Category Archives: Life Lessons

My Journey of Self-Discovery

Last year, I had a conversation with some friends that centered on one question: “How well do you/can you really know yourself?” It’s a relatively simple question with an infinitely more complicated answer, and one that is likely different for every person.

I think the answer to that question depends on how much genuine self-reflection you regularly do. In my experience, the average person doesn’t do much of that. That’s why so many people end up with lives they never planned or careers they never wanted; they just do things without really analyzing why they do them. Then they retroactively ask “How did I end up here?”

I was reminded of this debate because I started analyzing my own major life decisions lately. I moved to Los Angeles seven months ago to pursue a job in a more creative field. I made that decision because I felt unfulfilled in my previous profession. I at least knew that much; but I never really took the time to think about what exactly was leaving me unfulfilled.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a sports writer. I had my first writing internship while I was still in high school, I wrote for the school newspaper through all four years of college, and I spent three years after college working for a television station.

But through all of that time, I never really sat down and asked myself what it was about sports writing that was so interesting to me. I knew I loved sports and I could write well, so it seemed like a natural career choice.

But then why was my last job leaving me so unfulfilled? I spent all day watching sports and writing about them. So that should have been exactly what I wanted. And once I quit, I had every intention of continuing to write in my spare time. Yet I rarely did. Why?

The answer is because writing itself isn’t truly what I was passionate about. I mistakenly thought it was because I had always been a writer and always enjoyed what I did. The two just seemed to go hand in hand.

But my true satisfaction came from all the other facets of being a sports writer. Hearing the roar of the crowd at every game, analyzing what brings success to some players and failure to others, the rush of adrenaline you get when a thrilling game ends and you realize you have 10 minutes to encapsulate it.

In short, it was as close as I could get to the experience of being a professional athlete without actually being one. It had nothing to do with the writing itself. My writing essentially was just an outlet for me to relay everything I had seen and heard. It was just a byproduct of what I actually enjoyed about the job.

So when my last job took me out of the field and plopped me behind a desk, the true soul of my writing had been ripped out. I could no longer convey the excitement or tension each game deserved because I hadn’t witnessed it. I was like everyone else watching on TV.

When I realized the job no longer suited me, I assumed that meant my love of journalism had run its course. If I could no longer get excited about writing a game recap, it must be time to move on. So I did.

I moved to Los Angeles with every intention of leaving the journalism field behind me for good. But when I got here, a funny thing happened.

People asked me what I used to do for a living, and when I told them they invariably wanted to know more. What was it like? What did I get to do? What was my favorite part?

In my answers to those questions, the word “writing” never came up. It wasn’t writing a story that was exciting or enjoyable; it was covering the story that was so much fun. Getting to interview interesting people and see things I’d never seen before made me so excited that I had to get it on the page before I burst.

But the crazy thing is that I didn’t realize any of this until it was taken away. I knew I loved being a sports writer, but I never really understood why until I wasn’t doing it anymore. And now that I think about it, I really miss being a true sports journalist. So much so that it has renewed my interest in the field and made me want to get back into it.

So what does my little career-related anecdote have to do with that original question? I think it means that when we’re young, it’s impossible to really, truly, fully know ourselves. It’s impossible to know exactly what we want, who we want to be or how we want to live.

But that’s okay, because that makes every day its own little journey of self-discovery. I know much more about myself now than I did yesterday, and hopefully I’ll know even more tomorrow. That’s exciting and makes every day worth living.


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Taking The Plunge

As many of the people reading this blog are already aware, I’ve decided to pick up and move to Los Angeles and pursue a career as a TV script writer. As the day of the move draws closer, I alternate between exhilarated and terrified, which I personally think is a good sign.

I don’t have any particular job lined up, which makes this the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I’m generally a planner by nature and don’t like to be ill prepared for anything. I think I’m about as ready as can be possible under the circumstances, but the lack of a safety net is still fairly scary.

I’ve saved money, researched places to live and tried to make as many contacts as possible before moving out there. But at this point it’s really just a matter of perseverance, timing and luck. I like to think I have that first quality, but the jury is still out on the other two.

As frightening as the prospect of this move can be, I also think it is exactly what my life needs right now. I was stuck in an unfulfilling job that prevented me from having much of a social life, while most of the people around me fell victim to adulthood and marriage.

I really don’t have much keeping me where I am, and a consistent paycheck has been just about the only thing keeping me from doing this sooner. I’m young, unencumbered and want to see a part of the country I’ve never been able to experience before. So why not pick up, move and give it a shot?

