Errol K. Catanes

Refinement + Evolution = Revolution!

Repurposing old content: A Re-think of the “New Start”

Earlier, I lamented about how I shouldn’t repurpose my old content and have it remain behind the curtain of academia. This feeling was based on my initial reaction to trying to create content solely for its own sake. At the time, I thought and said it was shit. But as I look back at it again to use as fodder . . . er research for my next piece, I realized that it might not be that bad. Not now, at least. In fact, what may have made me so judgmental was when I ran it through Grammarly and saw my text light up like an error-filled Christmas tree. I thought to myself, “That’s how much I need to rewrite?!!”

For those not familiar with Grammarly, it’s “spell-check” on steroids. As long as you don’t let it dominate your editing process (like I let it earlier), it’s a somewhat helpful tool. Zoe Bee did an excellent video about the pitfalls of the program, which you can see below.

Anyway, after relegating it to what I called “run-of-the-mill, undergrad fare,” I’m starting to change my mind. Although I still acknowledge that it lacks the polish that it would have gotten had it not been written in haste, I think it might have enough substance to stand on its own. At best, that “nugget of insight” I believe is still there, is there. At worst, it’s a lesson on how maybe I shouldn’t flaunt my old work as “good”. Nevertheless, it still merits some sort of repurposing.

Whatever the case, here is my new plan. I will once again repurpose my old content, use Grammarly (sparingly), and bank on the fact that it wasn’t as shitty as I thought it was. Worst case scenario, I can use them as examples of the futility of polishing turds.

Cool? Cool.


Once again, a new start: repurposing old content

           A long time ago, I thought repurposing old content was trite. I erroneously thought that doing so eroded its authenticity, but now I see it as misguided. To be honest, that image up there (and others in this entry) wasn’t really what inspired me to write this. It was a random post on Linkedin from the many writing companies I “follow” but don’t actively engage (sigh). Whatever the case, it does encapsulate how I felt when I decided to repurpose my old college writing. I needed to put something out there to substantiate my claim as an “emerging full stack storyteller.” Little did I know how insubstantial it really was. No amount of Grammarly.com or creative rearranging prevented me from turning my frown upside-down.

When a writer asks themselves, "What idiot wrote this?" and they answer, "Oh, I did," maybe it's time to repurpose old content
Thanks again, Lindsay Lovin’ Life

            While the content was, to put it mildly, shit, it had relevancy, at least compared to what interests me today. I still want to talk about ethical theories, sociological paradigms, and Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Generational, organizational, and media studies still interest me. What has changed is my purpose for writing such works, spurring my desire to rewrite them.

The Drake meme about not wanting to write your stories but instead fantasize with a lot of inconsistent ideas and never bringing your story to life, may mean you should repurpose old content
How many Lindsay Lovin’ Life images am I gonna get, anyway?

            I realize now that, when I wrote these “articles,” my primary focus wasn’t so much excavation of truth but instead ticking a box. These were homework assignments, after all. I just wanted to churn out something to be graded. And, as I reread them, that fact did sure show. It also didn’t help that I rushed much of my work (Yep, I’m one of those dreaded, 11th hour, last-minute writers). Looking back, I’m pretty sure my instructors fairly assessed my work as run-of-the-mill, undergrad fare (or were too overworked to care and just gave me the pass). Perhaps they should stay that way rather than something I should rewrite.

While the feeling of completing a first draft more glamorous than editing it, it is a necessary chore to repurpose old content
Aaaaall the Lindsay Lovin’ Life images apparently

           So, given this revelation, I cannot, in good conscience, repurpose old content when it has already served its purpose. Or maybe I don’t yet have the skill to polish these turds, meaning they need to stay where they are, in Academia Limbo. However, I can definitely work with the concepts I had in mind when I wrote these pieces. Therefore, that will be my current plan. I will take something that I wrote, oh, three to five years ago, and rip it the hell apart. But then I will take that nugget of insight in that pile of crap that I think is worthwhile and make a less stinky pile of crap around that.

According toe memeblender.com, a rough draft might as well be a final draft.
Hope Lindsay from Lindsay Lovin’ Life doesn’t mind this (although, to be fair, she did rip it from other places too)

Cool?  Cool.

A year after the military

I don’t miss the military life for one second. Ok, maybe I do sometimes. It’s been about a year since I “retired,” and I still have no regrets. I feel I always have to emphasize this point because, as I’ve said before, it isn’t a retirement but rather a transition from being in to NOT being in. The culture shock hit me hard when I realized that job security didn’t exist in the civilian world. To this day, I still struggle with finding employment. But, it has less to do with my job marketability than it does my desire to “change careers.”

