Monday, December 26The State Of The CDP Speech - 2011.
(This is either the most heartfelt essay I’ve ever written, the most insanely egomaniacal, or a little bit of both. Just a heads-up.)
I’ve been fortunate enough to document nearly every major or noteworthy event of my 20’s on the CDP. This has come in handy both emotionally and mechanically; it’s quite comforting to flip through the scrapbook every now and then to see what I’ve accomplished and would eventually become, but it’s just as rewarding to use it to settle an argument about a specific date or story. The CDP has allowed me to remember more details about my life than I ever could have without.
This year, however, was different. For me, the bulk of 2011 was lived outside of the blog. Undocumented and kept uncharacteristically private. I had just as much time to write this year as any other, and my experiences over the last 12 months were as important to me (or more) than any other year of my life, but due to reasons I’m about to explain, you didn’t really hear about any of it.
I like to write funny stories. When something quirky happens to me (and it happens a lot), I kick it around in my head for a couple days, write it out and pass the humor (and savings) on to you. I’ve always tried (and sometimes even succeeded) to avoid the trappings I loathe most about a typical blog, and to a greater extent, what I loathe most about nearly everything posted on the Internet. Which is:
1. Complaining without artistic payoff, and
2. Bragging without artistic payoff.
As it stands, I’m arguably about to do both.
What I see in 99% of blogs, Tweets, status updates and any other avenue of Social Media, are people telling you either how much their life sucks or how much their life rocks. Period. Nothing else. Just some broad, general statement they feel the need to share with you for no unselfish reasons whatsoever ("My life is sooo great right now!!!"). Either your immediate sympathy or your deepest envy is being requested by someone who needs the attention dearly ("My life sucks; I'm poor and want to die"), but lacks the effort or talent to place these desires in a format that’s even remotely entertaining. This drives me crazy. It’s admittedly a bit off-kilter, misguided and more than a little asshole-ish, but it’s a pet peeve that keeps me honest, and void of posting any more nonsense on the Internet than I already do. It’s also the reason I’ve been so mum this year.
(Green Bay needs to repeat this year, only because it was impossible to enjoy the last one if you lived in Madison.)
No less than six days after the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, my city (Madison) and my state (Wisconsin) declared war on itself. We were instantly awash in protests, recalls, union-busting and shady political dealings the likes we’ve never seen before in these parts. A new kind of dividing line was drawn that we hadn’t seen in a long time; not one of Left Wing vs. Right Wing, but of the chasm that exists between the classes. This feud grew larger and larger, eventually spreading to nearly every major city in the nation and directly to Wall Street. Call me biased, but I firmly believe that the global Occupy movement began right square in the center of the Wisconsin State Capitol this February, and I was there in person to see its zenith.
I didn’t want to be there, and that's a very important thing to remember of the bulk of those who participated. Teachers, students, firefighters, cops and state employees didn’t want to be there. None of us wanted to take the shuttle bus down to the Square in the freezing cold. None of us wanted to be on Fox News (or even The Daily Show), being portrayed as thugs that were vandalizing the Capitol and whining over entitlements. I, in particular, didn’t want to participate in mindless chanting or a “Who can create the most clever sign?” contest.
I wanted to do what I always do: Go to work, do my job, come home, write and spend time with my wife. But I couldn’t. A face, a number and a voice of opposition had to accompany the resistance to what we felt were woefully unethical political decisions, so we spent all Winter (and Spring, and Summer, and Fall) doing what we thought was right. And whether it turns out to be a victory or a failure, I can say without hyperbole that we changed the world this year.
There is nothing more about this that hasn’t already been said more eloquently, which is why I said next to nothing about it online this year. I don’t write about Politics anymore, I don’t want to complain without artistic payoff (Rule #1), and as a state employee, I felt a certain responsibility to keep some opinions to myself. I still do, and I’ll continue to. The battle rages on, and even though you didn’t read about it on the CDP this year, it has encompassed a tremendous amount of my time, energy, anxiety and emotion. There. Done.
(Yours truly prepares to walk out in front of about 13,000 people at the Bradley Center.)
