Tag Archives: about me

A Quarter Century of Living

Today I am 25 years old. Strange. It’s strange how the things that were important to my 5 or 10 years ago mean almost nothing to me now. I remember when I was 15 the only thing I cared about was earning a starting spot on the high school football team. When I was 20 I could barely afford to put gas in my car, but I was having the time of my life in college learning new things and drinking cheap liquor. Life is an evolution I suppose.

My focus has changed over time, but at my core I think I’m still the same person. I can’t place what it is that makes me – me – but I know it’s there. There is still that same voice in my head talking things through, the way I operate is still the same, the way I solve problems and get through the day – all the same. I like that, it almost feels nostalgic. Like, “Hey there old friend, hello me.”

I remember growing up at home things were tough. When things became unbearable I used to say to myself “I wonder what things will be like in 5 years?” Then I would imagine – Maybe it would be a Tuesday, I would be in school with friends, things would be good. I guess it was my own version of “things always get better with time” or “nothing lasts forever”.

There’s a lot more certainty now, but it’s still strange asking myself that same question – I’ll be 30 – I might even have a kid. A son or daughter begging me for attention. I might live in another country writing on this little blog about the mountains of Guatemala while sipping a cup of coffee. I like that.

Arch - Antigua, Guatemala

Time passes so quickly, but when I think in detail of every instance of life I have lived over these past 25 years it’s almost overwhelming how much can happen. Best friends come and go, your goals change, responsibilities come and go, everything changes, nothing changes. Life is a funny thing like that. I still have t-shirts from middle school, but some of my best friends from high school and college I dont’ know anymore. Seems strange. I guess many things in life are a function of convenience as much as they are importance.

But here I am. Drinking a cup of freshly ground Guatemalan coffee I bought a few months ago in Antigua. In my office, my quiet sanctuary inside my own home, taking the day off for no particular reason at all. Life is good.

A Religious Journey: Searching for Faith

I’ve struggled with religion and faith my entire life. My studies began early and continue today. It started before I can remember as my Parents dropped me off at Church. Some of my fondest memories are those in a little Baptist Church as a child. Sunday school, church plays, and of course the plethora of Southern banquets featuring some of the finest dishes Grandmothers from around the county could muster.

Religion and the church community gave to me what everyone desires in life. An absolute truth, the warmth of love and affection, family, the kindness of a stranger smiling at you from a few pews away, and of course belonging. In a word: Comfort.

But from the time I can remember “believing” was always difficult. I would constantly struggle with the nagging feeling religion is make believe. I felt out of place and wondered how everyone else seemed to believe so whole-heartily and so easily while I struggled with my faith constantly.

I didn’t give up. As in life, the things that didn’t come natural to me (faith), I worked twice as hard as the next person to achieve. So I prayed daily for God to help me “believe”.

“Dear God – Please help me with my struggles in faith. Please help me find the evidence I need personally to find strength in my faith in you. I am sorry for my lack of faith and I am working hard to  find it.  Please put me on the right path.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

So my days would go from about the ages of 12 – 18. There were even times I believed strongly that God was there. Sometimes my hard work seemed to be paying off – though my doubts were never far behind.

Search for Faith

When I first arrived in college I decided to get serious about religion. I started watching videos that I hoped would strengthen my faith. I met a “preacher” who taught young people. And so intense self-indoctrination began – seemed to work – but eventually failed.

At one point I was ready to testify to my fellow college students on campus. I had almost convinced myself it all made sense. I painted an almost clear picture of what I had come to believe. But what I found mostly radicalized me and I saw in myself the symptoms of any individual induced to delirium.

Most of what I found I could not reconcile with my own personal thoughts and feelings.  Everything seemed overly radical, lacked evidence, and seemed almost loony. Though I learned many good lessons – those lessons were not independent to Christianity and proved nothing.

There were young earth creationist, those that claimed religion was about faith and not proof, those that claimed man and dinosaurs roamed the Earth together, and worse. Even those whom I admired failed in their efforts to provide reasonable evidence.

So, as a college student I decided to seek knowledge the best way I knew how. I enrolled in a few religion classes and finally I found what I was looking for, but not what I expected to find.

The scholarly approach to Religion was exactly what my personality craved. I learned about the history of the Bible, I found evidence of scholarly research, and was surrounded by people seeking the same information I desired. I had Christian Professors, Professors of different faiths and belief systems, and Professors with no beliefs at all.  I was truly left to gather the evidence and for the first time decide for myself rather than be told what I should believe by a Spiritual/Intellectual leader.

My Decision in Faith

I have become comfortably Agnostic. I’m an Agnostic because after years of searching for the information to strengthen my faith in Christianity, after giving it all I have to feel the right emotions, and after an entire youth spent in the indoctrination process of religion – it all failed.  I still came out hopelessly unable to believe.

I’m an Agnostic because I am a Scientist of sorts. Not a Rocket Scientist, of course, but a Scientist in logic and methodology. I am open to new evidence, new ways of thinking, and new interpretations. For or against religious belief.  Thus far all evidence points toward the non-existence of a God – especially the one described in Abrahamic religions.

I’m an Agnostic because for the first time in my life I feel like I am not lying to myself. I’m not struggling to force myself to feel a certain way or to believe a certain idea because that’s what I’ve been taught is right.  I think that’s something I can live with.

* I have written in length on religious topics on this blog.  You can check them out here.

Ying and Yang of Growing up Rough

From the ages 6 – 12 I lived in a predominately black neighborhood in South Atlanta.  To be honest it was the hood. Not just the kind of place where people claim they grew up in a rough neighborhood, but it was really just the suburbs – this was quite literally the ghetto.

Rough Neighborhood 

I was the only white kid, that I knew of, in my neighborhood.  I remember two high school guys fighting outside my house one day and even my dad was unable to break it up. I remember being a little scared that the one boy was going to kill the other.

He had a padlock in his hand and was bashing the poor bastard’s skull in.  His white shirt was drenched in blood. What’s even more fucked up is I remember rooting for him too.  The guy that was winning was from my section of the neighborhood and I kind of looked up to him.

Another time a young man was shot a killed at the beginning of our subdivision.  I remember walking to the bus stop for school the next morning and seeing his blood still staining the sidewalk.  It was strange – he was the first and only person I have ever known personally who was murdered.

There are times I look back on my life and relive it like a movie.  I can barely believe it myself.  I remember times my parents would have so many people over they wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t care when people slipped me shots of liquor, which I took proudly, just to seem cool.

I remember seeing pounds of pot stacked in my living room being packaged for sales.  Even back then I knew how many grams went into a nickel, dime, or quarter bag of marijuana to sell on the street.

I saw my Dad go to jail a few times, I saw my Mom on the brink of self destruction, and I saw enough young people come and go through our home that I’m quite sure both my parents will find a warm spot in Hell for all eternity for blindly instigating their addictions.

Ying and Yang

My life is almost a Ying and Yang.  On the one side I look back on events that seem surreal – some of which I’ve mentioned. Other events make me realize how I made it.  For example, my best friend, who I spent a lot of time with, had two of the best parents on the planet.

They were from Puerto Rico and devoutly religious.  I distinctly remember once suggesting to the Father that he lie to his daughter so we could leave to play basketball without her getting upset.  He looked me directly in the eyes and said: “I never lie to my children.”  That will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I also remember playing little league football.  It seems like every child who grows up in a rough neighborhood is absolutely convinced he will grow up to be a professional athlete.  I thought this too, without question, for my entire childhood.  I think that explains why so many excellent athletes come out of seemingly rough circumstances.

It’s kind of funny too.  While my Mom and Dad were terribly addicted to one drug or another most of my childhood I distinctly remember that my Mom would make me do all of my homework and write my spelling words down five times each until I was in the 5th grade.

If she did one thing right it was letting me know how important school was to her. Both my parents knew how to make me feel proud of myself and I think that has proven invaluable throughout my life.  If anything, I have never had an issue with self worth.

Moving Out

I’m not sure how I would have turned out had I not moved out of that neighborhood when I did. Man was that conversion interesting.

I remember going from a school where I was almost the only white kid in the entire building, where you had to be checked with metal detectors before entering the school, and security guards walked the hallways – then to a school with almost all white people and no security what-so-ever.

I had an accent, wore baggy clothes, and was completely oblivious that I was any different from the rest of the kids. In fact, it wasn’t until high school that I started to dress like a typical “white guy”.  It took a thorough lashing by all of my “friends” in high school until I realized I dressed like a black guy. I quickly remediated my wardrobe problems and slipped into the expected mold.

