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The Beginning Of It All

October 20, 2010

Design will always live in my soul. Despite abandoning a career in graphic design a few years ago, I’ve always enjoyed picking up little design projects here and there. I was at an educational crossroads back in 2004. Once I had been disenchanted by architecture and my inability to sufficiently grasp the concepts surrounding physics, my father suggested I explore something more creative—more artful. “You should explore marketing or advertising,” I can still hear him say.

Having returned home from two years in Europe and not able to afford leaving home yet, I decided against returning to University of Oregon and instead enrolled in the next best [local and affordable] thing: Portland State University. I had never really heard of graphic design before—I think I had associated it with computer generated images—but I nonetheless signed up for ART 100, Intro to Communication Design for Non-Majors.

Our instructor, Cameron Suttles, was for me the perfect balance between the logic of business and creativity of art-making. And the culmination of that introductory course, a travel poster using only the name of the assigned country and cut paper, instilled in me a passion and a curiosity about graphic design that was insatiable. That project was my first designed piece (and first typographic design), start to finish, comp to final product. I cannot describe the hours and the muscle cramps that my fingers endured, clutched around an exacto knife, cursing the shapes I had chosen. It still makes me proud.

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Succession To The Throne, Part Three

September 23, 2008
(continued from Part One and Part Two)

Queen Erin
The Entertainer

Mistress Of All Things Teal And Gold
Duchess Of International Development

Erin and I met in September 2005 through a community on LiveJournal that we have both since come to dread (incidentally, we have also both left LiveJournal for better blog providers). I was looking to move from my increasingly expensive studio on PSU campus into a house share with some other like-minded individuals. There was a wee bit of interesting drama that happened with her and Jillian, her roommate at the time, and I recall sitting in the living room of the Skidmore house, meeting them for the first time, when I mentioned something about having the occasional sleepover with my boyfriend. Shortly after I moved in (and after Jillian unexpectedly moved out), Erin recounted that she had been surprised when I mentioned being gay. It would seem my Straight Boy Phase was still casting a shadow over my Inner Fabulous and she had misjudged my sexuality. I also learned rather quickly that she has the worst gaydar in the world. Nevertheless, we bonded instantly.

Our tenure in the Skidmore house with Carl—the pseudo-separated 30-year-old with an 18-year-old girlfriend on the side—was cut to an abrupt halt when the owners decided to renovate and sell it, and Erin and I found ourselves frantically pilfering through craigslist ads for a new place. Carl, on the other hand, got back together with his wife and got her pregnant. Now he’s a stay-at-home dad that plays World of Warcraft all day while she brings home the bacon. But that’s an entirely different story.

That’s when the Salmon Street Dynasty began: January 2006. Erin and I found a reasonably priced apartment nestled between Hawthorne and Belmont Avenues and made ourselves a home. Over the next year and nine months we kept our social life active. Erin and I organized and hosted a plethora of parties, each of them predicated upon elaborately conceived and designed invitations. Rock Stars, Willy Wonka, Hipsters, The City of Portland, The Letter ‘P’, and more. Our living room was defiled by the likes of Freddie Mercury, Alanis Morissette, The Scissor Sisters, Posh Spice, The White Stripes, Governor Tom McCall, Blazers players, proctologists, pedophiles, and Mayor Bud Clark. While I was able to lend my creative and culinary expertise to these events, it was Queen Erin who was the driving force behind their execution and the [inebriated] glue that held them together.

It was never a dull moment with Erin around. We often found ourselves chatting online (separated by only a wall and six feet of space) and simultaneously holding entirely separate conversations by yelling back and forth. Some days we just found ourselves holding spontaneous photo shoots in our underwear or holding contests to see who could create the best cat macro from photos of Portland’s mayor, Vera Katz (LOLKATZ, we called them).

Then there was the day that Erin tried to teach me how to properly apply lipstick. “Open your mouth like you’re suckin’ a cock, boy!” The riotous laughter that ensued only made the matter worse, and it was another ten minutes before my lips were actually painted. To this day, I still can’t properly put makeup on without reliving that vibrant moment.

Everything we said or did turned into an acronym, to the extent that anyone new to our social circle was confounded by talk of MGS, BAMF, PBR, CTRF, IPSH or OMGWTFBBQ24MILES. Our neighbors and landlord were each given personality-specific nicknames and And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the inside jokes ran rampantly out of control. Giant gold cubes, VIOLA!, and “Look at my a-hole I’m gay” are just a few.

