What makes you happy?
It’s a simple question that is deceptively hard to answer, because happiness is a spectrum. There are different dimensions of happiness.
On one side of the spectrum, a picture of a cute animal might bring a smile to your face. It makes you happy in the moment, but seeing a cute animal picture every moment of every day won’t make you feel constantly happy. Eventually that little rush of joy and cheer yields diminishing returns
Fulfillment lives on the other side of the happiness spectrum. The complex set of physical and emotional requirements that comprise your long-term happiness make your life satisfying, but they don’t make you happy in every passing moment. Fulfillment is like a big, beautiful house (and may, in fact, include living in a big, beautiful house): it’s a space that’s only as happy as the things you do within it.
Long term happiness as a house you build and live inside is a metaphor that speaks to me because it’s more than a little bit literal. Usually, life bends in the direction of trying to attain some level of physical, material comfort. That doesn’t have to mean living in a mansion, but no one aspires to be elderly and hate their doorknob or the color of the wall behind their couch.
Happiness isn’t just how your house is built. As they say in business, it’s location, location, location. Even if you have an uncontainable wanderlust, there are probably aspects of your local life that fall somewhere on that spectrum of happiness. The view out of your window. Being close to your friends and loved ones. Eating at your favorite restaurant. Visiting a museum or historic site. Seeing your city’s skyline as you drive towards it.
Could you tell me what makes you happy if I took all of that away? If the house that your happiness built was transplanted to a faraway location that was alien to you?
That has been the question that I’ve been trying to answer with every day of the past year of my life here in Wellington, New Zealand. I’m living in what is essentially my personal version of paradise with my immediate family and all of my personal belongings, but it’s without all of the constants that existed outside of the walls of our home in Philadelphia.
For every local, tangible thing that used to make me happy, I’ve had to find some new therapeutic alternative – from where I like to walk to the food I like to eat. It hasn’t been the easiest process. You can replace walks and foods, but not places and people.
Sometimes I find something that’s far on one side of the happiness spectrum and try to force it to work on the other side.
We’re renting a house that I love with one of the best views on this blue planet, but sitting inside of it doesn’t make me happy in every moment.
Conversely, I finally found a brand of ice cream that I like, and while eating 4 litres of ice cream in a 36 hour period is very filling, it isn’t very good at creating long-term happiness when you do it again and again.
(Mostly, it just helps you gain 10 pounds in a very short period of time.)
This has been the weirdest, hardest, most-exciting year of my entire life. In my efforts to redefine my happiness in ways that don’t necessarily include eating ice cream every minute of every day, I have had one amazing, enduring constant to turn to: this. Crushing Krisis, the central trunk to a myriad of roots and branches of my telepresence on the internet, representing my connections to things and people I love all around the globe. It makes my “local” global.
I don’t think I could have survived this past year without it, which is why I am so happy to be here today celebrating such a massive milestone – the eighteenth anniversary of my first post to Crushing Krisis.
I am a parent of two offspring: a five year old who is starting primary school tomorrow and a blog that is now old enough to be considered an adult in the vast majority of the world.
Crushing Krisis is old enough to buy alcohol here in New Zealand and to vote back in America – one thing I am totally disinterested in and another I’d be totally into if it wasn’t voter fraud.
When you give birth to a child you usually do so with every intention of keeping them alive for eighteen years. You might love some parts of getting them to eighteen more than others (personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Age 4), but you’re in it for the long haul with the hope that they become functional adults at the end of the journey.
You don’t tend to have the same intentions for starting a blog. I didn’t. Most bloggers don’t make it through the rough spots if they last any longer than teething does with an infant, let alone the Terrible Twos or whatever other awful long phase most people’s kids go through. Playing “Let It Go” on repeat. Being teenagers.
In many ways, blogs are easier than kids. They survive neglect without any ill effects! They don’t throw a fit if they don’t like the color you’ve dressed them in! The tradeoff is that they take a lot more effort. As kids get older their lives become increasingly independent. They can exist without you. Blogs can’t.
