The First Day

This past weekend didn’t really work for me.

After spending many years collecting little packets of straw–a small project here, a small promise there–I finally collected enough on my back to utterly shatter me. It wasn’t that I suddenly realized I wasn’t enjoying life, I wasn’t going in a direction I was particularly fond of, and my health was deteriorating at a pace that made me fear for the inevitable point of no return. There was no eureka moment, no flood of insight. It was merely a casual recognition of just how much hate I was carrying around in my heart every single day, and how very sad that made me. It was the sadness that did the back-breaking.

People who know me know that I’m only a programmer because that’s the easiest way I’ve found to generate the currency required to live a simple life without worrying about bills. The money has been so typically and continually reliable that I’ve been able to take long sabbaticals from work entirely, for months and months at a time, to pursue my own personal enlightenment. I live simply enough that though I don’t have many hundreds of thousands of socked-away dollars, I do have enough that even during those breaks, I don’t worry about bills.

It’s been a good arrangement for me, and one that helps me to balance my feelings of “my worth as a human is directly related to my worth as an employee” with “corporate America remains the number one murderer of Ameircans.” I spend a couple years generating profit for companies, getting angrier and angrier, then I schedule my next sabbatical, give my notice, and spend a year writing a book (but not finishing–no, no, not finishing) or something.

This time the build-up only took 10 months. To be fair, I hadn’t done a very good job of maintaining my last break, which was interrupted by the flames of personal tragedy and self-employment over-promising, and some kindling in the guise of a convenient job offer at the precise moment I needed distraction from ashes of my life. But the embers were fed by that job, and the tiniest lick of flame was fanned by my martyrdom complex into all-consuming flame.

I’m such a drama queen.

I quit my job yesterday. I had a long conversation with my boss, who is a friend, who supports me because he is my friend (for we all want our friends to do well), and because he is my boss (for what kind of a manager values an employee sipping daily from poison and invective?), and we parted from the office on the best of terms.

And when I stepped out of that building? A hundred pounds lighter, all of it from my shoulders. My jaw unclenched without me having to think about it for the first time in months. A deep breath. When I got home, I slept without remorse, without stress, without manufactured issues floating through my mind.

So today is the first day. I don’t know if this is the first of seven or seven hundred, but when your goal is the removal of clutter your mind, counting the days until returning to chaos shouldn’t be your goal.

An Introduction of Sorts

The blank page is an intimidating thing. I’ve met many over my years, and each one begs to be purified with the magic of words.

My name is Stephen Van Doren. I was born, raised, and currently reside in Denver, Colorado. I’m in my thirties. I play games, flex my brain around scientific discovery, follow news stories, adore good food and cooking, read books, and have a general interest in nearly anything if you can explain its wider significance; it is cheering to think that one’s opinions are only of the highest quality, referring only to the most important of stories. My parents raised me in the Anglican Catholic faith, though by my teenaged years I gleefully shed the weight of religion and forged my own path forward. I am a programmer, much to my chagrin, and it is basically all I am professionally capable of doing these days. I am engaged to a wonderful man with whom I have shared many years, tears, and fears, and with whom I hope to share a great many more. I’m a steel-eyed liberal, and I actively fight against the demonification of the word ‘liberal,’ as well as the general belief that liberals are weak on security and defense, and that our elevation to national stature pressages an oncoming spate of apologies to cross the world.

I make no apologies for my opinions–and many of them are considered quite extreme today, just as many were in the 60s when some radicals had the insane idea that Black people should probably have the same rights as White people, and maybe we should all just back off a minute and smile at strangers for a few days.

I find Aristotle was right: It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. It is in that spirit that I start this little publication, that I might have an outlet into which I can pour all my various thoughts, talk them through with myself–perhaps even get some dissenting opinions from those whose eyes find themselves digesting my words. As a lifelong holder of minority beliefs, it’s all too easy for me to wallow in the fear that I am alone in my thoughts. Perhaps this can act as the beginning of a conversation with you, gentle reader.

I make no promises of timely publication schedules–I recommend subscribing to an RSS feed to handle that. I’ll do my best to provide what words I can, when I can, and I will attempt to do so as frequently as possible. I’ve been a “netizen” (are we still using that word?) of the Internet since the late 90s, this isn’t my first horse race. I’ve had blogs, I’ve written for monthly publications, I’ve composed prose and poetry, I’ve helped strangers on forums, and I’ve engaged in those heated flame wars that burn so brightly for so brief a moment–tiny digital novae.

Mostly, though, I’ve been a casual observer, an anonymous voice easily lost in the tumult of the 21st Century and its interminable echo chamber. The great tragedies of my adult life I’ve shared with faceless strangers, that a burden shared is a burden lessened. When the towers came down that September morning, I shared my pain with strangers. When the nation elected its first Black President, I shared my joy with strangers. For each new video of a beheading in the Middle East, each new state issuing marriage equality, each child gunned down by over-zealous police or neighborhood watchmen–I share these events with friends, family, and, yes, strangers, and the pains are lessened and the joys are multiplied because they are shared.

As we become ever-more polarized in our political, social, and economic strata, it has become more important for there to be more voices in the fray, not fewer. And I choose to add mine to the chorus, throwing my hat in as best I can, to provide my perspective on topics that interest me and, in so doing, perhaps introduce you to a point you might not have known was there, or a topic you didn’t know you had interest in.

Perhaps you’ll note that I haven’t got anywhere here where you’re encouraged to comment and discuss topics with other visitors. This is purposeful. I believe the anonymity of the Internet is both its strongest weapon and its weakest link, a way for the disenfranchised to speak out against their tormentors, and a way for bullies to flex their pathetic muscles in the mirror as they break down strangers. That won’t happen here. You’re welcome to send me a letter at any point–I assure you I will read it. I take this method from the great Andrew Sullivan, whose recent retirement from blogging is definitely part of the reason why I’m dipping my toe back in. I know I can’t replicate his genius (I don’t have the time or interest in being a curator like that), but I am interested in forming connections with anyone willing to spend a moment to say hello.

So enjoy yourself, thank you for reading, and I look forward to getting to know you better.