Daily

We are gonna be alright.

We’ve been through far worse.

Just gotta keep focused, keep moving. There will be time for reflection later. It is time to move forward now.

Be well my heart, be well.

We’ll be just fine.

Jason

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@smokendust

My Daily

I turned 37 recently.

I feel old.

I also hurt my back about two weeks ago and you would have heard some complaining here. I could tell you I was at sumo wrestling practice and just misjudged the guy, but that would be a lie.

Instead my injury was caused by a shopping kart at a King Soopers. I was trying to quickly lift it up and skoot it over for someone passing and when I lifted it I felt something pinch my lower back. I almost instantly started hunching over, much like that time in sumo practice actually. I suspect Gary caused this somehow.

I’m better now. I feel much better. Work has been hectic, but what else is new? Same shit different day.

I did get a new gas grill and we went and had a picnic with the family near red rocks. It was a lot of fun. None of you were invited.

I think I got sunburned though because my face hurts when I smile. It is a good thing I don’t smile much…

-OM

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@smokendust

Author Bio

I have this “About Me” page HERE that I wrote when I first started this blog. I am positive most people don’t read that page since a lot of people have said some pretty humorous things from seeing my photos or when I share a personal fact. I don’t feel a need to spill about myself in a profile when I write myself daily here (I am not important)… but I can see the need to clarify sometimes to ensure people understand the person behind the words. It isn’t a need for accolades or fame, but rather for clarity as to why you think or say a certain thing.

My name is Jason Chandler Cushman and I live close to Denver, Colorado. That means I am American, obviously. I was born Ahn Soo Jin from Pusan South Korea, at least that is what the paper says. The photo too, but photos and papers lie don’t they? As far as I know that is my name, but I have come to learn that Soo Jin is a woman’s name so either there was a mistake (because there is no mistake bodily… trust me…) or it may be an old form of the name in Chinese. The Korean woman who told me that last part said it almost sympathetically and with little optimism.

By day I work IT and by night I write. I am a father and have two kids with my wife that keep us busy… we love it! Life is pretty routine for me and my main mental escape is through my fingers and from my words. I am a real time blogger that is lazy with the edits, quick with the publish button, and a pretty horrible photographer. Pictures are a must though so I set my featured photos from my cell phone and move on.

I began blogging in 2013 because I was beginning a nightshift and needed something to occupy my time. I didn’t know what I was doing having only owned a blog on Blogger once. My mother and 3 bots were my only followers. My mom is a writer, you can find her blog HERE, and she is also an author.

I write under the pen name Opinionated Man and kept my real name off the books for around a year. One day I said… well I didn’t say anything, I just started giving my name. I even added a photo at some point so people could see I was indeed Asian. There was some speculation I wasn’t apparently. I go by Opinionated Man because it amuses me and because it is true. People call me OM for short and it makes me smile that some bloggers now refer to me as Jason. My friends in real life rarely called me that. I use the logo

which I made all fancy like in Microsoft paint. I like it… but my wife thinks I should change it. I tried to explain to her that this is MY logo at this point. I might even put it on a shirt one day.

They say “you need a platform” before you write a book. But what if you have never written a book and you build that platform first. What if you do all that work and the book sucks? Would that make all the doing worth it? The funny part is had there been WordPress ads in 2013 or had I owned a self hosted site at the time… I could have made thousands off the views I gained from my main site and never needed to write a book. It was a lot of networking and I thought it was a pretty sure thing… unfortunately not all things work out. You move on, you rework, or you give up. I’ve given up on tons of things in my life. I didn’t feel like giving up on this blog.

This website was never meant to be anything more than a sounding board for my thoughts. A place where I could scream. People have judged it and what I do. What I say and what my opinions are. I am sure if I could read over a layout of their morals, ethics, and opinions I’d find a few I hated as well and that is life. That is the beauty of humanity really… we are all different. Blogging is a place where we get to show how different we are in whatever form we want to. Some share photography, amazing photos of places I will never visit. Others are baking up treats and making food I want to bite off the screen. It is WordPress and it is blogging. It is why I have a site and why I share the sites of others.

