New Podcast! Gears Nails and Chewing GumPod Ep 3

First of all, listen to it here!

Hello everyone, welcome to the third episode of the Gears, Nails and Chewing Gum podcast, where I, Ben Wahrman, ramble about a random topic for about a half hour and then trail off whenever I run out of breath or thoughts, whichever comes first. I'm trying something a bit different this time around, mainly to better formulate exactly what I want this podcast to be. Namely, I'm actually writing this podcast out in a script format before I record it.

The whole idea behind the name of the site, Gears Nails and Chewing Gum, is a collection of random things, bits and pieces that someone might use to put things together and make them work to a variety of degrees of success or efficiency. Think of a kid from the 1950s with a box car they're building with whatever they have on hand. That's what I'm doing with this podcast, and with my website as a whole.

So what am I going to talk about? And am I going to keep being introspective and thoughtful, am I going to tackle a topic, or am I just going to do whatever I feel like in a given week? I guess for right now I'm still trying to figure that out. I have thoughts about a lot of things, but I'm not any sort of authority on any subject, not by virtue of experience or study. So I'm just going to toss my thoughts out here and see where they take me. Maybe I hit on a topic that I want to expand on, maybe I don't.

Hence, what I'm talking about today is going to be something that's been on my mind a bunch recently: why I don't have a hero. It's a common thread, the sort of grade-school question that people get asked all the time, who their hero is. Who is the person they most admire, they most look up to, who the try to emulate in their actions, speech or philosophy? Who do they idolize?

There's a lot of answers to this, of course. Some people idolize "real" people, actors, athletes, famous scientists and so on. Other people, especially people of my generation, latch onto fictional characters, comic book superheroes,  characters from movies, characters from books, audio plays or even stage productions.

There's something within human nature itself that seems to latch onto something outside of ourselves to serve as inspiration. We idolize things that we strive to be. More than just being a pop culture thing, it's also at the heart of a lot of religions. Some have a single person's higher example to try and look toward, others have more general principles of Holy Law. I myself am a Christian, which has a sort of balance of both depending on if you lean more on the Old Testament or the New.

So why don't I have an idol?

As a Christian, there's a sort of expectation that Jesus is your idol. That it's His example that informs what you do and how you think. It's the sort of Sunday School answer that you hear a homeschool kid give in their application to a private college. What Would Jesus Do was a thing that people wore around their wrists for a good chunk of time that was sort of born out of that.

But I don't know if that's true for me. The examples that Jesus set in the Bible are important to me, for sure. But I find it overwhelming a bit to try and assume that an entire person's life should serve as the model for my life. I don't want to try and emulate every little thing that someone else did, whether that's from the Bible or elsewhere. That's exhausting, and inevitably, it's also discouraging.

Here's the thing about heroes. Unless the hero that you have is a mythical super being that is entirely perfect in every way, that hero isn't perfect. Heroes have flaws because heroes are people, either because they're actually living, breathing walking around one-pant-leg-at-a-time people, or because they're a fictional character that one of those living people created and instilled with flaws, either purposefully or subconsciously.

So we aren't supposed to emulate our heroes, then, right? Well, yes and no. I think of heroes, or at least the people that I would put into my personal heroic category, as people that demonstrate the most admirable qualities that humanity can demonstrate in spite of their flaws. If someone manages to model compassion, trust, love or empathy, if they overcome their own flaws and strive to do better, to lift others up in lieu of themselves, that's worth emulation. That's worthy of a hero.

So why don't I have a hero? Isn't there someone who embodies those sorts of qualities to the degree that I feel comfortable calling them my hero? Not really, no. There are plenty of people who I find admirable in a variety of ways. But admiring someone and worshiping them as a hero are far from the same thing. I admire people for a lot of things more than just certain personal qualities or actions. I admire artistic skill, I admire profession dedication, I admire the sort of raw stick-to-it-ivness that keeps someone going even when it seems like the whole world is against them. But I wouldn't call someone who embodies these sorts of things my hero.

