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Hi Avery,

I’m at a pivotal time of my life right now, and in fact, I may be having a crisis of faith. I call myself an artist, and for me, art is like a church. It is my personal respite from all the ambiguity that haunts my future. The crisis of faith that I need to speak of, is how much the arrogance of hate and judgement, threatens my ambitions.

It bothers me, and I’m sick and tired of being ashamed of this fact. How could it not bother me, when I care about something so deeply, and all I want to do is share it with the world. That is the arrogant part, when we assume that one persons contributions are more valuable than others.

I know this so well, because I too have been a contributor of hate and judgement. Its the disease of the consumer, if you paid for it, you have the right to hate it, but now I pay for these acts with my own pride, and it haunts my every action and this payment makes it easier to just give up on being an artist. With every act of procrastination, I carve out my eventual escape plan from my own ambitions. I need to eradicate this fear, because it stands for everything that poisons a genuine act of creation.

Easier said, than done.

The reason this is important to you Avery, is that creating, caring, and protecting you, is art. I’m the co-director of your future, and the decisions I make with the canvas and craft of parenting, will be scrutinized, dismissed and judged as much, if not more than anything else I will love in my lifetime.

For instance, my favorite film of 2011 was created by a man who avoids the public at all cost. His film is nominated for picture of the year, best directing, and best cinematography, yet he will not even show up to the award ceremony, nor will you find a single interview with him about the nominations or any of his work. His film “The Tree of Life”, is a very personal, bold, and original attempt to create art from life, and no matter what you think about this film, you simply, can’t take that away from the creator. At this very moment, somebody, somewhere, is calling this movie “The biggest piece of garbage ever made”. I don’t really care why someone does or does not like something, I wonder what did this artist do wrong besides honor his own vision? If that is why he is being hated, than nobody should be surprised that he hides from pop-culture. If you feel the need to publicly hate this movie, ask yourself, “What does Terrence Malick owe you?”. The answer to that question is nothing, you paid to see an artist be creative, honest and ambitious, whether or not it works for you, shouldn’t be a reason to detest such a genuine effort of love.
As a creator, you have the responsibility to be honest with yourself, work hard, and find your own path. I’m still not there Avery, I’m still afraid to do this, and I still feel trapped in a cycle of insecurity and self-pity.

It is time I face this fear head on, and find my own way. I owe that to you, because nobody in the world should have the power to make me question your beauty.

So far, this has been all talk, so I want to prove that I’m not afraid to fail. Tonight, I’m going to shoot a short film, and I will release it for the world to see. I will try to not care about what people think about it, because it is not for them, it is for us.

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Hey Avery,

When you’re a kid, you will be taxed with numerous challenges. Everything from your first heart-beat to motor-functions, breath of air, bowel movements, crying and on, and eventually you will learn to play, laugh, and dance; and yes, it can be all fun and games, but someone always gets hurt. I don’t mean some little scrape on the knee, or for that matter, I’m not even talking about physical harm, this lesson is about learning to handle emotional pain.

Call the Whambulance

My journey through this challenge, was very difficult, and I must remain connected to this time of my life, so that I can be aware of your own struggle, and be your guiding light. This is the story of my own childish journey through the dark murky waters of emotional ambiguity.

Gradually over time, I began to feel my body and mind change, and I recall this metamorphosis being hard to notice in the moment, but still strangely confusing. My family was very loving and providing, but I remember feeling like they were distracted and not aware of my introspective struggle.

I should clarify, I didn’t roll up into a ball and cry in my room, I did actually try to heal these wounds, but I was a kid, and my first attempts to discover emotional clarity, were quite crude, and rather dangerous. My first solution came to me while facing social-anxiety, I recall wanting to talk to my baby-sitter, and was afraid to do so. Instead, I sat in my room, and would stare into my cheap plastic osculating fan. I took off the plastic barrier and started jamming action figures and other random objects into the spinning blades. The destruction, and dismay gave me an internal sense of fulfillment, that I had never before felt. Once bored with that game, I began to wonder what would happen if I jammed my finger into the fan blades. I imagined the blood, drama and panic it would cause. I did approach the fan blades with my pinky-finger, hoping for the worst, but I didn’t have the courage to find out that a plastic fan, can’t actually sever a finger. A week later, I told my Mother, that I was thinking about committing suicide. It was a lie, I wanted attention, and I got the attention of a psychiatrist instead. I was prescribed anti-depressants and everyone acted as if all was well. I never swallowed a single pill.

