The Easy Road to Cynicism, and the Perilous Expedition Getting Back

“The adventure begins,” I thought to myself while sitting on the couch after working hard to get my apartment furnished and in order. One would think I was referring to the idea of being an adult, independent, beginning a new life of being self-supportive. However, in this case, my thoughts were of something else entirely. The adventure was of me completely abandoning my pessimistic ways and completing my metamorphosis into a real idealist. I honestly didn’t think it was possible.

There is a running joke between myself and my fiancee where I, in a self-deprecating manner, call out my own 17-year-old identity whenever he bubbles to the surface. This age was peak cynic for me. Matt the Detractor, Matt the Skeptic, Matt the Pessimist, Matt the True Hipster, Matt the Overthinker.

Matt the Confused.

This is not self-loathing. On the contrary, I understand now that this was an important step in my journey towards being the better person that my creator wants of me, but it doesn’t mean I like myself when my brain goes into fact-checking mode. It is a sign of insecurity in yourself when all you can do is try to prove others wrong using facts and statistics, however true they may be. To do so expresses a kind of high arrogance, an assumption that your methodological way of viewing the world is the only correct one. The surface of rationale, argumentation, and dialectic, however, is cold and hard, and the consequences of such paradigm are two-fold.

First, you’ll find yourself without friends, speaking a language unintelligible by common folk. Or, at least, you hope that to be true, but in the recesses of your mind there exists one other alternative: that all you claim to be is just a collection of fancy words and mindless trivia, and that everyone else is just as smart as you. Second, you’ll find yourself adopting a view of the world that significantly darker than those around you. You’ll begin to pedestalize your own intelligence while reducing the value of the opinions of those around you. Soon, nobody’s discussions about anything seem to make any sense, despite them having existed in the world for as long as you have.

Here you are, you can put it on the map. When you assume that everyone else is either uninformed or stupid, you have arrived safely at Cynicism. There are no humans in Cynicism, only lonely individuals pretending to be gods without actually having the power to back it up. They dole out judgments where none are needed nor appreciated.

Getting to Cynicism is an easy drive on a Sunday afternoon with little traffic to get in the way. The journey back from Cynicism, however, is far more dangerous than that. It’s more like a hike through hot swampland with alligators and venomous snakes. My trip took at least five years, and featured a detour through chronic lower-back nerve pain, a case of Meniere’s  Disease, and experiencing a setback in my dream to teach college.

There on the couch I realized, I’m no longer that person. I have his memories, yes, and the skill of skepticism sure comes in handy while doing academic research, but I’ve been transformed somehow. God, with his actual power, has turned me into a better version of myself.

I suppose I made it official when I changed my name on Facebook from Matt to Matthew. Matthew the Idealist, Matthew the Dreamer, Matthew the Pollyanna, Matthew the Sociable, Matthew the Optimist. I’m glad my dangerous journey has ended, and I’m excited to start my new adventure of actually being human.

So, I must ask. Have you made the same journey I have? Have you been wooed by the lights of Cynicism, only to realize that once there, it was a very dark place? How did you escape? Did you escape? Are you still escaping, or are you headed down the road to Cynicism right now?

Five Important Pieces of Breakup Advice

I am not naive. I know that no relationship is the same, and so to answer this question with any kind of direct statements would be nothing but naive. I also know that no relationship is black and white, and each one consists of individual nuances unique to the couple. For the guy and the girl, or any combination of the such, any point you get to past “friendly dating” means there are intense emotional strings that tie the two together. Breaking up is one of the most difficult things to do in life, no matter what kind of emotional disposition the two of you have in the relationship.

A person usually comes to the point of wanting to break up when he/she doesn’t see a real future (up to and including marriage) for the relationship. He may see the girl as “bad for him.” She may see him as “too clingy” or having no real potential to start a family. To be frank, it doesn’t matter who in the relationship feels this way, when those thoughts creep in it can be quite legitimate grounds for a break up.

I don’t presume to be able to write a full-fledged “breakup guide” because, like I said, no two relationships are the same. But I can try to help a little bit. Keep these five things in mind when planning to deliver the bad news.

1. Do not procrastinate.

Do not drag out a relationship because you are looking forward to that Valentine’s Day date or going to see that big concert together (or, you know, prom). Critical relationship events are worth more than that. That kind of thinking will only serve to damage the two of you and it forces you to endure high stress a little bit longer. Sure, breakups cause more immediate pain, but it is far better than long term speculation and stress caused by suspension. 

2. Suspension is an incorrect strategy.

Do not give the person you are with any false hope. Don’t say “maybe sometime in the future” or “I just need some time.” Allow the person to simply move on; time to adjust and try to rebuild his/her life. And try to avoid jealous when seeing them talking to other people. Most importantly, don’t say “I love you” during a breakup to try to console him or her. You don’t, or you won’t forever, and that’s okay.

3. Off and on relationships suck.

 You can’t “ween a person off of you.” On/off relationships are the ultimate form of keeping people in suspense, and I’m pretty sure should be classified as torture. Am I saying you can never ever get back with that person? No. You never really know what will ultimately happen in your life. But don’t count on it. Sometimes, like Summer and Tom from (500) Days of Summer, it’s just not meant to be. Instead, try to let new relationships develop organically. 

4. You may not be able to salvage the friendship.

I’m so sorry. As important as this person was to you, breakups are often the self-destruct button for a friendship, no matter how close you two were before the relationship. This is often an unavoidable consequence of a breakup, and there’s often nothing you can do about it. Breakups come with a price, and this is often it.

5. Avoid Rebound Relationships

Rebound relationships make a lot of people mad. They make your ex mad, you mad, and the person you got with mad. Have you ever heard a happily married person say, “I married a person I was in a rebound relationship with?”
No?
Me neither.