I am 36 years old and I feel I have seen a lot. I know everyone says that and I know that many have a right to say it. I work a daily job, but I love to write. I don’t care what I am writing and my goal is normally to make people smile. I am human and this hasn’t always been the case. Like my growth in blogging, I’ve grown as a person over the past four years. When I started on this platform I saw lots of posts and lots of separate groups, no community, and everyone wanted to be this “Freshly Pressed” thing. Now when I look out across the world of WordPress I see a lot more connection. I see friends of friends of friends sharing their work and it makes me smile. I don’t claim any hand in those connections being made, but I can’t help but appreciate the shared value in what I have always worked to create. It will be something I miss if I ever move on to another hobby.

Jason Chandler Cushman

-Opinionated Man

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@smokendust

Stonewall Street

Stonewall Street was named after General Stonewall Jackson and is located in midtown of Memphis, Tennessee. My family loved this street so much that we lived in three different houses on the exact same road! In between the stop lights of Poplar Avenue and North Parkway lives an unwritten memoir starring an unsuspecting Korean boy in search of daily adventure. Countless tales of bravery, stupidity, and choose-your-own-backyard-adventure took place all around this block that was my life.

It is almost impossible for me not to reminisce about Stonewall when I think about my childhood. There were so many things, places, and events that occurred on that street that I felt were milestones in my life. I remember the first home we lived in and how small it felt looking back at it in comparison to the houses we later lived in. My father was a young doctor and we were new to Memphis at the time. The church we were a part of, St. John’s Orthodox Church, was also in midtown and so that is where most of the congregation decided to plant their roots. We grew up inside a city that we remained apart of in many ways.

I sometimes miss that old home and the countless pages of memories recorded there. I wonder if the new owners ever found the skeleton key I found and quickly hid under the third stone in the backyard near the dogwood tree. The same dogwood tree I would climb daily and from which I fell one day when the branch of opportunity I was hanging from suddenly saw the opportunity to break. That was definitely a memorable day as I gasped to my sister to “run get mom!” because I was probably dying. It was just another day in the life that was my life really. I wasn’t always getting into trouble, but sometimes it sure felt like the calendar turned according to my transgressions.

Lying there waiting for my mom I probably had time to spy the rope swing that wasn’t a rope swing next door. My neighbor was a carpenter who had a workshop behind his home. It was technically a second home in my book because the “workshop” was larger than my house… as was their main home. I sometimes suspected that the only reason anyone would have such a large work space would be due to actually being Santa Claus in disguise. I never confirmed my suspicion because he was sneaky and would leave for his yearly run when I finally fell asleep. I honestly to this day wonder how he knew whether I was asleep or not.

That rope swing got us into a lot of trouble. It wasn’t a rope swing at all actually, it was a pulley system to lift wood to his second floor. What eight year old would ever contemplate such a use for something that was obviously meant to be swung on across the large river of lava running beneath it? Isn’t that just an obvious prop for such an adventure? It seemed so to me until my idiot friend swung too hard and broke it. According to the Dragonlance code though I had to do the honorable thing and take the blame. I can’t remember whether perceived honor actually followed through or not that day…

I was lucky and fortunate that my next door neighbor was a kind man. Most carpenters are actually. I wonder if that is a jesus thing. Anyways, the reason this was such a good thing for me was because he was the source of all the wood I used to create my cache of weapons. In the daily life of Jason the Asian Dwarf weapons were a necessity for most of the plot line. Since my father was a doctor and totally against guns of any sort I became a lover of the wooden sword. It beat running around with a fake BB gun and the shed in the back was where I kept my weapons. The only way into that shed was with the skeleton key that I had hidden under the third stone.

I sometimes walk into that backyard mentally still to this day. I can smell the grass and see the dogwood trees in full blossom. I can hear the shouts of triumph, joy, and curiosity in the air as adventurous children roam from the front and back in search of a lost treasure or a lost cause. They walk and run with a lightness of foot that defines the freedom of childhood. I sit back and allow the memories to wash over me with an appreciation for those memories I still have. A time free of worry and concern over the past or future. A time when I was possibly truly happy. I look back and then I set my eyes forward on my own children as they live their moments without worry and appreciate the wonder of each moment. I watch as they create their own memories which they will consider in another point of their life, and I can only hope that they will treasure them as much as I do mine.

