“All living beings desire to be happy always, without any misery. In everyone there is observed supreme love for oneself. And happiness alone is the cause of love. In order therefore, to gain that happiness which is one’s nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep, where there is no mind, one should know oneself. To achieve this, the Path of Knowledge, the enquiry in the form of “Who am I?”, is the principal means.” – Sri Ramana Maharshi in the book “Who Am I?” [Free Download]
Things change for me so fast that trying to capture them into a single “About Me” has always been daunting. This page was born out of my attempt to work on a new “About Me” page for a persona I created called “The Real Bipolar CEO”. “The Real Bipolar CEO” was an attempt at combining two personas (miltownkid ZEE and Casey Abbott Payne) in one. He (I?) was ultimately successful! Being CEO minded he saw that there was a vast amount of waste going into maintaining multiple personas and decided to consolidate them all into this one for now.
What follows is an edited version of what was to become his “About Me” page.
Birth of the Mil-Town Kid (1979 to 2002)
I was born Casey Abbott Payne on November 25th, 1979 in Milwaukee, WI of a mixed-race couple who were deeply impacted, influenced by, and involved with the civil rights movement. My father was an American of African descent from the South (Arkansas) and my mother was an American of European descent from the midwest (Iowa).
Before being diagnosed with “bipolar disorder” I started life oscillating between poles of race, culture, and language. In 1984 I saw the movie “Karate Kid”, found out Mr. Miyagi was my spirit animal and discovered I was “bidental” (Oriental & Occidental). Along with being biracial and bidental, I also spent 1st through 5th grade in a bilingual school learning Spanish.
I started life extremely diverse and expanded on that diversity as I aged by leveraging one of Milwaukee’s greatest strengths, being the most segregated city in the US. There are small and large concentrations of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indigenous Americans, and Whites spread all throughout the city. This keeps a lot of people from exploring the whole of the city and, instead, staying inside of their comfort zones. Being biracial in the most segregated city in the US made me comfortable nowhere so I explored everywhere!
1999 was the year of my “spiritual awakening” (first manic episode). What ended in the back of a paddywagon on the way to the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex started as a deep curiosity about a lot of things. A combination of three particular curiosities didn’t serve me very well. I wanted to know how long I could go without eating, sleeping and drinking water. I also happened to have recently finished reading “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse. It was around this same time that I chose the name I would go by online.
Feeling like a true product of the city, I came up with the name miltownkid (Mil-Town/Milwaukee Kid). I always wanted to keep the positive attributes of a childlike mind. I wasn’t familiar with the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” when I chose the name, but the philosophy within encompasses the spirit of “kid”.
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
Even though I began fascinated with Japanese culture and Karate back in 1984 it evolved into a fascination of Chinese culture and Shaolin kungfu by 1994 and cemented into an obsession with taiji and daoism in 2002, the year I met Master Henry Wang. That same year, karma opened the doors to the Orient through Taiwan. While navigating the web of bureaucracy needed to travel I stumbled upon a website called Forumosa.com and internet strangers helped me forge my way to La Isla Formosa.
The Taiwan / Forumosa.com Years (2002 to 2007)
Forumosa.com, a portmanteau of (internet discussion) forum and Formosa (a historical name for Taiwan), is where I got my education as a writer. It’s awesome that it still lives! I created over 4,000 posts and started 462 topics. I was forced to improve my written skills if I wanted to effectively communicate. There were two driving forces that shaped my writing on Forumosa.com. A large percentage of the expat community in Taiwan has jobs connected to the English language. Whether through teaching, translation, editing, interpreting or something else, there is a high density of high-level users of English. The other driving force was the international audience. There were people from all over the world posting there. This meant there was also a wide range of regional variants of English and people who used English as a second language.
Forumosa.com is also where I got my first taste of being a part of an online community. I enjoyed my experience there so much that I started an online community for friends and family in Milwaukee even before my first blog! I also started an offline community in the form of a chess club which eventually evolved into a board game club. The first board game club meeting happened back in 2002 and a variation of it lives on today!
This is the period of time where miltownkid became more real than Casey Abbott Payne (for me). Online and offline I was miltownkid. Who is, or was, Casey?
Social media really started picking up near the end of my Formosa years. I created my first viral video at the end of 2006 and joined Twitter and Facebook in 2007. I did these things as miltownkid though, not Casey. 2007 is also the year miltownkid moved back to Mil-Town.
