Frustration is a prelude to anger

There's this tendency aimed at about half the population to read frustration as anger, and it's both hard and important to push past this resistance if your frustration is just. Because it doesn't matter what it actually _is_, since anger can also be just, and just anger follows from unjustly ignored frustration.

Here's the line I wrote in a conversation where I was frustrated, but I was being disregarded because they read it as anger. Feel free to use and adapt it.

"If you must read my frustration as aggression, then consider me aggravated, and I have good reason to be."

How to reheat a fast food burger the right way

  1. set the veggies aside
  2. put the whole burger in the microwave upside-down on a plate for half the time it takes to reheat (usually 30 seconds for this step if cold from the fridge)
  3. flip it and nuke it for the rest of the time
  4. restore veggies to rightful place

I was amazed the first time I did this and had a 100% sog-free bun. The burger was indistinguishable from fresh. I don't know exactly what's going on, or what's different from just nuking it all the way on one side, but it works. I've tested this on burgers from Wendy's and Hardees (aka Carl's Jr.). You might need to adjust depending on how formidable the burger is and your microwave's wattage.

Raised by the internet

You know the subreddits. Raised By Narcissists, Lost Generation, Childfree, and other subreddits in that theme. Forums where people go to share notes and commiserate.

They’re great for a little while. You learn the boundaries of your traumas, find strategies to get past them, and then…

That’s where the problem starts. By the time you’ve gotten something out of them, you’re used to visiting and joining in on the misery. But you can’t just stay there and keep getting something out of it.

It’s true of anything. Eventually, you have to move on from the beginner level. You can’t live in your misery. At some point, you have to live. Take it from someone who spent hours a day getting mad in /r/lostgeneration while ignoring all the things I could be doing to thrive despite all the barriers put in my generation’s way. Once you grow past it, you realize a lot of the people hated by that forum are in the same boat, and getting your daily Five Hours Hate just keeps you from realizing who your allies are.

Let me leave you with one lesson: If a relationship makes you feel worse every day, the relationship is toxic. That could be family, friends, a partner, a place online. Or offline. Time and energy you spend in those relationships is time and energy you can’t spend learning from it and moving on to better things.

Better than better than

The hardest part of adulting is learning to let go of things. But it’s so important.

Someone hurt you and now you have some coping response?

Well too dang bad, because unless you take responsibility for it, you’re going to do it to someone else. Blame deflection and coping behaviors are ticking time bombs.

As evidence: I had to unlearn all kinds of things from family and peers growing up. I was paying trauma forward and had to own that so I could stop living in other people’s scars.

I had a friend who got genuinely hecked over by a family member, financially. Badly.

They kept blaming the payments on that loan for all their problems. It was bad, but they spent a lot of time dwelling on it. They spent a lot of time dwelling at me about it as an explanation for why they had no time to deal with the consequences of how they hurt me in a previous, untold story.

Of course, at the time, this person was someone I considered a good friend. I’m pretty good at writing, at research. I offered to help them job hunt, to edit their resume, to practice interviews, as a way to help get them out of that job that they spent plenty of time complaining about. I had plenty of free time.

In retrospect, I should have asked them to chill with complaining about it because it was wrecking my mental health. The excuses. The topic of setting boundaries is a post for another day! I wasn’t good at it then. They didn’t want my help, and rebuffed offers just bred resentment on both sides.

I’m not into and have many concerns about the modern Stoic movement, but I think the idea of taking responsibility for what you can control and trying not to fret what you can’t is solid. You can’t go back and make better calls, but stress and bad financial decisions are a cumulative loop. When you live in past errors, past traumas, it keeps you from dealing with the consequences and moving past it.

That person is no longer a friend because their scars became my scars, and they refused to make time to help heal them. They refused to even acknowledge what they did. I couldn’t heal them on my own with them in my life, so they didn’t get to be a part of it anymore.

I had to let them go. The years since that last conversation have been the most productive, most healing time of my life despite covid and a major life crisis (another story for another day).