My 25th birthday rolled around last year, and despite my extensive week-long celebration plans, the weather turned our river-floating trip into a no-go. Completely bummed out and ready to mope in bed all day long, I asked Erin to find something fun to do indoors to keep us celebratory. No less than twenty minutes later, she cried out “Eureka!” and made some phone calls. Three hours later we were at IKEA on a ridiculously entertaining photo scavenger hunt. It was so popular that two more episodes of the scavenger hunt have already been exacted since.

Erin has an affinity for baked goods; a talent that is reflected in her ability to craft the world’s most vibrant rainbow cupcakes and all manner of delicious cakes and pies. She also had an admirable will to eat nutritiously. I fondly recall perusing our modest cookbook library for healthy gourmet meals and planning out a week’s worth of dinners. Her distaste for beer allowed me to cultivate my taste for wine, and I cannot look at a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Private Stock without envisioning Erin, ear cocked toward the bottle, gently pulling on the cork until her favorite sound in the world is made. PTHONK!

Some of my most emotional times were witnessed by Her Royal Highness, a friend who was quick to lend her ear and a shoulder, some sage advice and laugh-inducing joke that made everything feel better. I cannot fully express the love that I have for this girl.

In August 2007 she announced that it was time for her to move into her own apartment, and September ushered in a new face and a new roommate. Erin made frequent visits to the apartment through July 2008, at which point she headed East to pursue a Masters degree in International Relations at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University (with concentrations in Middle Eastern Studies and Development Economics. Did I mention she’s brilliant?).

Our three-year history is tightly weaved together, and even though she has since moved off to Washington, DC, I know that every time I see her from here on out will be an adventure to be reckoned with, and a memory that will last forever. Erin has left a legacy as a hostess and friend of the highest caliber, the embodiment of all that is magnanimous, gracious, and sexy.

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Succession To The Throne, Part Two

September 23, 2008

(continued from Part One)

“Well, at first I was daunted at the thought of responding to your posting. How could I ever measure up? You even have a celebrity endorsement!!! Then I realized that if I were chosen to live with you it would only be exciting.”

—Jesse, Theater Tech from Boston, MA

“I would have copied and pasted the email that I’ve sent to all the craigslist postings, but I cannot, because you are special, and I must live with you.”

—Malia, Graphic Designer from Bellingham, WA

“Despite being mildly intimidated by your ad on craigslist, I shall endeavor to reply. Not in MLA format. Thank god.”

—Rei, History Wonk fresh from Montréal, Québec

“So, I think we should move in together.  I don’t generally write that, but I think it would be pretty awesome.”

—Soren, Ridiculously Traveled Philosophy Major from San Francisco, CA

I always admire flattery and self-confidence, so who was I to argue? I had successfully weeded out the uncommitted just by posting my novel of a classified ad and intimidating the weak of mind. My first contact was with Malia, a recent graduate from Western Washington University with a BA in Graphic Design and a minor in Business. In her words:

“You should choose me as your perfect 500 words or less because we have too much in common to not get along well.  I’m a designer and artist as well that dabbles in photography and carpentry.  I love to be subjected to elaborate gourmet meals and I will pipe in on your rants about bad typography, drop shadows, gradients, and the overuse of flourishing collages (although they are my guilty pleasure). I saw the first season of BSG this spring and I’ve been [dying] to watch more, so hopefully our mutual addiction to the show won’t hinder our ability to get out.  Apples To Apples is the only game that my family can happily play together, and for Christmas my wish list consists of subscriptions to Print, wallpaper*, GOOD, and a few others (suggestions?). Other things I like are hiking, biking, skiing, and camping.  I love the outdoors.”

She also included a link to her online portfolio, which made me giggle with delight. When I met with her in person, my heart went all a-flutter and we spent nearly three hours together talking about everything from design to cooking to Belgium. As we were about to part, I said to her, “I want you to know that you’re the first person that I’ve met with, but I feel like you would be a really good fit here. I don’t want to make anything concrete yet, because I want to be fair to the others and give them a chance…”

Right there she cut me off and said, smiling, “Oh yes, absolutely. You never know. You just might meet your long lost twin, and I totally understand that.”