The Social Media Years (2007 to 2012)
I experimented with any and everything I could “get my hands on” in the digital landscape. I built email newsletters, YouTube channels, websites, digital communities, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, ran ads, etc. I got REALLY into internet marketing but I wasn’t, at the time, really interested in marketing anything other than shenanigans. What fascinates me is the power of communication. Communication is the key to spreading ideas, influence, marketing, and selling. I follow two people I met during that period of time, Jason Moffatt and Joe Polish.
Using skills I picked up from them I won contests (a Ford Fiesta with free gas and a laptop), raised money and just had a grand ol’ time running experiments on the web. The problem is miltownkid wasn’t who I was and I was struggling with bipolar at the same time (I had two major manic episodes during this period of time). I ended up moving in with my mother in Iowa after both manic episodes. I moved back to Milwaukee shortly after the one in 2009. I decided to stay in Iowa after 2012.
The Iowa Years (2012 to 2015)
I decided to master a slower pace of life while I was in Iowa. I also waged an internal war with myself over whether miltownkid should exist or not. There was even a period of time where I wanted to legally change my name to miltownkid and “kill” Casey! (The persona, not the physical body I’m in.) I was totally offline for about 2 of those 3 years. I would just play video games, be unshowered and do some work for a local woman in the small town I was living in. I eventually decided that I needed to take a serious break from miltownkid. I totally let go of him. It was time to recreate myself.
The Casey Abbott Payne Years (2015 to August 16, 2018)
Having retired miltownkid I decided to put all of miltownkid’s skills to work to create Casey Abbott Payne. It began with purchasing caseyabbottpayne.com and starting to blog again. Then I started messing with Instagram and Twitter. I eventually changed the name of miltownkid’s YouTube channel to Casey Abbott Payne and got back into creating videos regularly. During this period of time, I did a good job of ignoring the miltownkid side of myself. I created a totally different persona. This time I focused him on the thing I’m most passionate about (taiji and daoism). I started meditating every day and practicing taiji. I finished mastering minimalism like I always wanted to do (all of my things fit in a suitcase now). I also rekindled a relationship from the past, moved back to Taiwan and got married!
Where miltownkid was the “wild and crazy guy” I wanted Casey Abbott Payne to be the paragon of stability. Something I always had in my mind was “Casey will get things to the point where you can let miltownkid out of the bag again!” Well… this summer miltownkid jumped out of the bag! What is a Casey Abbott Payne to do?!
Enter the Bipolar CEO (August 17, 2018, to September 17, 2018)
Casey Abbott Payne and miltownkid are well-defined characters, but neither one of them were good representations of all of me. They both capture many elements of myself but even combined they weren’t enough. After miltownkid got back out of the bag I started to think about how I wanted to use that energy. What I decided to do is create a new persona, @realBipolarCEO, that could hold all of me.
Exit the Bipolar CEO (September 18, 2018, to Present)
That’s the last thing I had written before I started working on this document again. The Bipolar CEO was a short-lived experiment, which may rise up again. He ended up getting his own Twitter and Instagram accounts. He also gave me the freedom to think about a version of myself that contained everything. The stability and instability. The colorful and the black and white. The yin and the yang.
On September 17th, 2018 I wrote a post capturing some of the thinking that led me to only focus on a single persona, Casey Abbott Payne… “me”.
So… Who Am I?
I discovered Sri Ramana Maharshi’s method of self-inquiry using the question “Who am I?” in 2013 through Patrick Kelly but I feel like I should go back a little further in time.
In 1999 I was visited by a spiritual being who I believe was associated with Grandmaster Yin. That’s what my interpretation of the manic episode was anyway. It’s hard to put into words what I was told but it was an intense BE GOOD! That intense injection of BE GOOD(!) has been with me ever since. It’s also driven me to understand what that experience was. Was it just something to be written off as “crazy”? All in my mind? Or… was there more to that experience than what I was taught to see in school and western culture.
In my quest to figure that out I began to live in two worlds. The “real” (dominant fictitious) world that Casey Abbott Payne was born into and the world where miltownkid was given a message from the spirits to BE GOOD! In the “real” world Casey’s experience in 1999 was delusional, something completely fabricated with no foundation in reality.
In miltownkid’s world, he is an approximately 400-year-old Daoist Wizard from China reborn into the body of Casey Abbott Payne.
Why 400 years? In high school, I realized that if person A processes information faster than person B their information “ages” faster making them in many respects “older”. It was then that I chose 400 years and it just stuck. Daoist Wizard from China because that’s where the spirit essential “said” it was from.
I’ve been “hacking reality” as miltownkid for 15+ year and trying to “assimilate” as Casey Abbott Payne for 3. Who do you think I am?
Actually… there’s a better question than who or what I am?
What Am I Doing?