Jason C. Cushman

-Opinionated Man

@smokendust

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Final Post – My Adoption Story: Depression and the Devil

Man’s greatest triumphs can sometimes be found during his most difficult times of adversity.

This is my new saying when I reflect upon the “Dark Ages” of my life and my deepest days of depression. I am often not a praying man, which is odd considering my father is a priest and a doctor, and I don’t consider praying in times of need and praying to win the lottery as being a “praying man.”

I feel comfortable talking about my dark ages now, perhaps it is the mask of my pseudonym that gives me courage; but no, it is actually because I have moved on to greener pastures. My dark ages were a product of finding my birth mother at the age of 18. This came about in the most innocent of ways, in the form of a senior graduating gift from my adopted parents, my real parents in my eyes, a gift of adventure and excitement. It was a trip to Korea with a group of other adoptees from Holt International Adoption agency. I could never have dreamed prior to that trip, a trip I packed for with such excitement and enthusiasm, that it would be a trip that would usher in my darkest days. Granted, I had an acceptable childhood (no childhood is perfect), I had already struggled with demons of race and depression. I never considered that those demons would be small compared to the Devil I was about to encounter.

I really won’t get into the specifics of the trip unless someone asks or I am inspired to do so at a later date. Needless to say, since I have already provided the window to view it through, this trip was awful. I had been provided my adoption package by my adopted parents at an earlier time so I “thought” I was prepared for this trip. I “thought” there would be no surprises. I was wrong, depressingly wrong.

I found the information about my birth mother and my blood sister in Busan, South Korea, in a pathetic orphanage that I don’t even remember the name of. I have never liked hospitals or orphanages and I now knew why. No one, unless you are also adopted, can understand the pain that is brought when you are faced with the reality that you were not wanted. Add to this the pain that your mother decided one sibling was less trouble than you would be, and what you have is a maelstrom of emotions, regret, and anger. My storm could have killed me, it almost did.

When I returned I immediately went to college. A time that was supposed to be filled with excitement and growth, was instead filled with depression, anger, weed, and alcohol. I filled my time finding things to fill my “hole.” It did not help; it only delayed the sorrow and pain that I had to face eventually. When I dropped out of college after three and a half years the only welcoming I really wanted was a grave. Failure had become a part of me and it evidently had originated when I was left on that lonely street in Busan, South Korea in 1983.

I become a drunk. At 23 years old I was a first class alcoholic. I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s book “Medium Raw,” and part of my inspiration for writing this comes from him. The other part comes from my loving wife and my two wonderful children, all three of whom I continually feel that I do not deserve but I am forever thankful that I have. So thank you Anthony for the courage to speak or rather to write.

I remember, vaguely of course, stopping every day at Joe’s liquor store and buying a daily pint of the rawest whisky I could find, I believe it cost around $3 dollars a pint, and feeling like the drunks I had always despised I would begin to guzzle it on my short ride home. Before you judge, YES I know this was highly stupid of me and irresponsible, but who can ever say they were responsible while being depressed and drunk? If you know anyone that can make that claim I can in the same breath claim that bastard is a liar. Alcohol was my friend, my confidant, and his name didn’t matter whether it originated in Mexico, America, or hell even some African country. It didn’t matter as long as it felt good touching my lips.

