Sometimes it feels like life is an endless road of wanting to be accepted. After your family it begins when you comprehend the concept of friendship and with it the pain and harsh reality that not everyone has the same amount of friends in the world. For some who find it hard to form bonds on this planet, this realization comes much quicker than for others. I think regardless of how popular we are there are times at night, when we are alone, that we feel an alienation from everyone else in the world. This includes the ones we love, no matter how strong those bonds might be, for we are human and have those moments. With the severing of the umbilical cord comes a very real release into a world that will often times distrust or hate us. And so we spend the rest of our lives searching for another connection back to what we had at birth, a struggle to feel accepted.
Why do people love the Harry Potter series so much? What could you possibly hate about a story of an orphan child that lives the life of an underdog and goes on to be the hero? His very struggles did not even have to mirror our own for us to accept his life as an image of “struggle” itself, an image we all deal with at some point in our lives. It reminds me of my own obstacles in trying to fit in through life. That feeling of struggle came to a stop on January 3rd, 2013 when I began my blog HarsH ReaLiTy on WordPress.com. It has been an eye opening experience and a period of personal growth to say the least. I have found I can express my opinions without feeling bridled by contempt or disdain and at the same time people can throw back their controversy literally right in my face, since I read their comments daily on a computer screen. This has provided, interestingly enough, an opportunity for this stubborn Korean to open himself to new ideas. I have even evolved some of my own values and outlooks on life, or at the very least provided the seeds for future thought on the topics.
It is amazing to me that I write daily to an audience, but in my daily life I am just another figure. Another number, a body in a chair. My current manager, who is an awesome person make no mistake, barely sees me because I work the graveyard shift. Yes, like a ghost I come in the backdoor of the building, past the working janitors and tired, oblivious late-night workers and I come watch servers to make sure they don’t go red. The only thing that keeps me from going insane is the sound of my keyboard floating into the empty office air, it is music to my ears and provides a promise of something more. Call it what you will but I earnestly seek whatever it is that inspires that feeling inside of me to press on when most would sit back and bask in accomplishment. You are allowed to feel satisfied in life, but too much satisfaction quickly becomes the recipe for a stagnant nature.
My blog has become an outlet for me. At first I created it as an online journal, but quickly it became my fingerprint on the literary world. There is a world out there of writers, readers, editors, publishers, curious minds, and growing minds wanting to keep the written arts alive and an audience can be easily found. We strive to keep this dying art form from going extinct against the easily ingested television and accessible online media commonly found on at this moment in most of the world’s living rooms. I understand and I will confess to being a lover of the television myself, everyone needs their methods of falling asleep and mine just happens to be my mistress the TV. That was another motivator for me to create an inspiration that would force me to write on a regular basis, I see this often said on new blogs as their initial posts. The constant interaction and feedback I receive from my viewers has given me the backbone I needed to write this book now, one that might still never see the light of day. But I have to hope that at least by gracing this white screen they are given a life, even one as brief as the time it takes me to delete this word document.
I have often wondered if anyone on the staff at WordPress.com has been or is a manic depressive. There should never be an easily accessible delete button on anything as important as our blogs, and this is not a rib at WordPress who is gracious enough to offer a free platform for aspiring writers such as myself. I must confess that sometimes a depressive like me looks at that delete button with disgust. They make us jump through hoops of fire to cancel a credit card, but a precious blog I have spent countless hours on I can delete at the push of a couple buttons. I don’t stay on that page that long and I hope that the demons from my past don’t come back to force me to ever press that button. It would be a mistake I know.
An outlet to the world and to those beyond our room. That is what blogging has provided for me and has allowed me to achieve right from my rather mundane life in Denver, Colorado. I do love my life, my family, and the relatively safe environment we live in is one less distraction that pulls me away from writing. As a father of a four and three year old, plus working forty hours a week graveyard shifts, I have to find the time to write when I can. This past year has been my first year of addiction to blogging, but it is not at a level I consider dangerous and the potential for success through it is enormous. This provides the needed leverage on the table when trying to convince my loving and understanding wife of the need for the time I a lot to my “passion.” She is an artist and walks the same road I do, but while carrying a paint brush, so she understands in her own way. Besides, she is my number one fan and understands that my family is my inspiration for success and they are also why I hope to create a working profession from writing and not just a continuation of a hobby. That is yet to be seen, but I see a full deck and the game has not been played yet.
When I started HarsH ReaLiTy under the pen name Opinionated Man I had no idea that it would grow to the size it has now. Sure I had a business model and an idea, but I must confess I have been successful at very few things in life. Always the type that thought he was smarter than the teacher, knew better than everyone else, it is amazing I even listen to comments from a second opinion when I consider how closed minded I have been my whole life. I would like to think I have been open to opinions, but in truth I am simply well read. Reading opinions and even learning about other ideals does not necessarily constitute a growth in personal morals. We can read anything with a closed mind and it is just words. The interaction found through blogging, however, has changed the face of words and we are unhindered by a character limitation restraint. We know that the people speaking to us are real people, well at least the ones not categorized as spam by the people at AKISMET, and normally the views being expressed back are heart felt. This has at least been the experience thus far on my website and I hope it continues on.
