a new decade

Hey there, friends! πŸ‘‹

It’s been too long since I actually sat down to craft a decent blog post. If you don’t count the small one I made last December mostly for myself, then it’s been almost three years. In that entry, an overarching theme was that I shouldn’t be afraid of expressing myself and sharing my unique perspective. Besides, a good blog isn’t meant to simply sit around and stagnate.

So, a few weeks ago, I set a goal for myself: Before your 30th birthday, write a post about something, anything — but preferably, share at least a few details about you and your life. Do it for you, but also for others.

Naturally, I had 3 weeks, yet 90% of this post’s creation time was spent in the last 3 days. Deadlines are so motivational! (Seriously.)

It’s true, I have a tendency to leave personal projects down to the wire, seeing as it’s only a day before I reach the big three-zero. Or zero-three, technically. [ 0603 ]

Frankly, I can’t say I would’ve ever predicted that my 30th would take place in this highly uncertain, dystopian timeline that we seem to currently be living through right now. As I type, my mind’s internal projector can’t help but play out a series of sounds, smells and sights: smoke bombs, tear gas, flash bangs, broken windows, frantic shouting, adrenaline pumping, tensions rising, people fighting.

Physically, I wasn’t there, but the scene recently occurred at the George Floyd protests only five minutes down the street from my apartment in Walnut Creek. And this isn’t just happening here — it’s happening all over America right now.

There’s no denying it. Systemic racism and inequality is deeply woven into the fabric of our nation. Our beloved “Land of the Free” was literally built on top of an atrocious amount of ethnic cleansing. These are horrific injustices that happened, and all of us need to accept that bitter truth and move forward. Instead of fighting, we need to work together to find effective and constructive solutions to our current problems.

“Wow… this post is not what I was expecting, Brad. I thought you were going to talk about personal, encouraging things.”

Okay, reader, you’re right, for the most part. As much as I’d love to dive into a metaphorical whirlwind of social justice topics to help fan a revolutionary fire for the progress of humanity, I’ll leave that trending topic alone — for now.

After all, turning 30 only happens once.

I realize that the age of 30 might not mean much to those of you who have made it to the next decade or two, or five, even. In the grand scheme of life, it’s nothing more than just another blip on a human being’s timeline, if you really think about it.

Regardless, many of my queer peers have persistently pined that the age of Thirt-ay begs a visit from an invisible Reaper ‘o Souls — like an apocalyptic Headless Horseman, if you will, furiously galloping forward on his blindingly glittery Unicorn of SelfDoubt, cackling maniacally while ushering in the era of “Gay death“: the unfairly early age at which gay men are no longer deemed to be fun, attractive or valuable by their youthful prospects.

Oh dear God, I can just FEEL the transition happening! πŸ‘»

All joking aside, I’ve matured enough now to see that already melodramatic term as a inaccurate, sweeping generalization, even if it’s a belief held by many. Then again, I’ve also come to the unfortunate realization that despite clear evidence to the contrary, many people also cling to misguided beliefs out of fear. God forbid that they might end up being wrong about something.

Herd mentality just ain’t cute, y’all. Please do yourself (and others) a favor and form your own independent thoughts, for the sake of bettering ourselves as a society, a collective human species, and our interconnected existence with all of Life upon our strange, mysterious and wondrous slice of the cosmos we call Earth.

… Alas, dear readers, I digress. The goal of this post isn’t to stand up and proselytise from my virtual soapbox, but simply to share a brief update about how things have personally been going for me lately. Truth be told, my counterculture roots were sown at an early age, and not unlike Poison Ivy, I still have a few thorny tendrils that are known to emerge and lash out when I’m feeling provoked and under pressure.

Social distancing at its finest.

Growing up in conservative country, my soul never quite felt in sync with the pulse emanating from the heart of Texas. My offbeat personality helped me find lots of odd, wonderful and unique friends, but the locale never truly felt like home to me. A trifecta of heartbreak, hard work and hellish environments lit a fire beneath me to find an entirely new place to live.

