Well, At Least It’s Raining

I’ve always been comforted by rain. Much more so as I’ve gotten older. As a child, I was really scared of thunderstorms and especially tornadoes. As an adult, I guess they don’t scare me at all anymore. It’s not unusual for people to find solace in storms and rain, it’s a pretty common thing, but less common is feeling depression at the absence of rain. When it goes for too long a stretch of sunny days and beautiful weather I start to feel dry, choked, and trapped. Rain makes me feel relieved, nourished, safe. It feels like the world is growing around me. Like being tucked inside the branches of a primordial tree while the world develops around me, the sounds of rain touching everything, dripping from leaves.

This is a stressful time. I’m writing this on April 8, 2020. For the second time in my life, I am living through a major historic event. The first was in 2001 with the September 11 attacks, and the second is this, the Corona Virus outbreak. This feels different, and in many ways, worse, than September 11.

The thing about 9/11 that has always remained with me is how united everyone was afterward. And I’m not talking about patriotism or being united as Americans. Nationalism was as strange and upsetting to me then as it is now. What I mean is that people were all afraid. Everyone was scared, or angry, or unsure. But nobody felt safe anymore. And the fact that everyone felt this at the same time was comforting.

It’s a similar feeling to being at a funeral, or being near someone who’s dying. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never lost anybody I truly, deeply love, only family members like grandparents and stepfathers. I know that probably sounds cold, but I’ve never had a close relationship with my family, so it was a weird experience for me to be at their funerals and their wakes. The thing is, everyone seems to be feeling the same thing. Everyone is in shock, and everyone all his this air about them. It isn’t sadness, it isn’t depression. It’s the gentle shock of someone raising their eyebrows and smiling and shrugging their shoulders and saying “Well, here we are.” I don’t know how to put it into words, exactly. Nobody is angry, not at each other. Everyone is being… civil. And for some reason that I don’t entirely understand, civility and politeness are extremely important to me. It makes me feel safe when everyone is being civil. At a funeral, or at a restaurant after 9/11, everybody was on the same page. Nobody hated each other. Not yet. As a country we all became afraid of or angry at Muslims due to xenophobia, but it didn’t happen yet where I was, and all the sudden it felt like racist people weren’t racist anymore, bigoted people weren’t bigoted anymore. Of course that turned out not to be true but for the few days, weeks, months, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone. I was also eleven years old at the time so I’m realizing as I’m typing this that maybe my rosy view of things isn’t true, that people didn’t truly come together, but at least everyone was all feeling something at once, even if it was fear and uncertainty. The same way people are at funerals.

And that’s what it’s like during times of crisis. People suddenly stop dividing themselves so much. People come together. It sounds so cheesy and stupid but it is how social creatures work. We unite when we have a common enemy, and the common enemy might be death, it might be terrorism, or it might be fear.

I don’t feel that this time. Because this time it’s a virus, and exposing yourself to other people makes you vulnerable, and everyone is inside with their doors shut, communicating mostly through memes and Facebook posts. And I am here, stuck at my house, which honestly wouldn’t be so bad except that mom chose this moment in time to come stay with us, and she brought with her my aunt and my cousin, neither of whom I particularly want to see for an extended period of time, especially during a crisis when distancing is important.

It would honestly make me feel better if my mom would leave and take the company with her. I’d feel more at peace if it were just me and my brother here and the house were quiet again, while it rains and storms outside. I could go and play piano or something.

This has been a confusing time for me. I’ve been working at a job for about a year and a half, I won’t say exactly what it is because as of now I’m still employed there, but suffice it to say I work in retail. Last week I accidentally overslept by an hour and I was the sole person opening the store, which meant the store opened an hour late. My boss has been incredibly unspecific about how he intends to respond to it, and I haven’t been back to work in a week. At first i had two days off, but then I was told he didn’t have any updates about the schedule, and he’d get back to me when he did. Then another day passed, and another. Today I texted my co-worker (there are only two of us working there, along without our boss) and he told me he was fired on Monday. And that he was told they were going to fire me, and not only that, but fire me in such a way that it was phrased that I was being let go not because of the needs of the business due to the Corona Virus outbreak, but because of me oversleeping last week, and implied that I wouldn’t be able to draw unemployment if that were the case. I don’t know how unemployment works but if so, that’s incredibly dirty of them, bordering on criminal, since conspiring against someone to keep them from getting unemployment during a worldwide health crisis because they came in to work an hour late seems negligible at best and criminal at worst. Again, I probably shouldn’t be talking about any of this, but I’m so fucking frustrated. I’ve been a good employee and done good work. This is the first job in my life where I’ve made a consistent effort not to call out of work, even when I’m exhausted or not feeling well. I’ve called out of work three times, all because I was sick (one of them was anxiety related but the other two were actual feverish sickness).

