Why you should stop saying “I’m Fine”

The more that I blog, the more I realize that words often negate the deeper meanings in life. Instead of feeling an emotion, we like to label how we feel as “happy” or “sad”. While language is great, the real range of emotion is much more than what a simple word can describe.

How many variants of “I’m fine” can you think of? There is the shallow one, spoken quietly and reserved. While the next could be stern and show the speaker doesn’t want to talk about their emotion. Often at work I pass coworkers in the hall who ask me how I’m doing. Neither of us stop to continue the conversation but instead reply with “I’m good” or “I’m fine”.

What does “good” mean? When you say that you’re doing fine, what is “fine”?

When we say this out loud, it’s to simplify conversation. Saying that you’re doing “great” is easier than explaining why you feel great. However, many of our conversations aren’t spoken aloud anymore. When you write that you’re doing good, you negate a greater meaning.

Let’s take a look at a simple conversation:

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“I’m good, you?”

“I’m doing fine.”

Now that we don’t have body language, we don’t really know how you are. Are you “fine”, meaning that you don’t want to talk about it? Or are you “fine” as in your day is neither good or bad? This is why it is important to use a wider variety of words.

Personally, when somebody asks how I’m doing, if I’m in a good mood, I say that I’m doing wonderful. This shows that I’m happy. If I said that “I’m good”, I could be alright, fine, mediocre, or a wider variety of other emotions. By using a word that is slightly less common, I’m able to better communicate with others.

Online, by using a broader vocabulary, you are better understood by other people. You can fill your writings with “everyone”, “anywhere”, “a place”, or generic substitutes like these, but your writing will be uninteresting.

Don’t write “we went to a new place today”, say “Today, for the first time, we went to _____ (specific place)”. Instead of writing “my sister’s friends came over”, word it like this, “my sister’s friends _____ and _____ came over”. While too much specificity is boring, when you write with greater detail, you make it much more personal.

Now that I’ve explained this to you, notice it in your own life. When you’re waiting in line to check out and the cashier is asking the person in front of you about their day, watch their interaction. Maybe they’ll say “I’m doing well” or “I’m alright”. When it’s your turn, switch it up and describe how you feel; “It’s hot outside, but I can’t complain” or “My sister came to visit, so I’m doing great!”.

What you’ll notice is that when we use more uncommon replies, people better understand how we are. They’re more likely to respond and interact with you and to talk about themselves. It stimulates conversation and makes like flavorful! Just try it and you’ll see a change in your life!

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Foreign Emotions like Foreign Languages

You know how they say that blind people dream don’t dream in images, they dream through their other senses? If a blind person dreamed of an image, would they know how to interpret it?  When you hear a foreign language, you can’t understand it because you haven’t learned how to interpret it. When a painter walks up to the canvas, they are translating from a blind man’s dream. The feeling they possess is intangible and they bring it from gibberish to something that is hopefully comprehensible. An artist simply wants to evoke or express that unintelligible thought.

The difficulty is that many artists don’t understand that they are trying to translate something that doesn’t have a set way of being expressed. There isn’t a correct way to express happiness or love or confusion. Essentially an artist tries to replicate a feeling but cannot perfectly match it. They leave their personality and interpretation instead. It’s like a child trying to forge their parent’s signature, perhaps it looks generally the same but it’s noticeably imperfect.

However, if you learn many languages, you can understand a new language faster and more efficiently. If a painter learns how to draw, play guitar, sculpt, and dance, he will be better able to translate his emotions. Sometimes a feeling can be best expressed with a certain type of art. If I know how to write, maybe my emotion would be best expressed through words. Only knowing how to write would severely limit my expression.

On the other side, inspiration comes in a myriad of ways. As I’ve branched away from photography I’ve realized that art is very fluid. Paintings express memories in a different way than a photograph does. A song from a particular time in my life can hold more emotion than a photograph.

Why is it that we, as artists, always crave inspiration? Is it because we aren’t able to express things we don’t understand? We have these emotions but we don’t know how to show them to other people. It’s as though someone is yelling at us in a foreign language and we’re desperately trying to understand what they’re saying. We want to reply or do what they’re asking but we simply don’t understand.

Lately I feel like I’ve started learning new languages. The emotions I go through can be understood better even if I don’t know that language. I can somewhat make out what I’m feeling inside and how to transcribe it into something to share with others.

The point of this post is to say that don’t try to force inspiration. It will come and go through your life and in different ways. I don’t paint or draw but I feel emotions that could only be felt through painting. There are days when words feel like the best way to express myself. Just learn to be receptive to the world and you’ll see the elephant in the middle of the room: everything in life is inspiration and everything is an emotion. You just have to be receptive enough to take that feeling in.

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P.S. The layout is changing again, so please be patient with me as everything settles down!

 

Passion is a Spice of Life

I’m a firm believer that variety is the spice of life and that the more willing you are to try new things, the more exciting your life will be. When you are able to go out and just be passionate, I believe that you’ll cross into many fields. As an artist, I’ve found myself shifting around from photography to writing, to drawing, to painting, and many other mediums. Some of the greatest creators are those who are able to shift from one field to another.