As the number of people and countries grew that were regularly viewing my posts, I began to evolve the way I viewed the potential for the platform I was writing on. This was not just a few “wannabe” writers and struggling authors pandering out their materiel for free in hopes of book deals, what I found were real people that had real issues and lives that they were relating at real-time speed for the viewing pleasure of whoever cared. I think the concept of blogging is growing even today and is still gaining popularity and the result is that it is easy to connect with individuals from across the planet. I recently ran a project on my blog called “Project O” in which I featured articles that consisted of templates participants filled out and submitted to me by email. One hundred and twenty-eight bloggers from around the world took part in the project and the feedback and conversation that came from it was invaluable not only to my own personal growth in knowledge about the world and the people in it, but I think it also helped to correct some stereotypes we have when we consider other people as so different from ourselves.
The project also offered the opportunity for the creation of new connections and that is what the “social” in social media is all about. If writers wanted to simply write we would do so on a word document or journal, we blog our writing to get it out there to an audience so we can get feedback and free critiques and we use that newfound knowledge to improve our writing. That would be my goal at least, but added to that is the new community feeling that is received when you encounter others that are also trying to complete the same journey you are. I have dreamed of becoming a published author since I read my first fantasy book and thought to myself “I could have wrote that.” It is only now, after writing on a daily basis and receiving positive feedback that I think I have what it takes to put out at least one novel and see how it floats.
Inspiration is an unpredictable emotion because it can come at any moment. I find that it comes far more frequently when we surround ourselves with things that might contribute to that occurrence happening. That is why writers congregate in corners and artists socialize with other artists, we seek out people that understand and relate to us. HarsH ReaLity, yes I can be very Korean sometimes and that is how I choose to spell it, has become an almost forum like webpage of writers and people with many other talents that congregate to discuss topics of similar interest. Since I am pretty much a dabbler in any topic, my interest range from the obvious to the curious, I provide articles frequently that people find interesting. That accounts for the high number of views my website gets in comparison to perhaps a far more skilled writer in a specific genre that only garners viewers from that similar interest. I suppose this book will fall under a genre, we are forever labeled as human beings that cannot be helped, but at least my blog is still free of any such label. That is how I intended it.
I am not a very malleable person nor does my personality lend me to accept differing opinions very often or very well for that matter. I force myself to read CNN.com, even though I am a Republican, because CNN has better reporters than FOX News and I like to see what the other side thinks as well. I have frequently opened up topics on my website that have caused open debate, even some heated discussion and argument. Luckily the members of my more frequent audience show a lot of restraint, but it can be shaky ground when you are dealing with human emotion and ideals. People tend to fire first and ask questions later and that is why I have been rather surprised at how open the bloggers have been when interacting with one another. There has even been a cordial nature between nationalities I did not think really liked each other, to put it bluntly, put Project O showed me that not all individuals within a nation think alike. A concept that should be easy for an American to understand, but is surprisingly difficult for many to realize when we consider nationalities across the oceans. We like to believe stereotype because often times stereotypes are accurate or based on fact and are also the only things being fed to society through the media.
From small to large can basically sum up the concept of the expansion of my mind and views on the world through my personal growth found from my blogging experience. This is not to say that I am some reformed man that has fully changed the ways in which he lives or observes the world, no on the contrary it actually has reinforced some of the views I have conceived but it has also introduced me to some new opinions which I respect and love to hear about. That is the beauty of creating a website that has a “forum like atmosphere” and welcomes the sharing of openly expressed opinion. I appreciate allowing people to say what they want even if it is against the grain and I highly encourage anyone that has the backbone to stand up for their own ideals. That is what is great about blogging and the uncensored content that is floating out on the internet. While some of it might be obscene, others might make you want to scream, yell or curse, but what you really have is a freedom of expression. That is a freedom people will not give up lightly and Project O clearly showed the value that everyone in the world has placed in having an opinion and further being able to express that opinion.
We hate to be labeled and yet we gladly place these labels on people to make them easier to categorize. For instance, it might be assumed about me that since I am Korean, have a successful blog, consistently post a lot, and have a family as well that I must not have any other life. People also assume I am technically savvy, which actually if you ask my brother in law I am not very technical at all. Oh sure I know the basics about many things, which places me at about average in today’s computerized world, but I just bought my first iPhone this October and I will admit it makes me feel dumb. I think there are really only a few things that make me a successful blogger. I type between 85 – 100 wpm, I process information quickly (this has been widely debated), I speed read, and I enjoy the interaction only found through an online setting and creating an atmosphere and writing in a way that welcomes conversation. That is the goal of any blog I think is to seek out comments and the fastest way to shut down conversation is to start labeling people.
I have used my blog as a window into parts of my life, but as one blogger mentioned it is very hard to pry out very many “exact” details about me. That is of course on purpose, as the safety of my family is first in my mind, but I have taken the opportunity on my blog to write some on my adoption and my feelings towards my birth mom and the sister I have not met since we were separated as children. The internet has actually provided a very nice avenue for therapy for me through allowing me to express my feelings about the past openly and accepting the unchecked criticism or encouragement sent back my way. It has been an interesting experience connecting with both adoptees and parents with adopted children and I think we can all agree that each story is different. There can be similarities, but it does an injustice to the lives of those individuals when people try to label and categorize things too much.