Every person I got a bad behavior from was worse. Almost all of them I tried to talk to about it denied they were doing anything wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re less abusive than your abuser. It doesn’t matter if you’re less unreliable than the people you couldn’t depend on. You still have to stop projecting it forward. Someone has to be the one to say “wait no, I messed up, I can be better than this” and break the chain.

You really need to deal with your shit

Self-hate. Judgement. Refusing to learn to let go of anger and hate. Projecting your traumas forward. Misunderstanding forgiveness as being about another person rather than being about moving forward, and the other person can come along if they’re willing to learn from whatever needed forgiveness.

Fixing all this is long, hard work. I didn’t start until my late 20s, and I’m just getting ahead of it in my 30s. It doesn’t matter how old you are. And, truthfully, not doing this will shorten your life. Every year you put into it might be a year you gain from better habits, better thought processes, and an improved disposition toward life.

The usual suspects:

  • Failure to set boundaries. Time, interpersonal, expectations. I can do about one long post like this a month with shorter ones weekly, and I know this from all the times I burned myself out and produced absolute garbage trying to force it. This is where a Thing helps: make things that are unique enough, and nobody will care about output. Yes, it’s true, Posting Regularly grows things faster, but then you’re stuck. You feel like you have to keep producing, so your quality suffers…and then people unsubscribe. I only write here when I see enough interconnected points to draw a map in text, but it’s too rare to be my thing.

  • Failure to diversify. In marketing terms, you’re looking for verticals: different things you can do with your skills. One big newsletter a month is fine because the newsletter isn’t really the thing. I post ideas here. If I stopped getting ideas, I wouldn’t post. If I came to depend on it for a living, I would split it up into distinct post series with defined formats that allow me to fill it out. This is why lists are great! But I don’t plan to do list posts. For now, it’s a high quality input I offer to others in the hopes they return the favor with good responses. Storytelling is my thing, and I have plans for it that bring all my skills together to create enough distinct verticals to fill out a steady content calendar.

  • Mistaking a skill for a thing. When I ran out of things to write or things to shoot, I wrote about writing and photography. It was almost all garbage. And that’s the key lesson here: garbage in, garbage out. You probably have to produce the garbage to figure out your thing, but go in with the knowledge that it might just be one intersection on something bigger. There’s little you can’t learn better by doing, and doing will bring you in contact with people who know a little bit of the map that’s still hidden to you.

  • Spending too much time lamenting the garbage. Nobody looked at the garbage. I poured everything into it, and nobody cared. You don’t even care about what you make yet if you’re still at the level of worrying about what other people will think. It’s fine. Move on. It’s practice. Ignore all your dashboards and stats thingies. I could have compressed 20 years into a month if I’d known back then what I know now about how big the map is and how little I could see from where I was. I took everything way too seriously and got too disheartened when no one noticed the things I put out. The map is always changing, and you have to learn its patterns.

  • Keeping it to yourself. Your output is communication. Some people will put up with something that’s not quite the thing yet because they see what you’re getting at even if you can’t quite make it there. And they communicate back. A good bit of feedback can shave years off your thingseeking. Subject yourself to an editor at least once in your life.

  • Not curating inputs. Even if you’re sitting on your ass all day, you can still work on your inputs. Spend all day on Reddit, but make sure the subreddits are good ones that help reveal some of the map. Spend all day on Twitter, but make sure you follow people who can show you the way.

  • Not accepting your part in the consequences for your bad inputs. Finding your real thing is really finding yourself, and it’s just as hard. If I find myself frustrated or angry, or feel like I’m wasting time, then an honest analysis usually finds a bad call I made earlier. It usually starts with opening Twitter, Reddit, or any other input without a purpose. I know I’m not the only person who’ll open a tab to go to Twitter until there’s several Twitter tabs. Yes, the modern web mines this tendency for profit, but it’s something I did back in the Web 1.0 days with plain old stateless forums in the age before anyone had a notion of growth hacking. They abuse the innate function of my brain, and they do the same to you. They won’t stop, so you have to.