Lots of change, every year. That’s how it’s been in the four years since finishing high school. Often I make the mistake of wanting to include the majority of other people my age into my own life’s trend as if to somehow bring understanding to our snippet of a generation. But I can’t fit us all into one category because that would be boring.
Upon graduating high school, I went to Union College in pursuit of an English degree. I wanted to write books but hated the idea of being a teacher. Then I thought maybe I could be an English professor for a couple years while I pursue the writing. But grades slipped, as did my mind, and I found myself stuck with academic suspension and fruitless loans.
“It’s okay, I’ll sell kuchens to support myself. And I’ll work a little dinky job on campus for a bit. Maybe I’ll get back into car detailing. Sure, I’ll be fine.”
Unemployed and unsuccessful in pursuits, I told myself the same things over and over.
Mental illness played a role in all of this. I truly wanted to succeed. I just didn’t know how.
I considered finding a “regular job.” Sure, it would make me want to step in front of a train, but it would be some money. And money is required to feed vices that help you cope with your “regular job.”
I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote stories, I wrote songs. I thought: ‘If I could finish a story and publish it, everybody would see I’m on the right path. They would stop pestering me to find a “regular job.”
I thought more about college. Based on the two years of time and loans I’d pissed away, college was kaput. And what could I do anyway? Everyone was becoming a doctor or a business person or a teacher or something that made me want to do the train thing again.
As I did the “regular job” dance (work it, quit it, find another) over and over, I noticed how my perspective changed. I began feeling as if I was viewing myself from a very great distance. I felt very small. And, though seemingly capable and skilled and intelligent, I’d been misplaced in the grand scheme of things. I felt like a snail born into a world of salt.
When you put salt on a snail, a process called osmosis begins. The salt draws out the water from the snail’s cells and eventually they shrivel and die.
Of course, I thought I may finally lose all of my metaphoric water and blink out of existence. Whether by some quantum mishap or by my own means, I would just disappear. I often wanted it. I realized that I didn’t want to actually die. I just wanted to not be around anymore and death felt like the closest thing.
At some point, a shift started. It started when I caught a glimpse of independence and realized I could attain the goals that haunted me. Sure, they still haunt me and sometimes I slip into the old modes of thinking. But I learned there’s a place for me in this world. It’s not all salt.
I’m not writing this to tell you that I have all of the answers,
Or that I’m completely cured of something.
(Because, by the way, this thing that makes me sick
is the thing that keeps me sane.)
I’m definitely not writing it to tell you how great I am.
(You should know that already. Ha.)
I’m writing this shit to tell you it’s not over. Whatever “it” is for you.
I’m saying the world is full of incredible things.
Knowledge to be learned, places to visit, things to do, people to meet.
The world can be so amazing.
And it can be hell.
A hell composed of poverty, violence, and horrible people.
And the external hell is minuscule in comparison to the internal hell.
The memories stuffed so tight around your vital organs it’s hard to breathe.
You can make a living, get away from violence, end toxic friendships.
But your inner hell?
It’s a cannibal child tugging at your shirt, always in tow.
“I think hell is something you carry with you. Not somewhere you go.”*
If you can figure yourself out first, everything else will be easier to handle. Why run a race with a broken leg?
Solving your personal Rubix cube is a huge feat in itself. It requires introspection and asking yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” “Why do I want this or that?” Open up a conversation with yourself. If that’s not working, start a conversation with a trusted friend or family member. Ask them how you could improve as a person. It’s a really vulnerable place to put yourself, but if you can siphon out some honesty, you might be surprised how much it helps.
I suppose I started writing all of this to give you a glimpse of where I’m at in life and hopefully it gives you some perspective if you’re feeling like 2015 was a turd pile. Don’t let 2016 be the same way. Hate your job? What would you rather do? Make a list of how to get there. Stop saying “I’ll do that thing someday” or “Boy that’d be nice to do eventually.” Make 2016 the year you started toward that thing. It doesn’t have to be the year you accomplish the thing. But by December, you’ll be able to look back on your year with pride. You’ll feel less snail-like and the salt won’t be as scary.
Alright, I’m done. Sorry for not editing any of this. I have more writings to do.
Make it a great year, peoples.
*Neil Gaiman - The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists