The Final Book: Gods.

Mythology. Blasphemy. Transcendence.

"SW Hammond's debut novel is an epic story with exquisite prose and the depth and scope of meticulous research." –SA Schlueter

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It's In The Photograph

It's In The Photograph

I was finally able to extract a bunch of data from an old hard drive. I was sure it contained old writings, school projects and music but what I forgot about were endless amounts of photos. It was basically a 10 year old time capsule of every shenanigan from early college on through the days at Sony and Warped Tour. Lesson learned- I’ve already made several backups of the data.

It was truly wild looking back at so many things that I had forgotten. My mind is always focused ahead, or not even on reality at all- backwards is a direction I rarely travel.

When I first started going through the photos I was really excited, like I had found personal, priceless buried treasure. I couldn’t believe the different parties, travels, special occasions and absurd shit that we were able to get away with. It became compulsive to see what was next, my afternoon ruined until I reached the end of all 7,000+ pictures.

The more I reminisced, the more melancholic I became. Lost youth, lost inhibitions, lost friendships, lost memories, and lot of lost love. While almost all of the photos themselves were of nothing but complete joie de vivre, they now somehow represented holes and failures. A little bit of guilt attached to each face for allowing the relationship to fade. A little bit of failure for not living my life as full and rich with friendships as I once had.

I suppose that’s growing up though, right? High school, college, and mid twenties were spent with friends. Friends were your family before each of us slowly starting pealing off with significant others and children of our own. I don’t have a wife or a child, but I’m guilty of the same abandonment- choosing another mountain or adventure to conquer rather than finding the same contentment in friendship.

A few of my friends, unmarried or unadventurous, had to have been considerably hurt by this. We all thought we were blood- piss and vinegar brothers and sisters there for each other in the saddest moments, the drunkest mistakes, the scariest commitments, and the most free and wild moments of our lives. Then gone. An occasional Facebook “like”. There’s no malice, no crux of contempt, but a lingering doubt of being forgotten. Being sacrificed for another deemed more important.

Some may call it evolution, growth, or reinvention. Perpetual motion of change to justify why we hurt someone’s feelings. We never sat them down and explained why we needed to chase the clouds or have someone to hold onto at night, we just faded.

The girlfriends really tore me up. I couldn’t look at any of them without feeling like everything was my fault. Not that it was, or that we should have been together forever, or that they even wanted that of me- but rather just holding back. I never tried. I didn’t give any of them my all, a true and honest effort to be the best I could be for them. I had my chance to do that, one I’ll never get again, and I didn’t. I regret not telling them how beautiful they were, how special and unique each one was to me, and how lucky I was to become significant to them, if even for a moment.

None of these relationships were perfect, but as I’ve come to realize and understand, no relationship will ever be perfect. I wish I would have embraced the faults, or simply overlooked them, rather than allowing them to fester. I’m not saying this with longing for any of these relationships back, however the regret comes when they run across old photos of me. I wish their memories were of passion, new experiences, and butterflies rather than compartmentalized commitment, trepidation, and insecurity.

History is written by the victor and everyone is the hero in their own story. However, regardless of how these women treated me and their emotional maturity at the time, even in any shortcomings and infidelities, I know in my heart that I could have done better by them. I suppose that’s the lesson. Only one relationship is suppose to last and eventually all will come to an end- how do you want to be remembered when they look through old photos and find you? What are you going to do to ensure you’re the hero in someone else’s story?

Introverts: Steady The Pendulum

Introverts: Steady The Pendulum

As I’ve become older, out of my twenties for a couple of years, I’ve found myself settling into a pattern of reveling in solitude.

When I was younger, I had to be plugged in. There was a driving force behind finding someone, anyone, to meet up with for a movie or drinks. It didn’t matter who it was with or what we were doing, as long as I had a story to share the next day. Inside I felt like I was “loser” if I didn’t go out. Somehow I had failed if I didn’t have plans. I’m not sure if it was out fear of being alone- being forgotten. If I didn’t go out, I’d slip from everyone’s circle in a weird “out of sight, out of mind” scenario or I was just desperate for approval.

