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The Crash of '29

     On October 29, 1929, after a decade that was known as “The Roaring 20s,” the stock market on Wall Street crashed leaving the country and the world in a grave depression. The crash did not happen without warning signs. It didn’t come without reason. The twenties were not only a time of social change and liberation for much of the country, they were also economically stable times which led to economically prosperous times which then led to many people living a life that would make Jay Gatsby green with envy. The theory is what goes up must come down. Stocks rose higher and higher. Everyone in the nation, thanks to the twenties, had a false sense of security. The joy of the twenties was so strident that the youth of America thought that it might always be this way. Of course, that was until the Crash of ’29. 

     I was born in 1987. Reagan was President, Madonna was on MTV, and the Huxtables were the perfect portrait of the classic American family. I grew up in the 90s, with President Clinton balancing the budget, everyone wearing plaid, and your friends would be there for you. I turned twenty years old on April 28th, 2007. I was living in Los Angeles and I was on my own. After the year was over I decided to move back to Alabama and get serious about my future. I went to college, got my degree in history, met the love of my life, and decided that I wasn’t finished with entertaining people yet. 

     The thing you need to know about me is that I was diagnosed late in life with ADHD. Most people are diagnosed with this particular mental disorder by the age of ten. The symptoms of ADHD can manifest themselves in many different ways. For most of my twenties it was difficulty focusing and a very ardent emphasis on the hyperactivity of ADHD. It was explained to me that the way this mental disorder manifests itself in your life can change over time, as our lives change. I think that can be true for anything, really. As our life continues and we develop into the adults we are meant to be, the way we react to things change. And at the age of twenty-five, it did change. We decided it was time to move to New York City. It was what we both wanted… We being myself and the love of my life aforementioned. We both had dreams that was leading us there, we both wanted to take a bite out of the Big Apple, and we knew that there was never a right time to do it. 

     Of course, Murphy’s Law never saw an opportunity to pass me by. Well, at least if it did it certainly never took it. As soon as we got to New York, we lost every penny we had. We didn’t have a place to live for three weeks. We then both got wonderful jobs, not in our chosen fields, of course, but wonderful jobs that would pay the bills in full. We found an apartment with a friend. The friend wound up being so dumb he could throw himself to the ground and miss his target. But we overcame. We scrimped and saved and finally got our own place. Then, Murphy came a calling. my partner lost his job. So, there we were, poor again. Mind you, all the while we are going through all this, we were hopeful. We figured this was the struggle to make something last. You have to remember, too, that all the while we are going through all this, I still have ADHD and I can feel little things changing in me. Anxiety became a big part of it all. 

     Well, my partner found a new job, an even better one, and the house was finally furnished and I had started my new adventure of creating a podcast. Then it happened. I turned 29. Here I was at the last leg of the rat race that is your twenties. I always assumed that by the time I was 29 I would be sure of myself, and I would have my life in order and I would be in control of my own destiny. Little did I know, the crash of 29 was coming. The stock market crash of 29 led to the greatest depression the world has ever seen. Well, so did mine. My anxiety took me down some of the darkest roads I had ever been through. The motivation was gone, the energy was gone and the worst part of it all: all the creativity was gone. Creativity. That is all I had and it was gone. My anxiety had led to depression before but I always had hope that it would clear up in a few days. But just like the stock market crash, I too had tell tail signs that something bad was coming, which I promptly ignored. This time it was bigger. This time it was all-encompassing. This time it permeated every available space in my mind. How did I get out, you ask? Well, I did just what the world did to get out of the Great Depression. I went to war. 

     I don’t know that I can begin to explain what it means for someone who is prone to anxiety and depression to say it was a dark time because all times have the potential to be dark. These were times when I would think about things that I had never thought about before. Thoughts that everyone has entertained at one point or another, were thoughts I was entertaining on a daily basis. It wasn’t like I was actually considering something drastic, but it gave me a sadistic, dark pleasure to flirt with them. I would take leisure with these thoughts. It would give me a thrill that is both disturbing and repulsive to me now when I would think about what the rest of the people in my little world would do should something dire happen to me. In the 1930s, in the depths of depression, the most destitute citizens living inner-city set up temporary shanty houses that became semi-permanent. They were called Hoovervilles, named after the President of the time. I too was standing in a place that had always been deemed temporary with the downward gaze of submission. I had lost hope and thought I would potentially be in this shanty dwelling permanently. 

