The Courage of Stars: Finding Personal Truth in an Unsupportive World


This post contains two mild trigger warnings:
First, I briefly talk about my own panic attacks, particularly in regards to self-doubt. Proceed with caution if you’re prone to anxiety. Second, I delve into my own spiritual beliefs as part of my own identity, but I have no desire to push those on other people.

This post is best read along with the song “Saturn” by Sleeping at Last. However, if you haven’t heard it, I recommend experiencing it for the first time with the music video. You can always hit restart while you’re reading through this post. Trust me, you’ll want to.


You taught me the courage of stars /
before you left 


Whettam the Contemplative, Hoarder of Sandwiches and Desk Mailboxes

That was my response to the question Ikkin the Grumpy, Hoarder of Granola Bars and Tumblers — also known as my wife Nikki — asked me over messages two weeks ago. What is you dragon name? Then I was presented with a mad-lib format:

[Your name spelled backwards] the [current mood], hoarder of [last thing you ate] and [object on your left].

My mood, contemplative, was appropriate.
I’m always contemplative.
I believe it takes courage to be contemplative.

Lately I’ve been thinking about courage, and the varying forms it can take in a world that is growing increasingly more connected. We’ve carried with us from humanity’s past an impression of courage that it must involve a great journey of traveling across the world — and indeed our literature backs that up. However, a century of advancing technology has made traditional frontiersmanship a thing of the past, meaning exploration has become more of a series of personal goals, rather than a quest for profitable discovery.

However, there is still one place where courage is helpful and even required: it’s the quest to appreciate everyday life. To stare life right in the face and say, “I’m content with my life and who I am, no matter what.” Finding personal truth in an unsupportive world is one of the hardest journeys a person can possibly go on.


How light carries on endlessly /
even after death


They say all writers have something wrong with them, and I am no exception. They also say that children have no concept of death and, in this particular case, I am very much the exception.

You see, from the time I was eight years old, I was prone to intense panic attacks — though it’s taken me almost two decades to identify them as such. Every time I envisioned panic attacks, I saw them as a near heart-attack state of uncontrollable anxiety — legitimate medical crises where your heart-rate escalates and your extremities go numb. But further exploration of the topic shows that it doesn’t always have to be this way.

For me, they instead took the form of intense existential dread manifested as spiritual unrest. It always started with the smallest trigger, some realization of the vastness of creation and that somehow I was alive. Things tended to spiral down from there with increasing velocity, like that of a stalled aircraft.

I’m alive.
I’m alive?
Why am I alive?
Why do I exist?
What does it mean to exist?
Why did God create me?
Why did God create anything?
I don’t want to cease to exist.
I don’t want to die.
Please God don’t let me die.
Please. God.

When I experienced these spirals, I almost felt as if my existence was being snatched away from me.

Interestingly, I thought this was a normal part of the human experience. Religious scholars, after all, have an explanation for this: doubt. For the longest time I attached myself to this concept, as if there is something wrong with me spiritually. But this is not doubt, at least not directly; my faith is strong. I have seen miracles. This is the malevolent fury of an unaddressed problem. Now that I’ve realized this, I can slowly become the person I’m meant to be — the next leg of the journey for personal truth.


With shortness of breath /
you explain the infinite


It takes courage to be the type of person who truly thinks about things — who truly dares to venture beyond the superficial distractions. The red herrings are plenty, filled in with political opinions and debates about highly specific moral situations. It’s just human nature that most people love to argue about frivolous things. Social media presents this interference front-and-center, the extent of which turns truth into a fragile balance of tensions where nobody is right. And if you do manage to overcome the recursive mindset of marketing addiction, things become even more challenging.

It’s funny how people will unconsciously try to rob others of their pursuit of happiness. I guess discouragement is an effective way to elicit sympathy.

“You’re overthinking things,” the masses will cry, blissfully unaware that a greater understanding of the universe is the entire point of life. Even if we do overthink things, which is just the opinion of an onlooker, mistakes are bound to be made. In their pursuit of virtues beyond tangible fact, one cannot be expected to have all of the answers without first going on a journey. The travel-time is long, and there are many stops along the way — places like annoyance, overassertiveness, cynicism, and healing.


How rare and beautiful it is /
to even exist

– Sleeping at Last, Saturn


Some may say the age of 26 is young, and indeed it probably is, but it’s not too young to learn from experience. Understand that I’ve gone through a significant amount mentally over the quarter-decade I’ve been alive. I’ve been on my personal hero’s journey, willingly or not, and it’s caused me to emerge from the other side a better person — a person who appreciates everyday life. And a person who anticipates the future with eagerness, rather than nervous dread.