“Wow, how very adult and MGS* of you! I’ll let you know by next week.”

And, as she walked out to the street, I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew it was meant to be, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit that immediately. I promptly scheduled meetings with the other three, knowing full well that not only had I pretty much made up my mind about letting her move in, but I was determined to meticulously analyze each of the others and measure them against her as the gold standard.

I really don’t know why I even bothered. Soren turned out to be an entertaining but riskily nomadic geek that exploits glitches in MMOs to make money and fund his travels. Rei’s intelligence overpowered her social prowess and lost major points when she told me she had “never successfully thrown a party.” And Jesse—a man whose email painted the picture of a young, energetic gay man—revealed himself as a thirty-something theatre nerd that wears a jester hat wherever he goes. Not quite my cup of tea.

Throne of MGS

And so, without further deliberation, I named Malia as the successor to the Great Throne of Magnanimity, Graciousness, and Sexiness. The nomination has been accepted, and the coronation is in place for the First of October.

But how can I speak of the successor to the throne without acknowledging those who have gone before her? Stayed tuned for the next chapter, in which the reigns of Queen Erin the Entertainer and Queen Megan the Acquaintrix are honored with reverence and gratitude.

 

*MGS means Magnanimous, Gracious, and Sexy—a phrase coined by Queen Erin to represent all that is worth pursuing in the world and qualities we should all aspire to embody.

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Succession To The Throne, Part One

September 15, 2008

This time around it was going to be different. I’ve had enough dealings with flaky and unreliable people on craigslist in the past, especially when it came to finding people to live with. And, given that I had more than a month to locate the next best roommate, I had every reason to craft the most amazing want ad for a new roommate as possible. After all, I could afford to be picky this time around. With two fabulous roommates like Erin and Megan in my history, I couldn’t not strive to find someone to round out the trio perfectly. I even had three friends proofread the bugger to acheive maximum bang for my verbal buck.

On Wednesday of last week, I posted the following in the rooms/shares section of Portland’s craigslist:

Designer Seeks Successor In Dynasty Of Awesome Roommates

I’ve had two absolutely splendid roommates in the last three years, but their next adventures are leading them around the world and I can’t go with them. Come October I find myself a sole occupant again, and you might just be the one to fill the void. 

Let’s start with the digs, shall we? It’s a two-bedroom townhouse-style apartment nestled in a quiet neighborhood in between Hawthorne and Belmont Avenues. There is equidistant access to two major bus lines and if you have a car then you have a reserved parking space. The downstairs and kitchen are most entirely furnished (I’ve lived here for over two and a half years now) though a new sofa wouldn’t go amiss. 

Rent is $375 a piece on a month-to-month lease (though I’m not opposed to signing on for six months) with a $250 refundable deposit and a $25 background check. Cable internet and electricity average out to about $50 a month. Coin-op laundry resides on-site and there is a small storage unit in the basement. The complex is pretty small—only eight units in two buildings—and the neighbors are relatively respectful. No smoking in the apartment, and no pets allowed. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cats, but the landlord won’t have any of it. 

If you are chosen to live here, you would have the pleasure of living with one of the most fabulous people of all time. You may think I’m tooting my own horn, and I admit it—you’re absolutely right. But hey, I’ve got to sell myself somehow, right? Who says we can’t afford to be discerning individuals and seek out the best that life has to offer us? Is that cocky? Yeah, sure. Am I okay with that? Absolutely. 

My day job is with a big ugly corporation, but in the evenings and on my days off I enjoy being a designer and artist, dabbling in photography, blogging, jewelry-making, and any number of other creative things. You would no doubt be subjected to elaborate gourmet meals on occasions, and you could expect to hear rants from time to time about hideous design and the scourge of hipsters that has invaded the city. 

Truth is, I’m a big nerd. From discussing the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica to scouring the latest design journals to shredding on Guitar Hero, there is passion in what I do. My favorite mottos in life are “Pay Attention” and “Give A Shit”. If you can’t type a full sentence without any spelling or grammatical errors, then we might have a problem. 

I prefer wine over beer, enjoy sipping whiskey while watching a movie, but don’t smoke or dabble in other forms of drugs. Drugs are bad. I get a kick out of being a host to my relatively close-knit social circle, giggle while playing Apples To Apples, and I will never turn down the opportunity to plan a themed party. 