After crafting a post about my struggles and how difficult it was for me to find a job out-of-state, I was fortunate enough that a dear colleague read my blog and reached out, which ultimately enabled me to finally spread my wings and soar into a new reality.

I’m forever grateful for taking that leap of faith.

Almost exactly three years ago from today, I touched down in the Bay Area of Northern California, where I’ve felt warmly welcomed ever since. I won’t sugarcoat it and say that every day has been pure carefree perfection, but my life feels monumentally better than it did before, and I am so incredibly thankful for that.

“Okay, that’s wonderful to hear, Brad, but can you be a bit more specific? You’ve hardly given us almost any details about your new life on the West Coast in nearly three years.”

Oh, yes, specifics. Historically, that’s not been my greatest strength, but I’ll try!

Well, why not begin with the most important change? In possibly the most pivotal moment of my time here, I was especially fortunate to find my kind, high-spirited, passionate and wholehearted boyfriend, Jerry:

Last Sunday, we enjoyed a gorgeous, sunny day at his relatives’ backyard pool for the first time this year.

Since I met him last October, we’ve shared countless deep, beautiful and transformative moments and journeys together, and I am constantly inspired by his energy, zest and joy for life. My love for him abounds in multitudes that even I didn’t realize were harbored within my being.

As clichΓ© as it might sound — it’s true: I love and cherish him more than words can express.

Aside from being happily partnered, I take solace in the fact that I’m still relatively fit, healthy, and take good care of myself, for the most part. And even further than that, I’m constantly learning, adapting, and evolving into a more well-rounded human being — not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well.

Despite all those wonderful things, I still occasionally have darker days where I find my mind slipping into unhealthy habits of unproductive brooding and rumination, especially during this unprecedented time in human history. Sometimes, it’s like I’m sleepwalking, and then I wake up and realize I’m partially submerged in a murky pool of apathy, with my top half surrounded by a shroud of despair.

I am so much more than my darkest feelings.

COVID-19 has directly impacted nearly every human being on this planet (or will, at some point). It’s true that “we’re all in this together,” but that’s become somewhat of a tired catchphrase over the course of this pandemic.

Like a Black Mirror episode come to life, almost every company is employing it to sell their shit. Just take a look at this eerie compilation video. Social media has turned it into a hashtag, a warning, and a trend.

Me, Jerry and Cam for the last three months.

Given the worldwide situation, I consider myself extremely lucky for my own circumstances during this global pandemic: I have a flexible and rewarding job which allows me to work from home, I get to spend my most of my quarantined days with my marvelous partner Jerry, I live with my amazing best friend Cam, and I get to hang out with such sweet, funny and furry felines every single day.

This little guy (Dewey) provides me with so much joy.
Sweet Sapphire and I are now going 9 years strong!

Additionally, I’ve had very few moments of feeling stir crazy from being at home for extended periods of time. I also feel blessed and highly favoured that I get to eat delicious and nutritious home-cooked meals almost every day.

During quarantine, Jerry has been learning how to cook his grandma’s family recipes. Here, he is making homemade vegetarian enchiladas for the first time, which turned out to be absolutely delicious! 🀀

And yet, even though my own situation feels nearly ideal, I’ve quickly learned that I’m definitely not immune to creeping feelings of apathy, listlessness, anti-social tendencies, anxiety, and unshakeable existential dread. This pandemic has forced our country into a grand experiment, and it feels like our nation is failing at a high-level, exposing so many of our wide-spread issues. The shaky foundation we once pretended not to notice is now visibly crumbling beneath our feet.

Simple, trickle-down economics!

I know it has nothing to do with me personally, but whether I like it or not, America is intricately woven into my identity, and I can’t help but share some of our nation’s collective pain during this difficult time.

My heart aches for the world right now: for healthcare workers who are putting their lives on the line, day after day; for the elderly and immunocompromised who must frequently wonder if this week might be their last; for parents who must now work their day job while also acting as instructor and babysitter for their child at the same time; for the poor who have yet another roadblock to deal with when they already have so many; the list goes on and on.