EV6 is getting old enough now that she is starting to fall out of like with some things in her life. It’s a strange phenomenon, because you tend to define your kid by their interests (or, at least, I do) and suddenly that definition isn’t so simple.
All at once, your child isn’t this adorable little button who loves hugs and the color blue. They are their own dynamic person with constantly shifting preferences and opinions.
CK is the same way, although I needed all of these years of perspective to understand that. Like a person in the world, it cannot be entirely defined by what it was interested in the most in the past or at the present moment.
Some of its interests have persisted since it’s first day, like my writing about music. Some aspects arrived later, like my comic guides. Others have disappeared, like bitching about my college classes. Crushing Krisis has grown through its adolescence and its terrible teen years. It has been confused about what and who it wants to be.
Many people would tell you that a child is unlike a blog because the child thinks for themselves. A blog is the opposite of that. It’s like a Schrodinger’s Child. You don’t know what it’s thinking until the next time you decide open up the little white box and start typing in it.
Then, all of a sudden, it’s something new all over again. Just like a child.
The best way I can think to describe the past year of my life is this: imagine you won the lottery and the prize was a one-way trip halfway around the world and zero dollars.
I still marvel at the fact that we were invited to immigrate to New Zealand. In that very literal sense, it was winning a lottery (a lottery that happened to involve E being an amazing and highly-employable genius). I was never remotely interesting in living abroad, let alone around the world in a different hemisphere. The entire process happened abruptly within three very tumultuous months of our lives last year.
People love to speculate about what they’d do if they won the prize-money sort of lottery. Financial independence. Splurging! Living your best possible life!
Where would you begin? What would you do? Would you still cook yourself dinner or wash your car on a sunny day?
I’ve asked myself this question many times before our big move. Given infinite time and resources, would I still blog? Would I be interested in the same things I am today, or would I evolve to doing something entirely new?
What if you had the chance to create your best possible life in the best possible place, just without the part where you won a life-altering amount of money?
I’ve been answering that question daily for the past 365 days. Crushing Krisis has been surprisingly central to that process, even when I haven’t been writing on it. I keep challenging myself to try new things and chase new opportunities, and CK has either defined them, recorded them, or acted as the negative space that surrounded them.
I’ve lived so many lives in the past year, many of them new to me. There were the familiar ones, like blogger, full-time father, comic book expert, music critic, drag fan, and business consultant.
Others were new – or, at least, unfamiliar. Talk show host. Hiker. Video editor. Ocean swimmer. Importer of goods. School parent. Job applicant. International home-seller. Gym rat. Gourmet home chef. Board game playtester.
CK was a place to record some of that, but also a way to define myself to people I met along the way. EV6’s daycare manager read CK. I referred to the inner workings of CK for a consulting gig about digital transformation for a business. I sent links to particular stories to new acquaintances, and introduced others to my comics content. My daily YouTube talkshow referred to CK’s comic guides as much as its posts about blue hair and encountering ghosts. Some of my activities started out as fodder for blog posts and then turned into their own independent adventures.
With that comes my regular, unceasing lament of the past 18 years: it would be nice if I had written about it all. Seeing it listed here reminds me of how epic this year has been and how much of it has passed unremarked.
I start almost every day thinking about what I ought to blog, but I’ve come a long way from regretting when I don’t wind up blogging a thing. Now I draw power from it. Life is a Venn Diagram of things and some number of them overlap to make me happy.
That intersection doesn’t have to perfectly overlap with things I blog about. Some happiness can pass by unremarked.
This was the year of CK’s unintentional pivot to video.
That makes talking about this year of CK extra strange. It was among my most-successful years, no matter how I measure success – most fun, most regularly-updated, most-seen, most-commented. Yet, it included some of the least written content of all 18 years of the blog.
The pivot wasn’t intentional. Or, at least, the videos were intentional, but I didn’t intend for them to become CK’s primary content or for them to supplant my writing quite as much as they did. They were one of those lottery-winning best-life things – something I was always curious about doing but never had the time to wrestle into existence.
All I knew at the start was that I had the compelling visual of hundreds of comic books wrapped up in butcher paper and bubble wrap and it seemed a pity to go through the effort of unwrapping them all without some sort of documentation.