My ridiculously handsome boyfriend makes regular appearances at the apartment, but he’s not around every night and has his own place that I frequent just as often. I hardly ever watch broadcast television, but Netflix and the internet are my friends. 

I want to be your friend, not just a co-habitant, but I’ll respect your space, your privacy, and your property. Ultimately, I want us to mesh and create a happy, healthy living environment conducive to creativity. Naturally I expect you to pay your bills on time and keep any drama to a minimum. 

But don’t take my word for it, check out this wicked awesome celebrity endorsement and see what one roommate has to say about me! 

“Had it not been time for me to live alone, I would still be roommates with Isaac. He is kind and funny. He is clean; he has good hair and may share his stylist with you if you need it. He is a great snarker and friend.  Isaac’s morph into dad humor is well on its way. His preferred jokes include bad puns and wordplay. He has good taste in media and design. If Isaac weren’t gay, we’d be married, and he would make me waffles on Sunday mornings (oh wait, he used to do that and I didn’t even have a ring on my finger). One of the only things I regret about leaving Portland is not being roommates with Isaac anymore. You should be so lucky to live with this magnanimous, gracious and sexy man.” 

– Erin K., int’l development wonk, East-Coastiest West-Coaster, excellent judge of character 

If you think we might hit it off then shoot me an email and in 500 words or less, tell me why I should choose you to be my next roommate. Proper capitalization and punctuation are a must, but MLA style is not necessary. Bonus points if you can differentiate between a hyphen and an em-dash or make me spew coffee all over my computer screen (though I will send you a bill for the cleaning). 

My current roommate suggested we hold an elimination-style game show for all candidates, and I’ll be honest, I loved the idea, so prepare yourself for the worst. At a minimum, if I like your response then we’ll meet up for coffee and go from there. Users of Comic Sans and Papyrus need not apply.

Within two hours I had six responses, each composed with more care than I’ve ever seen from anyone on craigslist, and I knew that it had worked. Put a lot of yourself into something and you get a lot back in reciprocation.

Within six hours I had fifteen responses, only one of which was monosyllabic and boring.

And by the next day I had at least ten more in my inbox.

But despite the flood of emails, I pared it down rather quickly to half that were worth considering.

This email is confirmation that your application for consideration as successor to the throne of Isaac’s roommate has been received and is being taken under consideration.

Contestants will be notified of qualification within 3 days, at which point an initial round of interviews will take place to weed out the weak of character.

Thank you for your patience and good luck!

And from there I picked the brain of our Norwegian houseguest and had her weigh the pros and cons behind each candidate to decide if they were worth meeting in real life. Ultimately, four were chosen—two girls, two guys.

Congratulations! You have been selected to move onto the next round of exciting and friendly competition to be my next roommate! Here’s how this will work. We shall set up a time over the next few days to meet up and chat about what makes us tick. You’ll be given a tour of the apartment and be given the opportunity for a general question and answer session.

And then I’ll make my decision. I just might throw a round of Apples To Apples in for the whole group, since you never know—only one will be chosen, but who’s against maybe getting a new friend or two out of the deal?

So polish up those verbal CVs and practice your verb-noun correlations. This is going to be fun!

Our contestants?

Jesse, a theater tech from Boston, Massachussetts.

Malia, a Graphic Designer from Bellingham, Washington.

Rei, a History Wonk most recently from Quebec.

Soren, a Ridiculously Traveled Philosophy Major from San Francisco.

The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last…

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Reclaiming the Bus

July 21, 2008

My iPod took over one day about three months ago. I can’t recall the hows or whys behind the siege, but I suddenly found myself isolated by my Bose headphones, squinting at that little 2.5-inch display, watching movies and television shows. My bus rides to and from work and school were all-consumed by this tiny device, and it was two months before I realized how ridiculous it all was. I had nothing to show for this time of transit. Instead, I was slowly ticking off my list of unwatched shows and ignoring that world around me.

Then, one day, I found a great deal on a book that I had been meaning to purchase since its release; No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. It’s a collection of short stories—the first book from the mastermind behind Me and You and Everyone We Know. As I patiently awaited its arrival in the mail, it occured to me that this was the perfect opportunity to retaliate against my iPod and reclaim my bus rides for myself.

