BY: JACOB HAUNGS
Creator/Curator – The Virtual Agora
A neurotic mind is a dangerous one. I have thought of, and re-thought of how to begin this first post numerous times. I have worried about its topic, worried about its direction, worried about how it would all come off. Would it feel out of touch? Would it feel too personal? Would it feel idiotic? But it doesn’t really matter, does it? I created this blog (or site, or forum, or place of self-indulgence – whichever you wish to call it) in order to provide a place for voices. Not just one, but all. A place for both sides of the aisle, both sides of the coin, and all shades of race, creed, sexual orientation, religion, or whatever it may be. If you’re a living, breathing human, you matter (or animal, or dead person, no judgment here). You could come in shouting about the philosophical implications of removing oneself from a given narrative (cough Taylor Swift), as long as you’re shouting about something. A shout into the void is never a shout unheard.
In that, it all came to me. Use my voice. Speak my story, and my truth. After all, a blog is inherently a place of self-indulgence, and being that this site hasn’t reached its ultimate goal yet, I might as well indulge in said self-indulgence. It can be hard, though, to fully relinquish the inner monologue, because there’s that inherent fear that people will scoff or gawk. That people will judge or laugh. That people will somehow see words as a means of attack, rather than a means to provoke. Provoke, though, isn’t necessarily the dirty word you think it is. It’s not even the synonym to attack, at least not in this context. A means to provoke merely means a way to cause. A way to make people think, or see something different, or form a new perspective. A call to action, or a call to inaction. A means of opening, of arousing, of inciting.
The biggest fear – at least from my view as a 24-year-old – is the judgment from the so-called wise elders. I don’t mean to say that those who came before us don’t deserve a certain level of respect for their extensive life experiences, however, that should never mean we as a younger generation are no longer free to think or provoke. As if we, by being young, have no clue how the world should be. That we, as Millennials, merely complain for the sake of it. The fear, I guess, is being looked at as a stereotype or a caricature.
But, that’s precisely what excites me, as well. I want to appear as a Millennial. I want to speak my voice, and I want to be heard. The success of our country – and our world – is in understanding the voices of every generation. Why is it that any of us think the way we do? Why is it that the older generations call us lazy and entitled? Is it so terrible to want a different life than theirs? Is it so terrible to want more than just a job and a paycheck, just to be able to pay the bills and eventually send my children to school? Should I not want more in life than that? But, I do understand their frustrations. I understand what they see and how they see it, because I understand where they came from. I understand the history, and what became of their generations, and what happened to cause their ideologies. It’s the same understanding I have of our own generation. But, the “I” isn’t meant to be a condescending “I know more than you,” it’s a “we all have the tools to understand others.” The problem is – as we are seeing in the modern political climate – there seem to be a great deal of people ignoring that very knowledge.
But, even beyond that, it’s paramount that we understand ourselves, as well. I got so tired of wanting and trying to be someone that I wasn’t, and someone I was never truly going to be. The problem always was: I didn’t fully realize I was even pretending. There are always those silly inspirational quotes and memes about being true to yourself, and never being influenced by societal pressures, and falling victim to unwarranted expectations, and not allowing yourself to settle. You believe in them. You say to yourself: “fuck yeah!” However, nothing could be worse that following the words of others. See them, be inspire by them, but never read another’s words as your own truths. They are merely guidelines. Your friends may have found their peace, and you’ve become jealous of their lives. You want what they have, and you think to yourself that you suddenly need to be exactly them. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s funny, because you never really know you’re growing up until after you’ve grown up. I always believed that I was exactly who I was and should be, but I was only fooling myself. It sounds a little stupid – even saying this to myself – but I started to really find myself when I started going to music festivals. It wasn’t the music or the experience itself (though, if you’ve ever been one, you know they’re incredible), it was the people watching. It was seeing the people around me, and seeing who they were, and seeing their actions. It was wanting to be some of them. It was wanting to embody their energies, and their personalities, and what I imagined their lives to be. But, by the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth festival, I quickly fled from those thoughts. I am exactly me, and that’s it. I have the people in my life who love me, because of me. I love me, because of me. I’m not going to be the guy who dances like no one is watching, but that’s because that’s not who I am. I tried it. I went for it. But, I’m alright living inside the head nod. Because that’s who I am. I am the head nod. It’s obviously healthy to push your boundaries, and to see where you can go. However, make sure you’re pushing to find your zone. Don’t push because it’s what you think you have to do. Your zone is your zone, and even when it comes about in a trivial setting, you’ll start to take that confidence in self with you in every aspect of your life.