Somehow I found a place on the sports teams, made all A’s, and found a way to fit in. It is almost insane to me how resilient yet fragile the human mind is.  You can overcome almost anything or crumble because of almost everything.

When I take a careful look at my life over the past 25 years I am incredibly thankful for what I’ve overcome.  I’m incredibly thankful for what I don’t have to relive. I’m infinitely thankful for the future I see myself having and sometimes it all still feels like I’m remembering a movie I saw – not my own life.

Three Important Truths I’ve Learned this Past Quarter Century

There aren’t many things I’m sure about – hell – there are less things I’m sure about today than at probably any time in my life. Having said that there are a few conclusions I’ve come to with some consistency that I think are worth sharing.

1. Stick to it

Anything I’m proud of in life, anything that I look back on and believe was worth doing, took time – and I stuck to it. Maybe this seems elementary, but I’ve always been the guy that would stick with something until the end. That has almost always paid off.

When I was playing high school football I started off as a third string guy. I was never going to see the field. Most of the other athletes were far superior to me via simple genetics, but I didn’t give up. A few hard workouts, a few guys quitting the team, and there I was – a starter. My senior year I didn’t come off the field. Not because I was the best, but because I just stayed on the team.

Almost anything else in life is that way too. Relationships, a career, obtaining an education, all require a lot of time and effort. My freshman year of college I really wanted to drop out and go to a local school near home – God I’m so happy I didn’t. So if you are thinking about quitting, maybe you shouldn’t.

The worst part is that if you make quitting a habit you never realize the fruits of sticking to it. That’s a bad habit to get into.

2. Feelings are chemical reactions

I’m an emotional guy even though people who know me would probably disagree. (I’m good at covering it up) I’ve been so angry that for an instant I could have killed, I’ve been so lust ridden that I could have cheated on my wife 100 times, I’ve been so depressed that I literally didn’t know what I wanted out of life. The one thought that kept me sane during those events was “these emotions aren’t real.”

Once you realize that emotions, no matter what they are, are simply the result of chemical reactions going off in your body causing you to feel a certain way – for me at least – they somehow become easier to manage. Anger leaves, that women you wanted so bad suddenly becomes not so special, and depression eventually fades.

The important thing is to make smart decisions based on facts and reality – not on your animalistic instincts. I think that’s why men like to get lost in sports so much. There is something incredibly natural about relying totally on guy reactions and knee jerk reflexes. A lot of that is a great release from our calculated and restrained lives.

Sometimes if you just take a step back and take some time (maybe blog about it) – things make more sense later.

3. If you think you know, you don’t

When I was 18 I thought I knew a thing or two. I was a smart kid, but damn looking back I realize just how dumb I was. That’s exciting too because I fully expect to look back on myself today and say “damn, I was dumb.” If you are constantly doing that – maybe you are getting somewhere.

The dumbest people on earth, in my experience, are those who think they have it all figured out – so they become stagnant. So the instant you find yourself thinking “I know a lot” step back and realize you have a really long way to go.

If anything, I hope I can always realize that I know almost nothing. I mean so far in life – I might know three things…

Slipping Slowly into Madness

I hesitate to write this blog post. Usually my strategy in life is to stay positive, keep chugging ahead, and things will work out. By all measurable statistics that’s exactly how things are going. I have a job that pays well and is full of opportunity, I have a loving and caring wife, I have a house that is well on its way to being paid off, I have money in the bank, and based on pretty much anything else one might objectively and statistically measure success by I’m doing good. The problem is I don’t feel that way. There’s a gap.

I feel like an idiot and a selfish asshole for even complaining. So much is going good for me, but some days I feel hollow. It’s almost like a depression that I can usually get over in a few hours by changing my way of thinking or just forgetting about it. The problem is I’m tired of “just forgetting about it”, and I’m tired of this feeling creeping up on me. The conflict is horrible and it’s not fair for anyone who has to put up with it (mostly my wife).

Sometime this feeling effects my personal life too. There are days when I can’t even begin to give my wife the attention and love she deserves. I’m too selfish and too self concerned with some fucked up feeling of being unfulfilled. God it’s fucked. Worst still is that I am a master at covering it up. I can throw a smile on my face and make almost anyone think I am the most confident and happy person on the face of the goddam planet. Hell, maybe sometimes I am.