My adoption story received a lot of views and was a create way for me to finally pour out how I saw and felt during the course of those events in my life. It was a trying period and no one can really say they understand what I went through because there was only one Korean kid walking in those shoes. I am thankful for such support during those times, my family and mother in particular helped me to see there are reasons for living even in the darkest of hours. It is just very hard to know that when you are living those moments. I was adopted when I was 3 years old, left on the street with my sister by our mother in front of a police station in Busan, South Korea. I did not find out about the part of the story involving my sister and birth mother till I was eighteen years old and was on a trip to Korea with a group of adoptees that were also adopted through Holt International. It took me 9 years and one suicide attempt to get over it all and I can’t actually say I honestly have moved fully forward. Do you ever? I may still write more on my adoption other than the few articles I wrote on it. It would make a good novel, but sometimes you just don’t feel like reopening a door over and over.
I think in many ways blogs are windows into our hearts. We allow people to see our feelings, emotions, and sometimes our personal stories because we feel the need to share without actually physically sharing. We press that publish button and that post is sent out into the web and we half fear, half hope that someone will read it and care enough to respond. That the response back will somehow matter. That is what I hope when I publish any article on my blog and I also seek out other bloggers that feel the same way. Simply because we are unsocial in the real world, and I really wouldn’t fully label myself as unsociable but more on that later, doesn’t mean we cannot still find connections that broaden our world. Who has the time to listen to a whole conversation anymore when instead we can have thousands of conversations at once and more importantly the control to interact with that conversation at our own convience. The power of writing on a website like WordPress is the ability to control your own speed, no one should say you have to post every hour or even every day, what readers look for is content with meaning.
I also find I like to pick on political issues even though I know a very large number of my readers are not of similar political party or mind on many “hot topics” in current news. I still speak strongly on my stance on these issues whenever I feel like and that is something I will never change. Surprisingly this has actually caused many to support me in my stance of at least sharing and standing by my opinions, even if they strongly disagree with them and it causes them occasional flashes of anger. These topics have ranged from abortion, Korean’s having eye surgery, the Russian Orthodox stance on homosexuality, opinion and the importance of having the right to an opinion, and any current news topic that floats my fancy. I also include frequent posts of what I like to refer to as poetry, but I believe might be accessed by a professional as utter garbage. I once submitted my poetry through a computerized website that grades them and it almost shutdown from computerized laughter at how low my score was. I didn’t even know computers had such a sense of humor.
I have labeled people my whole life and even harbored a racist view or two. It is a common practice these days to take on a shocked look of appall at the word racism and anyone that even admits to ever having had a racist thought in their life. Luckily I am not planning on running for any political office and I can safely assume I cannot run for President of the United States of America since I was born in Korea. That leaves me liberated to at least express my opinions and views with those that will listen and I have found an audience that actually accepted my admission of past views and appreciated my progression. Dare I even admit I have found people that have walked a similar path? That is encouraging to me, a person who often thinks not many others consider subjects in a radically different way. To find those that consider it ok to admit that you have had a racist or improper thought and that the world will not forever label you as a hooded demon or extremist is a good thing in a current society that loves to ostracize those that dare to speak against the current “trending view” even if that view is still far in the minority of what everyone feels. The irony of this is actually remarkably bottomless, but it takes a certain type of cynical humor to appreciate it.
The daily interaction I have had with people from countries I have never visited is remarkable because it has broadened my mind and understanding of the different cultures out there. I am forced to recognize preconceived notions as ignorant and the resulting strengthening in character can only serve me in the future. I actually had a feeling the other day that even though I watch and read the news far less than I did, I still feel more connected to the world the individuals within it. I of course do not converse with every human on the planet, but I am speaking to far more people on a regular basis than I ever have in my life. That definitely expands your mind especially when you are not privy to topics that are perhaps not widely known about or discussed internationally. Someone once asked me why should we care so much, “why do you care so much?” I replied that the day we stop caring about a story, about a person, is the day that something dies. That is a sad thing to me.
Blogging has opened my eyes to the fact that it is a good thing for us to have a social fingerprint to be known by and perhaps even to be followed by. It allows me a little comfort to know that there are people that care if I am still alive and kicking, even if those people have never met me in their lives. I once blogged about a Saudi Blogger who received a grossly unjust sentence for simply creating a blog and forum to openly talk about religion. One commenter asked me what good it did to simply write about someone and I responded that by writing about someone we spread notice of their existence and in this case their trials or tribulations. I went on to say that I hope if I were in a similar situation that my readers and friends would also take to social media and campaign for my cause. People easily forget that we have a voice and that voice is as powerful as the engine you put behind it. I went from speaking to three hundred followers to twenty-five thousand in ten months and it is all due to one thing. I cared to get my voice out there.
Jason C. Cushman