A Panic

Sucking tar grips and
sticks, arresting any
forward motion.

Gnarled, creeping fingers
frisk along limbs and compress
with a strength contradicting their
brittle appearance.

The weight of the world bubbling
over; suffocating with an
inhuman cackle.
Exertions all for naught,
attempts at escape denied at
each try;

until one calming
thought reminds:

just breathe.

by Erik Shinker

Scars

Branching like tributaries of the
living river; they show signs of a
life lived,
though, perhaps not in the
healthiest of ways.

Some through accident,
others by intent,
tissue sewn together concerns itself
only with the healing process; not
the harm.

Markers of a moment;
skin tearing,
bloodletting,
release and loss.

We have a choice:
wear our scars like
the reminders they truly are,
or
deny ourselves in the lament for
a cleaner canvas.

by Erik Shinker

Are You Ok, Cupid?

When people hear the name “Cupid”, they usually picture a winged, infant archer who brings love, lust, and romance. I have come to think of him as a smirking little brat who enjoys setting up the select few while making the rest of us fumble through forced icebreakers, awkward dates, and the eventual repetition of it all.

Since beginning my online dating journey in 2014, I have: been on five dating sites, three dating apps, gone on five actual dates, been catfished twice, and entered zero relationships, meaningful or otherwise. I have spent hundreds of dollars over the last five years in membership fees with close to nothing to show for it. I have tried to put almost every permutation of my personality into my profiles: my humor, my intention for a serious relationship, my likes and dislikes; all to no avail.

So what’s the appeal? Is it just a game where you swipe through and shop for a person? When is it reduced to sending a message in the hopes of a response notification that shoots dopamine to your brain without understanding that there is another person on the other side of those messages? Perhaps it is the last hope of those of us fighting the gravity of the realization that we may be single forever. Sure, there are plenty of fish in the sea, but what happens when no one thinks you’re a catch worth keeping?

Continue reading “Are You Ok, Cupid?”

Why Does Everyone Look So Happy?

The following essay is what was published in the 2018 editions of Minnesota’s Emerging Writers: A Nonfiction Anthology and America’s Emerging Writers: A Nonfiction Anthology. I felt that it would now be appropriate to share the piece since I am posting personal blogs . I hope you enjoy it and pick up a copy of either anthology to own not only my essay, but those of my fellow emerging writers in Minnesota and around the United States.

Why does everyone look so happy? This is a question that I ask myself often and it finally has bugged me enough to try and answer. Why does everyone look so happy? I am primarily talking about social media, and I believe the obvious answer is that we are able to edit our lives down into 280 characters or 6-second videos that are bite sized attempts at escape from the dreary and weary troubles which wear us down on a daily basis.

The inherent properties of social media mean we don’t need to have original thoughts because we can share and repost content created by someone else. I don’t mean to say this as something strictly negative, especially because I have done so as well. I think it speaks to the human condition of sharing our lives; the comfort in knowing that yes, things are bad for me right now, but they are probably bad for someone else too. This solidarity through suffering seems to be one of the main facets of why we regurgitate and share the things we see on the Internet and various other forms of media.

But why does everyone look so happy? Are we smiling only when the camera is pointed at us? Do we create situations or go to events simply for the photo opportunity? If I go out to dinner with friends or family, why do I feel like I have to take pictures and post about it as soon as possible? Who am I trying to impress? It clearly isn’t those I am with in person since I took the time to post about the moment rather than thriving in it.

Why does everyone look so damn happy? Are we kidding ourselves? Does the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality permeate the underlying motivation in our daily activities? Much like photography and film, which are two prevalent types of media on the Internet, what we decide to post and share goes through a process of elimination and editing. I can choose to write a status that would be read how it would be heard if I had said it aloud, but I would be doing that on purpose.

For example, um, if I decided to put vocalized pause and, uh, ellipses… my apprehension becomes apparent because I have crafted the sentence in such a way as to convince you of how difficult it is to say what I want.