I know it’s tough, but eventually you will move on. Just like with a death or injury, the pain subsides eventually. Time passes, people change, and you eventually find the person you’ll find true happiness with.

Thoughts You Have in an MRI Machine

By Matthew Estes

“This is what hell feels like,” I said to myself five minutes into being stuck in a small tube, my head being shot by radiation in every kind of way. Hell is literally being bolted into an MRI machine, told to lie perfectly still while your limbs fall asleep, and listening to wicked sounds that would grate the nerves of even the most avid dubstep aficionado.

And this is one of the better imaging facilities. It was an open MRI, so I know full well that my entire body wasn’t in all the way. And it was lighted so I wouldn’t feel closed in. The nurse, who was pleasant but business-like, as it should be, even gave me a pair of headphones and let me listen to low audio quality pop music, which somehow included a rather pleasant violin version of “A Thousand Years” by Christiana Perri. But I couldn’t sing along, because that would require movement, which only added to the torture.

The inside of the tube was a light grey, with a long strip of duct tape separating my line of sight bilaterally. I tried to pass the time by drawing designs in my mind that intersected each other across the tape meridian, but human memory is so fallible that every time I drew a dragon and his hoard of gold, I couldn’t remember it while I was trying to draw the adventurer with a bow and arrow on the other side. I was never really good at drawing anyway, so I just decided it was best to close my eyes.

At first, most of the sounds reminded me of laser battles from science fiction movies. I would imagine spaceships shooting at each other to the repetition of the noise, which was fun. I really thought I had something going, but the sounds quickly turned more towards machine gunfire, which for some reason did not amuse me the same way. The constant tingling in my chest every time the sounds came on didn’t help matters, as I couldn’t help but imagine getting littered with bullets.

Of course, then the anxiety kicked in. Last week I bought some honey roasted peanuts while on a road trip. But I was suddenly worried that I accidentally ate a small piece of metal from the packaging. The metal was stuck in my body, and going to react to the MRI, rupturing my internal organs and killing me from the inside. This is it. I’m going to die from accidentally eating a peanut wrapper in an MRI machine.

It was over in ‘only’ 37 minutes, and I somehow survived to write this article.

Live for Now; Dream for Later

When we’re constantly moving at the speed of sound, we sometimes forget how to stop. But that pausing is necessary in order to exist in the now. When you’re constantly moving through time and the world, the now ceases to exist and all your left with is accomplishing one task after the next until finally exhaustion sets in.

You breathe in, finally, and you realize half your lifetime is gone, and that thought paralyzes you.

For about one day. Continue reading

FEAR[LESS]

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There is an idea amongst us that Satan can strike fear into our hearts. While this is technically correct, in that Satan is the mastermind behind many of the negative aspects of our lives, I would like to propose a similar but entirely different statement. We allow Satan to strike fear in our hearts.

Have you ever had a nightmare, and it was full of things that make you the most afraid. Then you realized it was a dream, and at that point you weren’t scared anymore. I think that the same, or at least a very similar, principle applies to real life.

Things in life can be very fear inducing. I fear death, you fear hell, someone else fears non-existence. These are the kind of things that can keep you awake at night, mulling over the meaning of existence as you try not to scream or cry or go crazy. Fear makes you feel so helpless.

But God saves us not only from hell and death, but also fear. As difficult as it is, one must only understand that God has nullified everything but the most short-term fears of ours. We need not fear death or hell or oblivion, because the faith we have as a believer allows us to understand our eternity. And our eternity is a place where fear simply ceases to exist.

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 118:6

There are highly unpleasant things that can happen in this life. Starvation, disease, torture, etc. These are things can and should be feared, based on out own human nature. But they all have one thing in common. They are not permanent. They end, whether in life or death, if one knows the Lord. And man cannot cause anything so permanent as to affect you after this life is over

But if you do not know Jesus, it’s a different story entirely. Fear absolutely should cripple you, because it means you are on a path to hell. Hell is the amalgamation of everything feared in this life, intensified. As disturbing as it is to think about, this is the real nature of fear. Hell is a place of rampant fear, and no ability to conquer or control it.

This isn’t to scare you if you don’t believe what I do, I’m merely offering my ideas on the nature of fear. It takes practice, along with a strong relationship with your savior, but the power of Satan’s fear can be truly conquered with the even greater power of God’s salvation. We can be fearless.

[Photo by Tiea Martin]

I’m Afraid of… Elevators

[“I’m Afraid Of…” is a blog series where I reveal the things I am most afraid of, whether just as a child or to this day. Oh the things I do for the sake of writing.]

Let me reveal something to you, the audience. The faithful who read this blog need to know something about me. When I was little, elevators were my worst fear. Not anymore, of course. I’m sure as you continue to read this blog, you’ll learn those, but for now… elevators.

There were times when my parents and I would go to a hospital or office complex, and I would literally kick and scream and downright throw a tantrum. Was it because I didn’t get the candy bar I wanted? No.

No… it was because they were about to make me ride an elevator.

I was a smart kid. I knew how they worked. I knew that if the elevator failed I would drop hundreds of feet. Combine that with a few “ELEVATOR DEATH TRAP” scenes from TV shows and movies, and could you blame me for being a nervous wreck?

I would always insist that we take the stairs. At least in the stairs I controlled my own destiny. I may still be at risk of falling hundreds of feet down a stairwell, but at least it would be my own clumsiness doing it.

I did not get over that fear until ninth grade, when I went on a youth trip to Gatlinburg TN. I finally felt comfortable using the things. But to this day, the extra shaky, extra squeaky elevators still make me have a panic attack.

So, what was your biggest fear as a child?