Emily Haines is the lead singer of indie alternative band METRIC. The group is famous for their songs “Help I’m Alive“, “Lost Kitten”, “Satellite Mind“. Haines has also been a part of Broken Social Scene, Stars, she’s produced her own independent album, and she’s done a few electronic singles. Each area that she’s worked on has been a bit different. Her work with METRIC is sharp and distinct while her work with Broken Social Scene is muffled. Her electronic work with Tiësto is totally different. You can tell that she’s passionate about music because she freely flows into different areas.

 

You can listen to “Gold Lion“, then listen to “I Shot the Sheriff” and see the variety Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) brings. The band Rehab can shift from the slow “Bartender” to rapping “My Addiction” and all the way to pop “Miss Jones“. There hits a point in this versatility that you realize many artists just express. It’s no longer about the art or the creation, it’s about the expression.

Variety is the spice of life and it seems that variety spikes the more we get into the flow of things. The more that we feel aligned with what we’re doing, the more willing we are to deviate from it. It’s as though the labels in our head disappear for a minute. We stop thinking “I’m a photographer” and we just take pictures or we get into painting. It doesn’t matter at that point because we’re not creating to create, we’re creating because we must. It’s something that is part of us.

If you ever find yourself crossing between mediums, don’t be frightened by it. Don’t think that because you’re a painter you can’t make music or draw beautiful pictures. It’s so easy to believe that a new field isn’t worth going into or that you shouldn’t be doing it. When you get into the right mood, you can do anything.

The underlying purpose of this post is to say, go out and do what you love. When you are passionate, you’ll find that sometimes you go crazy and color outside of the lines. That’s perfectly fine! When you’re crazy and doing what you love, you’ve already won. You’ve claimed your prize. Although the drawing is messy, it was never about cleanliness or beauty. It was about that feeling, that spice in life, the reason that you keep going.

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This post is mostly a note back to myself. For many years I’ve struggle with being called a “Jack of all trades” because in my head I only heard “master of none”. I spent so much time focusing on mastering one thing that I lost my passion. It’s only now that I’ve realized it was never about mastery. I crave passion and being absorbed in whatever I fancy (at any particular moment). That’s why I had a blog on music, art, art review, peace keeping, buddhism, and personal blogging. It’s why some days I feel like writing while others I feel like painting. There’s nothing in particular I want to master, I just feel passion for everything and that’s enough for me. I’m a “Jack of all trades” because I’m a lover of all trades.

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I wish I could put into words what the last six months have been. I wish I could explain the feelings I’ve felt and the friends I’ve loved. The exhaustion of getting up before dawn. I wish I could transcribe the feelings out side of my reach and the mental chaos I was. What it means to stop functions and to break down. I wish I could put into words how lost I’ve felt and how I’ve made it through these times. I wish I could sit in bed with you and talk for hours about how you get this light in your eyes that I will never tire of. I wish more than anything to make my mind tangible. To lay it out in front of me and show the world what I am.

Who I am

Everyone struggles with writing about themselves and defining who they are in some limited amount of space. Artists struggle with what their work means and what their purpose is. In the same way, I struggle with writing “About Me” sections or biography areas.

After introducing myself so many times here in Charleston, I feel like I can better write who I am now. Keep in mind, we’re always changing but it’s important to record yourself from time to time. So here’s my description;

My name is Eric John Albee and I blame my parents for giving me such a short / political sounding name. I’m turning 20 years old in a couple months and I’m excited to move past my teenage years. Currently I live in Charleston, South Carolina for work but I’m originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I moved down here a little over a month ago and I’ve already started exploring the city from end to end.

The best way to describe me would be to call me an “enthusiast” because of the passion I have for life. Experience is everything to me and I have a passion for bringing new experiences to other people. Getting others out of their shell and into the awkward and new place we call “life”. If you’re going to a new city or wanting to wander around, I’m your man. The world is a playground and life is too short to just sit on the swing-set all day.

When I say I’m an enthusiast, it’s mostly reflected by a broad range of interests that I have like; photography, design, running, neuro-psychology, travel, languages, painting, finding new bands to listen to, reading all sorts of books, hiking, kayaking, trying new foods, cooking new foods, and the list could go on. There’s a moment in “The Brother’s Bloom” where Penelope is asked what she does, to this she replies “I collect hobbies… I see somebody doing something I like and I get books and I learn how to do it”. The scene is followed by her rapping, juggling chainsaws, taking photographs using a watermelon as the camera, and a lot more. I’m the same way, I just can’t juggle live chainsaws.

People are important to my life, whether or not I know them. Everyone is going through their life and so many people are just riding autopilot. They wake up, they grab their socks, they shower, they go to work/school, come home, watch TV, go bed, and repeat. I like breaking the cycle and societal norms – going outside what other people expect. Making funny faces at strangers when I walk by, vlogging in public, talking to strangers and getting to know them. I like lightening people’s days and getting to know them. There’s so much to a person and people are so willing to share if you just ask.