It wasn’t a cognitive thought or preconceived plan, but more of a reaction or way of life. I didn’t understand or realize it was a subconscious need until I stopped. I’m not sure why exactly I stopped, probably out of exhaustion and taking a closer look at my spending, but when I did I found that routine was just a distraction. Going out constantly filled time and space and dulled deeper issues. It fulfilled a need I wasn’t getting elsewhere.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of great times and fantastic memories. I don’t regret that period in my life and I wouldn’t change it. Putting myself out there, in lots of different situations, was an immense learning and growing experience. I lived a lot of life in a short amount of time. However, that obsessive compulsive bunching of experiences reached a conclusion. I feel I finally got it out of my system, I sowed those wild oats. I no longer feel like I’m missing something and I know those who truly care about me will still be there if I don’t always meet up with them for a drink.

In my early and mid twenties my Myers-Briggs personality type was an ENTJ. Looking back, that seems fitting. I was extroverted because I had to be. I wanted to be. I controlled a lot of events and managed a lot of external moving parts and people due to my career. My personality was a reflection of my environment and adapted to who I needed to be to ensure success. It didn’t necessarily come naturally, but my drive and desire to be apart of that world pushed me in that direction.

Later in my twenties, changing careers, and reflecting on the things that worked and things that didn’t, I found a bit more peace and piece of mind. I wasn’t required to be a Field Marshal and those personality traits slowly faded. I found my natural equilibrium, possibly only for this phase of my life, to be a bit more withdrawn and concerned with quality over quantity. I still enjoyed my friends and having drinks, but those moments seemed to resonate more when they had meaning. It felt more significant and special to purposefully spend time with someone because you truly wanted to see them, rather than simply fill time.

I recently revisited the Myers-Briggs test and it now says that I’m an INTP. I know that I greatly admire a lot of qualities the personality projects, but I feel it’s a drastic yoyo from the ENTJ. While my early twenties represented a total extreme, I’m afraid my early thirties are its polar opposite. I fear becoming lost in my introverted tendencies, finding too much contentment in a creative project or a quiet evening with a good meal and inspiring movie. I can lock myself in a room and work for hours and hours without a single conversation and at the end of the day feel satisfied. I feels good to spend my time working towards something, accomplishing goals, but have I substituted one distraction for another? Once a social butterfly and now a worker bee?

The reason I feel concern is because I am now starting to feel guilty on the rare occasions when I do go out. For some reason I now see time as a very precious commodity and I’m squandering it by allowing anything to get in the way of me and a project. This piece of writing for instance- I could be out right now having beers but I’d rather work on this. Admittedly, this piece isn’t all that special and the world would have continued to revolve if I never wrote it. However, it’s apart of a larger picture- one were I need to force myself to take the time to write, whatever it might be, simply to keep in the practice of writing. It keeps the wits sharp and fingers loose which transcends into the novel I’m working on. In order to keep HyL the least bit interesting, it occasionally needs new content. Writing this is an exercise in that, and at the moment a task I value more than drinks.

Where that becomes a problem is if you’re one of my friends. I’m sure my disinterest transcends, and that is not fair. When I do go out, it’s fun and fine but lately there’s been less returned texts. I find it hard to create excuses and lying about why I can’t make it out is petty. Honesty hurts. It feels unjustifiable when I say it out loud and hurts the ears on the other end. It also shouldn’t be so one sided- it’s not right that I only show up when I “want” to. Not that people are looking forward to me gracing them with my presence, but it’s selfish.

Life is about balance- too much or too little of anything is unhealthy. Finding that balance lately has been a struggle. I relate it to writer’s block- the reason you can’t move forward is because you’ve found loopholes in your plot. You can’t summon new words because you can’t make sense of the ones from the past. I’ve only had a few weeks of zen-like reflection to piece together the relentless absurdity of the last year, not a fair amount of time to chart a new course and feel comfortable with what lies ahead. I hope, hope once clarity permeates I can steady the pendulum.