The Problem, the Uncertainty

The cause of these undefined feelings are hard to nail down. Is it my life, my career, genetic, mommy and daddy issues, marital, spiritual, or some combination thereof? I have no fucking clue. Sometimes right when I feel like I might have a solution or the culprit of my emptiness identified I realize the actions required to rid myself of those feelings are risky at best – stupid at worst.

Why does the human existence have to be so fucking complicated. Maybe it isn’t – maybe I’m just making it complicated. I don’t know…

Honestly, part of me is afraid. Afraid of making a stupid decision. Afraid of making the wrong decision – especially when my current existence by most people’s standards is pretty fucking good (see paragraph one). I wish someone would just say to me: “Do it. Take the risk. Do “X”. That’s what you should do and you will be happy for it.” I’m no idiot though.

There’s no magical person out there that can tell me what I really need to do to feel full to the brim with satisfaction. If I wanted that kind of lie I would buy a fucking Joel Osteen book.

Vegabond

Also, I keep coming back to this idea of selling everything I own and just traveling and working by doing whatever I can do. Of course I would do a lot more planning than that before I actually took the plunge, but the idea keeps falling back to the forefront of my mind. I haven’t fully developed a plan here, but it keeps haunting me. Is this common? Does anyone else have this?

Every time I meet someone from another country I feel like I become twice as informed. Just having the slightest insight into another person’s thoughts from another place is probably the most interesting thing on the planet. That is definitely a shortcoming of the American lifestyle, but I’ll leave that rant for another post.

What’s keeping me from just doing it? Comfort and the feeling I’ll be giving up so much, in such a good spot, for a big mistake. It could be the biggest mistake or the greatest achievement of my life. The problem: I’m not good with risk. I’ve been calculated and conservative my entire life, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m trading the security of mediocrity for the potential for a life worth living. Any advice?

Marriage

My marriage is rocky. I need to put in some work. We were married too early and been together too long. Sometimes I think that is both a lucky thing and simultaneously the worst thing.

To make things worse: I met a Brazilian woman while I was out of town at dinner the other night. She is 30, interesting, educated, had an amazing accent, eccentric, and was of course beautiful. We hit it off really well, too well, and I developed a shameful crush for her – and she for me. Those elementary school feelings will quickly leave and luckily she is going back to Brazil and I will never see her again, but sometimes I feel like being married so young to a women I’ve known so long has lead to missed opportunities. That’s probably the voice of ignorance speaking, but I know it is partially true. Maybe that’s a blog for another time too.

My wife is great and almost any shortcomings in our relationship are my fault. My failure to accept her for her own personality, my failure to give her attention when needed, and my failure to not marry her if that was the case. I’ve thought about this many times and even if I wanted to I could never bring myself to leave her. It’s the Irish in me, I’ve been told, we will live with something and be unhappy forever if that’s what it takes.

The End

This is getting long and I haven’t even read over it to see if my stream of consciousness writing makes any sense what-so-ever. I feel a little better and if you have bothered to read this far I appreciate it.

The Horrendous Cat Story

I like complaining about family, and believe it or not, I like to hear people complain about theirs! In fact, I’d say that one of the core elements to me and Atty’s friendship is our shared history of dealing with shit family.

Today I’m going to tell you about a stray cat that started a small war in my in-laws family. As you read it, you might think it sounds a bit like a cheesy reality TV show. If so, you’d be right about that.  Enjoy.

A new addition to the Family

A little over a month ago a stray cat showed up at my wife’s grandmother’s house. I think the cat was a little too clean and pretty to be a true stray.  I assumed yet another bunch of asses moved off and abandoned the poor thing.

My first instinct was to tell them not to feed it and it’ll go away. But then I thought to myself, “Eh, I’m not here four days a week, what do I care? Feed the damn thing. I won’t have to deal with it

As time went on, the cat became quite the family pet. Everyone fell in love with this beautiful, white fluffy cat. My older daughter especially loved it and asked incessantly to go see the damn thing. She never could decide on the cat’s name either. One day he was Wilbur, another Charlie, and another Tom.

After having the cat around a little over a month, he was pretty much the new family mascot. I even caught my wife buying food for it. The cheap bastard in me wanted to protest but then I once again thought to myself, “Eh, what do I care. I don’t have to deal with it. It lives over there…”

But oh, how the tides do change oh so quickly.

The Cat bit my Grandma!

Last Friday I was sitting at my computer. Fridays are my work from home day, and despite what anyone thinks, I was actually hunkered down in my sad, lonely little corner of the house working. Then I heard my wife on a call.

