Sunday, April 12, 2009

Top 5 Greatest Life Moments

Hello there, Interweb. A lot has been happening these last two weeks that I haven’t really had the time to just slow down and plant my ass in the easy chair long enough to do much more than some facebooking and 20 minutes of a movie before I had to go to sleep. I’ve also been fighting a cold this last week, so I’ve basically just been tired most evenings. Before we get into the top 5, let me give a little recap on some of the exciting things happening in my world.

First off, welcome, Matthew Mitchell Neilson, my new nephew to the world. He was a damn big baby and I would have to say is pretty cool. Second, I finally saw my favorite band, Bayside. They were everything I’d hoped they’d be and they left me wanting more. I also got to hang out with a lot of great friends that night, met the bass player, and was standing right next to Senses Fail’s lead singer, Buddy Nielsen, as he was looking for his wallet. Third, I got to hang out with a bunch of my other coastie friends a few times this last week and we had a much needed catch up session. And finally, I’ve started working on story concepts for the new writing job I got for Planet Blue Comics. They’re still looking for a few more people with art and writing talent so if you’re interested look for their post on Craig’s List.

So now onto this week’s top 5. This year started out pretty shitty for me. I’ll be completely honest when I say that basically 15 minutes after the new year started I was having a bad day that stuck with me for a few months. I felt like Charlie Brown with the rain cloud just hovering above my head. Things were already bad and everything just seemed determined to get worse. Now with the help of a few friends, some therapy, this blog, an endless amount of Diet Pepsi, and a few career breaks, things finally feel like they’re looking up, or at least starting to. Because of these things I’ve started reflecting on times in my life where I felt happy. I mean really on top of the world kind of happy. I’m sure if we think about it we all have those moments that really stand out. For most they probably consist of getting married, having a kid, or buying their first house. Well none of those things have happened to me…yet, but there are a few things I’m really proud of in my life that all these bad days have made me forget. In the words of, Say Anything, “I’m proud of my life and the things that I have done. Proud of myself and the loner I’ve become.” Get ready for my most emo blog yet. I might be more candid than most people would like, but I want to be as honest as possible. This week’s top 5 is dedicated to the moments of my life that I really felt like I achieved something, my top 5 greatest life moments.

5. Becoming Quan

So a lot of you probably have no idea what this means. Since I was ten years old I’ve attended a summer camp called, Camp Kiwanilong. I had a pretty stressful child hood (who didn’t?) and this place did a lot for me as a kid. This is one of the first places that really made me feel important growing up. I got made fun of a lot in school and my home life was pretty crazy at the time, so having a place I could go to for one week out of the summer to just get away from everything did so much for my mental health, and probably did a lot to establish my sense of morality and belief in the American dream. So when I had the chance to become a camp counselor there I jumped at the chance and took on the name, Quan, from, Jerry Maguire, which means (according to Cuba Gooding Jr’s character) love, money, respect, and community.

I had to spend two summers training to be a counselor. I took this more seriously than anything else in my life. Not everyone was going to make it and I really didn’t want to be one of the ones who didn’t get invited back. I remembered how great my counselors were and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to be a role model (what happened, right?). So after two years of training I got invited back and spent the next 7 summers of my life devoted to giving kids the same experience I had, if not a better one. Time passed, I changed, the camp changed, people changed, but I will always love what that place meant to me. I still have every certificate, name tag, and picture.

After I graduated college I just couldn’t go back because I had to get a real job. The camp is also starting to seem more like, Camp Super Right Winged Kiwanilong, but I learned so much about myself from there that I could never really think badly of it, or not trust that it has the best intentions for the kids. I’ve even thought a lot about going back there after I become a teacher since I’ll have the summers off. Hell, I probably want to become a teacher because of that place. I’ve made so many friends from there, changed so many lives, and have had mine changed. I’ll always want to go back there.

4. Winning The English Department’s Award At Clatsop Community College

I have a big problem when it comes to school. I could never focus. Teachers thought that I had A.D.D growing up. In all honesty I probably do because I really have to be interested in something for me to actually focus on it. I didn’t really care about most subjects so I did pretty bad in school. Even the subjects I actually liked (like English) I did bad in because I never felt like I was really able to express myself in High School without getting negative criticism from teachers and peers. That’s probably why the only things I really excelled at were Drama and Music. I had an outlet to really create something. I always loved writing but I never had the ability to write about what I wanted to write about. Then came college.

I was one of those few people that went to college to actually learn something. I didn’t go to make friends (although I made some of my best ones there), I didn’t go to party, I didn’t go to get an even shittier job, and I didn’t go because it was the next thing to do after high school. I went because I really wanted to start learning what I actually wanted to learn. Aside from a few required classes I took nothing but English, Philosophy, Religion, Journalism, and Writing courses. I finally got to do what I wanted. So what did I do? I wrote an 18 page research paper on the mythological significance of comic book super heroes and an hour long presentation complete with handouts, documentary excerpts, and class participation. I won the English department’s award for my outstanding research. It took 19 years for me to win something based completely on my useless knowledge. I intend to make a career off of it.