I never swallow

 

So I failed the fan test, but the idea planted the seed of a dangerous concept, that pain and fear could provide a momentary sense of emotional clarity. One night I stole a pair of tweezers from the bathroom; I can’t even remember how I got this idea, but I laid in my bed and began plucking single hairs from the inside of my nose, one by one. I did this until my nostrils were hairless, then I would wait, until I could seek relief another night. My patience grew short, and I would wait less and less. I was already a drug addict, and I didn’t even know what drugs were yet. One night, I was seeking relief real bad, and my nostrils were bone dry and would even spot with blood, so I decided to start plucking other hairs, eye-lashes, eye brows, and I had even started at the top of my head. So I got out of control, and one day while I was at school, a classmate pointed at the top my head and shouted, “baldy!”. I had not known, but I plucked a bald spot, the size of a quarter, into the top of my head. My Mom and the therapist she said was mine, decided I was allergic to the antideppresants, I was pretending to take. I will never forget my Father, when he looked directly into my eyes, and announced, “He is doing it to himself”, nobody believed him, and I didn’t have the strength to out myself, but for some strange reason, it was all I really wanted, is to be noticed.

Coming soon, a picture from my Jr. High year book with the nickname “Baldy” underneath.

Things made a turn for the better at this point, far from perfect, but better. One of the most important influences of my positive growth was discovered through music. I borrowed my Dads album “Animals” by Pink Floyd, just because the cover art interested me. The very opening track is “Pigs on the Wing Part 1”, and I remember feeling like I had already wrote the lyrics to a song that I have never before.

If you didn’t care what happened to me,

and I didn’t care for you,

we would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain,

occasionally glancing up through the rain

wondering which of the buggers to blame

and watching for pigs on the wing. 

I continued to discover that many of these confusing emotions were all packaged in this fascinating poetic rhythm. Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, The Doors and Pink Floyd, spoke to the dark corners of my imagination, and provided a contextual beauty to the emotional pain I struggled to process. It may not have been the last time I flirted with self-destructive behavior, but it was the last time I felt like I didn’t have any other option.

The soundtrack of my puberty.

 

Avery, my situation was my own, and not yours. I intend to do everything in my capability to protect you, but I know even the greatest efforts will falter under the ambiguous nature of the human psyche.

Hi Avery, 


 It has been a tough couple of months, yet on the surface, I have nothing to complain about, I started a new job, I’m in good health, and I have a great partner to share my life with. So I feel the need to talk to you about my recent nights of paranoia driven sleeplessness.So what is it, why can’t I relax, I have everything going for me, so why not just close my eyes and sleep in peace?


 Avery, I fear the Apocalypse.

 


For me, this word is not some excuse for a wild conspiracy theory, or some cult following of a fiction horror genre, you know, where the dead come to life and eat the living; for me the apocalypse is simply anything that kills my entire family. So anywhere between an atomic bomb, and a head on collision with a drunk driver, I lay there, wondering if something is around the corner, waiting  to rape and murder everything I love.


I’m trying to keep this feeling of dread and panic in perspective, its not like I live my life thinking about this all the time. But with the notion of your future existence, the stakes are only getting higher. So I need to find a path towards peace with this fear, in a practical way, where I can protect my family, as well as my sanity.Here are my two biggest fears: 

 Problem #1 Societal Collapse




Since the day I was born, I have been raised in an environment that solely relies on a communal-system, to provide everything we need to survive. What if that system breaks and seizes to exist? Will we just wait for death while watching our Ipad’s battery life trickle to zero-percent?



Solution: We, as a family, will go camping, backpacking, and we will also practice and prepare for outdoor survival. The outdoors is considered by many, a place for vacation or adventure, but its easy to forget that it’s the home of many living things, and it just may end up being the home for our family. We wont have Ipad’s or the Netflix Instant Queue, but we will always have each other, and if the family dog goes “missing”, don’t ask me whats in the stew. 




