A word about my blogs, my writing, and clickbait

Don't worry, Mr. Cole!  This blog is clickbait-free.
Don’t worry, Mr. Cole! This blog is clickbait-free.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about “click bait,” which is term used to describe inflammatory or controversial headlines, videos, photos, links or other media to drive internet traffic to various sites, mostly news sites and blogs which rely on advertising to keep themselves in business and support the livelihoods of those operating or owning such sites.  While I will never begrudge anyone the ability to make a living through legal means, there is something I wanted to make my readers aware of so expectations of this blog are clear.

I will not knowingly engage in the practice of “click bait” on this blog, or any other blog which I either operate or contribute to.  Others might do so, but I won’t, no matter the pressure or the cost.

That said, I do take great pains to ensure that my headlines are eye-catching, informative, or witty.  In addition, I strive to ensure that media, images, or photos posted are either humorous, educational, beneficial or well-informed.  Still, that does not mean I will post articles which are controversial for controversy’s sake.   A real, genuine, beneficial purpose must be served.  In a climate which is hyper-partisan and mean-spirited enough, there is no reason for me to add any fuel to that fire which doesn’t serve a beneficial purpose.  Simply posting to drive traffic isn’t me.  When one of my posts catches fire, I’m grateful for it.

Yes, there have times in the past where I have attempted to dabble in this practice, but I felt empty that a better end was not served.  My writing was always meant to serve my readers in some way, be it through thought, laughter, or helping to change one’s heart.  The fact is, I’m writer who blogs, not the other way around.  My love is for the craft, not for the fortune – maybe someday I can make a living doing this, maybe I won’t.  Nevertheless, there is absolutely zero reason for me to engage in the sort foolish, greed-driven contrivances which run the risk of compromising the one thing I have worked carefully to cultivate, my professional integrity as a writer.  Yes, this post will probably cost me many opportunities, both personal and professional, down the road, but I compromised my integrity once years ago in college while running our campus newspaper; I promised myself that I would never again commit the same error.

If this sentences me to a life of languishing at the bottom of the blogging barrel, so be it.  Better to be a professional who maintains his integrity than be someone who is willing to post something potentially false or libelous simply to make a fast buck.  That’s just not me.  I’d rather blog for free the rest of life and work like a dog for the peanuts I currently make and what little I do have.

At least I can look at myself in the professional mirror every day with a clear conscience.

If you still like what I write, check out my Amazon author page.  Yes, expect to see this at the bottom of every post from this point out.  Hey, I won’t compromise my integrity, but I will at least try to get people to read my books!

Ten things those without hometowns can understand

man-walking-rail-road-tracks-guitar-26595407Most Americans can claim a city of their own.  They were either born there, or spent a great chunk of their lives there and have always felt welcome.  Still, there are some of us who, despite our best efforts, consistently struggle to identify with those we live around. Below are ten things only someone who doesn’t have a true “hometown” will understand. For those of us who were born somewhere, but uprooted to another locale shortly after that moment, or who never seemed to make successful connections in any community we ever lived in, this is a list we might understand because, let’s face it, those of us without a “hometown” really face a special set of challenges.

Quick caveat with regards to military folks – because of the nature of the military lifestyle, support groups for soldiers and their families are often far more plentiful than those of non-military families.

1.  We are unable feel “settled.”  People without hometowns to call their own frequently try to settle in somewhere but, for whatever reason, it just never seems to stick. Either a career change, a challenge relating to neighbors, or a feeling that it’s just “not working” causes us to wonder why we can’t assimilate.  We could live in the same place for years, even decades and, at some point, we feel completely isolation, smothered, or rejected.  At that moment, the choice is often to make it work or move.  Many of us prefer the latter.

2.  We don’t “get” the local politics or rivalries.  Understanding how the politics and rivalries of a city, town, or metro area is often essential to success.  Folks without a hometown often have a very difficult time idea understanding this because, to us, it’s a foreign language we have to learn over and over, and it gets tiresome.  We’d rather be hermits and isolate ourselves from the fray.  In other cases, we regard it as trivial and nonsensical that something like a college or high school football game can create so much nastiness between communities.

3.  Relationships are a dicey proposition.  When people don’t have hometowns because they move from place to place, establishing lasting, meaning relationships is nearly impossible.  As children, we often find ourselves isolated and shunned by others because we aren’t “locals.”  Because of this, it’s often difficult to become the sort of “well adjusted adults” society expects to see of people.  We want to love and be loved, but we are afraid of having to pick up and move and, consequently, harming those we care most about.  Intimacy is often a matter of satisfying needs, and the bonds created become difficult to manage as a result.

4.  Life is constant transition, so others see us as aloof and detached.  When you don’t have a hometown because you move around, you develop defense mechanisms to protect yourself from the pain of getting close to people, only to have it turn to ash.  For this reason, we are often seen, behaviorally, as not wanting to associate with people.  The exact opposite is true.  Most of us are seeking deep connections in order to create the sort of relationships and bonds we can carry with us.  Unfortunately, we are so used to moving around, making these connections is, at best, difficult.  For this reason, many of us often feel “lonely in a crowd.”

5.  We tend to see minor emergencies others go nuts about as bumps in the road.  A bounced check, a blown pipe, a flat tire; generally something an average adult would go cuckoo about, these are things which those of us without hometowns tend to look at and shrug our shoulders at.  Yes, it’s nerve-wracking, and it can make us want to scream, but we do try our best to be reserved about it.  After all, we have learned to be self-reliant, and these are just things which have to be attended to.  They happen, and all we can do is learn from them and try to not repeat the pattern.  That said, it doesn’t always work.

6.  We are a contradiction of relying heavily on our inner circle, but are fiercely independent.  Most people have a group of close friends and family who they know they can count on through thick and thin.  We develop a strong inner circle who we will know will help us at the drop of a hat, but we prefer to be strong enough, both mentally, emotionally, and financially, to be able to “go it alone” if all else fails.  Our independence means everything because, at the end of the day, we have nothing else.

7.  We feel comfortable striking up conversations with perfect strangers.  Because many of us have lived in different places, we are often able to pick up on human behavior and know when, how and why to say something.  Others may find us intuitive, but that might be giving us a little too much credit.  The reality is, we can seduce with the best of them, converse like experts at a French salon, and wax poetically like a Greek playwright.

8.  We think nothing of packing up and leaving everyone behind.  Others regard it as a moment for fanfare, parties and “good luck” cards.  To those of us without a hometown, moving away is simply part of life, and it’s something we choose to do when we feel called to do so.  It could be a career change, a life change, or simply choosing new surroundings.  For others, it’s hard.  For us, it’s merely another trail to blaze.  The downside is that it can also make it hard for us to establish ourselves in one place for long and create a life which can be either emotionally of financially rewarding.

9.  Romance is something we avoid like the plague.  The problem with romance for those of us without hometowns is that all the preceding things conspire together to create mental and emotional scar tissue.  The heart tends to harden with each break, and it becomes something which we prefer to avoid.  Marriage is even more difficult to deal with, especially when our spouses have hometowns, because we have difficulty relating.  Physical intimacy is especially frightening, because it requires we drop all our defenses and try to let someone else in when we know it could all end the next day for some reason.

10.  Loneliness comes with the territory in social functions.  When we are at parties, others could talk about schools or college and know each other for years.  For many of us, that creates an awkward situation that makes it impossible for us to feel completely at ease.  We cover it up by being either gregarious, or straight-out antisocial.  It’s not personal, it’s simply how we operate because, honestly, we don’t know how to behave like most people.

Hopefully this list isn’t too presumptuous, but it is something which I chose to explore because, having been born in one city and moved around at critical junctures in my youth and later never really settling down, I’m certain others will be able to relate.  Hopefully someone reading this will find some comfort knowing that another knows how they feel.

If you like this blog, then please check out my novels on Amazon.  They are inspired by my days in the newspaper business and provide insights into today’s pressing issues, including leadership, race relations, the media, and human behavior.  If you like them, please leave a review.  If you don’t, DEFINITELY leave a review!  Thanks for your readership!

A wound which cuts deep

Male-Infertility-causes-and-Ayurvedic-TreatmentThis is not my typical blog post.  Nope, this one is going to be intensely personal, and with good reason.  There’s something I need to get off my chest, in the worst way.

For a very long time, I’ve always thought there was something wrong with me.  About 10 years ago, that was confirmed.  When my wife and I went to a doctor to find out if we could conceive, our worst fears were realized – I was infertile.  My wife’s reproductive system was firing on all cylinders, but mine was, for lack of a better term, a nuclear missile without the warhead installed.  A crushing blow to my ego, my manhood, my self-image was a polite way of putting it.  It called into question so much about me.

