When I was growing up, most of what I knew about the world came from watching TV.
Planes were hijacked.
Hostages were taken.
The space shuttle exploded shortly after its launch.
My childhood reality when I wasn't sitting on the floor in front of the television was of bomb threat evacuations from school, daily fistfights in the lunchroom, and creepy adult men who tried to lure me to their cars while I was waiting for the bus or walking home.
At home, it was screaming matches, tearful accusations, and wooden spoons, vacuum cleaners, and open palms used as weapons against my face, knuckles, legs, and backside.
Still, the outside world felt like it would be better than my isolated hell.
At some point, I stopped hearing about hostage crises and hijacked airliners, but the bloody brawls persisted—both at home and in school.
We didn't have air raids. We didn't practice earthquake drills. But we were always on alert—for fire, for lice, for stranger danger, and for cripplingly heavy snowfall and plummeting wind chill.
I've always been one to avoid things—to retreat, escape, ignore, or ride it out—hence the idea of "avoiding" regret as opposed to "pursuing passion" or "chasing rainbows." So right now, I'm refusing to acknowledge how scary the world has become—or, perhaps, has continued to be— on such a grand scale.
I have so many battles to fight every day, I just can't process the fact that a shooter could open fire anywhere I might be. I could've easily been in San Bernardino last week.
I could've easily been at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
It's not inconceivable that something horrible could've happened while I was in Baltimore last week, so close to our nation's capital—or that something might happen the next time I'm there...or the next...or the next.
I can't think of a time when anything was idyllic in the world, in my lifetime. There has been no Camelot. No cheeseburger in paradise. No Surf City. No even pretense of it.
I spent the fluorescent 1980s hiding in the basement and getting sent to the attic in the scorching hot summer and thinking—actually chanting out loud, to myself, in my own personal panic room—"I've got to get out of here."
But when I eventually did get out into the world, it wasn't much better. It was different—a change of pace and scenery—but the violence and abuse didn't stop. The fear didn't go away.
Everywhere I've been, I've always seemed to be thinking, "I've got to get out of here," no matter where "here" was.
The problem is, I don't think there's anywhere on this planet left to go. How do you sidestep hatred and rudeness and abusiveness and threats and irrationality and vengeance and misunderstandings and ignorance and manipulation and theft and secrecy and infidelity and chaos and an Earth that shudders to its core because of how we've ravaged it?
How do you properly acknowledge the state we're in—the melting glaciers and the inevitable Ice Age, the wars and crusades and inquisitions and genocides—and still find a way to go on? How do you watch TV? Listen to speeches? Read the uninformed rants of people who insist they're not madmen?
How do you proceed, knowing that anything could happen?
There is no would never. There is no could never. It's just a matter of exactly when...exactly where...exactly how...and exactly who (and to whom).
Are we just doomed to bob and weave through this life, hoping to survive trauma and tragedy long enough to die of some horrible disease or degenerative disorder, grasping for any good memories we ever had and struggling to recognize the faces of those we once loved?
I choose to distract myself from it. I'll divert my attention to furry baby animals and desert landscapes and flickering neon signs. I'll document the beautiful ugly and the ugly beautiful to remind myself that this world needs both in order to remind us that the other exists.
It may not be for the greater good, but it's for my own self-survival.
Maybe something good could happen.
That Time I Ran for My Life from a Bomb Scare
I Refuse to Worry
It Just Gets Worse