What…. It bit you? Really? But it’s such a nice cat…. Huh…. A tetanus shot? You really think you need a tetanus shot? Well I can’t take you, Holden is working and I can’t carry the girls with us to the doctor. Let me call momma and see if she can take you.”

My wife had been talking to her elderly, hypochondriac of a grandmother who will find any excuse to have someone carry her to the doctor. Immediately, my wife phoned her mom.

Hey, well the cat bit grandma. She wants someone to take her to the doctor…….. No, I can’t take her…. Well, if you can’t who will?  Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to call animal control…….. no, you know what, I always knew something wasn’t right with  that cat…………no, I said I can’t take her…… what, She’s calling you now? She KNOWS I’M ON THE PHONE WITH YOU! Why is she calling if she…..alright, I’ll just talk to you later.”

About now, I sat back in my chair and sighed, cause I knew shit was about to get dramatic.

15 minutes later my sister in law calls. She’s hysterical.

Hey…. Yeah I already called animal control…… no they aren’t going to kill the cat…… no they won’t put it to sleep, it’ll be fine……. What? It’s not MY fault the cat bit her, what do you want me to do about it….. calm down…..”

My sister in law is a bit peculiar to me in that she appears to value the lives of animals more than humans but has no problem devouring a bacon cheeseburger. I have seen the woman get in heated arguments over whether or not dogs actually do go to heaven! She would find a scene in a movie depicting a burlap sack full of puppies being drowned in the river more distressful than a scene depicting the holocaust.

Oh, and my father in law… multiply it by two.  Seriously, these folks ain’t right! -to put it in southern boy terms.

So, a few more minutes later and my father in law calls. About now, I’m pounding my face into my keyboard. I’ve not left the desk and refuse to acknowledge that I have any knowledge whatsoever about what is going on.

My father in law is all but screaming at my wife. The man isn’t quite right in the head. He is a truck driver by necessity because no one can stand to be around the foul mouthed, overly opinionated hick. The guy seriously has to have a job that puts him alone in a small compartment all by himself 99% of the day.

My wife hangs up and starts sobbing. I feel bad for her; after all, what the hell did she have to do with any of this? She’s just the poor soul in the middle of a bunch of morons.  I knew we shouldn’t have fed the cat.

So… lesson learned. Next time a damn stray shows up, I’m demanding no one feeds it and if need be, I will grab up whatever it is and “Re-Home” it.

-Hodlen

I do not speak to my Father

Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday. I didn’t call. I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t remind my wife or say anything to my best friend. I thought about it a few times and let the idea fade from my brain until I was busy doing something else instead.

Maybe I could have been the bigger man and gave him a call. I’m not sure he deserves it though. On the other hand maybe it would have been good for me – evidence that all of my harsh feelings towards him mean nothing. I didn’t call though. I want him to know that the life he has lived isn’t okay and that he doesn’t deserve a phone call from his only son.

My Dad represents almost everything in life that I dislike. He abuses the system, he mentally and physically abused my Mother, was never and still is not a good provider, he is the most selfish man I have ever known, he is a drug addict, and toxic to everyone he’s around. The worst part is that he walks around with a since of entitlement like the world and everyone in it owes him something.

The last Straw
I think the last straw was a couple months back when my Mom attempted suicide. My Dad and me weren’t really on speaking terms then either, but I hadn’t completely abandoned the idea of speaking to him. My Mom called me crying saying that my Dad was seeing someone else and that she “wanted to go be with Jesus.” It was terrible and I was more disgusted than afraid.

After that incident I found out that my Father had been sharing his meth addiction with my Mother. They were both hooked and it made more sense than ever why she was so fucked up. My Father has successfully used drugs and mental abuse as a form of mind control based on insecurity and getting high for the past 26 years on my Mother. No I think its too late for anyone to do anything about it. I somehow escaped.

The Holidays
The holidays are approaching too. This should make avoiding family even more difficult. At this point I completely refuse to speak to my Father or his mother. She has harbored him at a motel he owns where he makes beds and does maintenance for rent. That’s also where he cheats on my Mother and does meth.

The part that most disgust me is that my Grandmother is on this holy trip. She is and always has been “religious” yet she has somehow justified allowing my father to live on her property, have sex with other drug addicts, buy and sell meth, and abandon his responsibilities as a husband. That motel is a compound of irony.