Today I went to the store to ask my boss about it to find that an associate from another store was filling in for him. When I called him he refused to give me any specifics and just kept repeating “I don’t know, I don’t know, it’s all very confusing right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He wouldn’t admit to me whether or not he WANTED to fire me. I tried to call our district manager and he wouldn’t answer his phone or texts. I called human resources, who told me they’d look into it and get back to me, but they didn’t. I eventually got a text from my district manager saying “We’ll talk about this in the morning, and get it all straightened out.” I don’t know what that means. And even if I DO keep my job, I don’t actually WANT to go to work, because I don’t want to risk infection, I want them to temporarily lay me off so that I can get unemployment until this crisis is over so I don’t have to keep going outside and risking infection every day.

It’s been difficult here. I have a couple of local friends who I go to see when I’m feeling lonely and I can’t even do that. One of them is a friend-with-benefits who I have a pretty affectionate and sexual relationship with. I went to his apartment and he told me he was uncomfortable with me being there because I worked with the public and made me leave. I felt very hurt by that. And apart from someone coming over to visit me, I’ve not been able to see any other friends. I lost a Facebook friend this morning who I’ve known for a year or two because he didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t enthusiastically supporting Joe Biden, which is an entirely different topic that I don’t have the strength to go into here, but suffice it to say I think Biden is a buffoon with exactly the same temperament as Trump and even less grasp of where he is and what’s happening around him. I’m sick of watching the country being run by senile old men who don’t know what year it is, both literally and figuratively.

On a similar topic is that issue of my memory. For the last two years or so I’ve been developing memory issues that seem to be getting worse. I can’t recall what I was talking about or doing a few minutes ago, I need to make lists to remember things, I can’t recall words I need to use that I use on a regular basis when I’m talking or writing. It’s terrifying. I think that if something were to happen to my memory, if I were to lose the ability to retain information… I wouldn’t want to live anymore. It’s not something a 29 year old should be dealing with. And on the topic of being 29, I’ve spent the last year in an existential crisis about turning 30 and having achieved absolutely nothing in my life. I’ve become so contemplative, trying to understand the meaning in every aspect of life and being continually surprised to find that there is so little meaning in anything we do as people.

We just wake up in the world and drift through our lives and then one day we die. I’ve stopped believing we go anywhere. It’s a beautiful idea, that I might wake up in some fairy grove and rub the dust from my eyes and see the spirits of the dead around me, beckoning me to an everlasting paradise of sunshine and rolling green hills and clear blue skies, where all the fantasies of my life can come true, where there’s endless love and hope and adventure. But it’s so silly, isn’t it? So juvenile. So entirely human to believe that the universe owes us an afterlife, owes us meaning. The universe doesn’t owe us anything. We exist and that’s it. There is no meaning apart from the fact that we exist. Some things exist, some things cease to exist. Consciousness is not a magical spirit essence that lives inside our bodies, we are brains firing electric signals encased in flesh and bones. I would LIKE for spirits to be real, I would like for magic to be real, I would like for fairies and dragons and flying on angels wings to be real. But that doesn’t mean it becomes real.

You see, this is the kind of thing I’ve been doing all year. Trying to understand the deep, psychological and philosophical meaning behind everything. I’m going through a kind of puberty that I went through as a teenager, a philosophical puberty where I’m asking questions about existence, only this time they’re not accompanied by the hope that as I get older I’ll understand. They’re accompanied by the realization that not only will I never receive an answer, but NO ONE WILL, and no one has, and that is the state of existence in which we live. It is terribly unfulfilling but that doesn’t make it less true.

So, how do you keep going? How do you keep living when you realize that there are no fairies and magic, that Santa Claus doesn’t bring you presents and Jesus doesn’t monitor your thoughts and send you little miracles when you pray and ask for them? Julia Sweeney inspired me years ago by saying that the fact that we only have this one brief life makes every moment mean MORE, not less. And she’s right, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the sense of fulfillment from before, back when we believed that the universe had a grand order to it, isn’t lost. I’ve never read Paradise Lost but isn’t that what life is, the loss of the lies we believe from the time we’re children? What might life be like if as a child I’d not been taught that God was watching us, that we go somewhere when we die? What if I’d had the chance to grapple with these questions when my brain was still forming and come to accept them without existential angst, how much more fulfilling might my life be? And what better choices might I have made?