I have calculated and chosen what to show you in my sentence and, through this, you don’t get an honest picture of what I am feeling. I can write to tone and inflection, I can change my vocabulary to increase the verisimilitude and wax poetic in order to belittle and condescend if I so wish. I can choose whether or not to tell you that I checked the definition of verisimilitude to ensure that I was using it correctly.

The Internet gifts us with precious seconds or minutes in order to bolster our defenses in an argument, or to google a snippet of poetry or song lyrics to better caption an Instagram post. We have control over what we show others and often that control is relinquished due to the fact that many people don’t often think before they post. Perhaps this is something that I have come across more since starting my own blog; I must be cognizant of my intentions as a writer and the way in which I use my voice, because it is surely not something that was in the forefront of my mind in the last nine or so years that I have had a Facebook account.

So the question is no longer, why does everyone look so happy; the question is, if everyone is able to look so happy, why can’t I? I have watched a few TED talks that cover happiness and self-fulfillment, and from what I have gathered, happiness is something that we must each qualify for ourselves. Now, I realize this might sound a bit like common sense, but I’m not sure that it is routinely thought of as such. When we think about what would make us happy, we generally dream of a better car, a bigger house, the love of someone else, the life of someone else. If only I could make more money, if only I could talk to that guy or girl, if only I could be discovered by a talent agent. We leave so much of this up to circumstance; we blame not ourselves, but the world around us for our lack of contentment in our search for happiness.

I include myself in this and it has taken more than a few harsh, but honest, words from friends and family to make me realize this truth. I am lucky to have such wonderful and strange bedfellows in my life, and their contentment with themselves comes at a different cost than mine. In my family, we talk about picking our battles, and though some may compare it to an ostrich sticking their head in the sand when frightened, I believe that focusing on what is right in front of me rather than all of the injustice in the world will help retain my sanity.

What can I change about my life to make it better for myself and those wrapped up in it? Maybe this means I don’t have intimate knowledge about certain social issues, and though solidarity and empathy are important to me, I also know that I cannot take on the weight of everyone else’s suffering. Perhaps that is the secret known to everyone smiling in those photographs; they are concerned simply with the moment and those around them. We can only change what is in our power to control, and it is through exercising this agency that we can fake the smiles, focus on those around us, and perhaps one day feel the pull of our cheek muscles in genuine glee.

Virgin is Such a Dirty Word

I once had a friend who was a firm believer in astrology, so she was proud to inform me that I am a Virgo since I was born on the 22nd of September (which is also the fictional birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, so shout out to them); the symbol for Virgo is the maiden, or virgin, and I don’t think that she realized how accurate that is. Yes, I am a 26-year-old virgin (now the Hobbit reference makes sense, right?); I’m sure questions are running through your mind about how this could come about, and I hope to give some insight into the choices I have made throughout my life, some of which may surprise you. Don’t worry, the featured image is simply an allusion to the most famous of virgins; there won’t be any preaching in this post.
Continue reading “Virgin is Such a Dirty Word”

What It Means to Be Alone

It is a strange thing to look around and come to the realization you are alone; it is even more strange to comprehend that you don’t mind it being this way. But how did you get here? Did everyone leave you, or was it a slow process of elimination until you were the only one left? Isolation can be comforting, especially for introverts, but is it healthy? At what point does cynicism overrule optimism and force you to accept your isolation? They say that hindsight is 20/20, so let’s take a look back at how this came to be, and what it means to be alone.

Continue reading “What It Means to Be Alone”

An Impromptu Blog Post: Mental Health Post Featured at MyLifelines!

Hello! I was granted the opportunity to write about my mental health journey over at MyLifelines! Mental health is something I care passionately about, and I would love if you would take some time to read about my experience.

Thank you to MyLifelines for featuring me! Follow these lovely ladies at their blog here, their Twitter account here, and their Facebook here!

For those wondering, the featured image is me around the time of the events discussed in the blog post.