I worked in intelligence for about half my enlistment and aircraft maintenance in the other. While I don’t mind going back to the former, I’m sure as hell in NOT wanting to do the latter. I don’t think I’ve reached that point of desperation . . . yet. I’m thankful for being a veteran, but they weren’t without conditions I couldn’t help being accountable to. It’s almost as if my situation was a series of double-edged swords.

The military can be a double-edged sword
image from wiki.c2.com

I was fortunate enough to leave the military with some semblance of dignity (and sanity). But then I needed another to better provide for my family. As a veteran, they told me I’d have everything I’d need to find another job in the real world. And, they were right. Multiple organizations have websites, workshops, online communities, and programs to aid vets like me.

In fact, The U.S. Veterans Affairs paid me to go to school. And that was great, as long as I met the requirements. If I failed or decided school wasn’t for me, I’d lose that pay, most of which I use for all my bills and expenses. And while I did have other resources to guide me back into employment, their focus was towards the same occupations and positions that drove me to “retire” early in the first place. There’s a reason why the enlisted military is rated as the most stressful job five years running, and for obvious reasons, I’m not privy to go walking that same path to burnout.

Perhaps I’m too presumptuous in my decisions. Maybe my outlook on this need not be as grim as I’m making it to be. Should I bite the bullet and go back to aircraft maintenance? Well, I still get shudders at the thought, so, nope! But, every time I look at my shrinking bank account, my mind starts to shift farther from “nope” to “eh, maybe.”

The next time I get paid to do something, I keep telling myself it’ll be for something I enjoy (hell, I’ll settle for mild contentment at this point). That’s looking like less and less the case, and it worries me. Sometimes, I wonder if I should’ve stayed in the military. Thankfully, I come back to my senses. I believe I’ve mentally and emotionally recovered enough to the point where I can take to task whatever challenges I’m presented with to the best of my ability. But, I’d like to do that with something I like, like what I’m doing right now . . . writing.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing what most “recruitment gurus” suggest NOT to do, and that is rapid-fire copies of my resume to any and every online job posting that Linkedin and Facebook think I’m a match for. I’m pretty sure it’s counterproductive, and there are better, more efficient ways of approaching the job market (as in the many job fairs I apply to but always chicken out of at the last minute). Still, perhaps when I get desperate enough (as in my bank account starts dipping to critical, poverty-inducing levels), then I might just go about it in that smarter and less stupid way.

And try not to make this face whenever I land an actual interview.

Am I over military retirement? (updated February 2022)

Am I over military retirement? I asked this question around April 2019, a year after. I said I thought I should be by now. As far as now, now, the answer is a resounding yes, and no.

What military retirement feels like: Grandma looking at the computer with a WTF face.

Just to be clear, I know that the proper term for active-duty military moving to the civilian workforce is ‘transitioning.’ Saying retirement implies that I no longer need to work. For a select group, that may be the case. The rest of us needed to continue working to take care of our families. I found out my wife was pregnant in July 2018, which meant the three months of sitting on my ass were over. Unfortunately, I had some trouble finding work then and now.

Was it because I was a veteran? Not according to the latest official numbers. Was it because of my age? Also, not according to current official stats. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. I suspected three things may have contributed to my transition woes at the year after mark.

  1. The well-intended but ill-conceived choice to change careers from manager to public relations/journalism/writing
  2. My foolish and detrimental aversion towards becoming a manager
  3. A misguided and ultimately self-defeating approach to seeking opportunities for employment

Much has changed three years later. But some attitudes have remained the same.

Military retirement woe #1: Writing Career

Military retirement = Slacking on writing - Drake meme
Image from Lindsay Lovin’ Life

Here’s what I wrote regarding the first item

Yup, I wanted to be a writer. It’s why I have this blog. But I wanted to make money from it. Oh, silly me.

Now, I’m not knocking it as a career. I’d love to have it as a career. And technically, it’s not off the table. But it is obscured from my view, tucked squarely behind my shelves of parental responsibilities, educational obligations, and reality checks.

Well, here I am at the three-year mark, and, wow, I’m back to being a writer, well-intended but ill-conceived choice be damned.

via GIPHY

The initial reason I resisted delving into writing stemmed from the starving artist trope. It was a concern I had some entries ago. Nevertheless, I’ve taken the plunge back to putting words on paper (or the internet) for money. It also has something to do with my aversion to having to tell people what to do.

