In a recent blog post, I shed a bit of light on some difficulties I faced in my personal life:
“2015 hit me like a semi. My life changed drastically, and I quickly found myself in a world where I could not find that feeling of peace that I had learned to use as my compass. Changes happened too quickly, without enough thought and comfort, and, as a result, my stress skyrocketed.”
2015 was indeed a very rough year, but back in 2014, I had major conflicts with my family, my girlfriend, and even my mentor. As the year came to a close, I had no choice but to laugh at how unbelievably dark things had become. If asked to total up the problems I faced, I’d use one word: hate. Not hate like hate crimes, or anything super serious like that, I mean more like the kind of hate people encounter on the Internet. No matter what happens on the Internet, no matter how positive, you can be sure that there will be “haters” commenting along with it.
Hater (Haters) is a term which refers to a person or group who expresses hatred in public forums, especially those found on the World Wide Web such as YouTube.
But, without them, let’s face it…. the Internet just wouldn’t be the Internet. The general advice is to ignore them, and to continue doing what you’re doing – content creators are told to get a thick skin, to not let the negativity hit home. That particular logic even has its own unofficial slogan: “haters gonna hate,” one of my favorites. Put simply, you’re never going to be able to please everyone, so don’t let people’s hate/opposition get in your way. Just do what you do.
This is all fine and good, but when you have members of your family “hating” on you for choices you’ve made in your own personal life, the story becomes significantly more complicated. In my case, it began when I entered a particular relationship in 2014. Even though the relationship was my business, I faced what I can only describe as an extreme amount of opposition from my family. It was to the point where intentional actions were taken to disrupt the relationship between me and my girlfriend. This created a lot of stress, and added a lot of unnecessary turbulence at an early stage of the relationship, and eventually, contributed to its demise. (Looking back, the relationship wasn’t a good fit – it would not have lasted anyway, but in no way did that give ANYONE the right to disrupt my life from the outside.)
A few months after, I clashed with another family member. I won’t get into specifics, for the sake of anonymity, but suffice it to say that it all started with a very innocent e-mail, with zero ill-will behind it. I sent this e-mail after checking the wording with multiple friends (four, not kidding), just because I felt the e-mail might be perceived incorrectly, particularly knowing the individual in question and their psychology. My goal was to communicate this innocent thing, while wording it exceptionally well so that the person hopefully wouldn’t react poorly due to misunderstanding. Despite all this consideration and care, the person, in the end, flipped out (to put it somewhat bluntly), and sent me multiple e-mails, accusing me of a variety of things: actively seeking to doing harm, having a mental illness, being cold, heartless, you name it. I’m simplifying it, though. The things said in these e-mails were absolutely, 100% written with the intent of doing maximum harm, with zero consideration that the person on the receiving end was a blood relative. I could never imagine myself sending something like that to stranger… let alone a blood relative.
In both of these cases, I had approached my family with the utmost care and consideration. I knew things were somewhat sensitive, and I specifically took steps to make a positive outcome more likely. But yet, despite my efforts, my consideration, there I was, demonized, deemed a horrible person… a very bad man.
After these events, I had no choice but to cut contact with the family members in question, as the exchanges had gotten too poisonous. I also ended up having to part ways my mentor, as mentioned my blog post titled The Suit Bag, which further added to my sense of having been shunned, alienated. Looking to discuss everything that had happened, I found myself a therapist through the CLSC, which turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences in my life. I’d always been a fan of therapy, always open to self-reflect and hear an objective opinion, but I never felt I had enough to discuss, until 2014 came along. Ultimately, the therapist agreed that I needed to temporarily cut contact from my family – boundaries had been seriously violated, and too much residual emotional turbulence was present. We agreed to slowly re-establish a non-poisonous relationships with key family members over time, and, today, I can say that the plan was absolutely brilliant. Without it, restoring friendly relations would not have been possible so soon.
But while I was still in the thick of it, reflecting on the nasty e-mails I had received, and the opposition I faced, I couldn’t help but find a little humor in my being deemed a “bad man,” a devil of sorts. My care and consideration had manifested itself clearly and generously – for that innocent e-mail, for example, I had recruited 4 different people, 2 male, 2 female, to ensure that I wasn’t saying anything that could be misinterpreted. This was going WAY overboard in terms of caution, almost to the point of lunacy. That’s how careful I was… yet… it earned me the most brutal series of e-mails I had ever received in my life. To move forward, I naturally turned to my old coping mechanism, my ability to find humor in even the darkest of times.