Armed with a sunny yellow dust cover set in Helvetica Light, I boarded the bus, proud to carry the tome under my arm. I carefully chose a window seat, set my messenger bag next to me, and cracked the cover.

What followed can only be described as glorious. A new world opened up before me, and with each turned page my imagination filled with images of her characters. During one trip to work, I looked up halfway through a chapter and looked around me. My memory tells me it was a bright, sunny day, but perhaps it lies. Regardless, I saw her characters in the seats next to, behind of, and in front of me. Each face on each person in each seat was riddled with life.

That girl over there, did she just come back from Newberg after selling her body to an old fat woman? Is that the old man that did ecstasy with his elderly friend in hopes of winning a date with his teenage sister? That lady talking to the bus driver looks like she might give swim lessons on her kitchen floor.

Miranda July’s stories are bizarre, twisted forays into the lives of others. Each short story is written in the nameless first-person narrative, and each character is an exaggeration in depth and complexity. Yet the more I read, the more I can relate to what they are experiencing and dreaming. And the more I read, the more I realized that they probably weren’t that exaggerated after all. Each character has excruciating interactions with others that resonate within my soul. Their vibrant lives parallel ours by speaking what we dare never speak, thinking what we shudder to think, and exposing what we strive to keep hidden.

I think it helped that I averaged one short story per bus trip, opening and closing the book like a window into the real world of those around me. And occasionally I would pause in my reading and gaze out the window at the world, arbitrarily choosing a face for a character’s name, and imagining what stories could be told about everyone else. A smile would creep its way across my face, and suddenly the world just made a little more sense.

Then, as I closed the cover for the last time, I realized how much I missed reading on the bus. And how much I didn’t miss listening to my iPod. The battle had been waged and my iPod sulked off to the corner to lick his wounds. In fact, I have hardly listened to it since then, choosing instead to crack open another book, and then another. The joy of reading has returned, and I have turned something passive into something productive again.

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[S]Hit List

July 17, 2008

Re-posted from the old and defunct A Pixel, A Vector, A Blog.

by Isaac Watson

Ask me which fonts I hate, and I would start with Comic Sans. Then Papyrus, Zapfino, Chalkboard, and a few others that I see every day. Sit me down in front of my font utility and give me a few minutes, and the list would easily grow. The first ones I named make my typographic shit list because they are overused, whereas the latter faces would rank due to poor design or typographic rigidity (lack of kerning pairs, ligatures, or alternate characters). A lot of them are far too easy to loathe. Take Comic Sans, for example; there is a whole sub-culture devoted to its demise, and even a subconscious counter-culture hell-bent on propagating its use. [Incidentally, there is a future article in the works exploring our love-hate relationship with Comic Sans.]

Ask me which fonts I love, however, and I would be hard-pressed to respond. Oh, I have my favorites that come in and out like fashions, and I will certainly ooh and aah over a particularly gorgeous typeface when I see it. But I’m a firm believer that each font has its place, and I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “cure-all” font that will work everywhere. Warnock is generally good for body copy, and my blog header speaks to my new appreciation for Voluta Script.

Then ask me about Helvetica, and that’s where we start to have some fun. Some time ago, my roommate returned home from work with a slightly rumpled piece of paper that she had found on the bus. “The second I saw this I thought of you and knew that you should have it,” she said. “It was just sitting on one of the seats, calling to me.” Touched by her sincere enthusiasm, I took the page from her outstretched hand and started reading. And then I cackled with delight. It was divine. There, flush left in 12-point bold it read, “Helvetica says: Do not read me because I will bore the shit out of you.” I was stunned.

“You found this on the bus? Just sitting there?”

“Yes,” she confirmed, “like it wanted to be found.”

I stared at the paper, reading the text over and over again, baffled by its simplicity, its irony, and its intent. And its design. Because at its heart, the piece had been intentionally designed. Six lines of text, the first in 30% black, the rest broken into poetry. The more I studied it, the more I loved it. The stark white space on the rest of the full sheet of paper, the ragged edge left by the typesetting, the choice to eliminate any punctuation but a colon and a period.

It was nearly too good to be true. I determined that it was either a brilliant design student intent on expressing his or her personal opinion of the typeface, or a brilliant plagiarism of someone else’s idea. Was it really left on the bus seat intentionally? Did this person really expect the one who discovered it later to appreciate it for what it was worth? Or was it all just an accident? The more I gazed at its perfection, the more questions I had regarding its origin. The line was strangely familiar, but was it really something I had heard before or just a shared sentiment resonating within?