Military retirement woe #2: Don’t talk to me. I’m not the manager.

Pictured above is why

Down below is what I wrote regarding being a manager.

As for the whole manager bit, well, it’s less of an aversion and more of a reluctance. I can do it. I just won’t if I don’t have to. Call it 10+ years as a glorified babysitter/secretary/punching bag. Like my’ retirement,’ I’m kinda over that, but I still get nightmares sometimes.

Do I feel this way still? Oh hell yes! Though I’m thankful for my service, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth when it came to any kind of leadership position. Although it did teach me how to lead, if given a choice, I’d pass. Then again, I’ve made questionable decisions that indicated otherwise.

Woe #3: Do you even wanna do this?

Let me tell you some decisions I regretted.

And how did I self-sabotage my job search? One, by turning to a modest but respectable student assistant job here in the local area because I wanted to be a writer instead (see above). And two, getting all dressed up and ready to go to some job fairs only to give in to fear, tuck tail, and run.

Although there was one that I did make that (might have) paid off.

I need to pay more attention to the total Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) services the VA offers me because, if I had, I would have taken advantage of the VA Work-Study Program waaaaaay earlier. Under this program, I can do a Non-paid Work Experience initiative where participants (mostly other VA offices, but other government agencies) take eligible veterans in and provide them with training and practical job experience. I thought the ‘non-paid’ part meant free labor, which was for the employer. But you do get compensation from Voc Rehab, which is technically minimum wage, but it’s better than nothing. But, in my opinion, the best part isn’t the on-the-job training (although that is a huge part), but the network and connections that you develop within that office.

This path led me to intern for the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, State and Private Forestry Office. Indeed, I got paid a stipend through the VA for my “free labor” and built up a good amount of connections within the public sector. Plus, it might have paid off if it wasn’t for…

(Surprise) Woe #4: COVID

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini during the UEFA Super Cup final soccer match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Philip II Arena in Skopje, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

The plan was to use my internship to build connections within the Forest Service and eventually land a job internally. I had my sights set on Public Affairs because, again, it went well with my dreams as a writer. In the beginning, I did pretty well.

My time working for the U.S. Forest Service, Region 5, Public Affairs Office with the legendary Stephen Dunsky
My time working for U.S. Forest Service Tahoe National Forest Public Affairs Office with the eponymous Joe Flannery

Three months later, a raging pandemic destroyed whatever progress I made.

Conclusion/Final thoughts

It’d be easy for me to blame extenuating circumstances beyond my control. But I could also point to my difficulties in making informed choices. Ultimately, I ended up where I am, three years later, wondering if leaving the military in 2018 was worth it.

The answer is yes, primarily because of past events and for the sake of my physical and mental health. However, I wish I had been more informed and prepared. Maybe if I were, I would be seeing my departure from the service as a worthwhile but necessary event rather than a questionably regretful one.

Nevertheless, I am where I am. As long as I keep my family as my main reason to trudge on, I believe I’ll thrive.

Writer Woes: It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Writer woes is me for not calling myself a writer for a while. What took me so long? My excuse is life. It seems like my cuckoo aspirations of putting words on paper for money have flown away like a cuckoo bird. After much reflection, I’ve come to some conclusions.

  • I’m never gonna be a writer.  Rather, I won’t be that idealized version in my head for the past, oh, 25 years.  These ebbs and flows of inspiration and drudgery are becoming tiresome. Now that I’m married and have a child, I no longer have the energy.  To (mis) quote the great law enforcer and statesman Roger Murtaugh,
The patron saint of the weary writer, Roger Murtaugh
“I’m gonna die on a toilet, aren’t I?” (image from lethalweapon.fandom.com/wiki)
  • Because I’m too old for this shit, I no longer have the drive, hunger or guts that guys half my age have to pursue their dream as a journalist/author/etc./etc.
  • That being said, I believe I can still write.  I just can’t make a living out of it.

I may have grown up and grown out of the entrepreneurial artist phase that a fair amount of my friends have found success in that, perhaps, that is not my path to take. Although, I can never really ever rule it out. That’s why I’m here, right now, typing this journal entry that maybe only two or three of my friends will read, but I’m ok with that.

What to do about my writer woes?

So, it’s a hobby of mine, a passion of sorts. I’m hoping that telling myself this will take the pressure off trying to “make it.”  Perhaps if I write enough, run into the right people, make connections, continually push this site, write some more, get some readers and feedback, use that feedback to write some more, get some clout to finally have some motivation to create valuable (monetized) content and perpetuate that cycle over and over until I’m a halfway marketable writer.

