Tag Archives: storytelling

Practical verbs: 4/12

A Polish philosopher would say the 21st century society was shaped by the convenience of travelling everywhere, to the point where human relationships started to be a constant impermanence and transformation of ideals, each individual with a liquid self, merging with others and dissolving into new directions. At the same time, some of our concerns are how much money young people are making in comparison to the past decades, and studies indicate a tendency to staying more grounded to where we are, despite the possibilities of an ever expanding online world, which offers a lot but definitely not the same to everyone.

When we think about what we expect and what can we achieve, it’s important to remember why we do what we do and who’s with us along the way. Our plans don’t always turn to action, because one way or another, they involve more people. To illustrate, you might have heard stuff like this:

“I stayed up to talk to you”

I’d love to hear something like that and not feel guilty later. Or immediately. Or during the whole conversation, which could last a number of hours. Or minutes, in case we don’t have much to talk about — which would be terrible. If you stay up to talk to someone, it’s 4am, everyone’s asleep but you’re there just to hear their voice, something’s going on with you two. Which is great, probably. Unless you need to stay at home to take care of your family and not take the weekend to go out when you finally have the chance: that makes it less fun. Well, ok. Taking care of people brings you joy. They appreciate that you do. You show some love, and you feel better. I have a friend who asks me to stay up with her when she’s lonely. I told her I used to sleep with the TV on cause I couldn’t relax if it was too quiet. Now it’s the music. But I don’t stay up anymore, I just wake up really late. Priorities.

“I’m not leaving until 10”

When I left my hometown to live in the city, so to speak, it was all about studying and working. I didn’t get to see a lot of new places, but eventually my friends and I met somewhere and I guess at night we showed what we were really like. Except me, I was shy and weird, so I didn’t show anything at all. One could say. I remember staying at work until late and coming back home with laundry to do. Passing by the supermarket, exhausted. Picking something I needed, going home, laying in bed and falling asleep in 20 minutes, the time it took to watch whatever people were talking about. Some of my friends always had somewhere to go instead. I just wasn’t that kind of person, I guess. I stayed home, I left to work. There’s a song that says you want someone not to go but they should. People get emotional with language. A kid will say this a lot: leave me alone. A young adult frustrated with the country will say they want to leave. Of course, we won’t leave the kid alone if we care, and the same goes for the country.

“Everybody’s coming to the party”

Remember parties? When I was younger (please stop reading if you think this is not appropriate), I got wasted a lot. I don’t know what it is about generation. People started smoking and not drinking. But what do I know? I drank. And now I wanna quit the other thing. But hey, I shouldn’t be talking about this. When it comes to making plans, I’m more often the guy who shows up to improvise. But at least I show up. Never got a call asking me to come home cause there was pizza or something. I’d probably grab something to eat on the way. Unless there was pizza. But constantly coming and going, always on the move: that used to be how I lived until I had to stay in one place. Not a lot of parties. I guess I’m introverted.

“I wanna go to the US!”

I actually have friends in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ohio and Texas. If you ask me how I met them and how close we are, I’m gonna take a while. But they’re part of my life, and I think I can say this cause today we don’t exactly meet anyone new, we talk to new people, but it doesn’t mean anything. I don’t think we can’t make friends online anymore. And yes, it was online. I didn’t go on a trip, I didn’t move out to study or anything like that, but I feel like we know stuff about each other that makes us really close. I just don’t know where we’d go if we actually met. Maybe they wouldn’t share their home with me. So we’d go around the city. Which would be great, but I’d probably feel lost. I think it’s part of the deal. I wanna see the US cause I learned so much from the people I met. But I don’t wanna go there to feel uninvited, unwelcome. I just wanna spend time with people I like, and that’s what I think about, more than being in a different part of the continent.