 Problem #2, People like to Rape each otherThe very same community that we rely on for our survival, has unfortunately created the advent of the sociopath. People, for a multitude of reasons, derived from a mixture of their environmental and mental influences, will steal, rape and murder each other. How can I protect you from these threats, while being the pacifist, bleeding heart, and anti-gun liberal that I’am?The Solution: 




Well first off, a gun is not an option, although it would be extremely helpful in the case of an apocalypse, and I feel vastly more sympathetic to those who choose to own a gun, than ever before; yet I still have one ethical issue with this choice. I fear that the simplicity of its function would cause a different kind of paranoia. I believe that if a life is to be taken, under any circumstance, I prefer it to require more effort than just pulling a trigger. I have found an alternative to this limitation? I will use a duel weapon system, where I combine pepper spray in my off-hand, and a samurai sword in my right hand. You can’t shoot what you can’t see, and there is just something frightening and classic about a samurai sword. Plus, I think there is something instinctively cautious about  anything that looks like a gigantic knife, and I also feel like there is less chance for an accidental or domestic related incident. If something dies by a sword, it was probably meant to be.



 





During these two sleepless nights, these ideas profoundly scared me, and I laid awake staring at my ceiling contemplating the frailty of life, how quickly it can all end, and everything there is to lose. Ultimately, all I can really do, is place these dark thoughts into something constructive; and embrace my role as your protector, by teaching you how to protect yourself. So sharpen your steal, pack your bags and stock up on pepper spray, the Boyle family will not be fucked with.

“Avery……. No!”

Sorry to yell Avery, I’m just practicing. I do hope your a good kid, or better yet, I hope I can guide you towards being a good kid, as all parents intend to do. But I’m afraid I have to tell you the truth about myself in regards to this topic, I wasn’t a good kid. I think most people go through a phase when they decide to act like an asshole and do some embarrassingly awful things. All that stuff is pretty common, and I hope to be there for you, when your social rebellion crosses the line and parental consequences need to step in.

When I was young, the word “no” was said to me many times; and mostly, I disobeyed. I never shoved my rebellion in their face, instead I hid it by a combination of stealth and luck. I created my own world and lived by my own rules, and the only rule was, don’t ever get caught.

Of these rebellious memories, my absolute favorite was sneaking out at night. I would meet two of my friends in a backyard every night for about a month straight. We wouldn’t do anything horrible, instead we embarked on random adventures into the night. With our authority figures sound asleep, we were free from the shackles of obedience. Mostly, we would just hop fences and explore a strangers property; sometimes we would purposefully get chased by an occasional harmless dog. At our worst we would get creative with lawn ornaments, and rearrange them onto the next door neighbors yard, and see if they would be relocated the next night. Unfortunately, like all good things, they come to an end; our innocent gang of three expanded into a savage pack of nine. Our innocent adventures escalated with mob mentality and became property destroying chaos. Lawn ornaments were smashed or stolen, front doors would be soaked in the urine of uncivil youth. It wasn’t long before our fantasy world crashed to reality when a cop finally spotted us. It was my first true adult experience, the sensation of running for a true purpose, no gym teacher holding a stop-watch, no collie harmlessly nipping at our heels, this was the real world, and consequence was pursuing me on foot. The group split up and sprinted for freedom. I got home safely, and instantly made an unspoken decision, to not sneak out ever again.

