The Problem with The Brantley Blog

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To anyone who is still here after my year long-hiatus from this blog, I feel like I owe you a big apology and an explanation.

The Brantley Blog was discontinued for two primary reasons.

Bad Feelings

What began as select drinking stories and misadventures from college slowly turned into a broader story arc of my coming of age after leaving home for the first time.  This was a natural evolution, but it came with a price.

I struggled with a lot of loneliness in my first semester of college.  During my second semester, I finally made friends and I got really close with a lot of people who didn’t have much in common with me other than our shared affinity for inebriation.  This didn’t end well.

Petty conflicts, jealousies, and certain individuals’ affliction of talking about people behind their backs led my group of friends to a boiling point.  We all met on top of a parking garage to air out our grievances with each other in a structured act of full disclosure.  We called it, I kid you not, a “Pickle Pow Wow.”   Instead of the kindergarten classroom tool of a “talking stick” with which speakers take turns so that they don’t end up shouting over top each other, we passed around a pickle in a pouch.

Tears were shed, hugs exchanged, bandaids applied to minor emotional scratches and wounds, but deep down we all knew that the group of friends was doomed to collapse in on itself.

I know that this is all incredibly stupid and “high school” dramatic, but it really genuinely mattered to me back then.  A lot of people that I cared about stabbed me in the back and friends that I tried to help resented my efforts.  It left a sour taste in my mouth.

Needless to say, the fun of mocking my youthful naivety and the joy of embellishing drinking tales were far preferable to describing how I lost numerous close friends over the course of just a few short months.  When the story that I was telling one blog post at a time reached this point, I suddenly found myself unmotivated to continue.  These events weren’t much fun to write about and I assumed that it wouldn’t be much fun to read.

I had it in my head that someone out there was piecing these individual posts together and reading them like a book; that this heavily foreshadowed climax was hotly anticipated.  I put a great deal of imaginary pressure on myself to get the story right.

Now I know that this was a silly thing to think.  I understand that blogs are typically consumed piece by piece rather than as a unit and that I could have neglected the hard parts of the story and nobody would have noticed.  But it was still enough to suck the fun out of The Brantley Blog for me.

Brantley:  The Great Disappointment

A recurring problem that I had with weaving my underage drinking stories was the looming presence of my parents in the back of my mind.  Both mother and father had recently joined Facebook and had dropped comments (Mom especially) here and there that made social networking lose its luster.  Thoughts of the shit storm that would arise should they find my blog and read about my youthful mistakes (most of which were intentional) prevailed over every revision and every edit of every post.

Over the last month or so, I’ve come to realize that it goes much deeper than fear of my parents finding out that I enjoyed being a little troublemaker in college.  A big part of my tendency to hold back in my writing has been knowledge of their inevitable disapproval of what I have to say.

You see, my parents are very religious.  As a kid, I remember my Dad making this objection throat clearing noise every time a character in a movie swore.  I remember him changing radio stations and calling certain pop songs “garbage.”  I remember my Mom forbidding me from seeing certain movies and how upset she was when she found out that I had used Napster to burn CDs with cuss words in them.

I, on the other hand, have more or less oscillated between atheism and agnosticism ever since the day that my parents decided that I was too old to get away with napping during church services.  I used to lay my head down in the pew every Sunday morning and rely on my family to wake me when it was all over.  Once that was no longer an option, I found myself increasingly uninterested in the entire body of rituals.

Every part of my worldview is so radically different from my parents that it makes for awkward silences during the holidays.  It would be stupid to let my political opinions alienate me from them, but at the same time, there are certain things that I feel very strongly about and it becomes really difficult to see any basic human decency in differing opinions on some issues.

Really, the worst part is that I get the feeling that they don’t even notice these awkward silences, these times that I shut my mouth in polite dissent.  It makes me feel like they probably don’t know very much about me and who I am, who I became once I left their house.

All of this is in the back of my mind during every keystroke, every sentence.  These things that I write, they are an extension of me.  To hate my writing is to hate me.  When it comes to my parents, that’s a lot of stress to handle every time I push that “publish” button.

It isn’t easy suspecting that a falling out with my parents will inevitably be a big part of my artistic journey.  Some days, it’s enough to keep my fingers from hitting any key other than “Backspace,” but I just can’t live that way forever.