“Give me some time to think about it”

Suppose you got a job promotion. You did some great, consistent work at this small branch of a company, and now they want you to take on a new challenge being responsible for staff training and oversight of two different branches. You thought the news was great, they were interested in expanding your internal role, you’d be able to learn as you went on and identify problems where people didn’t see them, but also establish good policies for what should be maintained so performances could keep all the way up. Side issue: you also thought you could move to a new rent, and so you told your partner. Turns out these kinds of decisions are only made when there’s two people who agree it’s the best course of action, and in fact it might be a greater number considering all the factors. Give it time. Don’t rush things. It’s not baby steps, just, you know, steps. We have two feet. When we walk, they alternate.

“Can you get an Uber to take me home?”

Date night. Cool guy. Good talk. Rainy day, weird feeling, unexpected call from your family. You gotta go back. Maybe the date would go fine, but you’re worried if everyone’s okay or need anything. You wanna get home fast and preferably not soaking wet. You ask the gentleman to do you this small favor. That’s not a wild turn of events, but it’s a very hypothetical situation (excuse the language). Point being: relationships, even before they materialize, are a give and take agreement. That’s why people say consent is key, but in that case, the girl put her family first and the guy did call an Uber. She got home fine, her dad couldn’t be home and they were delivering a new TV. Good for her, cause she’s a gamer, not an NFL fan.


These verbs illustrate situations you might find common in different areas of your life. Mobility or change, dynamic relationships. When you make plans, it’s good to learn about what you need first to make them work for you and avoid bad surprises. Instead of saying “it’s gonna be great”, you can make sure you contribute to make it great. And if something comes up, you work towards a solution. Sometimes, there’s people there for you, to help you get through. Other times, you have to manage on your own. But these days, support comes at very unexpected times, and we should be happy that connecting people made that possible.


Confused? The idea of these blogs is to show people that learning a language is not only using new words, but establishing connections with foreign contexts, through people and media. Some of it is an exercise of your imagination, as we all try to guess what’s really on people’s minds when they use the internet to describe their lives and feelings. About the date: both hypothetical participants washed their hands, and there was glass separating them on the restaurant table, which was kind of weird.

The power of habit: when you need it most, change happens without your approval

I was 16, living in an old two story house in a poor neighborhood where everyone else got squeezed into 5 feet bedrooms for their entire lives. It didn’t sound so obvious that I had a privilege breakfast by eating cheese every morning and watched shows in another language from cable TV, simply because the hidden rule that says “the younger, the dumber” hadn’t come to a point of necessary clarification, and so I found myself going to the local market to buy Nutella by day, imported beer by night, collections of bottles decorated with plants later, snacks on all trips to the big city and every other little expense to cover up the fact that none of us was really in the mood to take care of everything from the bathroom to furniture, from the pots to the ceiling fans, from the marble sink to the dog paw marks on the floor. We were happy, but annoyingly, insultingly lazy. And I’m the one who reached that conclusion, but I can’t tell much about my own participation in little rituals like buying yogurt and cereal instead of getting in line for bread and working on a resumé, the sort of thing you’re supposed to be ready to do when you’re about to reach legal age.

In Brazil, your car is a sign you’re doing well, but everyone has standards. We chose public transport, but looked at Amsterdam life with resentment for the fact we’d never ride a bike while carrying all our belongings, so we were stuck with the driver with a beet tattoo over the back of his hand, which we’d make jokes about. Up at 3am for a long shower, sheets and sheets of xerox files from college, spilled hair conditioner in the bag, new shoes every two weeks, we’ll read what we can and get our grades through group work. Meanwhile, torrents of TV series from America’s current pop show and the Oscar list always on our shared laptop. The music was a small detail, but the weekends sometimes ended up with bottles emptied, confessions of all sorts, pictures of us hugging, hanging in our bedroom, which we never really left. People don’t understand we weren’t rich, and wherever we were going, there was the constant potential to be tired and overwhelmed. We’d get back to five cats and a boxer at home, none in the small apartment given as a favor, until graduation. When you don’t have stuff, it’s easier to get laxy, but it was too confusing when we were near the spin that made this all look meaningless.