Self Censored

Self Censored

I used to pour my guts out. Seems the only way I ever understood my feelings were to read them. The collection within these pages used to know me better than my closest friend. The writing used to be honest, uncensored, and unapologetic. I never considered what happened beyond the typing- there was a naive and innocent freedom in approaching a blank page without an agenda or audience. It was like I was screaming at the top of my lungs off of a cliff. It felt good to yell, to have my words bounce around the stone walls and echo back so I could hear them. No one else was around to hear what was going on, so it didn’t seem that crazy.

The moment I realized that my words have consequences, it spoiled it. I lost my innocence. I became shy or sometimes ashamed. I felt judgement. Even if I wasn’t being perceived improperly, the notion of someone else formulating opinions about me inherently made silence seem more appealing. Suddenly I started leaving out bits and pieces of my thoughts and feelings, lying to myself by omission, so much so that I eventually removed myself from the entire equation. I still wrote, but just without the personal attachment.

I guess that’s called insecurity. I’ve never considered myself insecure because I wasn’t as much concerned with what you thought but rather how I made you feel.

I started to worry about belittling people’s thoughts or efforts, I worried about exploiting their insecurities, rooted convictions and beliefs. While I am not an optimist, the media we consume ourselves with is unquestionably dramatic and negative- I didn't want to contribute to that. I preferred civility and politeness, even if that meant silence, to further polluting our zeitgeist. I’ve never needed the validation of my opinions, I don’t write so that I can find people who agree with me- I share my thoughts with you to make you feel. Enlightenment through empathy. If I’m knowingly going hurt someone’s feelings with my words, there better be a damn good reason. Viewership is not one of them.

Woah woah- why would my words have any affect on someone else? Who the hell am I? I carry no authority. My narcissism can’t be so out of control that I honestly believe that something I ramble about could carry significant impact on someone else. That too is naive. When I tell someone that I love them, I believe that affects them. I’ve witnessed it. When I praise them, I feel their glow. It’s only logical to assume that when the opposite occurs, it has an impact as well.

Well organized words can change the world and our place in it. Anyone that has the ability to form a sentence can make someone else cry or laugh, they can inspire movements and decimate cultures. Binding words to emotions is a significant responsibility and for a moment in my life that was something I was unwilling to accept. I was unable to own the liability.

Sheltering my thoughts allowed me to hide behind the mystery. If I didn’t stir an opinion or feeling within you, I never had to explain myself. I never had to become vulnerable or subject either of us to a meaningful discussion. I was never wrong and neither were you.

I’m not sure if I became a byproduct of our oversensitive politically correct culture, one where we’re unable to teach our children how to win or lose a little league game and one where a single 140 character tweet can ruin a career or reputation that took a lifetime to build; or if I was just a coward. I worried about my personal future- what if I wanted to run for political office one day? The opposing campaign manager would dig something up that I wrote when I was 22 and hold it against me 30 years later. A potential employer poking around the internet decided to pass on me because they discovered I had an opinion.

The whole process became so disingenuous. Allowing the fear of an unknown reaction or the approval of a future that may never exist to control the actions of the present is an oppressive way to live and ultimately buries the truth, something I hold to be more sacred than politeness. Without uncovering substance and meaning, no progress whether it simply be personal can ever be achieved. My silence wasn’t out of honesty, but rather a gamut of hypothetical emotions, responsibilities and consequences.

I can accept criticism and cross examination but I’m no longer comfortable with conforming to an agenda. If I can’t be honest with myself and approach a blank page as if it were a mirror, to liberate myself from self censored oppression, I can never expect to earn your respect as a writer. I say again- your respect. Not approval.

Honesty, whether discussing current events or concocting a fictional story is essential to the intellect and emotional condition of the reader. You aren’t always going to like me for it; my words will occasionally hurt your feelings or make you uncomfortable. However, honest words also have the ability to make you feel love and inspiration. Meaning carries purpose in which we achieve results. Therefor, meaningless words and endeavors are just that.

As I once again find my voice, at the risk of tossing away a blissfully ignorant and polite future, I encourage you to do the same. The more we shed the vulnerability of allowing ourselves to be heard, the more opportunities we create for growth and understanding. We just need to remind ourselves to listen once in a while as well.

If you intend to write
as truthfully as you can,
your days as a member of
polite society are numbered.