We could have done so much more to prepare for this. Seeing sobering statistics of mass infection and death rates rising higher than any other country by far has felt like a huge, looming and debilitating storm cloud over my psyche. From that alone, it’s no surprise that I often experience thick brain fog with a mind already running a mile a minute. For the last few months, reading the latest news about COVID (and recently, protests) has become its own sort of addiction, as my need to stay informed weighs on me, kinda like my daily lunch that I often seem to overeat! 😝

Girl, same.

Before the shelter-in-place order went into effect mid-March, I used to work out at the gym roughly five days a week, often training with compound exercises like deadlifts and squats, lifting heavy barbells exceeding my own body weight.

Nowadays, I mostly manage to still workout five days a week with an adapted routine, but I confess that it’s so much harder for me to stay motivated and as fit and strong as I was before, when the heaviest dumbbell I own is literally 20 pounds, and weights heavier than that seem to be sold out everywhere.

Also, I used to adore riding my sturdy mountain bike, which I felt safe about storing on my front porch in an apartment complex where almost every neighbor had their bikes openly on display, untethered and free from the burdens of possessive paranoia. Then COVID swept through the nation, setting off a chain of events that led to the demand for bikes punching through the roof, causing my own suddenly disappear one day. Zero closure for a bike I’d happily owned for years.

I just hope that shady, shady human being genuinely needed my bike more than I did.

All in all, I realize that my few troubles are relatively minor and still mostly concerned with self-actualization, the very top of Maslow’s pyramid. While the Hell Zone of Quarantine may be hard to snap out of, I think I’m doing pretty well with staying conscious of my feelings and taking care of myself.

Getting outside in the sun helps tremendously.
Still mask for mask, obvi.

Anyway, I’ve written enough about COVID and its effects for now; in general, I think the vast majority of us have heard more than plenty about it over the last few months.

Going forward, what I do want to write about is what truly interests me, which, frankly, I’m still figuring out. However, there’s certainly patterns that keep repeating, usually related to creative works of art — whether that takes the form of a sunset electronic show in the desert, street graffiti anatomy, an interactive online nature experience, a thought-provoking movie about life, a futuristic series woven like a beautiful tapestry, or an inspiring vision for the future.

OoooOooOoh… as I typed that last sentence, a curious sensation of excitement bubbled up within me. In all fairness, that feeling generally isn’t a given for me on most workdays, unless I’m looking forward to something; for example, a new and inventive show with a hearty helping of comedic relief. Which, if you were wondering, my top pick of 2020 so far would be Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.

Poppy, the lead developer, is my favorite character on the show. So relatable! 😻

On a more serious note (just one more time, I promise), I must admit that I don’t always feel like every day was lived to my full potential. I truly, positively want to change that. I aspire to be the best version of myself — an admirable, light-hearted and loving extension of the Tao. I want to use my talents, diverse skill set and unique world view to shape the world into a better place for all.

At times, I get down about not fully feeling there yet, but I remind myself that things worth having are also worth waiting for. And thankfully, I do feel like my professional career makes a positive difference in many peoples’ lives. No one intentionally wants to use an outdated website that looks like garbage — or worse, barely even functions.

Without me, there’d likely be hundreds of thousands of real people having a less-than stellar online banking experience. Although that’s not exactly steeped with meaning, I know that, at the very least, in some way, I’m constantly improving useful financial interactions for a vast multitude of human beings out there.

I actually love working from home, where my office is entirely my own. πŸ₯°
Besides, who wouldn’t want a cute creature to distract them from the daily grind?

Now that we’ve been forced to shelter-in-place, other than working, what have I been doing with all this “extra” time? If you know me well, you know how much I hate wasting precious moments; then again, I also see the value in having dedicated blocks of time for relaxing and decompressing from the workaday life.

Well, I’ve made a bunch of positive changes lately, but the main takeaway is that I’ve effectively been setting aside necessary time for just me and my personal interests.

For one, I’ve picked up a morning meditation practice again, which aids my inner calm throughout the day. Now that I can’t go to the gym to pump iron back and forth, I’m learning new light weight movements, stretches, and cardio to keep my body more holistically healthy. Each day, little by little, I’ve continued writing for myself, mentally decompressing and getting my thoughts onto the page. I’ve even learned how to cut my own hair (well, kinda).