Sex was good. It’s not something I miss, particularly, but it balanced the mood and made us stronger to face crowds of people who didn’t really want to engage in conversation, but instead make us learn how to actually talk about what mattered. Bars and food on the menu, eventual cooking sessions, vegetables only, please. So much pasta you’d ask a doctor what the hell was wrong with the couple. She never watched porn, contained herself, but I don’t judge. We’re all holding different things inside. Her text references were good, mine were a spark of desperation facing deadlines. Dad drinking, mom working her ass off, fraternal bonds that made us all look a little mad, but a friendship I thought I could count on.

I don’t know what separated us. Was it the first cats dying of poisoning? The first old lady who saw dog poop over the side gate and thought we didn’t care and complained to authorities? The security guard who shot at the window when we got too noisy after 10pm celebrating with no reason with the friends we still had? Was it when the younger one started to realize she needed detachment or she’d be sucked into a void of excuses and pattern behavior she couldn’t escape? Was it the funeral? One of the bands, a bad drum solo, not tying my hair, being late for the last fucking time, failing with wording, asking for another favor?

I know I spent 7 years as a vegetarian. When I saw that an innocent living being doesn’t need a reason to meet its worst fate, and woke up to a kitten family gone because someone else didn’t think it was right for them to be in a happy place, I thought I had to change. Saw on TV an industry footage, saw stuff on the old filterless internet where they used to scare the shit out of everyone, and decided to go dairy only. I was choosing love, but it wasn’t enough. I’d learn that they were wrong in not looking up to the man who built their ideal life, but I’d forget it was only good before me, in a wild theory, so when I was gone it all normalized and they were who they always wanted to be all over again. That’s when I knew I came from the bottom, and my place was never at the top of higher education efforts, diploma on the wall, pages and pages of published work, recognition, inspiring stories and know-how, speech skills, funny jokes, nicknames as defense, contagious laughter and good taste in art, with a full repertoire.

This side is not mine. The change I’m talking about is only seen by those who make sacrifices for people. Whatever you do, when you put someone else’s priorities before your own, someone else is going to suffer. But realizing that, accepting that and moving on, is definitely not for kids. What I learned from being at the top and then back to the start of the climb again is you can put trust on people to let you be who you wanna be, but they always expect you to be more than you can. They can give you a push, but you’re supposed to come up with something else, retribute it and start something from scratch, for once. Have ideas and share them. You’re supposed to make a real difference in your actions. You’re supposed to understand and lift each other up. A meal is just a meal, but you can make it an occasion, you can make it a habit, you can make it interesting. A couple is just a couple, unless you wear a ring, they say. A house is just a house… except when you’re sleeping all alone, with nowhere to go, right in front of it.

A trip down memory lane: choices and treasure

Having a blog in the times of social media has to be one of two things: you have something else to say rather than illustrating a moment of your day with an effort to look cool, foot on the sink, beer at hand, ocean as landscape, group pose, doggos, music; or you have found in yourself a tendency not to share what’s going on at all, and the day you finally do it, the pressure from these networks suddenly reveals itself as the motivation dragon of entire generations, except you don’t know which one you’re representing and the metaphor is not for GoT because you never cared to watch. But I’m a writer who criticizes himself from scratch, so let me start with the wrong assumptions in this first paragraph alone, and then maybe tell a story and try to outline the chain of events that led me here.

First off: no man has ever taken their shot with a foot on the sink. That’s obviously for girls, and it’s more than completely fine, it’s a tease you’re likely to come back to, and they know it well. But still, while you tell yourself that’s not caring about paternalistic society or matriarch cultural standards, you should save yourself for marriage and that kind of crap that somehow survived the war and sounds like they’re taken from a Jane Austen book you and I haven’t even read, there’s a bit of “what the fuck am I doing” in the initiative, and that’s the central question I’d like to explore. The other instances, of course, have a clear motivation: drinking, visiting places and breathing different air, cuddling and playing with pets, enjoying noisy stuff. Perfectionist that I am, I’d have to ask, introducing my argumentation, about the making of your beer, tell you the story of how I went to a city which hosted a beer factory but didn’t visit it cause my girlfriend never drank anything that wasn’t destillated, all the names of the many cats I’ve seen coming into the old house I used to live in, and rant on the world of music without a lot of backstage knowledge. So here we have wrong assumption number one: instagram is irrelevant, and not complex enough to be a form of culture.

