Most of the research you read says you should have a niche as a freelance writer. I had no clue what category I wanted myself to be in the last few years so I bounced around between sports, arts, and local.
But none of it felt like something that I could stick with long term until I realized that everything had a common theme. I realized I was trying to define this country with my words no matter the topic and everything came out as if I was toying around with what it is to be American, to feel American and to live in America. Oddly enough It all felt so foreign, as if I was an innocent outside bystander constantly looking in.
I tried to be non-partial, I tried to simply tell a story as if I was a from another planet but it was way too difficult. I couldn’t see this country as anything other than how a typical American sees themselves; proud, tough, gritty, and outspoken.
One day when I was sitting there at the picnic table in my backyard waiting for the grill to warm up, I suddenly had a strange and outrageous thought that I had never had before. I suddenly found myself questioning everything I know. And I mean absolutely everything. Maybe it’s the disinformation age we’re currently living in that brought me to this thought, but what if everything I know about America is actually wrong.
What if history is, as most of us view it, completely revisionist.
Maybe everything that ever happened just seems so much more principled, astute, and well planned because those who retell it decided it that way. Maybe everything is just completely made up in some half ass attempt to cover up some wicked truth.
I couldn’t make the connection. How could I convince someone that this was true if I couldn’t convince myself of it? It wasn’t like I could look something up in a history book, that’s what I supposedly couldn’t believe in anymore. I sat there for a long while trying to come up with a way to test my theory in a subtle way, one that attacked the fabric of society but not directly America itself. The grill got hot.
I decided to attack Peyton Manning and I wrote an article that suggested that he was a lying scumbag. It was my way of seeing if an American archetype could have holes in the argument, my way of taking a shot at what is viewed as truth, Peyton Manning is the All-American Quarterback. Taking a shot at his truths are just a tiny microcosm of what we all agree is the acceptable and true version of American history.
I decided to attack Peyton Manning and I wrote an article that suggested that he was a lying scumbag.
What happened after that article was published was truly amazing. Something that I honestly didn’t see coming. Absolutely no one agreed with me. And I mean no one. I got hate mail. My twitter blew up with people hoping that I could casually get hit by a bus or get blown up by a bomb and right then and there I knew I was on to something.
It reminded me of the time in college when in the common area, on a big screen TV, they were showing Forest Gump. I decided to go just to make fun of the movie, out loud. I got thrown out in about thirty minutes. No one thought making fun of that movie was funny. But why?
Going against the grain just because you can, is just being anti for no reason and that’s pretty annoying. But it’s really the most American thing you can possibly do. Status quo and this country do not belong in the same sentence. We were once the global misanthropes, the dreamers, the hell raisers. Some of us sent here, some came here seeking change, others were just plain hellions. And that’s what I wanted to be, a hellion, a rebel, a punk, a goddamn outspoken misanthrope. I wanted to purposely bring the antithesis, I wanted to go out of my way to hate Forest Gump, I wanted to be what I thought America was. The attention, however negative at times, emboldened me, and I started craving more.
I wanted to go out of my way to hate Forest Gump
But I quickly found out that it wasn’t enough to incite. I wanted it to be deeper than that, to explore something, and get minds moving. What I didn’t want to be was Kent State Gun Girl or some other flash in the pan Instagram hack job. While at first it was the attention that I craved, it didn’t last, and I started to feel hopeless.
But there was that longing feeling, the one where I felt like I touched something, something real, it was ephemeral but it was so real. It was an American nerve, and what I wanted to do was follow it, not agitate it.
I wanted to follow it to the epicenter, one sentence at a time, one project after another, until I found something. I was let go from that writing job a few months later, but it didn’t deter me. In fact, I’m probably more in debt to that group than anything for allowing me to speak my mind and to find the nerve I wanted to follow. So, thanks to Dan McAuliffe, wherever you are, and Wai Sallas, too.
So here I am. Following along the nerve path, desperately trying to find what I’m going to call the American Dream through arts and culture, through writing, through connecting, through being an out spoken American, an extroverted misanthrope.