Although I got out clean, I still had no respect for consequences. My parents thought I was a good kid, and so did the rest of the civil world. Yet I still had a palpable desire to go against the grain at every chance. This confident disregard held true, especially with my confidence as a swimmer. Water was my new fantasy world without rules, especially while fully submerged, I felt like nobody could tell me what to do, If I could just stay under water. I explored this fantasy with arrogance and total disregard to all safety. I would dive into the shallowest pools, head first, without a second thought. I would tackle the tallest and sketchiest rope swings in any lake, without ever spotting my landing. Just like everything else, luck carried me through these adventures unscathed for many years. Then one random summer weekday, I had the house to myself, and I decided to swim alone. I had been swimming in the same pool for many years, and I had dove cleanly into it hundreds of times, and it became a routine behavior. On this day, I dove in, and misjudged my angle. I smashed into the bottom of the pool head first; my neck crumpled and crunch into my shoulders as my vision distorted with a flash of white light. I was frozen in a moment of shock, yet I remained conscious, and pulled myself out of the pool. I violently shook in fear, and I kept thinking that any second I was about to become a paraplegic. As I began to calm down, I started to realize that in this exact situation, if one element of this moment had varied just the tiniest bit, I could have drowned to death. The very same Mother that gave birth to me, would have came home from work to find her first-born child floating dead in the pool. I thought long and hard about this moment, Avery, and I loathed my recklessness. I still think of this moment, every time I swim to this day, even though I still feel the temptation to challenge the authority of “life”, I always jump in feet first.

It’s a very frightening idea, teaching a person the difference between wrong and right, and to be honest, were still just as confused as you. But I promise to try my best, and I can at least hope that you take after your mother on this subject, cause I probably should be dead.

Hi Avery, it’s your father, again…

I feel like I need to examine the direction of my creative aspirations, is my talent just a deluded figment of my imagination, or am I exploring something real? How do I know that I’m on the path towards achieving a sense of creative self-importance? Its important to me, to feel like I’m good at this, and sometimes I feel a realistic possibility that I lack a worthwhile voice.

Some of my ideals of what is and is not worthwhile, were recently challenged in a manor that I had not expected. I had this feeling that my selfishness could be poisoning my motives to write, and I began to ask myself, is this a sincere attempt to create art, or is this just the window dressing of an insecure ego?

For much of my life, I have experienced these discoveries of “truth” from the perspective of a consumer; watching movies, reading books and listening to the conversations of artists that I admire. On this occasion, I had experienced it from the perspective of a creator. I had to write something that was not about me. It was a speech for a friends wedding, and it felt like a new challenge, because it had to be about him, and him only.

Avery, I was afraid that my craft is only driven by ego, and I was afraid of performing without it. I accepted the challenge, and decided to ignore my concerns, and try my best.

                                     

Here is the speech I wrote for Michael and April Kledzinski’s wedding celebration:

“Mike can be a challenging person to get to know.

When you engage Him in a conversation, he will never share a thoughtless opinion

But he will only provide you with the most necessary information,

often at a pace that could be described as “calculating”.

I’m grateful to say, we quickly became friends with many shared interests.

As much as I enjoyed this friendship, I would sometimes feel like Mike was holding back on life,

I could never understand exactly why it seemed that way.

But This doubt of mine was proven wrong,

When a feisty red-head from Texas came to visit for a weekend.

I noticed a new smile, I heard a new laugh, and I saw a side of Mike that I had never seen before.

Mike was never holding back, he was looking for something worth fighting for….

Tonight, I would like to personally thank Mike and April

for reminding me that the richest path to happiness is the path you make your own,

I kindly ask everyone to raise their glasses,

In honor to Mike and April’s future, happiness, and the the trail of memories they intend to share with us all.

Life is better together, so let’s keep it that way

Cheers.”
Written by: Shawn P. Boyle  June 4th 2011

I wrote and re-wrote that short speech, all the way up to the final seconds of show-time, and when I finished my speech, I did not get much of an immediate reaction from the audience. An insecure panic sets in, and I wonder; was it too short, was my humor misunderstood, or… am I just not funny?
Thankfully my concerns were quickly squashed. Friends and family flooded me with praise, a few had even admitted to crying, so my ego bloats and I spend the rest of the night, wearing an exuberant smile of personal accomplishment.

                            

I learned a valuable lesson that day Avery, people will notice you when you care, when you try, and when you speak honestly about someone besides yourself. I don’t want you growing up being selfish, like I did, and if I’m going to have those expectations of you, I need to apply them to myself as well.

I look forward to further acts of unselfishness, and I look forward to you. I don’t know if I’m a great writer, and I don’t know if I will be a good Father, what I do know, is that I’m finally no longer afraid to try.

                            

                            Love, Dad

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