We know, it’s big. They developed an app for anyone to share anything about their lives whenever they wanted. Our bodies responded by filtering the insane amount of information we’re exposed to with a thumb filter, so we can just skip, and unfortunately for some, we do it all the time. We do it with everyone. It’s become natural. But seriously, how did we get here? Suddenly, the amount of people saying “spying is real” doesn’t have any relevant power of decision, but the user does, when he/she chooses to share what’s happening. Notice a strange intersection of traditions? That’s because adults have learned what monopolies are the hard way, but yep, even they had a quick course on it when they were just 6, playing a cardboard game that would make people hate an entire continent. Back to the point, one company has it all, and by accepting the terms I can look at myself through their lens and see just anything I’ve ever shared with the world. So hey, Alexa? Play that song I wanted to sing sarcastically when I heard that my dad saw the president as a responsible man and these people knew nothing. It’s all in your head, and luckily for us and everyone, since it’s free, anyone can access… your head. Congratulations, you little piece of shit. Everyone knows you’re just as bad as you look.

Despite the word taboos, the controversy around content moderation, the shallow descriptions of people taken from a single post, and the business models made around them, with special mention to the formulas invented with access to whatever metadata really means, the giants of social do have relevant preoccupations. One of them has to be: what happens if nothing’s happening? And there you have it: a fine cut through the system’s root functioning, an unbalancing on the scale of social flow, bad numbers, traffic stops, oh my lord, people are gonna die. No, buddy. They’re not. They will if you support gun owners, corner criminals, persecutors, real life abusers, hateful speakers and surround yourself with that sort of content.

Here’s the main issue I feel like sharing with the world: when you don’t look satisfied, commerce wins. But do you have kids or is this roleplay philosophy? I know a lot of people would skip the first paragraph just thinking “okay, another analytical essay on the effects of the network economy, where are my problem-solving stakes?” but we have to look beyond. The movement to skip the whole dilema is adults versus teens, and we haven’t even addressed what kids (-12) are doing in the first place, without forgetting their first contact with the web is through our own phones, filming their first time trying a baked carrot. The profiles of people having fun and sharing it are one small attempt to look at ourselves with more critical capacity, enough to say we are more than what we post, but completely ignoring the personal narrative, which is all that drives creation, unless you tell someone else’s story.

So I’ll tie a knot on personal narrative and external storytelling to mention a few people. The first of them: my decade old friend Courtney. I had just graduated from high school and messed with Fotolog in Photoshopped posts that made my leather pants and make up look stylish for male models trying to confuse people, in a Japanese band cover of visual kei copy trend, and people’s opinions were mostly not shared because there was a level of embarrassment involved. We went on shoots and our singer transformed the whole background, put wings on me, a circle of angelic appearance in velvet red clouds, stockings and all, and that was how I said hello to the whole world, now online. After 10 thousand YouTube views on our Dir en Grey tribute, the most interesting saying it was “not bad, not great either”, I assumed that you couldn’t please everyone, but the number was just a small detail. How could anyone watch a 17 year old playing a big venue literally just learning how to hold the drumsticks, but worse, how did I expect to have some success? I didn’t think about it. When I met Courtney, on Bebo, it was all about what she listened to, and I remember us talking about silly things like sitcoms I watched on TV an having a near argument on how hot Helen Hunt sounded on Mad About You. Courtney lived in New Zealand, had just broken up with a boyfriend who had a baby with her, and would become an independent artist. I would guess she didn’t find much stability to start her own projects (she has a beautiful voice) and with someone to take care of, it was hard for her to get anything going. I heard she moved, but when you hear about these things you don’t think of stress over paperwork, eventual buyers, searching for a better place, an entire change of environment and a kid to raise in the midst of it all. As I went through college, I would meet more people in different situations, but Courtney is still on my mind. She looked different, dyed her hair, shaved her eyebrows and made her new ones with make up, had a piercing near her forehead and sounded like someone really cool to be around, but she had a small drug problem. I would develop mine, and many things happened before I found myself to be an addict, but she was losing her battles. Maybe we were never close, but she was my first internet friend. What if she had chosen to share everything that was going on in her life to the world? It would concern the British, but I didn’t have that reasoning when I was 17-18, and I really hated the fact that she was a Justin Bieber fan, but tried to understand it, since I just assumed it was sexual and that’s completely understandable. She would make a Twitter account for her idol, and we’d follow each other, but I said no when I noticed she was really into the whole thing. Regardless, when I lost my 4 year job as a teacher, I came back home and tried to reach her. My old friend. She was living in a trailer, selling more than stuff to make a living, and I forgot to be devastated. We haven’t spoken in over 2 years. I didn’t think about her that often. We spoke on MSN, only a few times, then she had my Facebook and I just saw her in selfies taken when nothing else was going on, but my life used to be busy.