     I know it to be true with anyone with high anxiety and depression that little flecks of light sometimes penetrate the dark. Something deep down inside of me, I guess that part that was the little boy with the patch over his good eye in order to strengthen the lazy eye, the little boy that declared his place in the world at an early age to be a humorous one, the boy who would watch sitcoms for company when he felt he had no friends, the boy who moved to Los Angeles at nineteen-years-old, the boy who moved to New York City to take the world by storm, that part of me used the the last little bit of strength to harness one of those little sparks of light. If you can give a spark enough oxygen, the fires of battle can blaze with glory. 

     I have always said there is a big difference between happiness and joy. To me, happiness is overrated. Ice cream makes me happy. Chocolate makes me happy. Walking into the subway station and the train I need pulls right up to the platform without a moment’s delay makes me happy. Happiness is insignificant. Joy comes from within. Joy is the feeling that you are satisfied with the world around you even if you have no ice cream, or chocolate, or if you have to wait 20 minutes for the train to come. That is what was gone for me. Joy had diminished. It seems as though every great war that has ever been fought is filled with irony. The crusades were fought in some capacity for over 400 years in the name of Christianity in an effort to spread the religion that is rooted in love and service. Hitler wanted to make the world great by diminishing an entire religion, killing millions. The great irony in the war I was fighting and am still fighting: a substantial source of joy for me is having my closest allies around me and it was becoming ever clear that this is a war I would be fighting alone. And just like that I found the cause for which I was fighting. I fought the war… and lets’s be honest, I am still fighting the war… to find in myself the true belief and faith that I alone am enough. I am enough. I am funny enough, I am smart enough, I am handsome enough, I am compassionate enough, I am stubborn enough. I am enough. And you know what? I am winning the war. 

     The spoils of the battles are an important part of any war. Not everyone racks up the booty quite like Russia. They took home seventeen new nations after the ugly business known colloquially as World War I. There are some other semantics in there that I am sure I am leaving out. No. Historically, the spoils of war are usually in the form of riches, land, slaves or power. When you are fighting a war of one, you will find your spoils of war not outwardly, but buried deep within. 

     Since the beginning of this war within myself, it was me all along that was fighting myself. I questioned my every move, I doubted every course that was plotted. Historians have discovered that there were unresolved furies and cold conflicts simmering in the decades between the first Great War and the war that ended the Great Depression. There were unresolved issues and wounds that were not allowed to heal. Though peace and prosperity may be the outward symbol of the twenties, the embers of a deeper conflict can continue to smolder unseen. That is what this war within myself has been about. I want to make sure I leave no stone unturned and no feeling unfelt. I want to make sure every facet of the conflict is resolved this time. Though, some of the most significant battles have been fought, the war is not quite over. Will it ever be over? I hope so. 

     The Great Depression is not just an event in History that was significant. It is now a living and breathing entity in the world. It always will be. What I mean by that is it is something to be feared. We saw it. Our grandparents were born before it happened and they watched it unfold. We know it is there. We have discussions of how close we are to having this monster come out and play. Her little sister paid us a visit in 2008 and we wondered if the younger was more beastly than the latter. Every generation knows the fear of something so disastrous that it lives forever and remains something to be feared. There was the assassination of President Kennedy, the “Pointless War” of Vietnam, and the latest of the cousins to throw themselves a party in the American psyche, 9/11, an event so ravenous that the mere date of the event strikes fear and sadness in hearts all around the world. No matter how much distance we put between ourselves and these events, they live. They are something we discuss. We know they happened. If they were once possible they are always possible. And when we get close to their cage we always tread lightly. 

