s the other thing you can do about it – start again. I really do quite like the idea of self-destructing and resurrecting from the ashes a new person, a more positive person, a better person. And so starting now I tend to really seize this forward thinking attitude. The total annihilation has happened, the depression’s in the past, and now I am going to do everything I fucking can towards the future I want.

Start by getting rid of the shit I don’t need and replacing them with the things I do.

Make sure I write every single day, more than now, more than ever.

Start that novel I know I want to write, see it through to a finished first draft.

Re-write those short stories I know are good and send them somewhere.

Write that Future Shock I know I can muster up and send it to 2000AD’s offices.

Sure, get rejected – but never give up.

Never stop.

You know, there’s a moment in the video game Portal 2 where the player hears the founder of Aperture Sciences, Cave Johnson, voiced by the wonderful J.K. Simmons, hilariously taking the popular phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, and turning it on its head. It’s a side-splittingly funny moment as he eventually threatens to make a combustible lemon, but he also has a point too. Furiously, he yells, “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade – make life take the lemons back! Get mad! […] Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons!”, and though brilliantly funny, it actually makes sense too, doesn’t it?

But as tempting as it is to leave you there, with a good quote from something completely unrelated to the rest of this entry, demanding you take charge of your own life like I will of mine, I will instead end this post with a final quote from Chuck Palahniuk, probably my favourite in all of Fight Club and one which best sums up my past in relation to where I stand now. And make no mistake – a stand is what this is and I for one don’t intend to fall to my knees any time soon, and neither should you.

Take control and don’t stop until you’re bathed in that light that once seemed so far away.

“For years now, I’ve wanted to fall asleep. The sort of slipping off, the giving up, the falling part of sleep. Now sleeping is the last thing I want to do.”

 

– Jordan

Wot I’ve been up to

It’s safe to say at this point that I won’t be getting back into the consistent swing of things so easily, a further two weeks having passed since my last entry on this blog in which I listed assorted thoughts. And guess what? That’s what this entry is too. Hopefully I can discuss a specific topic next time I hop on here. As you’ll have seen from previous entries and now this one, it’s not like I haven’t been doing things. So hopefully, perhaps just maybe, I’ll hone in on a particular subject for a change.

For now, though, here’s something that’s better than nothing: a list of stuff that I’ve been a-doing in my abscence.

Playing video games has been a recent time sink once again. One game out of those I’ve been playing that I’ve seen through to its completion has been RAGE, a game I may or may not talk about in the future. After finishing it I did go to Facebook and annoy my pals with a mini-essay on my thoughts on the game overall, which is nothing unique to be honest, hence why I may not bother giving it a serious write-up. It’s basically like this: in the end, I thought it was a pretty great first person shooter / weird racing hybrid that I would heartily recommend on the sole basis that you simply have to see these incredibly designed characters and the world – but it thankfully has great gameplay too, the game only being a small let down in areas from the limitations holding this gameplay, which involves a number of surprisingly great mini-games to play between all the shooting, back from being used to its full potential. Oh yeah, and it has an ending so shit that I fear Kane and Lynch 2’s equally abrupt ending may actually be better, which is saying something.

But even though none of those thoughts are exactly unique, I may write an entry anyway, if only so I can gush over the incredibly detailed world and those characters that, though with little depth, I find much more memorable than your average video game character, simply because they’re all so well designed, perfectly voice acted and look terrifyingly real. Trust me when I say that the first friendly NPC you run into, sad, sad Dan Hagar, is a character you’re unlikely to forget any time soon after playing this.

Other characters you’re not likely to forget any time soon either can be found in Season Two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which I completed in two days. Despite some scepticism that it could best the amazing first season of that series, the developers battered my expectations to smithereens and nailed it yet again. So now I’ll have to get all doubtful about the third season instead. Anyway, although I may not write an entry on the game per se, I may do so about episodic titles in general, and what my thoughts are on them. In this title’s case, I only bought it as it went on sale with the fifth and final episode released, which is what I tend to do with all episodic games, the exception being Kentucky Route Zero, an uncompleted game of only three acts out of five, but a game I’m tempted to write an entry on on why it’s already one of my favourite games of all time.

Perhaps, too, I’d like to talk about modding as a great advantage of PC gaming, seeing as several of those games that I’m playing right now are running one or more mods. On the one hand, you have the purely aesthetic mods that bring games fully to life, such as the Absolute HD mod I’m running for Doom 3 that ups the already great atmosphere, and Ice Enhancer 3.0 that has turned GTA IV into an astonishingly beautiful thing indeed. And on the other hand you have mods that vastly improve the gameplay of some titles, and here my example would probably be the George Romero mod for State of Decay, which I wrote about to my friends, who seemed rather impressed by my description of how this and a few other smaller mods turned the game into a much more challenging survival experience.

Oh, and speaking of survival, now that I’ve been playing the alpha of a game I Kickstarted called The Long Dark, I may talk about my interest in that genre, and why it is there are so few good games in it like there are in horror. Or maybe I’ll just talk about this particular survival game, which is unique in that it doesn’t have you fighting off zombies or anything. The closest thing to an enemy just now are the wolves that roam the landscape, but it’s the weather, if you can believe it, that will really kill you, the game – of which this is the first in a series of – pitting you against a brutal winter in what I think could very possibly be a realistic manner by the time the game’s finished. It’s got a number of other realistic mechanics besides its rather smashing weather simulation, so fingers crossed that they don’t fuck this up, as I think we have a very interesting game on our hands here.