On the exact opposite side of this coin, I have been blessed with some extremely good fortune this year. My love of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has been touched upon a few times here, and as an employee of an agency that, as of September 2010, now controls the state regulation of MMA, I somehow stumbled into a dream job that I had fantasized about since I was 13 years old. For the last ten months, I’ve been making a (semi) living regulating my favorite sport. I’ve met idols, witnessed incredible events, traveled thousands of miles and most importantly, directly shaped the future of a sport that only seems to be growing exponentially with each passing day. Not many people can say that they found their dream job while working for the state, but my fortune (and dumb luck) concerning what I’ve been doing for money this year is almost too good to be true. Which is exactly why I haven’t been talking about it.
I have stories about my job that I’d like to tell. Of course, for many reasons (being allowed to keep said job being one of them), I cannot do that for the time being. Anything I can tell you would only be bragging without artistic payoff (Rule #2), so for most of the year, I’ve kept this good news predominantly to myself. I’m having a great time, and merely telling you that without an accompanying story about me being knocked down a peg when I least expect it makes me feel like a prick. There. Done.
(She's the most beautiful woman I've ever met. I'm a potato-headed goon.)
On the domestic front, things have stayed relatively the same, with one major difference: I no longer give a shit about anyone but my wife anymore. Let me back up, because I’m about to say something kind of beautiful (or psychotic).
Don’t get me wrong. The cats are still healthy, my friends are still fantastic, the income is still razor-thin and my extended family is still keeping their head above water, but my marriage has entered a phase I can only describe as “Permanently Bonded.” I thought I knew what Love was when I met Celia in 1999. It was subsequently redefined multiple times; most notably when we moved in together in 2002, got married in 2004 and celebrated our 5th Anniversary in 2009. At the beginning of 2011, it was redefined again, but in a way I didn’t think was possible or ever could have prepared for.
I never took Celia for granted, but there were times I could have been more available, supportive and compassionate. I knew that I cared about her more than anything, but the thought always existed in the form of a given. An assumption more than a gut feeling. The sort of talk you were more likely to hear from your Grandparents than newlyweds: “Of course I care about that woman more than anything. We’re married; that’s just the way it’s supposed to be, right?” What I didn’t (naively) realize what that there was more to it; an emotional switch about to be flipped that turned me into more of a husband (and man) than I ever could have achieved through actively attempting.
I don’t know what caused it. Perhaps it was the political turmoil. Perhaps it was the monotonous stress of balancing the (empty) checkbook for the millionth time. Perhaps it was the realization that we have been together for 11 years this January (and 12 years as of today). Whatever the case, I heard a voice in my head that said, “You know what? I could lose everything. Everything I’ve ever owned, loved or held dear, and it would be alright, legitimately alright in every emotional or physical way, as long as I had Celia by my side.”
This wasn’t forced. I wasn’t looking for this. This wasn’t pheromone, dopamine or hormone-induced sentiment. Celia didn’t request more from me. This thought didn’t arrive as the result of a death, injury or fear of infidelity. This was an organic, subterranean thought that bubbled to the surface and completely obliterated every thought I’ve ever had about what it meant to cherish something. And since that moment in January, it never left.
From that point forward, something was lifted off of me that I didn’t even realize was weighing me down. Every doubt, every financial worry, every possession, every past regret, every unrequited love and every failure was blown permanently off of the map. I used to think that I was the kind of person who could maintain a decent relationship with anyone. Now I know that the only thing I ever want to be good at is making certain that Celia lives the best possible life with me at her side. That sounds like the sort of thing I should have come to terms with a decade ago, and I thought I had, but now I know that I really have. I don’t have to think about it anymore. I don’t have to think about anything anymore. It just happens. I don’t need praise and attention. I don’t need success and wealth. I have her, and that makes me indestructible.
I used to work at a hardware store frequented by elderly retirees and the almost-dead. A lot of these men and women were widowed, but every so often, I’d see an old couple shuffle in. They’d probably gotten married in the 40’s or 50’s on a complete whim, had children, grandchildren and great-grand children, retired and spent somewhere near the last 60 years together. But they’d be holding hands, finishing each others' sentences and looking at each other with a love and respect that they’ve had since they first met. This, I now realize, is arguably the culmination of a life lived perfectly.