I wanted children.  When I was a child, I dreamed of having children.  At that point, I was forced to consider adoption.  It wasn’t the preferred plan, but it was better than nothing. We ultimately adopted a teenager who we did our best to raise and turn into a productive member of society but, as these things happen, I had to force him from our home a few months back due to violating a cardinal safety rule.  Fortunately, it wasn’t drug-related or criminal activity – it was simply actions which posed an imminent safety threat to our home, actions which he seemed oblivious about.  But I digress.

There are many mental health resources for women who are unable to conceive, but too few for men.  I found myself facing a stark reality – I was alone.  My father sired four children, my oldest sister birthed a son, and my cousins all have some children of their own.  Granted, I could explain this away as the side effect of a boyhood surgery to correct a recessed testicle, or any number of old wives tales ranging from excessive masturbation in my youth, to poor diet and a preference to briefs.  The fact is, I corrected all the medical and quasi-medical potential issues and still, motility and quantity were so far lacking I received the label any hoped-to-be father feared.

Clinically infertile.

Treatment options were ridiculously expensive, and there was zero guarantee of success.  The reproductive doctor even told me, point blank, that my sperm were unsuitable for test-tube in vitro fertilization.  He even went so far as to suggest my wife consider an outside sperm donor, which she actually declined – not that I actually would have had a problem with that notion.  Still, the level of respect shown was humbling, and touching.  After all the hell I put her through, and all the ways I had treated her so poorly, she still only wanted to bear a child by me, or adopt.  In the end, we chose to adopt.

Adopting a child was, at least for me, a harrowing experience.  I saw the word “Dad” on cards and some letters, but never heard the words said.  It tore me apart, and broke me in half.  It only confirmed the feelings of self-loathing I had for myself.  I should have been able to give my wife a child.  If it wasn’t for me, she could be enjoying the joys of pregnancy and motherhood, and bonding with a toddler now.  These were just a sampling of the things which ran through my head.  Worse still, ladies I knew admitted to me that, if they couldn’t conceive with a man, they had no reason to be with them.  Trust me when I say this – there were way more than a few who felt this way.  I was so grateful my wife chose to stay with me – many marriages really do end because of the inability to conceive – under Canon Law, the Catholic Church won’t even allow a marriage of an infertile couple to take place.  Look it up!

Today, I accept my inability to give my wife a child and while she is at peace with it, it still gives me pause.  Did so many women I once attempt to woo have the intuitive ability to tell that I was incapable of producing offspring?  Was there a pheromone drop-off as the issue intensified?  Was I simply telegraphing an aura of “no baby available” which was off putting?  For a young man who was already deeply insecure, this only compounded the doubts.  Today, I still struggle with this and the fact that the one child I gave a home to I was unable to make a real bond due to time (and maturity) constraints.  Worse still, I wonder about how this may, indeed, validate the perceived opinions of others that I may have been seen as “unsuitable father material,” regardless of how irrational and delusional those perceptions may be.  Still, it does call to mind the notion some have the virility and sex drive are directly tied to the ability to reproduce.  If that is the case, Mother Nature certainly played a cruel joke of irony on me.

The unlikely source of my moderate-liberal ideology

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my life and political leanings and realized that while I’m a center-left person, there is a reason.  It’s not because considering oneself liberal moderate is “cool,” quite the opposite has been proven on more than one occasion.  My reason, at least the core explanation, can be found in what some would consider a fatal personality flaw.

I have a near-pathological strain of egalitarianism to me.

Plain English:  I have an overwhelming, near zealot-like desire for everyone to get equal shots at happiness.  Don’t ask me where this comes from, because I still have no clue.  What I do know is that, in today’s current political climate which encourages the easy ideology of “tough luck, pal,” wanting everyone to have an equally fair shot in life is a difficult path. 

Please note, I said “equal opportunities,” not equal outcomes.  Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that, like it or not, life isn’t fair.  The bad guys frequently win, the greedy frequently earn more, and the powerful usually get what they want, and to hell with everyone else.  Anyone who needs proof of this only need look at Donald Trump.  But I digress.

The reality is that have been disillusioned by my own rose-colored glasses.  Yet rather than take the “if you can’t beat em, join em” attitude I once did, my choice is to do my best to fight the good fight.  Yes, my chances of success are slim and none, and it’s a depression-inducin calling, but the effort is a noble one and if I can change one heart, then it’s a lifetime of work well spent.

So go ahead, say what you want about my ideology and egalitarian bent.  Chances are, I’ve heard far worse.