It’s not the only game I’ve been playing which I helped Kickstart – Neverending Nightmares and Interstellaria are two more. But although I’m quite happy with the latter, the former’s actually been a bit of a disappointment, though instead of being too negative, I’m waiting to see what the small team of developers can do to improve it for release before passing judgement. Anyway, as I’ve funded a few other games, maybe Kickstarter or crowdfunding in general will be another topic for another time.

Moving on from video games, I’ve been watching stuff too if you can believe it. My main focus until a few weeks ago had been The Shield, a show that I’m hoping will remain consistently good until the end, but the latest season of Doctor Who has of course started, with Peter Capaldi, one of my favourite actors of all time, taking the role. Although I’m loving his much darker Doctor compared to the previous three, I do feel like the writing is fairly inconsistent tonally, the third episode on Saturday being particularly unusual.

They clearly want to make him a much harder man to read, and they’ve had some great scenes reflecting this -my favourite of which was a scene in the first episode where the Doctor seems to recognise his new face (Capaldi’s portrayed two characters in the universe before, once in the main show, and once in Torchwood) and then breaks into a monologue about his angry-looking eyebrows, describing them as “attack eyebrows” as he gets up in a homeless man’s face and frightens him – but it appears they desperately want to keep the juvenility of previous incarnations, which I frankly don’t think is working so well, especially when trying to do an almost all-humour episode like the third in this new series. Humour’s essential to the show, of course, but I’d think that, with a character like Capaldi’s, we’d be past some of the sillier stuff, focusing instead on the sarcasm we’ve seen his Doctor use a few times already instead, a sense of humour much more in line with his grumpier personality.

Then again, Moffat couldn’t make it to the end of the first episode without dropping to his hands and knees and seemingly begging the female side of the fan base not to abandon the show because they’ve replaced Tenant and Smith with someone much older. Yeah, that was a pretty terrible scene, the kind of thing that displays a lack of confidence in my eyes. For fuck’s sake, please don’t do that again.

Criticisms aside – and I could make some more, like how utterly pointless the dinosaur was in the first episode – I’ll continue watching. I may not be as big a fan as my dad or sister, but I do enjoy the show quite a lot. And it looks the fourth episode is a horror one, my favourites, so I’ll be seeing how that goes.

Finally, I’ve been reading, also shockingly enough. At long last I completed the Harry Potter series and…well, I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Although I suggested it would be something I’d write an entry about, I’m not entirely sure I will, as I’d frankly, and rather harshly, not wish to spend any more time on it. Indeed, I told my Facebook friends how I deleted the long rant I’d been writing in favour of what was basically: “It was all kind of crap in the end.” Apart from getting kids like me into reading at an early age, I’m honestly not sure what the big deal about the series is. It’s predictable; often very boring; poorly written a lot; and often frustrating. Although I never found this annoying, the friend I wrote annotations for on George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series once confessed that he found it irritating how whole pages could be spent by the author talking about food. This makes me wonder how he’d feel about seven whole books spent by nearly an entire cast of characters calling a shitty villain You-Know-Who or He Who Must Not Be Named. Fucking terrible.

Oh fuck it, let’s move on before I can’t control myself and burst into a rant. Having just finished this quite recently, I’m now reading Fight Club, which is a great fucking book. Not sure I’ll talk about it though, if only because I feel like I’d need to write an essay or two explaining the different ways in which it’s really quite brilliant. It is, however, one of those books written from the interesting perspective of a protagonist with a unique voice; and it’s also one of those books with such clear intent, both at being layered with more than one meaning, and with the intention too of making you ponder the questions it raises; and I love both of these things in a book. It reminds me of Trainspotting, The Catcher in the Rye and the only Cormac MacCarthy book I’ve read so far, No Country For Old Men, all at once, which I did not expect. I dunno. Maybe something to talk about, maybe not. I highly recommend reading it though.

As for comics, sure, I’ve been reading ’em; but what I’ve actually found is that my collection is growing at an alarming rate such that I’ve other stuff besides 2000AD to pay for, thankfully at least on a monthly basis. Oh, and speaking of monthly payments, 2000AD’s leading character, Judge Dredd is getting a partworks collection, which is pretty fucking great. The company that are publishing the books (only four at first, and more if it takes off) have done the same for Marvel in the past and I own a few of these. They’re well worth it, being surprisingly high quality hardcovers with unseen extras, also the confirmed case here. That they come in these nice hardcovers is what’s really sold me, despite owning many of these Dredd stories being collected already in one book or another. Indeed, if there’s one problem with 2000AD’s line of books, it’s that there simply isn’t enough hardcovers. The trade paperbacks are of great quality and all, putting the likes of bigger companies such as DC to shame, but they’re horribly designed and stick out very poorly on a shelf. So a well designed collection like this with even greater paper stock is right up my alley. Here’s hoping they’re a success.

And I think that will wrap up this post. God, I shudder to think how long it’s been – I can’t see the word count on WordPress’ slightly new design for writing these posts. But that’s not bad for an hour, is it? Hopefully quite promising of more to come, and perhaps then on a more regular basis. Until next time then.