I will not be uncivil – my quiet protest will be my absence. Luckily I have in-laws who are excellent people and I have adopted as my family. That also make my wife happy so it’s a win-win. I will make a small amount of time for my Mother, but her inability to do anything for herself, her mental laziness, and her constant complaints are something I can only deal with in small doses.

Looking ahead
In years to come I am not exactly sure how I will deal with this situation. Part of me says just forgive them and move on. Let them live their shitty lives and let the universe punish them accordingly. It is not my place. The best thing I can do is let it all go and move on.

Another part of me says just never speak to them again. Forget about it completely and move on in a different way. However; honestly I am not sure which method is the right one. If I maintain a relationship with my parents does that set me up for more heartache and trouble? Does it give my parents more opportunity to suck me in and make their problems my own? That is the risk.

Either way this whole thing has taught me the value of being a decent human being and a man of integrity. I am thankful for that.

Have the Courage to Break the Rules – Or live like a well fed Slave

This evening after work I was sitting in the hotel room day dreaming and kind of letting my thoughts fall out of my head without purpose or any intent at all. Kind of one of those moments when you daze off and then come to about an hour later and realize you have been looking at the ceiling the entire time.

Anyways, I was thinking about my life and dreaming I was doing this or that and finally I proposed a question to myself.

“What would you do if you could do anything?”

What would you do if you could do anything?

That thought bounced around in my head for a while. I thought about things like going back to school, traveling the world, and other shit that people like to dream about. Then it hit me – I guess technically I can do anything I want. Anything, if I’m willing to accept the risk.

It’s such a simple thought, but one that has never really hit me. I can do anything. What a profound thought. Think about it. I can do ANYTHING. Seriously, drop everything, leave. Stop my life, book a plane ticket right now, and leave. Live as I can and see what happens. I won’t do that, but the fact that I could is interesting.

What’s stopping you?

I’ve said this before, I think, but what will I think about my life when I look back on it at death? Will I say to myself: “I really wish I would have taken that 6 months…written that book…lived abroad…” or will I be perfectly happy having never taken a shot at doing something that seemed a little crazy at the time?

Neither is right or wrong, but its important we are true to ourselves and actually do that thing we REALLY want to do. Even if it’s not typical – don’t ignore it.

I think sometimes we let what we think we are supposed to do, the safe route, control us. Rarely do any of us really take the path less travelled or do something truly spectacular. Even if we are great at our current lives we mostly play by the rules in which we have been given.

I’d like to think I’ve done something special, but in reality I haven’t. I finished school, learned the required material, got a job, and became a good little tax paying, law abiding citizen, like mostly everyone else. There’s no shame in that, but have you ever asked yourself “what else is there?” I have, but I have done nothing about it.

Risk: The well fed slave and the man who died free

What would be the consequences of taking 6 months or a year off and traveling with the wind? What would happen if I documented it all and tried to write a book about the experience? What if I left my job and went unemployed for a year? Would my life, my future, fall apart?

I often think back to the question: Is it better to be a well fed slave or a man who died for his freedom? I’m not facing literal life or death here, but the situation still applies. Do you leave the comfort of the status-quo for something more or do you consider yourself lucky for what you have and remain content?

The reality is I’m a beaten slave in so many aspects. I’m honestly afraid to take the risk. In a certain way I am afraid to live the life of my dreams. What if I’m wrong? What if I make a mistake? What if I give up everything and it doesn’t work out? What if I regret it? All too common, and not unreasonable, questions that run through my mind.

So what does an average guy do? Risk it all for something more or stay the course for what is a completely decent life? I’ll probably never muster the courage to do anything about my little dreams, but part of me hopes I can muster the courage to break the rules – even if only for a little while.

New Blog Partnership

I have been blogging solo going on two years now. For most of that time not a soul on this planet knew I was writing my thoughts down on the internet, but a few months back I let my best friend and closest confidont in on the secret. Since then he has been feverishly reading all of my darkest secrets and opinions – and keeping them to himself.

Recently he approached me about forming a partnership. A blog partnership where he will contribute to my little slice of the web. I agreed.

I cannot vouch for his opinions, I cannot say for certain what he might write on this poor ole’ blog, but hopefully over time he will add some value, a bit of good conversation, and maybe even some insight. I haven’t limited him on what he can write, nor set boundaries. The only rule is the one I set for myself – “What you write has to be the truth, unfiltered.”