On top of that award I also was getting for the first time real feed back on my creative writing. I actually received one of the best compliments ever. One instructor told me that she loved the way my dialogue flowed and that it reminded her of that Clerks guy. The Clerks guy is Kevin Smith, who is one of my idols. So to be 20 and compared to the person who warped my sense of humor is quite an honor. I also got exposed to journalism for the first time. Not what network news calls journalism (screw you, Fox News), but real journalism that is unbiased and actually does research to support its claims without spinning it into mental time bombs of fear and apathy. This eventually led me to focusing my education towards Speech Communication (basically sociology and journalism) and creative writing with a concentration in Pop Culture studies. I actually was asked if I wanted to teach an auditable class on comic books over the summer. If it weren’t for camp I probably would have done it.

3. The First Northwest Punks Show

My friends and I rock. My sophomore year at Clatsop was awesome. I often describe it as the best year of my life. Every song you ever heard about how great it is to be young basically happened that year. I made new friends, went on road trips, walked the streets at 3 in the morning, fell in love, ran from the cops (imagine me running), and basically lived my life like every day was a celebration. Every night was another story. During all this I had become friends with the band, Stop To Think, and through them I was introduced to the little music scene trying so hard to blossom in Clatsop County. I’ll always remember the first time I saw A Time Too Many, Countdown To Life, Alter Ego, and every other little band just trying to have fun in an industry that was all about making money. Over time all those bands started breaking up and the scene started dying pretty quick. The only shows that were happening were being put on by a douche bag that only liked death metal and was really just trying to make money. What were a bunch of punks to do?

I was off at camp for the summer and while I was gone a lot of drama happened between my crew and the moron that put on the shitty metal shows. It resulted in Jordan, Matt, Bucky, and Julie forming NW Punks. Of course once I got done with camp I was in with a few weeks to spare before the first show. We didn’t care about money. All we wanted to do was breath some life back into the scene and try to do some good while we were at it. We decided that after we recouped expenses, all the money from our shows was going to go to a different local charity, all while keeping ticket prices at $5 or lower. We were nervous for the first show especially when we saw the turn out. It was one of the biggest turnouts ever for a local show. I’m pretty sure we had over 300 people there which is saying a lot for a county that has about 15,000 people spread out over 30 miles, and for a group of 5 people to control. After we paid our rent for the space, the bands (at the time most bands weren’t even getting paid), and other expenses through advertising, we made over $700 for charity.

This started a fire. We started putting on a show at least once a month for almost 2 years. We adopted a highway, sponsored a child, sent kids to the summer camp I worked at, collected a whole bunch of toys and food, raised thousands of dollars for charity, and I became a member of the Grange Society to represent NW Punks. We established a reputation where we had people coming to us asking if we could put on shows for them. Bands came to us when they were looking to tour. The shows were practically planning themselves. For almost all of it I was living in Portland planning the shows through Mypsace, but eventually everyone followed. We tried to establish ourselves in Portland only to find that this place practically has a monopoly and they charge insane amounts of money just to rent a space for a night. So we’ve been inactive for the last 3 years. I’ve recently discovered a cool group that puts on shows for uber cheap out of houses, so you never know, NW Punks might be making a come back soon.

2. Graduating College

I think a lot of people in my life will deny it, but many people didn’t expect me to go to college, let alone graduate, let alone graduate as a member of an honor society. Like I said earlier, I sucked in high school. If I thought college was going to be anything like it I probably wouldn’t have gone. I went in there with the dream of being in comics, and I knew it would never happen without at least an education behind me. When I was younger I barely had any support in pursuing that dream. Hell, almost my entire family said it was a bad idea, most still do. I learned a long time ago that this world wasn’t designed with me in mind, so luckily I didn’t take any of that shit to seriously because if I can’t do what I want in life, I’ll gladly end it. I feel like graduating college was the first time I proved to a lot of people that I should be taken seriously.

My senior year of high school ended with my dad and I having a pretty big falling out, which resulted in us not really talking to or seeing each other for about 3 years. Even before that we barely got along after my parents got divorced when I was 10. I honestly think that the day I graduated was the first time I really remember my dad being proud of me. I think he was even more proud than I was. This also marked the first time my parents were in the same room without fighting since I was in grade school. It took until I was almost 23, but I finally had a semi normal family experience that I can actually remember. Aside from Darian’s wedding I don’t think I’ve had one since.