What better way to dig deeper than crack my knuckles and open a new browser tab? A little Googling gave me enough of a lead to re-watch part of Helvetica and learn more. It turns out the phrase was not original. Stefan Sagmeister used it during his interview to describe his thoughts on a corporate brochure designed in the same way. It would seem that he was referencing a particular brochure by a firm called LCMG, though my google-fu has yet to turn up any image results of the alleged culprit. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together, but losing the mystery took away part of the fun. The fantasy surrounding the find was too entertaining.

Helvetica falls on neither my hit nor shit lists. It has its place in the typographic world, and has become ubiquitous for a lot of things. But sometimes it just doesn’t work. Last night I attended the Eddie Izzard show here in Portland and peered over the shoulder of a fan who was browsing the official program. There sat a spread, one side with a glamorous photo of the fabulous comedian, the other set in 14-point Helvetica Regular with 20-point leading, it’s lines spanning the width of the page. Quite honestly, it hurt my eyes; it just didn’t fit.

I love Stefan Sagmeister and his work, and I love that the posters framed behind him in the interview are all set in Helvetica (black, all caps). When it comes down to it, Helvetica does not bore the shit out of me. Not all the time, at least. Sure, I might read a paragraph or twenty of copy set in Helvetica and not think much of it, but usually my recognition of the font leads me to question the designer’s choice. What is the message conveyed? Why did they choose Helvetica? Would this have looked better in Jenson? Meta? Univers?

If anything, watching the documentary earlier this year heightened not only my awareness of Helvetica, but also of my awareness (and use) of other typefaces. I can no doubt spot those on my shit list from a mile away, and I can certainly spot Helvetica from the same distance, but what of others? I must drive my friends nuts when on the bus or walking around, because I’ll just call out any typeface I can identify. As if they were begging to be identified and validated. Yes, I see you.

Helvetica. Helvetica. Papyrus. Comic Sans. Helvetica. Lucida Handwriting. Helvetica. Bank Gothic. Futura. Helvetica. Helvetica. Zapfino. Helvetica. Helvetica. Helvetica.

So thank you, Helvetica, for not boring the shit out of me enough to ignore you. Thank you for your prevalence. Thank you for your ubiquity. Thank you for your complacency, your simplicity, and your stability. Thank you for reminding me that there are other typefaces in the world, and thank you for helping me appreciate typography even more.

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La Fourche

June 16, 2008

 

Elle est bizarre, la vie, pourtant je l’aime bien. Elle peut être gentille, tranquille, inutile, et chiante, et desfois tout à la fois. Elle est agréable d’un moment, et de l’autre une vraie salope. C’est ceci qui me fait me demander pourquoi est-elle comme ça? Me voici, petit qu je suis, quand on se compare au grand monde mystérieux. Une petite fourmie au vrai dire.

Je me trouve dans le monde au moment où il semble que tout s’achève, où tout s’accomplit. Il y a de la guerre, il y a de la haine, il y a de la violence, de l’immoralité, et de tout ce qui est mauvais. Mais qui a dit que ces chose sont mauvaises? Dès la fondation du monde, et bien avant cela, il fussent des lois, des lois qui distinguent le bien du mal, le saint du méchant, et ces lois nous gouvernent tous.

Me voici, petit que je suis, et ma vie me semble grande, importante, plus importante même que celles des autres. Et c’est qui qui décide cela? Ce n’est pas moi, c’est certain. Donc pourquoi est-ce que je pense de telles choses? Pourquoi me semble-t-il que ma vie miniscule se sépare des autres? Ne sommes-nous pas tous égale?

Au vrai dire, et au point, je suis confronté de deux vies. Je me vois sur la route mystérieuse de ma vie—mais je m’arrête à une fourche. D’un côté se trouve la route qui se ressemble à celle que je mène maintenant. C’est une vie ou les décisions sont similaires aux celles que j’ai déjà fait. Cette vie consiste d’une vie “normale”…

 

A rough translation:

Life is bizarre, but I love it still. It can be kind, tranquil, useless, and a real pain in the ass, and sometimes everything at once. It can be hunky-dory one minute, and a real bitch the next. This leads me to wonder, “why is it like that?” Enter me, small as I am when compared to the great mysterious world, truly like a tiny ant.