Maybe I’m unique in this viewpoint, but I don’t think I am. The time immediately after college can leave people feeling trapped and unsure of how to proceed with their lives. Most are able to get a real job, make money and start leading productive lives, but that can only carry you for so long.

At some point you realize that “work” is more than just a job; it’s what you’ll be spending the rest of your life doing. If you want to keep food on the table and don’t have the luck of being a trust fund kid, you’ll be spending the better part of the rest of your life working.

As cliché as it might sound, everybody should find a job they enjoy doing every day. Plenty of people will fail trying to find that perfect job, but many more will never try. Instead they end up imprisoned in a job they didn’t really want in the first place.

When you’re a recent college graduate, seeing a comma in your bank account is enough to make you excited. But the pleasure of that wears off after a while, and a little voice in your head starts saying you should go for something more. Far too many people block out that voice.

For me, I started getting the itch to do more creative writing. I’ve always been a journalist and enjoyed it, but one of the most memorable nights of my life came in college when I stayed awake until 4 a.m. to write a script for my fraternity’s stage production.

It was one of those nights that you look at the clock and can’t believe how late it is. Two friends and I spent that time brainstorming ideas, tossing around dialogue and trying to make sure everything was perfect.

I’ll be the first to admit that the finished product was anything but perfect, but it still was exciting. I loved being in a creative atmosphere with ideas flowing back and forth, and I had never really experienced anything like it before.

I passed it off as one nice experience and didn’t really think all that much about it, but it nagged at me once I graduated and got out into the real world. There was a whisper in my head that I might be in the wrong line of work, and after about a year that whisper became a yell.

I couldn’t really ignore it anymore, and thus was my plan to move to LA was born. I’m well aware that I could move to LA and fall flat on my face. I’ve never been professionally trained or educated on script writing, and I could very easily find I have no talent for it. And if I do happen to fail, I’ll accept that, move on and try to find something else I enjoy doing.

But I encourage anyone else who feels stuck in a rut to be willing to change things up, especially if you’re young. There will be plenty of time to find a steady job with a consistent paycheck, but there is precious little time to find something you really love.

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The Six Most Frustrating Common Grammatical Errors

Having spent the majority of my life as a writer or editor, I have become a pretty big grammar snob. Sometimes I wish I had a different skill set just so I could be oblivious to the horrible grammar people use on a regular basis.

But alas, it is not to be. I don’t judge people based on race, sexual orientation or religion (unless it’s scientology), but my opinion of someone absolutely is affected by their command of the English language.

There are some things I have learned to accept, either because they are so widespread that I would go crazy if I cared about them or because they just aren’t that big of a deal. But there are others that still grate on me, and have become frustratingly commonplace.

So here they are, in descending order. The six most frustrating grammatical errors people make on a regular basis.

6) Ending sentences with “at”

I could have made this one “ending sentences with prepositions,” but in many cases I’ve grown okay with it. I understand that sometimes in conversational style it is just easier to end with a preposition. But the problem with “at” is that it is totally pointless.

To avoid ending a sentence with a preposition often would require rewriting the sentence and rearranging the words to make sense. But “at” can almost always simply be stricken from the end of a sentence without changing anything else.

For example, “Where’s the party at” or “Where are you at?” Just get rid of “at,” and the sentence makes sense and is grammatically correct. It is actually more work and requires more words to say it incorrectly.

5) They’re/their/there

This one is annoying because everyone learned these words in grade school, and yet they still can’t get them right. It has gotten so bad that the improper word usage may now actually be more common.

So let’s go back over the lesson again. They’re is a contraction for “they are.” Their is possessive, as in “their book.” There reflects position, as in “over there.”

For some reason, “their” seems to be the most commonly misused. It is mistaken for both of the other versions, and yet is rarely used when it should be.

4) The apparent removal of “more than” and “less than” from people’s vocabularies

Being a sports junkie has made this one particularly difficult to deal with, since almost no announcers use these words properly. They say “over” and “under” when talking about numbers, when those two words should be used when talking about position.

For example, you jump over something or duck under something. But the number 15 is not “over” the number 10, it is more than 10. Yet people almost always say “So-and-so has over 50 wins.” That’s not right.

“Under” is the same concept. Think of “over/under” as being able to say “Thing A is on top of Thing B.” If that sentence doesn’t make sense with whatever you’re talking about, then over or under should not be used. People seem to have totally forgotten that “more than,” “less than,” “greater” or “fewer” even exist.

3) “I could care less”

This is another case in which the incorrect usage is more popular. People say “I could care less” all the time, when that actually means the exact opposite of what they intend.

