Monday, May 9, 2011

Ometepe! (And Other Obvious Truths)

I made a mistake. It's not the first time I've made it, but hopefully it'll be the last, because I'm kind of embarrassed about it. It probably won't seem like that big of a deal to you. Most people probably won't even consider it a mistake. They might go as far as considering it a virtue. But that's the problem right there, that phrase--"most people." Why did it even enter my brain there? Why was it even a consideration in a discussion of a mistake that I made? The fault was all mine. It had nothing to do with them, they, who are they anyway?

That pronoun, when not referring to a specific group of people, is a vague generalization used not to represent anything concrete but an abstract fictionalized perception about how people could react. Generally the user of the pronoun believes people will react that way, but they are generally incorrect. What the method is really used for is controlling the unknown--other individual's reactions and responses--so that they can't hurt the user. It's, if you'll excuse me Mr. Cheney, a pre-emptive strike on the faulty perception that mental terrorism is to come.

The trouble with strike is that while it is more often than not unwarranted, there are times when it is warranted. I'm no psychologist, but I can speak from personal experience (which is what this discussion is all about) when I say that sometimes the faulty perception is built upon past experiences. In other words, from inducing from a series of experiences, it is possible to build a faulty perception of "them, they." What would the error be in this induction? The series of experiences must actually be representative of "them, they." If they're not, the induction fails (which is most of the time). If they are, the induction holds (which is rare). The error I made--one which, in my experience, is far too common--is that I induced from a such non-representative sample of "them, they" and tempered my analysis to include what "they" were saying in order to not ostracized and demonized by "them."

The last part of that sentence was difficult for me to write because it is a logical conclusion I had not come to before actually typing the words. It is a psychological issue I need to work on coming out of this experience--this experience in which the facts were these:

-I first saw Survivor when I was 18 in my first semester of college, and it had a pretty big affect on me. I was never very social and the social experiment intrigued me to no end.
-Over the next three years as I earned my BA in Writing, I focused on becoming a storyteller and fell in love with the game of analyzing the editing in Survivor to figure the outcome before it aired. I managed a pretty piss poor attempt for the Amazon before coming really close for the Pearl Islands.
-During that time period I also more clearly defined my sense of self, developing my values and finding heroes--a process that culminated (for the moment) on Feburary 1st 2004 when Bill Belchick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots won their second Super Bowl right before Survivor All-Stars, the epic of Boston Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich, premiered.
-On September 22nd, 2004, the fall of my senior year of undergrad, my storytelling aspirations and analytic mind were drawn elsewhere--to LOST. That spring I began writing my episodic LOST analysis making Chris' epic comeback and Koror's dominance the last powerful memories of my first stage of Survivor fandom.
-Over the next six years my LOST column became my passion. I taught college English. I earned a MA in Professional Communication. Through it all though, my primary focus of writing was my analysis of the most recent episode of LOST. It's the most productive project I've ever undertaken in terms of concrete deliverables and abstract intellectual and personal growth. If I had learned a lot from Survivor, which I was still never missing an episode but watching in much a less intense fashion, I had learned four times that much from LOST.
-In the Spring of 2009, my college lecturer contract was not renewed--in spite of my highly praised performance--due to budget constraints. Living in South Carolina and knowing LOST would be ending in a year, I decided when it was all said in done I need to go to where there were more opportunities, especially for a storyteller.
-In the Summer of 2010, I moved to Los Angeles and, without a job until October, finished my first (as of yet unpublished) novel. I had successfully transformed my LOST-column productivity into my original-fiction productivity. I was doing it. It was the first steps in the process, but I had taken them all the same.
-Then the story went how it always did. In the Fall of 2010, I met a girl. There are many more sordid details that have no place in this discussion, but the important part is this. By December I was in deeper than I ever had before.
-Being in Los Angeles afforded me opportunities that South Carolina never could. In December, my long-time Survivor friend Mario invited me to meet some Survivors in Hollywood the night before the Nicaragua finale aired. It was the first time either of us had gone to one of these events. It was the first time either of us, despite being e-friends for a little over five years, had met each other. I brought the girl along.
-Over the next month or so the girl became a Survivor addict, watching almost every season on YouTube in preparation for Redemption Island. Then, without warning, at the end of January she up and left. I've seen her once since.
-Then, almost as if on cue (the day before, actually), on January 23rd, 2011 I found myself in this Facebook group called Previously on Survivor. Being lost without LOST, in a new city, and recently heart broken, I regressed to my undergraduate days of Survivor Suckage and became a PoS regular. Survivor was once again my focus.
-Over the next few months, my fire for life was reignited as one of my heroes Rob Mariano inspired me to succeed. The first episode of Redemption Island was so good--and my pride at predicting a Fabio win and following his story so easily silently the previous season was so beaming--that I got back into the game. I was an episodic columnist and a Survivor analyst again, and I was damn good at it--better than I'd ever been.
-Wanting to share my success, I endeavored to expand my circle of conversation beyond PoS. I ventured back to Sucks (and then off the internet where I met some pretty awesome people who taught me some pretty important things). What I found there was a former shell of a former shell of what it used to be--and an extremely rabid argument about the season I had never considered.