And after three years, I’ve even started to actually update this website! It’s not much, but I created a couple new web pages related to my continuous interest in electronic music: one for showcasing some of my current favorite alternative DJs (including a bunch of links to great music), and another to share some of my curated music playlists.

Just a few of my favorite queens. πŸ‘‘

It’s definitely still a work in progress overall, but it’s all functional, and in a place where I feel at least marginally alright with sharing it with the world. (If I waited until I actually felt like it was perfect, it’d probably never end up being released.)

Over time, I plan to update my favorite DJs, sets and playlists. For a good decade, I’ve naturally felt inclined to seek out fresh and innovative offerings in the vast web of electronic music, and my audio library is akin to my favorite emotional release valve which helps me get through hard times.

Some weeks, I can barely muster the motivation to do anything creative for myself. Why create during my free time, when I can simply consume instead, amirite?

But… but… that new game won’t play itself! And that new Netflix series is so dope, bro!

Well, as they say, nothing worth doing is ever easy, I suppose.

Anyway, this post ended up being longer than I originally anticipated, so thanks for making it this far. Times are tough for all of us right now, but I have faith that the grand upheaval we’re all experiencing will ultimately result in beneficial change for the future of our world. Like a caterpillar in a cocoon, we’ll get through this stage, eventually to emerge transformed into something wondrous and new.

The last few months of quarantine have personally helped me cut down on the external noise and shift me in the right direction. After yet another long day of working, it can be hard to devote time to a dedicated hobby, and it takes much less momentum to stagnate and vegetate rather than innovate, but the older I get, the more I want to meditate, hydrate and elevate.

Beautiful, verdant hikes abound, and I’m eternally grateful that I live nearby whenever I need a dose of natural healing.

Turning 30 looks nothing like I’d imagined, and that’s okay. I went through a huge amount of growth during my twenties and I’ve already experienced a remarkable journey through life, but if you ask me, I think my thirties have the potential to be my best decade yet.


Stay safe and strong out there, fellow reader. 🧑

Brad

2 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Devin Halpinereply
June 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm

This post was very moving, Brad. You continue to inspire me… I realize that I need to use all this free time to work on myself. The line “it takes much less momentum to stagnate and vegetate” hit me hard because that’s essentially what I’ve been doing for the past 6 years. It’s so much easier to ignore all the issues in life instead of kicking myself in the ass to do something about them. Your strength and personal motivation is so admirable. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought to myself a few times to be more like Brad, as in proactive.
You’re a beautiful soul. I’m so happy that you’ve made a better life for yourself in the Bay, that you’ve found love (Jerry is such a catch!) and that you have your best friend Cam living there with you.
Happy Birthday my brecious Prad!

jerryocelotpurrsreply
June 6, 2020 at 11:42 am

Such a powerful and moving post. I am so incredibly proud of you and you should be just as proud of yourself. You have a way with words that is inspiring and thought-provoking while maintaining such elegance and flow that never leaves the reader behind. Reading about your journey to today and getting a glimpse into your beautiful mind is such a special treat for all of us reading. Vulnerability is difficult and yet you handled it with such grace in your post. Thank you for reminding us what it is to be human.

Thank you for creating awareness through your writing. I am so proud to have a partner who truly cares about all of humanity and how he changes the world around him. You truly push me to look inwards and improve myself in ways I could not do without you. I’m forever grateful for that.

I love the way this post keeps all of us engaged through shifts in the point of view, gifs, personal photos, and links. Every detail was perfectly thought out and executed. I laughed, I cried, I nodded in agreement, and I immediately felt closer to you after reading. Continue this creative journey and keep opening up the world around you and all of us will follow along. Each post brings us closer together as a community and each post means so much to us.

Happy Birthday! I love you more than words can express and I am always right by your side on this beautiful journey of life together.

<3
Ocelot

Express yourself. What's on your mind, friend?

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