I find myself in the world at a time when everything seemingly is coming to an end, where everything is coming to pass. There is war, there is hate, there is violence, immorality and everything else wicked. But who determined that these things are bad? Since the beginning of the world, and well before, there have been laws, laws that distinguish good from bad, holy from hellish, and these laws govern us all.

Enter me, small as I am, and my life seems to me to be grand, important, even more important than that of others. And who decides this? It is not I, that much is certain. So why then am I thinking of such things? Why do I seem to think that my own tiny life could be different or better than others? Are we not all equal?

In truth, and more to the point, I am confronted with two lives. I see myself on the mysterious road of my life—but I am stopped at a fork. On one side is a path that resembles that which I have led up to this point. It is a life whose decisions are similar to those that I’ve already made. This life consists of a “normal” life…

 

I can pinpoint this little tidbit to around October 2004, a time in my life that was full of transition and self-discovery. I had recently returned from serving as a Latter-Day Saint missionary in Belgium and France, I had just begun a new job managing a warehouse full of vacuum cleaners, and I was making my first educational foray into what I would soon after discover as my love and passion: graphic design.

And if that wasn’t enough, I was also trying to reconcile my religious upbringing with the internalization and personal acceptance of my homosexuality. I was still living at home with my parents, I had told no one of my Great Secret, and my internal struggle was temporarily assuaged with the penning of this cryptic, stream-of-consciousness musing about the world in which I found myself. I chose French because, at the time, I knew that I could use it to feel comfortable about divulging my innermost conflicts. It was both for security—no one in my family or close circle of friends could read it fluently—and because two years of speaking it every day rendered my English tongue a twisted, garbled train wreck. French was a beautiful, emotional, idiomatic dream in comparison.

Had I finished the piece that I had scribbled down during a train-ride home from class one autumn evening, I no doubt would have detailed the other side of the fork, a path which would eventually lead me to be true to myself, following my heart and embracing my inner self. This path would be far from straight and narrow—contradictory to all that I had been taught about God, The Commandments, and The Righteous Path To Salvation. Yet with more than three years of hindsight under my belt, I can’t say that I would have foreseen The Other Path with as much clarity as I do now. Would I recognize that a path this windy and obstacle-ridden was exactly what I needed?

Yesterday I attended the third Gay Pride parade of my out-of-the-closet existence, and despite my general distaste for the obnoxious display of gay cultural stereotypes, I enjoyed being able to be myself amongst other people being themselves. And festivities aside, I took a moment to reflect upon how far I’ve come since that naïve twenty-year-old Mormon boy stepped onto a plane bound for Europe and a two-year tour of proselytizing and service to God.

In the past four years I have left the Church altogether, affirmed my apathy toward organized religion, and spent a good deal of time actively purging the doctrines that were inculcated throughout my youth. Only now do I feel comfortable approaching the precepts of religion again, though it still remains a low priority on my list of things to do. I have led what I consider to be an honest, contributing life. I try to keep an open mind, and do right by other people.

I look back upon my upbringing, and I am grateful for my parents and their parenting. I could have been a lot worse off. I do not regret serving as a missionary, because I recognize the work ethic, values, and personality that it helped me to develop. I do not see myself as strong a person as I am today without that history. And I am grateful for the experiences I had while there, which have led me to dispense with bigotry, hatred, and a closed mind.

I am happier now than I can ever recall, and it is the life that I have led and the choices that I have made along that path that are directly responsible for bringing me to where I am today. There was a fork in the road that Autumn day in 2004, and I made my path. I cannot foresee what lies ahead, nor how many more forks I will encounter along the way. All I can hope for is the wisdom to make the right choices, and the humility to learn from any mistakes. And I cannot ask for more.

We all bear the scars.
Yes, we all feign a laugh.
We all sigh in the dark;
Get cut off before we start.

And as the first act begins,
You realize they’re all waiting
For a fall, for a flaw,
For the end.

There’s a path stained with tears.
Could you talk to quiet my fears?
Could you pull me aside,
Just to acknowledge that I tried?

And as your last breath begins,
contently take it in,
‘Cause we all get it in
The end.

And as your last breath begins,
You find your demon’s your best friend.
And we all get it in
The end.

– Justin Bond