"They" were talking about this girl Andrea, who I saw as completely inconsequential and unimportant to the story. Sure, she was in Ometepe and would likely be around a long while because they were primed for longevity in the story, but she clearly had no type of overarching arc. The storyteller in me told me so with every neuron of my brain. To use an apt metaphor, she was basically like Claire in S6 of LOST--a cute blonde that writers had to include because she was there and would probably look oddly attractive if dressed as a Goth. Actually, if you think about, the longer the two of them stayed on their respective "islands," the more they looked like each other. This comparison should have been enough for me...but it wasn't.

The "problem" that led to my eventual mistake was how fervently "they" were defending and arguing for not only Andrea's longevity in the game, but her victory. For awhile, I disregarded them, confidently saying her edit revolved completely around the character of Matt. However, as the season progressed and I became more and more passionate about it, I began to read Sucks more and more often. "They" were so passionate about her. "They" were so convinced. There had to be something I was missing then, didn't there? There's no way anyone is that enthused about something if it has no merits at all.

No, there didn't have to be something I was missing. The game progressed as I thought, but I had started to factor "their" analysis into mine. I had Andrea going deeper into the game than I initially thought she would. Except, she didn't. My original analysis of her edit revolving completely around Matt proved to be correct. I had listened to "them" for no good reason and found weeks of my column and comments I had made in PoS marred by my error. My roommate reminded me how he had said what happened to Andrea would happen to her. I held myself accountable the best I could. I gave credit to people who called me out on my awful predictions. I apologized to myself and expressed my remorse to people who deserved to hear it. Still though, it wasn't enough.

Listening to "them" and what "they" say is an error that runs deeper than analysis of one Survivor season and one player. It's a psychological crutch that prevents me from attaining the life I want. I've reached a certain level of success and happiness in my life, but because I listen to "them," I don't count the success and happiness as anything and believe it's the highest level of success and happiness it's possible for me to reach. Why do I listen to them? Because over the course of my life I've been inundated with so much of their fervor that I'm falsely associated it with some sort of merit on their part. Essentially, "they" have convinced me of their necessity when "they" don't even exist."They" are a hypothetical that stands in place of and harms the interaction of individuals.

Someone awesome taught me how to block on Facebook. I had never used to because I had never interacted with randos on the book. I also never thought blocking was acceptable either. Who was I to silence someone? However, this person explained to me how blocking was actually the right thing to do too. It was so obvious that I was ashamed of never having thought of it in my life before. I only wish I had taken this important lesson to heart before I made the Andrea mistake.

Someone talking doesn't mean they have something to say. Someone living doesn't mean they have something to contribute. These truths are obvious. I'm glad I can write that statement now and understand it--and the error I made to previously not understand it. Now I can work on integrating it into my everyday life so I can be as happy and successful as I want to be by standing steadfastly by mind and its voice!

All I need to remember is the song that's stuck in my head right now...

..and the song that will be stuck in my heart from now on.

I mean, you know what they say, right? No, I'm really asking you because I've never been able to figure it out and am no longer going to waste my time trying to. Good luck with that. I hope you find what you're looking for. I didn't. That much is as obvious as "Ometepe!"


Daniel T. Richards said...

I'll drink to that, but they won't like it.

shaysx said...

it will be amazing if you did a final post on the final.
i will be very happy to hear your thouts.
sorry about my english, i am from israel and i love your column.

Jayemel said...

Shaysx, I am currently working on one on the finale/outcome. I wanted to take some time to think about it first. Thanks for the comment!