I’m angry at the circumstances of my birth. I live in a capitalist society where boys with families who have more money than I do got to get cars when they were sixteen and go to college and make friends and have sex and go to parties, but I was raised by simple, dense, southern baptist Christians who did the best they could but didn’t know any better. I was born smarter than my parents and the people around me and I grew up being told by teachers and adults how bright I was and how I’d change the world when I grew up or I’d be a great writer or a great artist, but I’m almost 30 and I’ve achieved nearly nothing. All I have are hundreds of low quality recordings of me and my piano, and this blog where I’ve written down my thoughts. And also the fear that someday someone will read through my old posts not to better understand me and the journey I’ve been on, but to search for a hint of moral infraction with which to cancel me and try to hurt me. I have to be measured and careful about what I say now, because if I have an outburst of emotion on the internet it will be captured and eventually used against me.

There are things that have happened in my life that I desperately want to write about, here in this blog, that I can’t, because I know from the experience of confiding in people that I can’t trust people with dark thoughts and regrets, I can’t trust people to treat me with compassion or decency. People are so selfish. America in particular is so selfish.

I wish I’d been born in England. I wish I had a family that lived in a nice house with two floors, and a dog, and I had two brothers, and my dad went to work and my mom took care of us, and when I was scared or sad I could go in my brother’s room and cry and be consoled. I wish I had a real family that I could love. I wish I didn’t lay my head down wondering where I’ll be sleeping in two months, if my mom will kick me out again, wondering what I’ll do for work, wondering if I’ll ever be able to go to school, wondering if it’s too late, too late to become a musician, to become a novelist, to achieve something. Wondering if the grey in my hair that used to be charming because I was so young to have grey hair is becoming a part of who I am now. Because soon, I won’t be young anymore. I’ll be young overall, but not really. I won’t be socially young. I’ll be thirty. And I won’t have a promising future anymore. I’ll just be… some guy. This is where my ship has landed, the island on which I find myself. This will be the life I’ve found, and it’s not even a life I’ve built. I always said I’d never be thirty and still living with my mom, never be thirty and still be fat, never be thirty and still have no album, no book, no prospects, never gone to college.

But it’s all come true. And I’m sitting here in my room, with the only comfort being the cool feel of the air conditioner as the rain comes down much more gently outside than it was half an hour ago and I started writing. I want to talk about how I’ve taken up jogging in the last couple days, but I just can’t. Everything feels so futile because despite everything, despite how hopeless my life feels, I can still imagine a life that’s fulfilling, with friends and lovers and people who give me what I want and need out of life, and the chance to go to therapy and to go to school and to have a job I actually love.

But it’s just not here. Nothing is the way it should be. This is not what I thought my life would be, and I’m heartbroken, because I’ve just wasted so much time. So much time that can’t be bought back for anything. And I’m mad because what else could I have done? This was the life into which I was born. Not poverty, but not wealth either. Not a family who loves and supports me, a family who holds me down and suffocates me. Even when they try. My mom isn’t trying to hurt me, but she does. She can’t help it, it’s who she is. And I’ll never truly be happy here. And I don’t think there’s any way out of this situation, out of this life I’ve found myself in. This is just… where I am, and who I am. And how can I possibly be strong enough, clever enough, determined enough, to find a way out?

I’m sad. I’m unfulfilled. And I haven’t truly fallen in love again since the first time when I was fifteen. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again, that pure unbridled happiness I felt with Michael when I was fifteen, when the world was so full of promises and opportunity and I had a bright future ahead, and I was going to be a great writer, a great musician, a great person. But I’m just a guy, in his mom’s house, on my bed, typing in the rain. I don’t even know if I’ll have a job tomorrow afternoon. And the world is crumbling around everyone, we’re headed toward an economic disaster because a virus has brought the entire world to it’s knees. It’s like all those apocalypse movies about the year 2012 except it’s happening, and it isn’t zombies, it isn’t nuclear war, it’s so simple. It’s a virus. And I’m stuck here in this house with these thoughts swirling around in my head, and the only thing I can do in the day is go jogging down a dirt road or go driving aimlessly.