So please join me in welcoming my good friend Holden as the offical second author of BlogTruth.

About Holden:

Holden is a father of two, business consultant, MBA educated, man who prides himself on liberty and social progress. He votes conservative on fiscal issues and liberally on social ones. He is stuck somewhere between Christianity and Agnosticism, and doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Holden hates people that can’t take criticism without “being a pussy”, is a technology lover by heart, originally a geographer, a world traveler in progress, and best friend of Atticus.

Taxes – I bring home 66% of my gross income

I am the prime example of the broken tax system. I make about $70k a year. I am married and I have no children. My wife works as a part time school teacher because in Georgia there are no teaching jobs for Art teachers available due to lack of funding. (That means half the pay with all the hours.) Together we bring in around 90k a year in gross income, but much less after taxes.

I have worked very hard to get where I am today. I paid my way through school (yes, with help of government grants), I found a good job, I bought a house that was well under my budget in hopes of paying it off quickly, I own two small fuel efficient cars (one of which is paid off), and I am a stickler about savings, energy costs, and budget. My reward? I get to take home only 66% of my gross income.

The Problem with taking home 66% of your income

I’m a middle class guy. I’m certainly not rich and I am well above the poverty line. I am thankful for that and constantly working to improve my state and put more and more cushion between my wife and I and poverty. I want security. Yet – I have a certain amount of difficulty understanding how the system justifies taking from me such an amount. Taxes and insurance alone at a rate well above 25%!

The thing that gets me is that when I see where my money goes I don’t think of some poor kid who’s parents are addicted to drugs. I see my Mom and Dad. Two people who have abused the system for 20 years, lived off tax dollars, and refuse to help themselves. Sure, I admit, there was a time when I was a kid that Government money was putting food into my mouth. However; why has the system allowed them to keep those same benefits 10 years later? Is the system making them complacent, enabling them, or providing a good service? I think infinite Government help does more harm than good.

Tax the rich?

This is the point a lot of people would make the argument we should increase the taxation on the rich to ease the load for the middle class. I would agree with that if I felt that the Government was using our current funds efficiently.

The way I see it we could do a whole lot more with less. Spend less on military efforts abroad, fix our broken welfare systems, ensure that those who need help get it and those abusing the system are dropped from it, scale back the scope of the Government where they add no or little value, and stop asking the Government to be involved where it shouldn’t!

Implosion for my Generation

What’s worse is that there are countries (Canada, Japan, Netherlands) that even provide Universal healthcare with less tax dollars per person than we do. We can’t do it all without straining the system. Period.

We can’t have the worlds largest military, provide Universal healthcare, maintain massive entitlement systems, pay for public services, and all the other various functions Government has taken on and expect it not to put a strain on the people. Something has to change. The system has to be ran better, cuts will have to be made, or we will suffer. My generation specifically, my children’s generation probably even more.

Those are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

I don’t want to be extreme

I’m not going to go all Ayn Randian on you here and advocate we eliminate Government and taxes completely. There are a lot of opportunities and benefits from certain programs. I get that, but if anyone looks at the current system, the current tax rates, and the current received benefits and doesn’t find something wrong – then I don’t understand.

It’s easy for me to see why some people would be liberal on the issue. Especially wealthy people in cities. If your needs are taken care of and you rely on many Government services (public transit, public parks) than to you high tax rates are justified.

However, if you take a guy like me – or even more so in rural communities – who uses their own care, the public park is their own land, and they see no benefit from federal income tax except the pictures of central park – then why is it a surprise we have varying opinions?

I’m all for reasonableness. Right now I think we are veering off that path. I mean when the Governing body decides the best place to cut funding is from schools and creative programs and not from their own salaries – then we know we have a problem!

Government Control

Sometimes it can feel helpless. The Government takes away from my paycheck via taxes, hinders our children’s education via cuts in funding, and then inhibits my wife from being able to get a full time job teaching children. This is all out of our control – and that’s the part I can’t stand – not being able to control our own destiny. I think that is the frustration many Americans feel.

I’m not rich enough to shelter my family from the problems. I can’t send my kid to private school to avoid the problems with public ones. Yet, the Government thinks I’m plenty rich enough to be in the highest tax bracket. It’s a little strange when you consider who makes those rules – let’s just say they haven’t taken a pay cut recently and I’ll bet kids are in private schools.