Life since college has been pretty disappointing. I wrote a whole blog about it if you haven’t read it yet. The sad thing is that most of my top moments are from when I was in college, so my graduation in many ways was me closing the book of awesomeness. I’m not saying the book can’t be reopened, and I actually think right now that it is, but I would give anything to put myself back into those shoes for a day. My day consisted of waking up, learning something, read some comics, learn something, write a paper, read comics, learn something, play video games, hang out with friends, get laid, go to bed, press repeat. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s paradise for me. Well next summer it’ll be back to school for me, so maybe I’ll get lucky.

1. Getting The Dark Horse Internship

Seriously, I nearly shit my pants when I got the interview so just imagine how I felt when I actually got the internship. Let me give you a few details about what first led me there. The summer before my senior year of college I had applied for the internship the way their website told me to with no response. I did it again in the winter with no response. In my film writing class I met someone who told me that one of the editors taught a few elective courses at Portland Community College. So like the little research journalist I was learning to be, I got on the old interweb and tracked her down through the school directory and started emailing the shit out of her until I got a response. I had one last quarter left of school, so I had nothing to lose. She finally got back to me with the email address of the editorial coordinator and the head of human resources. So I emailed the shit out of them, again with no response. During spring break I was on the coast working at Sam’s Café when my phone started ringing from an unknown number. On my break I checked my messages. The editorial coordinator wanted me to come in for an interview. I could be bear butt naked on a stage with millions in the audience and not be as nervous as I was at that moment. I drove up the next day for the interview. I got there an hour early and just walked around trying to relax. I went into the building and met Davey who interviewed me. I apparently nailed the interview because he took me on a tour of the place and introduced me to people as the new intern and after giving me my password he told me I started Monday.

When I got in the in the car the first thing I did was call my girlfriend at the time, then just about every number programmed in my phone. I then cranked up Matchbook Romance and screamed my lungs out all the way back to the coast. I went straight to the restaurant to tell my brother and coworkers. Just about everyone was ready to buy me a beer and give me a hug. Not only was it the greatest day of my life, but everyone was so proud of me. Just thinking about it right now is making me cry. I was taking the first step towards my life goal and everyone close to me not only was happy for me, but they really understood what it meant to me. People that I didn’t even know gave a shit were coming up to me to congratulate me and pat me on the back. For the first time my life wasn’t just a daydream. Everything I ever wanted was actually tangible. I could have died right then and have been happy because after a lifetime of so many people telling me I had a childish dream, life told me they were wrong. Most people don’t even get the chance to even formulate their life goals, I was living mine.

Every day was amazing there. I learned so much about the comic industry, met some really amazing people, got a huge discount at my comic store, got a lot of free stuff, set up some contacts, actually worked on real projects that were printed, and I worked my ass off and ended my internship with a perfect, 100% review going back to my internship mentor at PSU. I’m told to check back every couple of months too for possible openings because everyone there wants me back. Every time I go there to visit I still get a bunch of free stuff so I doubt that they’re lying to me. Now that I’m on with this new start up company, that dream is creeping its way back into my life. After the last 3 years of spinning my wheels I finally feel like I’m working towards my goals again. I’ve tried living life working other jobs and all I’ve got from it was depression and 50 more pounds.

If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that I need to follow my heart. It’s the only thing that’s got me anywhere in life. If you look at my top 5 it mostly consists of things that people tried to steer me away from or that people told me was childish and I couldn’t do. It was my fuck the world attitude that led me to happiness. When I conformed I found nothing of value, only pain. I’m not very religious, but I do believe we’re all here for a reason. I also think most people never fulfill their reason. We all have set backs and obstacles that deter us from completing what we should do. In life we either accept things or deflect things. From now on I’m making a commitment to deflect the things that stand in my way. Accepting those things we hate means we’ve lost control of our lives. This is my top 5 now but I plan on having a top 20 in the future of every great accomplishment.

So thanks for reading. I would love to hear everyone’s top 5. I sure hope everyone has one. If not, you should. Join me next week for my top 5 favorite writers. Kick some ass, people.



  1. Your best top 5 so far i think.

    I am happy i was part of one of your list. And was around for a couple others. I really think you will write a great Comic for the new company. Hopefully it is everything you want it to be and lead to others!

  2. Awesome blog Mikey, I really enjoyed this one. Especially the part where I was mentioned :p Just kidding. Sort of. Anyways, I totally understand what you mean about those old days. So many times I look back and wish we could have just lived in those days forever. School/work during the days, and then hanging out, making shows, "weightlifting" at night. I finally figured out thats what they talk about when they say "the best days of your life". Don't get me wrong, I like my life now, but we had some sort of awesomeness then. Something I've yet to recreate anywhere else, with anyone else.

  3. oh and PS I seriously laughed so hard about the running from the cops thing. Good times.

  4. Oh yeah (last one I promise) if you do get NW punks up and going again, I want back in! I need extra curriculars to occupy my time!