Because here's the thing. Sometimes you put your faith in a hero who winds up letting you down. Sometimes it turns out that actor or comedian has used their money and influence to hide some incredibly depraved things behind closed doors. Sometimes that athlete starts to espouse an alternative medicine theory that threatens to tear his team apart in favor of boosting his own star higher. Sometimes you read a new article or book and realize that historical figure you'd looked up to had a dark side that had been sanitized out of the history you learned in school. Sometimes the creative minds behind a fictional character cause the character to make stupid, even asinine decisions for the sake of whatever daft story they want to tell.

That's why I don't have heroes. I know better. People can be good, they can even be admirable. But they'll never be perfect. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I don't ever try to put all of my emotional eggs into one basket. Because when the inevitable disappointment arrives, I'm just disappointed rather than crushed. And the even more paradoxical thing is that people can have admirable qualities to them as well as terrible qualities. It's such a mixed thing.

Yet, at the same time as I withdraw from fully committing to someone as a "hero" of mine, I also can't fully withdraw to the fully cynic's position and forgo any sort of admiration or appreciation of anyone, fictional or real. Like I said, it's human nature to try and find someone or something to look up to. I find parts of myself drawn toward the better parts of people as a sort of self-defense against the bitterness and cynicism that might otherwise overwhelm my perspective on life. I look for these sorts of refuges much more actively now that I'm older than when I was the sort of age when you typically have a hero, ports where I can weather the storm of life for just a bit.

So while I don't idolize a person, I do my best to look for the admirable parts of them, of who they are or how they conduct themselves. I look for lessons that they learn or teach that I can apply to my own life to become a better person in the long run. And I look for joy and fun in places where it can be far too easy to see nothing but overwhelming darkness and depressing things. Like the internet. But, that's the topic of another podcast entirely.

That's pretty much all I have to say, so I'll wrap things up by saying that, if this goes well, I'll probably be posting both the episode itself to Soundcloud as usual, and the transcript of the episode itself to the actual website so you can read along with me if you wanted to. If I'm happy with the results after listening back to this, I'll probably keep doing things this way moving forward, since an unscripted podcast with only one host is really kinda sad. My next podcast probably won't be this serious, but who knows, really? Just keep an eye on my Twitter @ Benergizer1 or the website gears nails and chewing gum dot com to see when the next episodes might pop unexpectedly to life. I hope you'll join me then as well. Thanks for listening.


So I’m going to be 28 tomorrow.

I figured that I’d write something down to commemorate the event. I have a web domain that I barely use, so why not?

The common saying is that age is just a number, an arbitrary measure of how long someone has been alive based on some ancient tradition that dictates that a “year” is one revolution of our planet around the sun. Yet, there is still something about those same arbitrary markers placed on the irrevocable march of time that people use to measure all sorts of expectations. People of a certain age are expected to have accomplished certain things.

Now, these sorts of expectations have of course varied a lot over the years, based on the culture, on the people, and the matters of importance that mostly concerned those alive in those days. Today is no different, as those expectations can be rigid or flexible, and can vary wildly based on where you live and what people you interact with. Most of the time, in my experience, it’s not a strict set of requirements so much as it is a general cultural expectation to have X experiences by a certain age to best position you for the future.

It’s the sort of pressure that someone like me, hitting twenty-eight, feels quite a bit. The twenties are a sort of holy time frame for Americans, it’s the entry of someone into their adulthood when their bodies tend to be at their physical peak, and when both the responsibilities and the fun, of “real life” really start to emerge on someone’s personal radar. The twenties are the last of the significant age milestones that people can’t wait to reach, and once you’re past them, that’s when you start dismissing your age. Well, after all, it’s just a number, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter if I’m twenty-five or forty-five.

But it does matter. If there’s something significant that I haven’t done as a twenty-five-year-old man, people might sound a bit surprised but they’ll accept it. If I haven’t done that same significant, vague thing by the time I’m forty-five, that’s going to turn some heads. And even if I’m the sort of shut-in introvert who spends more time at home on the couch with his cat than out and about with friends who might comment on those sort of things, I’m still going to think those thoughts to myself, wondering why I haven’t done things that my peers have by my age.