I had no idea that the process of documenting my unwrapping would wind up as an 80+ episode web series that drew hundreds of subscribers and dozens of commenters. Clearly I knew how many books I had to unwrap, but I had no concept of the scope of what I was getting myself into – or that it would spin off several other video series along the way. I would have never guessed that I would spend five months staying up most nights until 2am or later editing and uploading video.
Much of the musing and introspection that used to fuel short, pithy blog posts moved out of the realm of the written word and into the introductions of the videos. On one hand, that meant there were five straight months of daily content of me talking about my thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams. On the other hand, very little of that content made it out of the videos and into writing.It doesn’t count towards CK’s legendarily huge and always expanding word count. I cannot search it, excerpt it, or bind it in a book.
As I get underway on a new season of video production, I’m still not certain how I feel about that. CK was launched as a way to capture my thoughts, and video is a great way to do that. Yet, I’ve always considered myself a writer above most other things in life and, even when they are carefully scripted, videos aren’t writing.
CK is not the CK I know without me being a writer at least some of the time. But, just like a child, CK isn’t all about me and what I want it to be. Sometimes it is its own aggregate thing.
Maybe video is a part of what it has grown up to be.
I have now officially been a blogger for half of my life.
At some point in that half-a-life, working on Crushing Krisis stopped being a goal I measured in single years and started to become a devotion that progressed in fractions of life slowly increasing towards this day.
I’ve pictured this moment – writing this post – for a long time. Now I’m here and I’m not entirely sure what to say or what comes next. This was the biggest milestone I ever pictured hitting. From here on out it’s just decade markers and endless year-long slices of infinity while I watch an ever-dwindling number of longer-running blogs give way to attrition.
As single year slices of my life go, this has been an insular one. It’s probably the least I’ve ever spoken in a year of my life, and while that silence has been healthy it ha also an indication that I’ve been separated from so many of the people I usually thank in these posts.
I am still thankful for them all. Some of them might not even realize how much of an effect they’ve had on keeping me alive and upright from thousands of miles around the globe.
Thank you to all of my Philadelphia friends out there posting on social networks – whether it’s every day or just once in a blue moon. You keeping me connected to the city I love. To Jess, for hunting me down. To Erich, my fellow fan. To Jill, for being a wonderful mix of love and snark who never tires of me responding to her posts. To Bill, for saving our asses. To Mikey & Allie, the spirit of Philly (or, at least, South Jersey). To Maya and Ben, for keeping me connected to my professional world.
Thank you to my comic book friends, for helping me stay centered and sane this year. To FanGirl, my amazing cohost and an amazing woman in STEM. To OmniDog, for inviting me to be in the video club to begin with. To Sherlock, my down under feminist ally. To Ian, who gets it. To Zack and Thomas and the rest of my X-Twitter crew, who opened their hearts to my weirdness and put up with me replying to their whole day of thoughts all at once when I wake up in the morning (which is their evening).
Thank you to all of our Wellington friends, especially my frequent partner in crime M – even if our misadventures didn’t make it onto CK. To L, for keeping an eye on us. To D&A for being the first friends-with-kids we actually hang out with regularly. To everyone at EV6’s school who taught me as much about being a Kiwi as they taught her.
Thank you to Lindsay, for keeping tabs on me and my happiness. To Gina, for remembering what our friendship was about before the bands. To Jake and Lauren and all of the adventures I so wish I could join. To Ashley, because we are still a band even with a whole world between us. To Alison, for never laughing at me for being thankful for lifting one additional kilogram.
Thank you to my Patrons. You have been critical in keeping Crushing Krisis alive and in letting me try new things while every penny is tied up elsewhere because I did not win the actual lottery. There would be no Year 18 without you, no comic guides, no videos. No anything.
Thank you to E, for making this new life possible and fighting for it every day.
Thank you to EV6, who endures more of my crazy than anyone else in this world, who is a new kid every day, and who reads me comic books when I’m not feeling well.
Thank you, and happy birthday to this.