I haven’t given up hope, it will always keep burning in my chest, that I’ll find a life for myself that makes me happy. But right now, I just don’t see how it can happen. I don’t see how life can change.

A Day Not Wasted

I remember, in hazy detail, the moments when, as a child, I decided I hated school and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

I remember standing in the great open hallway of my elementary school after coming inside out of the rain. It was still pitch dark outside, so it must have been during the time of year when the sun takes it’s time to rise (is that summer or winter? I’ve never quite understood how daylight savings time works). I can imagine a squeak on the floor from the wet shoes of kids all around, and the low humming murmur of talk as people went toward their classrooms.

So much of this is based on a memory of a memory of a memory, that I likely blended several different moments together. But I remember talking to a teacher, and I remember her being much taller than me. It’s funny how you forget what the world looked like as a child, when everyone and everything is taller than you, when you’re slinking around just beneath everyone’s field of vision like a cat. You always look up: look up to talk to people, look up to ask to be picked up by your parents, look up to play video games or see the television. I remember a teacher telling me that school lasts for twelve years, from kindergarten to first grade all the way up to twelfth grade, and I would be eighteen when I graduated from high school.

I remember a feeling of hopelessness in the pit of my stomach. I had always felt uncomfortable coming to school. As a young child I was very close with my mother who raised me alone after I’d been through traumatic early childhood experiences of abuse, and I trusted her completely and felt upset when I was away from her. This isn’t unusual, any child misses his mother. But what bothered me so much about coming to school was that it was mandatory, that I was being forced to come here, and what’s worse, five out of every seven days, for all of my forseeable future. When you’re six years old, you don’t have a concept of what it will be like to be eighteen one day. Eighteen might as well be thirty-two. To be in the first grade and to be eleven years away from any hope of escape from something I never asked for was unbearable. It felt so unfair. Why did I have to come to school? Why did I have to wake up so early, why did I have to leave my mom and my home where I felt safe and where I was happy? I was a smart kid, what use did I have for coming to get an education, especially when so much of that education in the early days was stuff I’d already picked up on my own?

Anyone can relate to this feeling. People cope with it in different ways. I don’t remember when I learned that you have the option of dropping out of school at the age of sixteen, but I remember contemplating if I might one day do it. I also remember my teachers rhapsodizing about the importance of a high school diploma. “With a high school diploma, you can do anything in this world!” Funny, the lies we’re told, but I guess in 1996 it didn’t seem to be a lie to the people saying it, maybe at the time a high school diploma really could get you further than it can now. Now there are people with bachelor’s degree who work menial service jobs.

I always looked forward, from the very beginning, to the final ending of school. I had absolutely no desire to go to college, I wanted school, this thing that I never asked for which was foisted upon me without my consent, to be over. It seemed to me that I’d waited with the patience of a saint for it to finally finish, and as the end of high school finally approached, I felt that maybe I would soon feel some grand sense of release, the relief of the final day of the school year when summer break comes, except stretching on boundlessly for the rest of my life. A world of possibilites where I don’t have to be trapped, locked inside of a building for seven hours a day.

When we’re kids, we don’t really understand the concept of going to work. The monotonous routine of school is designed to emulate the monotonous routine of nine-to-five office job. As I said, people cope with it in different ways. Some people love the structure of a school day, and they take that structure into their adult life, thriving on the steady, unending repetition of Monday through Friday, nine-to-five, and the relief of weekends. There were of course times when I too appreciated the routine, even in it’s monotony, because of the sense of security that comes with a routine, and with knowing what to do without being told. Knowing which hallways to walk and which bathrooms to use and which classes it’s safe to break out a sheet of paper and draw on the back or read a book instead of doing your work.

As an adult, I sometimes long for the structure of a nine-to-five job, but the closest I’ve ever come was a few years ago when I worked for an Amazon seller, in their Quality Assurance department, and worked eight-to-four every Monday through Friday. At first, it felt safe, and I relished the weekends, but eventually it began to feel even more suffocating than school, because now there was no purpose the way their had been with school, I wasn’t going to work to earn my way towards something like a diploma, I was just going to earn a paycheck, which I would use to sustain myself until that paycheck ran out, and then live on the next one, and the next one, without end. I had my high school diploma but it had earned me nothing more than a spot being a cog in a machine which so closely emulated the one I’d been a part for twelve years in school, except now I was no longer a child, the object of everyone’s hopes, being praised for how bright and articulate I was, encouraged that I would some day be a great writer or musician or actor. Now I was just a guy sitting at a desk, listening to podcasts and sending emails to Amazon for eight hour blocks, pausing for an hour in the middle to reheat last night’s dinner and read a comic or play my PSP at lunch.