I also had the idea of going a little further with it…. I thought: let’s try to use some of the negativity to make other people laugh as well. After all, it’s what I’ve been doing on my blog all along – turning negative life experiences into amusing stories. I liked the idea of grabbing the negativity, repackaging it, and making people laugh. There was a certain justice to it, in my mind. And the beauty was, no one needed to know that I was doing that – just me knowing that I had used hate to make people laugh, was justice enough. So with that concept born in my mind, I went on living my life, and knew that eventually, I’d get an idea that would work with that.
The first idea I had was while browsing items in a grocery store. I spotted a bottle of Nutella, a product I specifically avoid because it’s so tasty that it pretty much guarantees over-consumption. In other words, it’s kind of an “evil” product due to its amazing tastiness (for me, anyway). So on this particular day, when I saw the bottle, I laughed, and thought if the devil existed, it would make total sense for him to create Nutella, and watch the world succumb to an inevitable state of obesity, accelerated by its tastiness. Again, I laughed: before me was proof that the devil existed. Knowing other people found Nutella just as tasty, I got home, and decided to turn that idea into a public service announcement graphic, for kicks. Keep in mind, the idea originally had nothing to do with the events of 2014. But something happened while I was actually creating it.
At face value, it’s fairly clear that the focus of the shot is the Nutella bottle, given the emphasis by circle. It also makes sense when most people think about Nutella, and how absolutely delicious it is, compared to other foods. But here’s the thing… in the graphic, what if I wasn’t talking about the Nutella? Notice how my website appears pretty clearly, and that it bears my name? Perhaps I’m warning people that I’m the devil, and that they should know that I exist.
Now, obviously, I knew that I wasn’t the devil. But given the turbulence encountered during the year, I knew that there were an increasing number of people out there that really thought I was, despite my own efforts. Playfully, I added that subtle suggestion – my way of converting some of that concentrated negativity into something that could potentially make other people laugh. And I loved what that symbolized, getting something useful out of unnecessary harshness.
Here’s another example, the cover to a fictitious book:
It was born innocently enough: someone texted me “money please,” and that got me thinking.
It was the sheer simplicity of the text, “money please,” that spoke to me. To me, those two words perfectly summed up what some unfortunate, bitter men might think of women: that they’re only after money, in life. Though I absolutely didn’t agree with that view of women, and their desires, I did find humor in the fact that those two words, together, were so brilliantly suited to be matched with that stereotype/mindset. So I kept it in mind, and knew that eventually, I’d want to make use of that idea in some way, for humor.
That was the foundation of the idea, but what triggered me to get it done, was something else: I realized that the whole concept would make it possible for me to have quotes on the front page of the book, and that those quotes could oppose me, given that the humor behind my idea was based on me acting ridiculous to begin with. In other words, I could re-use the hate that was directed towards me in the year, and wield it, yet again, to support the humor that I was going for in my post. It made sense to me that certain readers of the fictitious “Money, Please” would be against the premise of the book, and I liked the idea of putting those quotes right on the front, as if I was so ridiculous, as a fictitious author, that I didn’t realize they were against my book.
Ultimately, I included two main quotes:
“You will live and die a very lonely life.” – Amy
This quote represents a fictitious female reader that (rightfully) disapproves of the ridiculous premise presented by my book. It makes it clear that I realize that I’m being silly, in case that wasn’t obvious enough… and it also makes me seem so stupid that I’d include negative quotes on my own book cover. Now, in reality, this was a verbatim quote from one of the hateful e-mails I received. A nasty thing to say, but in this context, very appropriate.
“Oh, Matt.” *shakes head* – Yasmine
This next quote is something that was said to me via chat, at one point, and when I replied to understand what she meant, I never heard back. While it doesn’t qualify as hate, I found it pretty silly that something so cryptic would be left unclarified like that, especially since I hadn’t spoken to the person in months. So I included it on the book as a hat tip to the how silly modern communication can be, these days – something Aziz Ansari touched upon in his Modern Romance tour.
So, in the end, when I recycle these negative things, it’s almost like I’m getting a certain therapeutic value from doing so, even if people aren’t aware of them. In fact, there were numerous cases where I felt a lot better about a negative events that occurred in my life right after I wrote about them on my blog. It’s kind of a great way to organize your thoughts, and in my case, I usually also use the opportunity to inject a little humor, the element that allowed me to get to where I am today.
Now, at the end of the day, I look back on the difficulties of the year 2014 as yet another significant learning opportunity, where I had some really tough obstacles plopped in my path, and I was forced to find a way to get through them. I sympathize with my family, my mentor, and even my ex-girlfriend – they each had their own life circumstances that lead them to behave in the ways that they did back then, which contributed to the craziness of my 2014 – but it surely affected them as well, in their own ways. I must also express a sincere thanks to my therapist, who was there to talk when I felt most alone, without me having to put that burden on my friends.