One day, after falling in love online and trying to forget how much it ruined my real life relationships at the time — a story I’d write an entire book about — I met this girl on a random meetup site. Her name was Atlanta. She had a big family, and though it was weird, every time we talked, someone was around. All of them were kids, and it was insanely visible how annoyed she was by their presence in her space, and that’s what really caught my attention. She wanted everyone to move out, I assumed. But she was always on camera with me, and never said a single word, until the day she started writing the letter K as a standard reply. I lost hours and hours with her, and eventually we’d do something, which was more about how I insisted because I wanted something different for myself and had absolutely no freaking idea of how to show interest (and be honest about not wanting something anymore, which I probably should have been man enough to do while I was in college). Lanta was the girl who made me lose my whole soul to please someone with red hair. One time, I had a concert, and I just skipped an entire day of work, assuming they didn’t need me since it was an extra, to stay with her on cam. Obviously, we got busy. But I had to get myself a cab (at the time, I could still pay for these) and be stuck in traffic on my way to the venue, by myself, my friends and my band waiting for me. Lanta didn’t know about it. Two years later, she would be travelling from Wales to Spain, and Skypeing me from a bar bathroom in Barcelona. Next time we spoke, she was in her first month of college, studying animal behavior. I had stormed out with her saying nonsense about starting something more serious, she picked up on all signs I didn’t really mean anything, left me with the riddles and bullshit as she put it, but she knew I felt something for her. In the most arrogant attitude of my life, I asked her to Google my name to know “who she was talking to”. A year later, she’d have her first kid.

There’s stories and stories. But I want to come back to the main point: strangers at first, how do you make an impression these days by approaching someone who knows they’ve already shared enough, said enough and lived enough on the hands of social flow, waiting for confidence, confirmation, confrontation with someone else’s beliefs, praise for a positive posture, a significant text, even if it’s small, but trusting such impression to be representative of what you know and have been through? Moreover, how do you make people trust you and your intentions, when all these stories seem to be easy to debunk by people who you didn’t want to share them with, but provided you with a service you trusted blindly? How do you make a story relevant without moving from your couch? Is it you who should be telling it, or would you accept it if someone else applied to have control over that narrative, and what would you do next?

I don’t want kids right now, but I bet Courtney and Lanta didn’t plan much. I remember them and many other people who crossed my path, but I’ve forgotten a striking number of people and their stories, because (guess what?) commerce really has ways of winning. The personal touch I can give to let people be more confident when they shoot their shots is just a small grain of empathy on a beach filled with the love I want to give people, understanding their calls for attention. But sometimes you have to choose, and to be interesting enough for social media, you have to do enough. The bad news is nobody will do it for you, and just in case nothing’s happening, they’re gonna make it look like it’s all your fault.

Picture: Alexandra Levasseur