It was all just leading toward nothing.

And really, it hasn’t changed much.

I turned twenty-nine in May of this year, and now in November, six months later, I am still facing the same existential crisis that began a month or so before my birthday: what have I done with my life?

It’s a question that haunts my every waking moment, and a thought that creeps it’s way into every conversation I have. I’m very bad at keeping things hidden, it hurts me terribly to do it, and I have to talk about my feelings, whether I mean to do it or not, and over and over again I find myself confiding in people that I feel I’ve wasted my time up until this point, and on a deep level I feel that my youth is coming to an end. Of course, people older than thirty will say that thirty is still young, but teenagers and people in their twenties, myself included, see thirty as a milestone, a sign that you’re an adult now, that you have yourself figured out, you have your shit together, you know who you are and where you’re going and what you’re going to become.

But I am just as aimless now as I was ten years ago, just as confused and naive and afraid as I was when I was six, looking up hopelessly at a woman explaining to me that I was serving a twelve year sentence in public school. It seemed to me an injustice had been done toward me, that I’d been imprisoned for a crime when I’d done nothing wrong. Adults tell you, as a child, how important education is, but you don’t understand it or care at the time. Even kids who excel at school don’t really understand the necessity of it, and every school child has either heard the words come from a peers mouth or sometimes out of their own, “What’s the point of this? When am I going to use any of this in real life?”

It’s funny though. Because you use everything in real life. Every piece of information you’ve ever absorbed is woven into the fabric of the way you see the world.

I’ve always seen the world differently from people around me, and I know that that’s a pretty common thing to say nowadays. Everyone fancies themselves an outsider and an underdog and thinks that their perspective is so unique that no one else could possibly understand. It isn’t really true, it’s just that the people who do understand are far away, or you haven’t met them yet. And being a bright little boy in North Carolina in the nineties and early two-thousands, who would grow up to realize he was gay, he never truly felt a connection with Christianity, and never saw the world through the narrow, limited view of his family or the people around him, you can imagine how hard that must have felt.

Part of what scares me so much about “becoming an adult,” that is to say, turning thirty, is that I still view the world with the same childlike naive confusion that I felt back then. I’ve learned, of course, I’ve become wiser over time, I’ve had my life experiences, and layers upon layers of trauma, emotional distress, and more anxiety than any person ought to be forced to endure, even though I know there are people who endure much worse than myself. But part of what makes life hard for me is that I have an essentially fragile constitution. Emotionally, I can’t handle confrontation, change, or danger. I have a need to feel safe, stronger than most people’s need, and so I repeat certain rituals to make myself feel that I’m safe. For most of my life this has been playing video games (RPGs especially), while simultaneously watching television (usually sitcoms or other light-hearted comedy shows). It makes me feel safe to come home, eat, and play video games while listening to Youtube essays or episodes of funny shows. I don’t even laugh, usually, it’s just the light-heartedness that makes me feel safe.

My life… it’s been scary. There’s been a deep, abiding fear for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to stay up late at night, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and tell me and whoever else was assembled there at her apartment about the traumatic experiences of her life: how she was a long-haul trucker for decades, the people she met, how she met a young soldier on leave from the military riding home on a motorcycle to surprise his family for his own birthday, and how she later found him lying in a ditch, having collided with a truck that’s lights were broken and how she cradled him, dying, in her arms, and in his terrified and hallucinating state thought that it was his own mother holding him, and how she cooed him gently, telling him he was safe, that mama was here. She told us about her abusive, alcoholic husband, who held a knife to throat of his young daughter (my mother), and laughing sadistically, told her that he was going to take away the thing she loved the most, because it would hurt her, and how she held a shotgun toward him, waiting for the moment when he finally pushed his daughter away and she had a clean shut, and then pulled the trigger and blew him out the front door into the yard, and how she dropped the gun and chased him out, grabbing blankets and shirts and pillows on the way, to stuff the gaping, bleeding wound in his stomach and keep him from dying before the ambulance arrived.