Stephen King

Time Capsule

Time Capsule

I found my journal from exactly 10 years ago- talk about an eye opening read. I couldn’t put it down, not because it was particularly exciting or well written, but more like a ghost talking to you from the past.

I stayed up until 3:30 am reliving what seemed like a different story but with the same main character. Some things I couldn’t remember at all- especially things that seemed so important in the moment. Other things I remember happening, but the memory was like a news clipping of factual information- the journal filled in all the emotion and thoughts that had long since been forgotten. However, the strangest part is how little the main character has changed. I’m essentially the same person I was back then, just further along in the story- or maybe now in a sequel. For some reason I equated 10 years time to me transforming into a different person, maybe an adult. That I had emerged into a new, sophisticated version of myself keeping only my best qualities. The truth is, I still laugh at fart jokes. I’m still single for the exact same reasons. Money has never made me happy. My imagination is way better than reality. The only thing that has really changed is my friends, they did grow up.

Before Surgery #6 on my ankle I was utterly heart broken and lonely. I was still very confused over how and why Carrie could have possibly cheated on me with such a loser, drug addict, piece of shit like Chris Beretta. That ate at me for a very long time. I equated losing my first love to him because he was better than me, my only explanation for why someone would jump ship. I am now amazed at how I was only able to look at the situation from that one angle, how blinded you can become to the whole picture by the more you care about something.

Due to my crushed and infected ankle, I was forced into living with my parents in Colorado Springs. I didn’t grow up there, had no ties, and didn’t know soul my own age. I was lonely. A type of loneliness I didn’t know was possible. Not that being a social butterfly was much of an option because I was so sick and bedridden. I was as sick as a cancer patient and uncertain if I’d lose my leg or even my life. No one came to visit, not once. I had a long time to think about if it was because the drive from Utah was so inconvenient, I wasn’t that good of a friend, or if the maturity of 19 year olds couldn’t process my impending mortality and was something they couldn’t handle. They ignored it, just like I did.

However, reading back, the important thing that I took away from Sean pre Surgery #6 is that I was still optimistic. I was friendly. I was naive. I was still very innocent and hopeful about life. As bad as things hurt physically and mentally, my spirit was pretty well intact. I believed this ankle stuff was just a minor bump in the road and I’d be back normal in no time. There was always a sense to succeed and defiance in me. I was going to be the exception and prove these doctors wrong. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was certain that I had something to live for. I wanted to leave a legacy. I regularly commented on how I couldn’t give up because I had something to give and prove to this world. And I fully believed that.

At that time things still mattered to me- concepts of authority, school, rules, laws, and pleasing people held weight and had real importance. When I went back to school that Spring- a year and a half after the inital accident- still on crutches, it was a big deal and I worked hard at it- I was very diligent, did my homework, never skipped class, and I cared that I always made the dean’s list. I was a “good” kid in pretty much every sense. I did what I was told for the most part and I had faith in the system.

I was weeks away from turning 20 when I had to make a decision that I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. Beyond getting over the notion of daily activities forever being hindered and the irrational “will a girl ever love a cripple” thoughts running through my head, I was an athlete. Surfing was the most important thing that I had discovered up to that point in my life. Several earlier life decisions, such as going to school in Hawaii, had been made around where the waves break the best. Now there was a real good chance I’d never be able to do that again.

After 6 months of therapy and still being unable to walk or place any practical weight on my left leg, I relented to the doctor’s recommendations of fusing my ankle. Their sales pitch was to look on the bright side- at least I still had a foot. To a 19 year old surfer, death would have been an easier sentence. The fusion was absolute, there’s no going back and it couldn’t be undone. There are rarely decisions you face that are as absolute and will affect you each day for the rest of your life. Houses sell or burn down, you can get divorced, children can be disowned or they can die- at 19 I decided that I will never move my left ankle again and that was commitment that will last my entire life.