It was late; I would say 3 am, when I saw him. He was not what I expected and I really can’t be sure if it was him or if he just gave me a glimpse of what I would see if I ever really met HIM. I was drunk; I think Braveheart was playing in the background. I was in the upstairs of my parent’s house, yes at age 23 I was living at home again another dagger to my heart, and I felt a presence at my door. In my childhood my father used to have the (then) annoying habit of standing behind us and watching our TV show with us. I never thought about it then, but looking back, he just wanted to be with us even if we did not particularly, at age 15, want him there. This presence was not a comforting one; I felt the hair on my arms stand. I saw a man, it was a man, but he was a shadow of a man at the same time. He looked at me and something awakened in me, it was fear. I had never been so afraid in my life. Keeping in mind that alcohol and weed are the nectar of the gods and that with those coursing through my veins I had thought myself fearless. I was mistaken. With one look the Devil showed me my humanity and all I could think was that I desperately wanted to live. I cried and shut my eyes and when I opened them he was gone. I still to this day do not know if I was dreaming, I really doubt it.

Fear can drive a man crazy, but it can also drive a man to life. I look back on that day and I realize that fear had kicked my ass back into gear. Today I am content. People ask me if I am “happy” all the time, I don’t think like that anymore. I look upon my life with my wife and my daughters and I realize… sometimes being content is enough.

Jason C. Cushman

-OM

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Pages of Me

It is far too early in the morning to make decisions that last a lifetime and yet you did. You made our decision for us as you packed us away with our memories. I sometimes wonder if you held our hands as we walked away from the life we knew. Having little idea that we were walking the final walk, we approached the day like any other. Like any other…

How simple it is to walk through life when you have nothing but a name to hold on to. How difficult that life becomes when that name is taken from you and a different identity is given for you to adopt as you adopt yourself. I walked away an Ahn. I walked with you as a Korean and left your life a stranger. More strange now is the face and name I wear today, a stranger heart you have never known. A loss of name was not my first lesson in pain. That was yet to come.

We made our way through the morning streets of Pusan. Past the sights and smells I knew and had no clue that it was my last time to experience them. We waited in front of a building for a bus that would never come as you said your goodbye. Is parting such sweet sorrow when half of those that part have no inkling of the finality taking place? It was sorrow for us. How were you able to hide your tears as we showed you our fears?

My soul still waits for you in Pusan beside my empty heart. My right hand holds the shadow of your own and my left hand grasps for my sister’s in the night. The only thing left for me is a mind and it betrays me each day. Putting memories in the wrong order, placing hope where it does not go. I scream at my mind at the same time I miss my soul. I scream at my dead heart at the same time I miss a beat. I scream at your memory to turn around just once.

Just this one time.

~**~

I’ve never liked the sound of children crying. I’ve always avoided orphanages or hospitals when I can. Something about the sound of unhappy kids in a forced situation sends my mind scrambling to my memory box. I pry it open with hesitant care as I look inside my past. A past filled with those same cries in my head… only this time they are my cries, my screams in the night.

There are moments in life when you know you are truly alone. I have a feeling at some point I realized I was on my own when the only hand left for me to hold was taken from me. You came like a sneak thief in the night and stole the only companion I had ever known. You selfishly tore her from my side so she could remain by your side… to comfort you till you die. You killed me twice that day. The hope of seeing you again went without a sound, but the loss of hope of seeing my sister again did not go unannounced. I let the world know it with all my sound.

Left, but not forgotten. Adoptee, but not adopted. I remained in between the worlds I knew and a nightmare that had become my reality. My name was taken with my clothing and I was given a new role in life assigned by a number. To live life seeking something lost. To never know what that lost thing was. That was the meaning you left for me as you left me to find my way. A way that did not lead back to Eastern shore, but instead sent me to an unknown coast. A place where crying children are sent to learn how to cry alone.

~**~

A person can think about a lot while trapped with their thoughts at 40,000 feet. An airplane becomes a thought tomb and our bodies squirm for freedom from our metallic coffin. Fortunately for me I don’t remember my journey to America. I imagine I was very confused, scared, and exhausted by the time I arrived in Memphis, Tennessee. Many years later I would return for the first time to my homeland and experience what true culture shock is like when you are immersed into a society that is foreign to you. I assume that same feeling was felt when I walked off that plane into a white and black world and was introduced to my new parents.