Here’s the thing. I’m going to be twenty-eight tomorrow. And I can’t help but look around and think of everything that I haven’t done at some point during my twenty-eight revolutions around the sun that it seems like almost everyone else my age has. I wish I could just ignore those expectations, and no one’s pushing them on me, it’s just that they’re infused so deep into the culture around us that they’re unavoidable. Let me rattle through a few examples.

I’ve never had a girlfriend. If I wanted to use the old metaphor, I’ve never stepped into the ballpark, to say nothing of any of the bases.

I’ve never traveled abroad. The furthest away from my hometown I’ve ever seen have been trips to Baltimore and Orlando.

I’m no closer now to working in writing or making a career in a field that I really care about than I was when I graduated. I’m still in the profession that I told myself I was getting into to help pay for grad school.

There are a lot of other, smaller bucket list checkboxes that I’ve yet to check off, fears yet to be conquered that I’d love to try at least once at some point in the future. Things like singing karaoke, flying a plane, driving a sports car, stuff like that.

It weighs on me. Maybe it’s just because that’s who I am and the way my brain works, but I’m wired to compare my life and what I’ve accomplished in that life to the people around me. And As I hit twenty-eight years old, I can’t help but see myself coming up short in a lot of ways.

But this past year, I’ve done some things to start changing this around. This past year, I’ve done things that I would never have done before, all of my own provocation.

I guess it’s something that I’ve been saying to myself a lot over the past year. Twenty-seven was the year for me to say “well, why not?” to myself more than any that I can remember. It used to be that, whenever I’d get an idea in my head of something to do or say, I’d scare myself out of actually acting on that thought, through some unconscious, primal fear of doing something incorrectly. I’ve been terrified my whole life of failing or being rejected, or getting it wrong. Because of that, I’ve always had people behind me, pushing me toward things that are in my best interest, but that carried a risk factor, real or imagined, I found unacceptable.

Something changed this past year. I don’t know if I just got fed up with my own insecurities, if some self-confidence switch in the back of my head got flipped, or if it was just a day at a time thing. But I’ve done things this year that, a year ago or two years ago, I never would have done.

I bought a plane ticket and flew to a convention where I would know absolutely no one except a few folks I’d met on Twitter.

I bought a house, not a big one granted, but it’s my own place that I am now paying a mortgage on.

I finished writing a book that I’ve been working on for over a decade, and it’s in a state that I’m actually happy with (and hopefully it’ll get published next year, fingers crossed).

I’ve run both 5 and 10k distances, though not in an actual race, and have managed my weight to the point where I’m happy with my body.

Yeah, it was a big year for me in a lot of ways. There are, of course, more things that I could have done that either didn’t happen, that I backed out of for one reason or another, so I’m not one-hundred-percent saying yes to everything that I would have said no to in the past. I fully acknowledge that I’m still a work in process as a human being.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t start my twenty-seventh year by thinking that everything that happened, would happen, and that lack of foreknowledge extends to my twenty-eighth year as well. I have no idea what this year holds for me. Steps forward or steps back, it’s all a matter of perspective really. I just hope that the streak continues and I keep up the “well, why not?” into and beyond the next year.


New Podcast Episode!

I've followed up my first episode about nothing with an episode about something! This is about giant monster movies, things like Godzilla and King Kong, and what I think about a number of modern versions of films like this. Give it a listen!



First Podcast? First Podcast!

So, I did a thing. I've been thinking about what it was for a while, but this is something I've had rattling around in my brain and I wanted to get it out somewhere.

I'm going to start supplementing my prose short stories here on the site with audio podcasts that cover the things that my articles used to. Stuff about writing, life, media, stories I like, etc. I have the first episode recorded and uploaded here, you can see the link below. Don't know how often they'll be coming out or even if I'll do more, but there it is.