Or, I just continue writing like nobody’s reading. In the meantime, I gotta find ways to feed and clothe my family.

Writer Woes (WTF am I doing?!! Srsly!!)

Hey! Remember when I was all gung-ho about being a writer?!! Yeah, not going as well as I’ve planned so far.

via GIPHY

I’d like to think this is all part of the process, the self-doubt, the laziness, the lack of inspiration. And maybe it is. But right now, it feels as if I’m making a big mistake and should turn my attention toward other means of sustaining myself and my family; ones that are more stable, less unpredictable, and otherwise practical and realistic.

via GIPHY

I can already feel the artist’s side in me cringing, squirming, fuming, and raging. “Really?!! And go back to the 9-5 BUUUUUULLSHIT you narrowly escaped with some of your health and a little bit of your sanity intact?!!” is what I can hear echoing in my head as Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” plays on Spotify.

via GIPHY

In other words, maybe I’m not as much into this writing thing as I thought. Perhaps this wasn’t the next career I was thinking of embarking on. Maybe I should go back to my lane and become . . . well what?

via GIPHY

What was I before being a writer?

I tried the aircraft mechanic gig and hated it. I mean, I could change my attitude about it, and it’s the most accessible job I have right now. In fact, I’ll be in a pretty lucrative position as a supervisor, never having to touch a wrench, sitting in an office, handing out jobs to other mechanics, and making sure they’re doing what they’re doing. Attend daily meetings and let the higher-ups know that nothing, NOOOOOTHING has changed since yesterday (until it has, of course, which is when those face-to-face meetings would actually make sense). Deal with office politics (that ALLLL offices deal with) except really, I don’t have to handle it, because you know, Human Resources. It sounds pretty cake.

A writer loves cake, especially if its retirement cake
Man, I miss this cake.

And I get where he’s coming from. I’d like to think that, because most of my friends are creatives, I too was meant to be a “creative,” thus the whole on-again-off-again relationship I have with being a writer. What I wrote up there feels like the antithesis of being creative. “Meetings? Supervision? Human Resources? Pfft, not me,” says the artist. While my rational side (how many fucking sides do I have?) is starting to wonder how much truth there really is to those outbursts, I’ll have to focus on what I need now. Right now, I need to get back into the workforce so I can supplement the rapidly shrinking pension I’m getting now. I need to stop worrying about whether I have enough money to take care of my wife, prepare for my child, and build us a good home.

What now?

NOW, if I can do that AND land myself a writing job, that’d be alright

(Normally, this is where I’d insert some self-deprecating gif to subvert my expectations, but I’m not gonna do that. One, I think I’ve put too many of those in this post anyway, and two, I’m gonna stay optimistic on this one. It probably helps that Method Man’s “Bring the Pain” is motivating me a little)

Writer Woe: Rebranding Hurts

Writer Woe #354-So much for the short and un-fruitful life of “Sugar Freelancer.”

via GIPHY

Well, he’s not entirely gone, but until I can get my shit together, he’ll be on indefinite hiatus. So, this next incarnation of mine, Literary Journeyman, isn’t as bombastic but still has that artsy odor generally associated with coffee shop hipsters who, too, cannot get their shit together.

via GIPHY

But yes, this one doesn’t feel as hyped-up for the audience and anxiety-inducing for me, but it still has enough of an identity to be marketable. (which translates to, “I was able to buy the domain name”)

I…you know…this is precisely the same thing I cried about 15 posts ago. Come to think of it, I sorta had the same crisis, er, a post ago. I suppose I’m still in my feeling out phase. Maybe it’s not that I can’t get my shit together. It’s that I need to get my shit together before I get my shit, together right?

via GIPHY

Maybe it’s about time I turn to Medium.com, a website filled with articles for writers, freelancers, content creators, and full-stack polymaths who somehow have time to write life-lessons articles in the middle of their podcast/photography/music composition/freelance brothel running activities (probably? I’m jealous, just sayin’)

Anyway, I wrote this one in response to this one. To sum it up, I wrote this:

“At the end of the day, they [my wife and future child] are what drive my decisions.  If I can take care of them, and continue to grow as a writer, great!  If not, I’ll have to make some tough decisions. It’s not like the terms “side gig” or “passion project” don’t exist right?”

So yeah, am I back to square one? Fuck if I know. Maybe it’s true what Tim Denning said, and I may have to eat shit before I can rise again. How the fuck do I end this post?

via GIPHY

Well, you’re a poopy-head, Alan.

Take Cover Tuesday aka are you questioning what to do with your life again?