I recently uprooted my life from Los Angeles to Denver. That makes this the fourth (and a half) city I’ve lived in throughout my life. I went from Cincinnati, to Boston, to Los Angeles, and now to Denver (with some time in Florida, as well). There’s something I really love about that, though. I love seeing new places, immersing myself in new communities, and meeting the depth and diversity of people in this country. Every place has its own identity. I struggled to keep my own in Los Angeles, which was ultimately why I left.
It’s important to understand your place within a location. It’s important to understand why you’re there, why you’ve stayed there, and if you really should remain there. Los Angeles is an interesting beast. It’s certainly an ambitious city like New York, but in very different ways. There’s a game you have to play to get to where you want, and it was a game I found myself no longer wanting to play. There’s a lot of politics, and who you know, and how you are, and who you are, and putting on faces, and passing judgments. It’s a lot of believing wholeheartedly in your taste, and your knowledge, and being at the best companies, surrounded by the best people. (Disclaimer: those aren’t necessarily inherently bad things, but the combination in that particular scenario creates a unique maze by which you need the patience and the desire to finish.) There’s a lot of misplaced value and importance, and a lot of why I went into film in the first place seemed to be slipping away from me. That’s not to say I couldn’t play the game, I could and I can. That’s also not to say there aren’t people who hold on to themselves throughout the game. I stepped away from the game, because I realized I didn’t want the prize.
I was a screenwriting track at Boston University, and held a concentration in History. I got into film, because I loved to write and I loved the world around me. I was always fascinated by school and by learning, and wanted the ability to create stories and worlds that would resonate with people. As a gay boy growing up in Cincinnati, I felt a bit alone. Not that I was tortured or felt unaccepted or felt unloved by anyone close to me (though there were the various harassers), but I did feel alone. There weren’t a lot of people to turn to, and I carried that with me to college, even after I came out. I found myself exploring gay cinema, and all it had to offer. There were stories about being gay as a teenager and falling for the best friend, stories about discovering and exploring one’s sexuality, stories about coming to terms with and understanding oneself, stories about feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin. But, most importantly, there were stories about love, and happiness, and feeling free. That’s what I want to accomplish. I want to be a voice in that mix; a voice that some kid somewhere will understand as close to his own. I found my own voice in that sea of voices. To me, that’s the beauty of film. It has the ability to bring an audience inside the lives and minds of others. It has the ability to make others understand, or relate, or sometimes simply to entertain.
However, that wasn’t the path I found myself on in Los Angeles. I think that’s really the main issue. It’s a tough city, because there are so many avenues to take. You can easily decide to change your path, but it’s not necessarily always easy to actually do so. I found myself down a producing path, which is something I certainly love, and would certainly love to do still down the line. As a writer, I figured that if I wasn’t writing, this was the next best thing. However, I was quickly realizing that I wanted to produce my own material. I was constantly thinking of new ideas and new projects that I wanted to write and take control of for myself. I thought, if I played the game in front of me, I’d get there. I saw, though, bosses that I admired, but I didn’t necessarily want to be in their roles. I was traveling down a path that I thought was right for me, but saw an end that didn’t quite feel right.