     My own Great Depression is no different. It baffles me when I think too deeply of it. How does our subconscious decide which events we can let go and what events stay with us in our everyday forever more? On New Year’s Eve I had decided that the year I turn twenty-nine would be a year of transformation. And predictions are like wishes, when made callously or without deep examination, they can be very tricky. Needless to say, I was correct about my midnight revelation. I wasn’t just in the tunnel of change. I was stripped of all that I had in ways I haven’t even begun to describe. I found myself in the eye of the storm. The first thing you do is try to convince yourself the storm on the horizon is manageable. Then when you are in it, you decide that if you double down you can make it through. Then, finally, you throw your hands up in the air in submission and surrender and hope that this beast that is bigger than you will mercifully lead you to the shore. Mixed metaphors aside, that is exactly what I did. I remained quiet but mindful that I don’t know how this will be okay, but somehow it will. Then one day, just as the rainbow appears after the storm, or to return to the original metaphor, the silence after the battle, I experienced the clarity and calm. It was a rebirth, a baptism really. I had life made anew. 

     After the Great Depression and the Great War to follow, everyone tried to remain cautious but there was too much to do, too much lost time to make up for, and after all the destruction and peril of the greatest war in modern history to date, the energy of creation was crackling in the minds of all nations. I too had a renewed sense of energy and creativity. I had the promise of a bright new day, and I still do. The world swore they would never let themselves get to that place again; so did I. The great nations of the world decided that it was important to instill preventative measures to ensure the peril of the 30s and 40s never happened again. They knew that alliances that were even stronger during peacetime than in war were extremely important. I realized that rest, exercise and nutrition were just a few things that would keep me from the dark places again. I feel as though I have done the hard work to make sure I remain stimulated and energized. If you go through such an event and learn nothing then you are bound to repeat it until you do. I feel as though I have learned much about my own abilities and strengths and even my own soul. If there is anything that history has taught me it is that I will go on, I will have many more successes and failures in life, and if I learn from each one I will have a life worth living. But one thing I know for sure is that I won’t nor should I ever forget the Crash of ’29.

The Way Others See Us... The Way We See Ourselves

     I have always been sort of aware of the way I present myself to people. I don’t know if it was specifically my mother, or all southern mothers, but I was always led, verbally or non-verbally, to be conscious of the optics of everything I did. I remember at a very young age trying to emulate what I saw as masculine behavior in, not adult men but, my older male cousins. I am the youngest of nine grandchildren, two of which are from my father’s side of the family and five are from my mother’s side of the family and the two remaining are my sister and me. And I am the baby of them all. Well, except that now I am not. I have an uncle that is seven years older than I am and he just had a baby not too long ago. Wait, that’s not right. His wife had a baby not too long ago. Now he is the youngest of them all. Except he doesn’t count the two grandchildren on my father’s side because he isn’t related to them. But then he does have a gaggle of cousins on his mother’s side, but I am not related to them and I don’t even know why I told you about them. The point being! I am from a small southern community and I was constantly reminded that the community can see everything! 

     The Community… That is something that every southerner hears about from an early age. It is like Big Brother. And I guarantee you that no one is more terrified of the watchful eye of the community than your mother. Why is she so aware of the community and their scathing opinions and their comments that sear through to the bone like an ice hot syringe? Because she is one of them. She has her own opinion about other southern women and the way they raise their children and no one does it better than her. Why? Because no one did it better than her mother and her mother taught her everything she knows. And if your mother has a sister, there is another micro-war being waged to see which daughter can uphold the legacy of the mother more devoutly. Alliances are made in the Community. If two women are sitting alone in church in between Sunday School and communion you could bet your offering plate money, double or nothing, they are talking about a member of a third family and how they are doing something that is the matriarch’s fault. 

     I knew from day one, day one I tell you, that I was different. I could look around and be sure that there was something about me that didn’t seem to fit with the formula of what southerners thought was normal and acceptable. Luckily, today, I have a lot of friends from my old community who love me and really love how different I am. they seem to live vicariously through me. I am hyper-aware of this and I like to put on a good show for the Christian folk. I can get away with it because I am Christian myself. Despite what some of the Church of Christ and Baptist Christians might elude to, they are not the gate keepers to God and if you have a relationship with him or her, that is your business. 