Since I started the CDP in 2004, I have lost one grandparent, and my wife has lost three. Apart from our personal sadness, we’ve seen what happens when the surviving spouse finds themselves completely lost without a map. After a certain amount of time together, you give so much of yourself to your spouse (and rely on them for so much) that a part of you goes right into the casket along with them. My grandma never learned to drive, can’t balance a checkbook and will not leave the house by herself, because these are all things she did (and needed to do) with her husband around. My wife’s grandmother is constantly convinced she’s penniless and poor, seemingly unaware that her late husband maintained finances that could comfortably retire her for the next 30 years.
I used to pity this behavior, confident that I would always be self-sufficient regardless of what future emergencies would arrive. What I never expected was the realization that I didn’t want to exist wholly without Celia; that the secret to a perfect marriage was the ability to willingly give so much of yourself to your spouse that a separation (through divorce or death) would irrevocably destroy you. I don’t want to be okay without my wife, because it would serve as devastating proof that I didn’t give enough to her. I want to be ruined, and I completely understand this now.
I know that all got a little heavy, but it’s yet another reminder of why I haven’t blogged too much this year. I used to stay up late and write while the Missus slept alone. Now, I don’t want to miss a second of my time with her, even if we’re just laying unconscious by each other’s side. It is what it is, and I’m not going to tinker with happiness. Who knows, she’s probably cheating on me as we speak. I’d probably deserve it, too, if only for all those times I bought sub sandwiches when we were supposed to be on a budget. Furthermore, it might be the last essay I ever write on the Internet about how great my wife is, so I figured I'd go all out.
(Cageside at the Allstate Arena. Billy Corgan sat behind me.)
Anyway, it is for all these reasons that CDP content has been more than a little light this year. My responsibilities, duties and life in general have been more hectic, terrible and wonderful than ever, but it all goes against what I feel is my duty to write about here. That might not make a lot of sense to you (I’m having a hard time justifying it), but it’s just something I felt strongly about, and trusting my gut is something I’ve always done concerning my writing (for better or for worse). We don’t have full, 100% control over many things in our lives, so when they come around, I don’t take that privilege lightly. I think being someone who writes online isn’t so much about opening yourself up to the world, but more about knowing exactly when to close up shop and shut your damn fool mouth.
So, there you have it. Not only the reason why I didn’t blog too much this year, but a Cliff’s Notes version of what’s been keeping me busy in the interim (the Man, my job and the Missus, respectively). There’s also a final reason, and it plays directly into why the CDP will cease to be come February: I’m thoroughly finished with this medium, and this medium is thoroughly finished with me.
For eight years, I’ve written well over a thousand stories. I’ve categorized and ranked tens of thousands of pop culture items. I’ve made fun of everything (and everyone) I’ve ever loved. I’ve dragged my every insecurity, flaw, fear and innermost taboo into the spotlight, where I pummeled it mercilessly for a public audience. I’ve geeked out over things that nobody else cares about. I’ve declared my hatred for things that everyone cares about. I’ve made you laugh really, really hard. I may have even spent your hard-earned money at some point. At the age of 22, I went all-in for a shot at a captive audience. I used my own life as currency, and to a certain extent, it succeeded in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I also lost friends, exposed a lot of skeletons and made things significantly harder for me in a lot of ways, too.
This shit has changed my life forever.
I only want to continue writing in this medium if I can do what I did at the CDP’s peak: consistently crank out a buttload of relevant content every single day, all while ceaselessly promoting myself and keeping abreast of everything (everything!) that’s going on with everyone (everyone!) in my online circle. I cannot do, nor do I want to do, any of those things anymore. I think there’s a certain romanticism (even concerning a stupid website) to walking away from something forever when it can no longer be done at an ability that satisfies the creator (see Watterson, Bill). I half-ass absolutely nothing in life that I care about, so the decision became apparent without much thought well over a year ago: It’s time to do something else. Simple as that.
But we’re not done just yet.
The CDP will return in early January with new content. The final post will be on February 10, the date of the CDP’s 8th Anniversary. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy the remainder of 2011. Thanks much for reading this; I appreciate it.
-Ryan J. Zeinert