For the first time in my life, when it comes to the end, I feel like a kid jumping off the diving board for the first time. I’m nervous about what happens next, but my Father is there, so I know things are going to be okay.

We, as humans, have a particularly bad habit of thinking that mental states, particularity those involving depression or anxiety, are going to be permanent from formation to death. For instance, when we feel like there’s “nothing new under the sun,” we grow increasingly concerned that the rest of our days will be played out in boredom. The reality of the situation — the deeper truth, if you will — is that we have found a resting place where we are temporarily comfortable with our own advancement. That comfort is totally fine, but if we’re not pushing ourselves to be continually better across our timeline, letting our experiences continually push us towards finding our virtues, then we’re not becoming the best manifestation of ourselves.

That’s a shame, I feel, because life really is a wondrous sight to behold. Remember that in both the amazing and difficult times.


You absolutely should not leave without informing us in the comments of your dragon name. I’m very curious to see what you guys are hoarding in your lair.

Beyond that, though, I’d love to hear about some of the things you’ve discovered about yourself. Even if that’s just recounting your life story, at least you’re thinking about who you’ve been and where you’re going. Let’s have a conversation in the comments!



UPDATES! Hyrule Collab RELEASE DATE + Upcoming Well-Red Contribution + More

Upcoming Top 7 List for Well-Red Mage

Oh Well-Red Mage, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. June 20 will see me contribute to The Well-Red Mage’s June Collaboration Project, where I will be giving my take on the Top 7 Best Nintendo DS Games. Well-Red, you do realize that’s a Wednesday, right? That’s like top-billing for bloggers, as statistically Wednesday mornings are the best day and time to post a blog according to *science.*

For real though, go subscribe, not only because I’m excited for you to read my very long list post, but also because the mages are redefining game media as we know it. No, for real, it says that in their bio. One day I shall become a mage, just as soon as they invent I organize more hours in the day for writing long-winded philosophical video game musings.

Hyrule Collaboration RELEASE DATE

Continue reading “UPDATES! Hyrule Collab RELEASE DATE + Upcoming Well-Red Contribution + More”

Love Is Not Dead: Opposing Interests in Relationships

Mild trigger warning: this post briefly delves into the topic of emotional relationship abuse. If that is a touchy subject for you, you might prefer this quirky post on The McAl(l)ister’s Effect


I left myself behind /
Never knowing what I wanted, /
Knowing what I needed you to do. /
Reflections you used to see /
Never looked alike to me.

– CHVRCHES, “Get Out,” Love is Dead


lidI’ve been listening to a lot of the band CHVRCHES lately due to the release of their latest album, which is just absolutely brilliant. Love is Dead — easily the best album of their career — immediately gives long-standing electropop favorites like Kye Kye and Purity Ring and run for their money. It’s one of those great albums that is incredibly hard to finish because I always want to hit the back button and repeat the tracks over and over again. Especially the tracks “Deliverance,” “My Enemy,” and “Wonderland,” but this isn’t an album review.

I told my wife Nikki about this amazing audio experience — about the 80’s inspired sound and the beautiful thematic consistency, the insightful lyrics and relatable topics, and about how the band is changing the face of pop music as we know it. And then she destroyed my enthusiasm with just one short sentence: “Her voice gets on my nerves.”  Continue reading “Love Is Not Dead: Opposing Interests in Relationships”

Breaking Out of the Box (of Politeness)

– By Megan, A Geeky Gal –

Every once in a while, I say something kind of funny or something pretty deep. It’s not often, but it happens. During a conversation the other day when I turned to one of my favorite CMP’s (Communications Major People) for some advice concerning a co-worker’s wife, I said this gem:

I’m trapped in a box of politeness and am afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Wow. If the way I approached people was summed up in a single sentence, this would be it. I have a strong desire to be “liked.” It kills my vibe when someone is upset with me, and I constantly think about what I could have done to make them not mad. This goes for dealing with people in public too, like Pesky Salesperson at Mid-Range Store. Continue reading “Breaking Out of the Box (of Politeness)”

Writing the Unreliable Perception of Time | 0.4

<< The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero 0.3Patch Log | Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.1 >>
Related: About Dysontopia

“Hey Matt, tell me about your day,” Nikki says literally everyday when I come home from work. I love the question, but I also dread the question. Why? I’m always falling short of making the detailed time-delineated list I aim for. Because, if I may be terribly honest, the life of a graphic designer is not that interesting. I mean it’s fulfilling, but there is just not much in the day worth recounting like some kind of epic tale.