     Though, I have shed the layer of self-consciousness that leads me to care in the least little bit what the community thinks of me, let’s be clear, there are still many, many layers to self-consciousness that lie within. It is something that southerners will never shake. You can move to Europe, New York City, Istanbul, etc. and you can lose the accent, die your hair purple, pierce anything that is remotely pink or cover every inch of your alabaster skin in the permanent ink of sin, but you are still going to be aware of what people think of you. You will always think about what people think. We always hear about Catholic guilt or Jewish guilt, but I think another guilt that is secretly strong and sneaky is Southern Protestant guilt. It’s like herpes or rosacea, it lingers under the skin and hasn't showed its ugly face for ages, but then you have an event that happens once in a lifetime and there she is, primed for the world to see.

     People like me, the ones people call, “The Ones That Made It Out,” I believe are the ones that are the most sensitive to what people think. We are always aware of keeping up appearances. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the family Christmas letter, the Church Bulletin, your grandmother that get’s her hair done down at Shelby Harris’s shop, the ways people have access to us are limitless. Sometimes I walk around New York City with my determinant walk and “Get the hell outta my way you Godforsaken tourist” grimace, and I eat my sushi and I have my baggie of kale chips and I read The New York Times while I sip my Korean soup prepared specially by authentic “little old Korean ladies” fresh off the boat for 50 years now in Korean town and all I can think is, “God I would punch a nun in the throat for a nice heaping of collard greens and corn bread.” But you don’t dare… Have collard greens or corn bread, I mean. Punching a nun is not as much of a betrayal to the image you have created for yourself as having collard greens or corn bread would be. My grandfather would even throw a turkey neck in his to flavor the juice. 

     I think the one thing that I realize most about myself in New York City is that I am constantly aware of the image I project. I have the reputation for being a bookworm. This is something that I love most about the image that I project. I ride the subway for 30-40 minutes one-way everyday and so it is a wonderful time to get some reading done. Most people listen to music, but I read because I love to read. I don’t dare throw my books into a bag because I have to at least try to keep them in as pristine a condition as possible. The reason I love the bookworm persona that others have projected onto me is because I have two college degrees. No one knows that in New York City, nor do they care. But I care. I want to let the world know that. The reason for this is I am working in a world, right now, that has nothing to do with my degree, and I struggle for intellectual stimulation in this world in which I have found myself. So, having an outward symbol that tells the world I am intelligent makes me beam with pride. People tell me that too. They say, “You must be really smart. Every time I see you, you have a book.” I beam with joy on the inside. 

     We… and by we, I am referring to “the ones that got out…” We are constantly making choices, though. I choose to wear the clothes I wear because it says I am trendy, but casual. I see the New York ladies always throwing on a nice top over black leggings and some boots. That is the uniform that says, “I was born here, so if you want to see my style you better look at my face because my makeup is flawless.” I can pick a southern lady out of the crowd in New York because she will be wearing the cutest sandals with pedicured toes and not a hair out of place on top of her head. I also wear Karma beads that I bought in a New Age shop that has a shaman and a psychic on site. I wear them for three reasons. One, because they say I am worldly and spiritual, two, because I actually am spiritual and in need of a lighter and more positive energy and I am hoping that the placebo effect will take root, and three, because I like the way they look. I wear my FitBit because I want to say to the world, I care about fitness and my own health. If you followed me home from work you would see me proceed directly to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts and pick up a few and then march straight to my apartment and unbutton my shorts with the loudest exhale. After that you could watch my waist line expand three and a half inches as I conclude the sucking in portion of the program.