America gave back instantly to this orphan. I am told one of the first foods I would eat were French Fries from McDonald’s and unsurprisingly I still love them to this day! My new brother gave me an unsure smile and a stuffed dog named Fluffy. I was suddenly accepted, but my journey towards accepting myself was just beginning. I left the airport Korean and walked into a world I knew nothing about. I only knew that everyone was excited about something and that something was apparently me. I couldn’t understand why their words were so strange and it wasn’t until after speech therapy that I learned what those abrupt sounds they kept making meant.

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~**~

The life of an adoptee is all about change, adaption, and trying to find stability. After the trauma of rejection runs its course we quickly find a need to find some type of stability through acceptance. I have seen what constant rejection can do to a child having had a friend who was repeatedly let down and rejected again and again. It wears on you and thankfully I didn’t know the burden it places on your heart until later in life. I at least found love and acceptance before finding out the pain of not being wanted once more.

When you grow up in a white and black world and you aren’t white or black it becomes a struggle to feel accepted. As a Korean with no Asian friends, I found I had little reference as to what an Asian was. Why we looked as we did, why people thought I looked differently at all, and why I had to explain my family constantly to random strangers. When your life is a puzzle you try and piece together a stained glass of your life. You grow to appreciate the whole picture of yourself including the tape used to hold it together. It only becomes difficult when people poke holes in your image and force you to adopt their own.

I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and was quickly informed I was different. My mind plays tricks on me and memories flash of a yellow bus that picked us up on our street. I remember pencil breaking contests, a bully of a white kid that lived down the hill and pestered me, and going to my speech therapy class. I see bags of marbles and hear the sounds of CH and TH till I am tired of anything that resembles English. Through the learning and the growth of my childhood I never once considered that I was not yet truly learning about myself. I had time for that later I thought. What was there to learn?

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~**~

The birth of a tongue doesn’t occur when you are born. Your speech is learned when you are young and begin to communicate for the first time. This is the learning process of all humans and yet what if you allowed a child to learn just enough to know their tongue and then displaced them to a foreign world. What if you took everything they knew and forced them to learn a new reality?

I took speech therapy and language courses from a friend of the family during school hours. She came and tutored me, awarding me bags of marbles for lessons accomplished and well done. I learned how to unlearn Korean fairly quickly and with that transition I found a new American tongue. A southern tongue full of twang, ya’lls, and southern comfort. I began building within the person I was meant to be, but remained on the outside the shell of what I was.

It is funny because as easily as I learned to forget my culture I found it was much harder to relearn it later in life. To reconnect with what has been trained out of you and to find yourself in a memory that was never real. That is what life sometimes feels like as adoptees stare at themselves in the mirror and what they have become. Are we truly a picture of our true selves or have we become instead a product of our path in life. Is there really a difference? I still don’t know the answer to that question.

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~**~

When you are adopted as a young child your life is not all about adoption. It only becomes centered upon that reality when people make you realize you are different. That your life isn’t “normal” and you aren’t where you are supposed to be. That is when the walls of security we have built come crashing down and we seek a new safety blanket only to find that there is none. There is only the power of acceptance.

I remember a steady path of incidences that reminded me of my adoption. They appear like stepping stones in my mind and many of those points in time are pain points of mine. I think the hardest part for an adoptee as they grow up in a foreign country is finding not only acceptance, but also understanding. Seeking, searching, striving to find someone that can relate to your struggles… that might be able to understand where you truly come from. This is the reason why many adoptees find solace and comfort in communicating with other adoptees. This is also why so many of us take rejection so hard because we have never fully recovered from the first rejection in our life.

In a smiling world that believes you should smile all the time, I found my smiles where I could. My family life was real life and not the thing of Disney tales. There were smiles, tears, fears, and laughter growing up and I have fond memories of my early life in Jackson, Mississippi. I remember being different, but I also remember growing to love this country I now called home. I am thankful that someone above thought I needed a break finally and allowed me time to heal and to grow. Remembering all the while that I was not an adult yet, I was still a child that wanted only one thing. To be wanted and accepted finally.

 

Jason Chandler Cushman

-Opinionated Man

@smokendust

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Visit my personal blog at https://aopinionatedman.com/

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