The proper phrase is “I couldn’t care less.” The full translation of this sentence is: “I care so little about this topic that I cannot possibly care any less.” That’s quite a statement. Not only do you not care, but you care the smallest amount that is humanly possible.

Yet when you say “I could care less,” that means you care. Think of a “caring meter” that measures your caring level like a mercury thermometer. What you’re meaning to say is that there is no red on this meter. It is totally empty, which means it’s impossible for the level to be any lower. But when you say “could care less,” that means there is at least some red on the meter. Enough to allow for a decrease.

2) Overusing “literally”

This has become a fairly recent phenomenon, and I have no idea why. People are obsessed with the word “literally,” and they almost never use it correctly.

Literally means that something actually happened, and its proper use generally comes when distinguishing something from exaggeration or a common figure of speech. It is NOT simply a way of placing emphasis on something.

And yet people keep saying “I literally exploded” or “he is literally on fire.” Just no. In those cases, someone would be dead or in the process of becoming horribly maimed.

There are several other words that can be used in place of the incorrect use of “literally.” They include “seriously,” “legitimately” or “totally.” Each of those words can be used only for emphasis.

1) “Could of,” “should of,” “would of”

This is, without a doubt, the most frustrating mistake in the known universe. I literally have ended a relationship with a girl because she constantly made these mistakes. They drive me that crazy.

**And yes, I did just intentionally use “literally” correctly. Without “literally” in the sentence, you may have wondered if I was exaggerating. Its inclusion changed that; that’s how it’s done.

The problem here is that when people use these words in speech, they say “could’ve,” “should’ve” and “would’ve.” Those are contractions, with the endings standing for “have.” But since the ending sounds like the word “of,” that’s what people use in print.

But simply stopping and thinking about it for more than a few seconds should make it pretty obvious that “could of” makes no sense. The word “have” is a common part of complex verbs. “Have done,” “have gone,” etc.

So why would you write “I could of gone”? In that sentence, “of gone” is the verb. That makes absolutely no sense. Yet texts and message boards continue to overflow with these mistakes, and every time I see one a little piece of me dies.

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Clean Up Charlie

Charlie Sheen has long been known as an excessive partier and playboy. He has a history of self-destructive behavior with drugs and women, which makes his most recent foray into the tabloids none too surprising.

Sheen was rushed to the hospital earlier this week complaining of severe abdominal pain after a long night of partying. Eyewitness accounts at the hospital say he was accompanied by an entourage of porn stars, one of which carried a suitcase full of cocaine.

After this latest incident, Sheen has checked himself into a rehab clinic – for the second time in a year – and his TV show, CBS’ Two and a Half Men, has gone on production hiatus. Executives at CBS and members of the “Men” crew are probably scrambling to figure out what to do now, but frankly they are partially to blame for Sheen’s moral free fall.

Sheen has been the star of Two and a Half Men since 2003, and since then has become the highest-paid actor currently on television. He makes $1.8 million an episode to act like a jackass whose life consists only of partying and treating those around him like crap.

This role has given him not only money, but nominations for Emmy and Golden Globe Awards as well as carte blanche to apparently do anything he wants off set as long as he shows up for work. He has never been punished, even with a slap on the wrist, for his antics. His costar, Jon Cryer, even recently joked with Conan O’Brien that he checks TMZ to see if he should show up for work.

CBS and the crew at Two and a Half Men have enabled Sheen’s behavior for years, saying nothing as two of his marriages eroded with both wives claiming he threatened them with physical harm. He has been involved in several PR nightmares, but again nothing was ever done.

At this point, people’s basic reaction is “that’s just Charlie being Charlie.” Nobody seems to care that he allegedly pulled a knife on his current (but separated) wife or that he has overdosed while trying to directly inject cocaine. What message does this send? As long as you screw up over and over again, we’ll stop caring?

I understand that the goal of CBS and Warner Bros. Television – the company that producers Two and a Half Men – is to make money. That is obviously the main purpose of every major studio and production company. But that does not mean you let your actors run amok.

Sheen is essentially like a child whose parents have stopped caring enough to watch over him. Having basically been taught that he can do whatever he wants with no repercussions, his out-of-control lifestyle has only gotten worse. And now the production of his show has been halted, effectively putting hundreds of people out of work for an indefinite amount of time.

Hopefully this will serve as a lesson to future executives and production companies. You cannot simply sit back and wait until one of your actor’s self-destructive tendencies get so bad he may legitimately be putting himself in danger of death. You have to be proactive and try to corral these kinds of problems before they spin out of control. Unfortunately, for Charlie Sheen things are likely already too late.

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