Imagine a TV show about graphic designers. No doubt the special effects and production value would be out of this world, but each episode would be the same thing each time with just minimal tweaks. Hmm, now that I think about it, that could actually be really good. Think Groundhog Day meets Edge of Tomorrow meets The Office. Producers of the world, I demand to be a writer on this show! Continue reading “Writing the Unreliable Perception of Time | 0.4”

The McAl(l)ister’s Effect: Basic Memory and the Simple Things

There is a glitch in the simulation.

Nikki and I have a “fast casual” restaurant that is easily our favorite. This type of eatery isn’t popular in some areas of the world, but they are basically a step above fast food, rather than a casual dining or “sit-down” restaurant. Instead you order your food from the counter, sit at a table, and they bring your food when it’s ready. A club and sweet tea for me, a four-cheese griller and veggie chili for Nikki.

That restaurant is called McAlister’s, a popular chain across the Eastern and Midwestern United States. The food is delicious and the service is pretty good. The name, however, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. You see, Nikki and I have eaten McAlister’s for practically a decade, but up until three months ago McAlister’s wasn’t spelled that way. It had an extra “L” and was spelled McAllister’s. Don’t you think I know how my favorite restaurant is spelled?

No, Google, I meant McAllister’s.

And yet recently, hungry and walking through the shops in a promenade of a suburb of St. Louis, we see a sign written in a consistent typeface with the rest of the signs in the mall. McAlister’s. Continue reading “The McAl(l)ister’s Effect: Basic Memory and the Simple Things”

May These Four Updates Be With You

On the Sights and Sounds of Hyrule

There is no doubt in my mind now that Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! is going to be amazing. About half the posts from my amazing contributors are written and in the editing process! Some have even chosen to write two or even three sections!

On my end, I’ve started some preliminary visual design and audio editing. Nikki has also finished her semester and plans to sit down with me and insure that no typo gets through. I want nothing less than for this to be a true audiovisual feature with all the bells and whistles. That means thorough editing, high-quality art/design, internal continuity, and compelling content. Continue reading “May These Four Updates Be With You”

The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero | 0.3

<< On Curse Words in Fiction 0.2Patch Log | Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.1 >>
Related: About Dysontopia

I want to talk a bit about Millie in Dysontopia because we will not be seeing her again for a little while. She’s an important character for sure, and I very much needed to introduce her early in order to add a stabilizing element to Sydney’s life. Yet, we also need to see Sydney’s chronic predicament of being alone begin development fairly quickly into the piece.

When I started writing Sydney, I had every intention of making her complete chaos, with intentions and motivations that are all over the map. Is she good? Is she bad? Even I don’t know, and I’m the one with relatively detailed plan for her character arc. That’s often what it’s like to struggle with mental illness – it creeps up inside you and tears you apart from the inside out. One thing’s for sure: she is a human being with all the instability pertaining within such a classification. Continue reading “The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero | 0.3”

On Curse Words in Fiction | 0.2

<< About the Project 0.1Patch Log | Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.1 >>

If there’s one thing that has inevitably made people nervous about my fiction, it’s the fact that it uses curse words. From the perspective of someone who knows me in real life, I absolutely see how this could come across as contradictory.

The fact that I’m a devoted Christ-follower isn’t exactly a secret, as I’ve referenced faith many times on this blog. Christians are not exactly known for being tolerant of profanity, even though to me personally it’s no indicator of someone else’s spirituality. It is, however, one of mine, and my friends have probably noticed I avoid cursing to the point of possible prudishness in real life. It’s safe to say I’m uncomfortable speaking profanity… I’m just not uncomfortable writing it in fiction, apparently.  Continue reading “On Curse Words in Fiction | 0.2”

Grandma’s a Secret Agent! People-Watching with an Overactive Imagination

I need to tell you something, but here’s the thing. This is super risky, because I may know something that doesn’t need to be known. I may end up in the witness protection program this very afternoon, forced to forever leave my family and friends because I know too much. For all you know, every blog post written after this one may be written by an impersonator who has intricately studied my writing style for the past eight years.

You see, I love my wife’s grandmother, but I think she may be a secret agent. I don’t make this accusation lightly, it comes after years of observation and study. By day she’s an ordinary administrative bookkeeper, but that’s just a cover for her real job as a detective extraordinaire. Continue reading “Grandma’s a Secret Agent! People-Watching with an Overactive Imagination”