With the decision of Surgery #6 came the realization that a vast majority of my goals, hopes, and dreams that revolved around the ocean were now completely unobtainable. The ankle fusion came with side affects and plagued my entire leg- from fusing the rest of my foot, to knee and hip replacements, and spinal alignment problems. I lost a good portion of that pre Surgery #6 innocence. I lost so much passion and direction- something that was the backbone of my personality. I lost faith in the promises of doctors and authority figures that told me everything would be okay. I was drifting to say the least, but I wasn’t defeated. I just had no clue of where to go or what to do next. All I knew is that I was tired of the doctors, sick of daytime tv, and I wanted to be a normal 20 year old more than anyone.

I wanted friends, parties, girls, concerts, school (only because that’s what you “do” at 20 and plugs you into the social pipeline), motorcycles, fights, and regrets. I got every bit of what I wanted when I moved back to Salt Lake City and into a house next to campus with my two best friends- Kellen and Kyle. That fall semester was legendary and I do not use that word lightly.

Somewhere along the line of our debauchery I re-broke my ankle. I knew it too- each day it was horrifically discolored and swollen. However, I was not about to let that stop me- I was free and I was not going back to my parent’s couch. To cope I drank more, I was virtually on the point of black out drunk for a solid 4 months and somehow maintained a 3.7 GPA. Finally someone much wiser than myself made me go to the doctor and get it checked- yep, broken and with that I was sent straight back to Colorado Springs for more surgery.

Surgery #7 is the one that really solidified the asshole who is writing this. It crushed me. It made me cynical, stole any remaining innocence after #6, I lost total faith in the system and life became real instead of an abstract concept. It only took 7 surgeries to pop my bubble, but once it burst I saw how close I came to dying- a thought I rejected no matter how sick I was earlier on. I realized that I was not invincible. I saw just how precious life is, how easily it can be taken from you, and how little we acknowledge or appreciate that.

I wouldn’t call it a “rebirth” but it was certainly a whole new perspective. Suddenly grades seemed so irrelevant. Impressing a professor on material they barely understood themselves in hopes of a good grade that will never have a significant impact on who I am as a person, the community I’m apart of, or the world that I will one day leave behind made it really hard to show up to class. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love learning and it is essential to the human experience- but that’s not what college is about. Make no mistake, college is about a diploma. Some people have to study to get that piece of paper, some play quarterback- the point is that college is about money and a certificate. I know plenty of stupid people who have graduated and are perpetuating a cycle of ignorance. I was now interested in true education and growth, not playing a game.

Work fell into the same category. I just couldn’t grasp the concept of a job that didn’t create, produce, or provide some meaningful service. Pushing papers for money, no real tangible byproduct of your work, just seemed as empty as our financial system. The only reason our money has value is because we’ve (society) convinced ourselves that it does, and a cubicle is daily reminder of that false security. I decided if my work wasn’t going to contribute anything to humanity, I might as well have as much fun as I possibly could doing something that was as equally ridiculous. I don’t think anyone ever truly understood or appreciated the humor in the irony quite like myself…

But this all boils down to relationships- the only thing in life that is remembered as accurately as a journal. Whether you were a friend, girlfriend, co-worker, or just someone to pass the time- after Surgery #7 I now demanded something tangible behind it. Beer was no longer a common interest, but are you honest? Are you able to make me see the world in a new way? Someone I admire because you have a unique talent? Someone I’d want at my side in a foxhole? Is there something I can do for you? If there was no substance, no anchoring quality that separated our relationship from the next person who stepped up to the bar, I quickly lost interest. I never wanted anything more than a meaningful conversation- but how often do those come around? I no longer had interest in relationships out of obligation or to simply be polite.

Ever since Surgery #7 I’ve been searching for meaning, a reason and foundation behind the things I care about and associate myself with. If those concepts don’t contain honor and virtue, I’ve learned first hand of how valuable our time is, and I refuse to waste it. That idealism hasn’t made life easy and has pretty much put me at odds with our culture. What corporations do you know that consistently do the right thing? How many politicians do you consider to be honest and forthright? What journalists actually report the news instead of giving their opinion on it?

Demanding standards from the products you buy, the places you work, the relationships you have, the leaders you put your faith in shouldn’t make you an outsider. At 30 years old, I now consider myself lucky because with each painful step I continue to limp I’m reminded of a near death and soul crushing experience that has helped me realize that there’s more to this world than what I “should” be doing.

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