     If you stop to look around you, you will notice that everyone has an article of clothing or accessory, a behavior, or a prop that would fall under the category of “Because Of What Others Think.” I wonder to myself, why do we do this to ourselves? Upon the many conversations I have had with native-born New Yorkers, I now know that they too grew up in communities like this. The communities that are scattered around New York are limitless. There are Polish communities, Jewish communities, Dominican communities, Puerto Rican communities, Russian communities, Asian communities, hipster communities, open-minded liberal communities, black communities, rich white communities, middle-class white communities, poor communities, rich mixed communities. The list goes on and on and all of them have their own watchful eyes that are probably being completely controlled by the mothers in the community. The only community that I can think of that might escape the disease of self-consciousness is the open-minded liberal community. But then, even that community would put undue pressure on their children. Say someone was born into this community and they grew up to want to be a wife and stay-at-home mother. They would be ridiculed for not having more of an identity than what she does for her husband and her children. So, really, no one can escape this curse. 

     I think it should be mandatory, whenever you meet someone new, you have to take 30 seconds to look them over, find one thing about them that would induce jealousy, and then tell them one thing about yourself that you don’t like about you, and they have to do the same.

 Me: “Hi I am Kyle. I really like your clothes. They are so nice I wish I could put together an
         outfit like that. I really hate the way I look chubby in every picture despite how much
         weight I lose.

Brad: “Hi. I am Bradley Von Littlespoon. Nice to meet you. Thank you. I got these clothes out of
           my cousin’s closest after he was hit by a little person shot out of a cannon at the circus. I
           really like your karma beads and FitBit. I like how you wear them on the same wrist,
           accentuating your non-dominant hand. I really hate how big my Adam’s apple is. I feel like
           it’s all anyone stares at when they are talking to me. 

     See? Doesn’t that relieve so much pressure when you are out and about with so many other people in this world. We are all suffering from essentially the same problems… Well, except Brad’s cousin. We all want to feel special. We all want to belong. We all want someone to look at us and, just for a moment, think, “Man, I would love to just see what his life is like.” We all know, honestly, we wouldn’t change lives with anyone. Because we all know deep down inside we wouldn’t be just getting rid of our problems, we would be taking theirs. Better the mess you know than the mess you don’t know. Am I right? So, the next time you meet someone new, just instantly tell them something you like about them and then follow it up with something extremely personal you don’t care for about yourself. I bet you will be incredibly surprised by how quickly you bond with this person.

NOTICE: My license to be a Personal Life Coach has expired and was only valid in Dickey
               County in the state of North Dakota to begin with. Taking the sage life advice you
              have read in the previous passage is doing so at your own risk.

Blog? Why Not?!

     The beginning of… THE BLOG! Why start a blog now? And what to blog about? How many times can you say blog in the opening paragraph of your first blog post before the word blog begins to sound like something out of a science fiction movie? It seems like everyone has a blog now. I guess you could say there is great pressure to make my blog something theirs are not. Or, perhaps, there is no pressure at all because I am the last blogger to jump on the band wagon of blogging. So, no one is going to read my blog anyway. 

     The answer is 8. I have used the word blog 8 times in the opening paragraph of my first blog post… unless you count the two times the word was included inside another word. (Blogger and Blogging) And then I have used the word twice in this second paragraph… again, unless you count the two times… Well you get the idea. The point is I have written two whole paragraphs into my first blog post and you still have gotten no substance at all. This is because just like my life, I don’t know what I need to write about.

      Okay, all joking aside, why am I here? I have always done journaling; ever since I was 16. When I am going through a situation, it has always helped me to write it down. Right now, I am going through the most difficult spot I have ever been in. I am 29 years old, I have two college degrees, I live in New York City, I have big dreams, and I am more lost than I have ever been! I am starting this blog because I am wondering if there is anyone who can relate? 

      I think the one thing that is difficult for all of us to do is to admit the truth. Why is the truth so hard for humans the world over? We always know that when we tell a personal truth, it liberates us, it makes us feel lighter and less stressed, and it usually helps us to feel camaraderie with our fellow humans. We learn this lesson time and again. So, why do we always find it so hard to do? I am counting on this blog never getting a single reader… Therefore, this is my space to freely give my truths! I need a space to just freely let my hair down and tell the world what I am thinking. And since I am counting on no one reading this blog, because, you know, I am the last person on Earth to start a blog, therefore having absolutely no one interested in what I have to say, I am going to frequently let my thoughts fly! 

      What is the first thought that I want to let fly in my first blog post ever of my first ever blog? Well, simple. Nothing! When you are put on the spot you have nothing. Isn’t that the way it always goes?  On a first date when you want to be your most charming and witty self, you draw a blank and wind up staring at your food as if it were the most interesting thing you have ever seen. Well, I am not going to stare at my food, which isn’t very interesting in the first place. It’s a half a toaster strudel and a cold cup of coffee. Cold on accident, it is. I also have taken to making cold coffee. It is quite delicious, but that isn’t what I have now. Now I have hot coffee that has gotten cold.

     No! I am not going to spend my first installment of my blog post trying to think of something that accurately presents myself to an audience that isn’t even there to begin with, and one I am not counting on coming, I might add; a blog post that puts the me I wish the world to see on display. I don’t care if you think I am witty or charming or even funny, for that matter. Secretly, though, I am dying for you to find me all those things. But I have nothing to say! So, for now, I am going to do something unexpected. I am going to share a first memory with you. What is a first memory, you might ask. Well, we have lots of first memories. We remember the first memory of going to school, or we have a first memory of when we met a friend. We might have a first memory of when we first tasted lima beans or the first timeyou put on a leotard just because… What? You thought that happened to me? These are just hypotheticals! Seriously!! Just hypotheticals. Okay forget I said anything about a leotard. Just wipe it clean. Nobody has any memories of wearing a leotard. Ever. Not even dancers.

     Well, the first memory I want to share with you today is the first time I ever heard a song on the radio. See, isn’t that nice? That’s a nice thought to have. My mother and father took my sister and me to a Birmingham Barons baseball game. The only thing I remember about the actual game is that my father sat on the far left, then my sister and mother, and then I was on the far right. I remember at the end of the game there were fireworks which scared me because they made a lot of noise. Then I remember getting into the car and my father deciding to sit in the parking lot for a bit and let the crowds clear out. When he cranked the car my sister got very happy because the song that was playing was apparently her favorite. I’d like to share the lyrics to that song with you now. 

Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That
Dolly Parton

Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
In your cowboy boots and your painted-on jeans
All decked out like a cowgirl's dream
Why'd you come in here looking like that
Here comes my baby
Draggin' my heart behind
He's drivin' me crazy
Who says love is blind
He's got a wanderin' eye and a travelin' mind
Big ideas and a little behind
Out with a different woman every night
But I remember when he was mine
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
In your high heeled boots and your painted-on jeans
All decked out like a cowgirl's dream
Waltzing right in here lookin' like that
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
When you could stop traffic in a gunney sack
Why you're almost givin' me a heart attack
When you waltz right in here lookin' like that
I just can't stand it
To see him on the town
He's out slow dancing
With every girl around
I'm a softhearted woman he's a hardheaded man
And he's gonna make me feel just as bad as he can
He's got himself a mean streak a half a mile wide
But now he's dancing on this heart of mine
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
In your high heeled boots and your painted-on jeans
All decked out like a cowgirl's dream
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
In your high heeled boots and your painted-on jeans
All decked out like a cowgirl's dream
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that
When you could stop traffic in a gunney sack
Why you're almost givin' me a heart attack
When you waltz right in here lookin' like that
Why'd you come in here lookin' like that

      See, isn’t that something much more interesting than say telling you about a first kiss or a first love? I mean, if you really want to get down to brass tacks, you might say I do love Dolly Parton more than a lot of people. So, I guess it is the beginning of a first love. I’ve had a lot of first loves. Some of which you might hear about here. There might be a first love of a comedic actor, or a first love of a politician. There might even be a first love of a hobby or an interest. Who knows? But I hope you enjoyed this first blog. Before I go, though, would you like to hear a secret? Don’t make fun of me for this. I was nervous that my first blog post wouldn’t be long enough so I decided to add some song lyrics. You promised you wouldn’t judge!! Until next time

   Of course it is only polite to give you the song I am talking about. And let's face it... For a song like this, reading the lyrics really don't do it justice. ENJOY!