What the hell am I suppose to do with my life? (Image from pixabay.com)

(Pulled from my 1st entry on Medium.com)

On a whim, I decided to feature a cover song of a talented artist, by another talented artist. (or course, talent may vary and is subject to listener’s tastes) I called it “Take Cover July,” and I introduced it on my post two days ago and titled it “Look at the sky, Take Cover, it’s July.”  So, did I really do this on a whim?  Did I do this for my own amusement or did I have some ulterior motive?  Well, I started it on this page but, because I couldn’t get any of the WP auto-post plugins to work, I decided to move it to Instagram instead, where I was more or less, “successful.”  And this is where I start to question my intent.  Am I doing this whole, “Take Cover July” thing to show that I’m a whimsical fellow, like the male version of the Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl?  Or do I expect some sort of return from this?  Well actually, I am getting a return from this, in the form of likes and add requests, but is that what I really want?

via GIPHY

To try to answer this question, I turned to the boundless wisdom of Google and typed “does social media kill creativity,” and the first post that popped up was New York Times bestselling author, J.T. Ellison’s article on, word for word, the answer I was looking for.  After just reading it, (which is literally right before I wrote this sentence) I think I may have found the insight I was looking for. (which is kinda sad because this is the first time I’ve heard of J.T. Ellison, let along her blog) She says social media is cool, if you manage it correctly, along with your time and feeding your “muse.”  She recognizes the need to use social media for networking purposes, but if you’re wasting time on social media trying to get add requests, likes and . . .

via GIPHY

So, what now then?  What do I do?  I’d like to say buck up, put that smart-phone away and get to writing, but I’ll need to address some issues I have first.

  1. I’m still in college. Granted, it’s Brandman University, which is mostly an online & brick-and-mortar hybrid school where all homework is due Thursday and Sunday night of that week, meaning I’m able to schedule my time around it so, well…fixed that.
  2. I’m about to have a baby. Most of my attention is devoted to fulfilling any and all of my wife’s pregnant whims, which can come out of the blue, but is still manageable due to the fact that she is the most patient and understanding woman I know.  Sorta nipped that one in the bud-ish.
  3. As a retired military member, I’m given a lifetime monthly pension to keep my head above water financially, but it’s not enough to prepare for rainy days and emergencies. Therefore, I need secondary income.

It’s the third issue I need to contend with.  Am I comfortable with my financial situation or will I need to get a job?  Or, should I continue taking “gigs” from Upwork and Textbroker, and call it good?  The funny thing is, I reeeeally haven’t been taking that many gigs. (and by not that many, I’ve only taken one job, which only paid my lunch for the day)  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe I should just get my feet wet in the business, even if it is a content mill.  It’s better than saying you’re a writer and having nothing to show for it.

So, I started with writing about how I wanted to be all cool by introducing “Take Cover July” and ended with wanting to make a move towards just writing for a damn content mill to get some writing experience.  This isn’t the first time that these thoughts have crossed my mind, but this is the first time I’ve written about it.  Maybe this time, I’ll actually stick to my haphazardly laid plan and finally grow as a writer, which is taking me a hell of a lot longer than I want it to.

via GIPHY

You know what?  Shut up Braxton sister who I didn’t know existed until just now!

Look at the sky! Take Cover, it’s July

image from cartoonstock.com

Starting today, I will post a talented musician’s song performed by another talented musician.*  This will be posted at a minimum every day until the end of this month.

First on the list is the great Johnny Cash with his depressingly powerful rendition of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.

I contend that, while his live recording of At Folsom Prison powerfully resonated within the Baby Boomer fan-base, American IV: The Man Comes Around did the same with his Gen X crowd.  Either way, the original Man in Black is one of the few greats whose audience transcends generations.

*concept of talent may vary

Spent Sunday: It’s been a while.

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini during the UEFA Super Cup final soccer match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Philip II Arena in Skopje, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski) ORG XMIT: XPG134

Well damn it has, hasn’t it?  I guess the last post I made wasn’t so much a post than it was a test to see if I knew how to use a WordPress plugin.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to start tonight, I don’t think it’s happening.  I’m still picking up pieces of my brain off the floor after watching the season 2 finale of WestWorld.  Instead, I’m doing the cop-out repost of what I think my best post has been so far.

It’s a serious piece I did on Professional Burnout in the military, the lesser known than PTSD but still dangerous consequence of serving not only in the front lines, but in support of the mission.

Please click here to read more.  Thank you

« Older posts

© 2022 Errol K. Catanes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