I’m 26 years old.  I’m smart, thoughtful, kind, compassionate, and patient (though I struggle with this one sometimes).  I’m stubbornly optimistic and I don’t want to accept defeat, not for myself, not for society, not for the human race.

I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of my writing.  My parents should be too.  And if they aren’t, then that’s an issue upon which I can’t courteously keep my mouth shut.

From Here   

I plan on continuing to tell my stories, to laugh at myself and the things that have happened to me.  I plan on sharing my insights on petty injustices that I encounter in my day to day drudgery.  I plan on trying to make readers laugh or smile, to entertain a person or two if only for a few minutes out of their day.

I plan on doing these things on a wider level.  I’m going to share this blog with actual people that I know and if my parents find it, I hope they enjoy it.  No.  I hope that they can’t help but enjoy it, even though they disapprove.  I hope that they are just as proud of me as I am of myself.

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The Enlightened People who Make your Pizza: The True Meaning of Christmas

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 I know it’s several days too late for a Christmas post, but this delves into deeper waters so I’m going through with it anyway.

Disclaimer:

Before I recount a moment in which I proudly kept my mouth shut in order to maintain a pair of professional working relationships, I have to lay out some backstory on where I work.

I deliver pizzas for a major, international franchise.  My co-workers are a melting pot of college grads, teenagers, people having trouble living up to their potential, and of course some people who are a few nuggets short of a Happy Meal.  Needless to say, such diversity lends itself to some grade-A minimum wage banter.  

The purpose of this story is not to mock any of my co-workers.  On a good day, they’re really fine folks.  Even on a bad day, they’re no more screwed up than the rest of the population.  I’m just venting some things that would have been impolite to say aloud at work.

On a hectic night, I returned to the store after a delivery.  I followed the same routine as always:  check back in at the computer, drop cash in the box, check back out at the computer, bag up deliveries and go.

Throughout the process, however, I couldn’t help but overhear a profound debate happening between two of my co-workers as they tidied up the store between in-store duties.

I will paraphrase.

Co-Worker A:  It’s a Christian holiday!

Co-Worker B:  No, Christmas is based on a pagan seasonal holiday!

Co-Worker A:  Pagan?!  I don’t even know what that means, but there’s no way that it existed before Christianity!

Co-Worker B:  You need to just stop talking right now.  You’re embarrassing yourself.

A grasp of history can make or break your unnecessary religious argument.

If you are shocked that Co-Worker A was offended by that last part, you probably don’t have very good people skills.

I wanted to lunge into the conversation because I think stuff like this is super awesome, but I already had one foot out the door so I didn’t have enough time to say something that I probably would have regretted.

After work that night, I told my beautiful girlfriend about the exchange and she asked if I knew the right answer on the debate.  I think I used to, but it’s long forgotten now.  She explained to me that the church shifted Jesus’s Birthday to closely align with pagan holidays celebrating the Winter Solstice so as to “Christianize” something that other religions were already doing.  Their thought process:  “BOOM!  We just tricked you into celebrating the birth of our Messiah!”  (My girlfriend didn’t say that part.  I just made it up.)

The specifics interested me far less than the general idea of people finding themselves unexpectedly embroiled in a religious debate.  Being from a family with more intense religious views than my own, I’ve decided that there are only three times when people change/abandon their faith:

  1. Over a very long, tumultuous inner-battle of debating the logic and benefit of what they believe.
  2. When they want to.
  3. Never.

Some people will never change another person's mind about religion.  This is something we should all strive towards.

Seeing as how there are a lot of people plugged into this internet thing, I’m sure someone out there can cite an example of one pizza store employee changing another’s mind about their religion.  That being said, I’m sure that specific incident would still fall under one of the broader categories above.  Needless to say, my co-workers didn’t change any hearts or minds that evening.

This brings me to a bigger point:  Who cares?  We all seem to agree that Christmas is about giving gifts to each other.  If someone gives you a present because Baby Jesus, will you throw that present on the ground and spit on it because you are an atheist?  If you buy gifts because you support consumerism, will you not bother with the Christians on your shopping list?  If you’re celebrating the days getting longer and the nights getting shorter, do you really care what a person handing you a present believes?

No matter the motivation for someone's generosity, accept it and high five them.

It’s a season of giving and tolerance.  If you disagree with that, then just celebrate it as a season of being nice to people you don’t like.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by shutting up when you don't have anything nice to say.