Another huge part of myself is traveling. Getting lost in new places where I don’t even speak the language. I’ve spent enough time overseas that I’ve fallen in love with the silly stuff. Walking down narrow streets and hiking worn trails. There’s so much novelty in going to new places where you don’t know anything.

Finally, expression is the last important aspect of myself. I think everyone has something to say or express. Not necessarily politically speaking, but just about themselves. Why are so many people so afraid to be who they are? Expressing yourself and open communication is a giant key to a happy life in my opinion. We’re all here, we’re all going through the same rudimentary things, why don’t we talk about it. Maybe you’re weird, but then again, we are all weird.

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Book-writing non-sense

For the past few years I’ve been contemplating writing a book. I have no idea what it will be about nor why I even want to write one but I want to write a book. In fact, this blog is part of preparing to write it. It’s a way to get used to writing regularly and analyzing how I write.

“The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” by James W. Pennebaker is a fantastic book. I’ve only just began reading it and I already feel like I’m learning so much about writing styles. Basically the book explains how our use of pronouns shows who we are. If a person uses the word “I” excessively, perhaps they are depressed. It talks about how poor people talk to other people and how the rich talk to the poor. It’s incredibly interesting.

Yesterday at the Mall of America I purchased the book “Wired For Story” by Lisa Cron to learn more about story writing. It’s all astounding to me! There is so much expression in writing that I didn’t understand before! That is one reason why I’ve gravitated towards writing.

Today is day 91 of my project. That’s about 3 months into the year, or 1/4 the way through my project. I still don’t know what exactly I’m writing about but I’m making progress. Words seem to flow better in my head and I feel like I can express myself better through language. As a visual person sometimes words fail me but now I’m starting to become more comfortable with words. We’ll have to see where this takes me in the next 9 months!

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Social Media and Expression; Should You Post Yourself Online or Not?

Remnants from the previous generation still echo caution towards social media as though it were some horrific beast. We all hear people ranting about how we shouldn’t be posting ourselves online and how we need to err to the side of caution about what we write. Coming from the generation that stands between the no-internet era and the present day, I have to question why this is.

According to ebizmba.com, the most popular social media sites of today are (in this order);
1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. LinkedIn
4. Pinterest
5. Google +
6. Tumblr
7. Instagram

These sites express information ranging from personal day-to-day activity (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram) all the way to professional reference information (LinkedIn) and things we like online (Tumblr, Pinterest). Together these sites can form an image of who you are and what you are interested in.

Ad-targeting is the primary reason that this ‘internet self-portrait’ is so valuable. The information that you release gives a way for companies like Google to target specific ads at you. This is all in hopes that you click the ad and purchase whatever company is advertising. Essentially, by releasing your personal information, you’re giving companies the ability to measure trends about their products and advertise to the people who are most likely to buy their product.

The argument against social media seems to focus on protecting your information from advertisers and companies that wish to exploit your online portrait. However, this argument is unnecessary because ultimately the ads don’t do anything – you do.

When you publish a status on Facebook saying that you’re craving cheesecake,  you could be suddenly flooded with advertisements for chocolate cheesecake and the Cheesecake Factory. By releasing this information, you give companies the opportunity to try to exploit your cravings and wallet.

Is this wrong? Using your personal information to target what you may be interested in is not stealing money from you. You are ultimately the person who pulls your credit card out.

The second underlying concern seems to be that some governmental organization could be collecting information about you. By snapping pictures of what you had for lunch, some agency may be able to predict what you’re going to eat in the future.

This scares people because they believe someone who they don’t know could predict what they may do in the future. What website you visit often could show what kind of person you are but what importance does this have for organizations that aren’t out for profit? Are you afraid that you may be tracked or killed? How extreme is your mind contemplating this?

Where does this fear of sharing information stem from? The roots vanish once you try to look at them because the fear is irrational, Yes, the information that you release online can give people you do not know trends about who you are as a person. Yes, they can use this to advertise to you or monitor you. However, is this information truly that valuable to you?

Now comes the truly important question; do you benefit more from abstaining from these sites than through using them? By not being present in this social media world, are you missing out?

Social media to me is a way to stay in contact with my friends in Spain, Denmark, France, Chile, and all over the United States. By logging into any number of sites I can read what’s going on in my friends’ lives. I can communicate and tweet them what’s going on in my life.

By sharing my information, like which bar I went to tonight, I could spark a conversation with a friend who’s never been there before. My cousin takes pictures of her vegan food creations and spreads knowledge about being vegan. Some of my photographer friends blog about their lives so other people can read about them. Is social media really a bad thing?

In the comments below I want to hear your opinion. Do you think the benefits of using social media websites outweigh the potential cons? If you disagree on this topic, why do you think social media is bad?

As I move away across the country again this month I look forward to staying in contact with my friends around the nation. By expressing myself online I have opened the doors to keeping my friends and meeting new people. If you think social media is good, what are some of the opportunities that you’ve gotten by using these sites? Do you recommend it to others?

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