It wasn’t until my last job that I found myself really wanting out. I worked my way to my dream company, and thought I was pushing my way to the top. I had an intense boss in an intense job, but it didn’t bother me at first, because I knew I needed to pay my dues. Work hard, keep your head down, learn all you can, and move on when it’s time. Very quickly, though, it did start to bother me. It bothered me, because I was realizing that I was putting up with this position for a means to that very end I didn’t want. So, then why? Why be here? I battled with leaving the job, and exploring other routes in LA, but I wasn’t seeing many routes that felt fitting. I wanted to write, but it was more than just screenplays to be submitted to agents and studios. I wanted to write books, too. Poetry, blog posts, articles. Anything. I just wanted to write. I wanted to connect with my voice again, and I wanted to find inspiration again.
Working in the entertainment industry, it can be hard to navigate the egos and the personalities. It can start to weigh heavily on you. It’s the passive judgment, it’s the nose in the air, it’s the sense that because of your surroundings – people, places, jobs – you’re somehow better than. I once heard from a boss (no less, about an extremely successful and intelligent doctor who didn’t want their life produced as a television show): “who are you kidding, everyone cares about us.” That asinine obliviousness is astounding. This belief that we, because we make film and television, are so highly regarded is just outrageous to me. That even a doctor doing incredible work for the world should care more about their life on screen. At times, it becomes less about quality, and more about status. It becomes about who’s chasing what, and how we get ourselves into the race, because we can’t lose out on something someone else wants. Whether or not people find the industry interesting, it’s that mostly unwarranted feeling of self-importance that seems to erode the humanity in film-making. So, as I was finding myself less and less inspired by my surroundings, less and less wanting to be in the driver seat of my own car, I decided to move.
I’m constantly searching for the balance of creativity, ambition, and decency. It’s been about somehow finding the confidence of self. When you think about the times and the moments that rocked your confidence, it becomes easier to understand how you see certain parts of yourself as failures. You start to see how you act a certain way, or how you fear certain things. Why did this happen? How? As you start to dissect what went wrong, or what was said, or what happened, you can start to understand how it affected you. As someone who can be quite introspective – as someone with that dangerous neurotic mind – I’ve been able to resolve and come to terms with a lot of my life, and a lot of where I think things went temporarily off the rails.
I’ve learned – and I’m sure we’ve all learned – that it can be incredibly difficult to succumb to what you want. To what you’ve always wanted. There’s the fear of jumping into the abyss, going after your dreams, and knowing that it’ll come or it won’t. But either way, you still lived it. I was a writer. I am a writer. I’ll always have that. Even without a Nobel, without a Pulitzer, without commercial or critical success. I was a writer. I am a writer.
And, who knows, maybe I’ll move back to LA one day. Maybe I’ll realize I need to be there, or maybe a project will take me back. But, for now, I know I’ve made the right decision. You can’t second guess yourself, though that’s not to say you can’t ever change. It’s a focus and a point of view. Does what’s in front of me excite me more than the fear of what I’ve left behind? It certainly does. One feeling overcomes the other. But, it’s all about the point of view. It’s about where you’re looking. I’m consistently navigating the feeling of missing and not missing. A feeling of disconnection. It’s an anxious feeling. Although there are the many people in LA that discouraged my feelings on the city along the way, there were a great deal with whom I found immense love and comfort. I found a remarkably kind, intelligent, hard-working, sincere, hilarious and fun group of friends that I wouldn’t have traded for the world (and still won’t). I regret leaving that sense of belonging sometimes, but I’ve learned, now in my fourth city, that you have to keep moving forward the only way you know how. Keep exploring, keep searching, and keep finding. Those friends – from Cincinnati, from Boston, and now from Los Angeles – will always be within the fabric of my soul, and I will carry them with me forever, and we will ride this fucked up journey of life together. There are places you leave behind, there are people you leave behind, but there are those you never lose.
I’ve never felt more lost in my purpose, but that’s okay with me (for the most part). It’s an unsettling feeling, but I wasn’t ready to settle. I have a man that I love, and we’re on the move. We’re finding our places in the world, and it’s the most fucking thrilling feeling I’ve ever had.