My grandmother’s stories were frightening, sad, and left all of us who listened to them sitting in amazement. She made supernatural things seem possible, because she was such an effective and believable story teller that when she attributed something to God or to divine intervention, it was easy to believe she had to be right, because she was so good at telling the story. The most convincing one was about my own mother, who before her birth, apparently died while in the womb. She was told at the hospital that she’d lost the baby, and she refused to accept it, so she just left and went home. After a few days she got sick, and was taken back to the hospital where she was told the baby was beginning to poison her blood stream and had to be removed. She was still in shock, and at the same time she was in the hospital, so was her own grandmother, in a room across the courtyard from her own, so that she could see into the room where her family gathered around her grandmother’s bed, and when she saw them begin to cry and saw someone pick up the phone and heard the phone by her own bed ring, she knew it was her family calling to tell her that her grandmother had passed away. And it was around those moments that she felt the baby inside her kick, and she frantically called for a nurse, who frantically called for more nurses, and a flood of medical professionals and equipment was brought into the room and they began running tests on her, and my grandmother, distraught with grief and confusion, grabbed the sleeve of the doctor nearest her, and asked “What has happened to my baby?” And as though it were a line being delivered in a movie, he said to her, “I cannot offer you a medical explanation for what has happened, ma’am, but I can say this: the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.”

It was, during these moments in the middle of the night, listening to my grandmother tell us her life stories, that I felt something mingled with the weariness of being a sleepy child who stayed up way too late: a consuming fear. The kind of primal fear that there’s something inside the closet and if you look up you’ll see it’s eyes staring back at you, that if your foot escapes the confines of your blanket a hand will reach up from beneath your bed and snatch you under. It was that same fear. I can’t really explain to you what it is, but it’s been with me my whole life. I don’t experience it all the time. But it’s the feeling that right now as you read or write or talk, there is someone standing just behind you, staring, their eyes boring into the back of your head, and that if you look just over your shoulder you can catch them. The feeling that there’s someone in the back seat of the car waiting to come up behind and strangle you, someone whose face will suddenly appear in the bathroom mirror when you close it. The feeling of the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end that have since the dawn of humanity signaled danger from predators.

You might have felt something of what I’m saying and looked behind yourself just now. I did while I was writing it. It’s a common feeling. But it hits me in very acute ways, sometimes. And it’s not an incredibly common occurrence, it’s not something I deal with on a daily basis, but that’s partially because I have learned to surround myself with things that make me feel safe, like video games, bright lights, and most of all, funny TV shows. Like I said, I don’t always laugh, but the light-heartedness makes me feel safe.

For the past few days I’ve been dealing with this fear I mentioned, because I’ve been binge watching or binge listening a Youtube channel called Found Flix, narrated by a guy who goes through the plot of movies and explains what happens, as well as elaborates on twist endings and theories about future movies. He speaks in a somewhat monotonous voice that becomes a little grating after a while because he’s always gently shouting to be heard by his microphone, but the videos are each about fifteen to twenty minutes and they’re addictive, so I occasionally will fall down a rabbit hole watching them. Whenever I do, I usually end up watching and listening to his videos until late into the night while I’m playing video games, and as I get sleepier, I begin to again feel that creeping dread, the sense that someone is just behind you. Walking outside to my car is terrible during times like this because my house is in the woods and there’s very little light, and the cats outside make disturbing shapes before I realize they’re cats.

And so, here I’ve been, the past few days, feeling a little vulnerable because of how often alone I am at home (I live with my brother who is always either at work or in his room with his door closed), and also feeling an encompassing void with how I’ve been spending my time off. I’ve had three days off this week, today being the third (though not consecutive), in which I’ve done more or less nothing on my off day.

When I do have a day off, it usually starts the same, I wake up, I probably jerk off, I get up and drink coffee and play video games and watch shows or Youtube videos for a while, because it’s what I do when I’m relaxing. Then a few hours have gone by and I remember that I need to do something productive with my day. For me, productivity is writing or going to the gym, and I always intend to do both, and often do neither. I almost always drive somewhere.

Driving is the thing that makes me happiest. I usually feel the excitement someone might feel about going to Disneyland when I know I have a long road trip ahead of me. I love getting my car cleaned out, getting a trash bag ready for all the food I’m going to eat along the way, and stopping at the gas station to get snacks and soda for my trip, then starting up a music playlist or an audiobook and starting my GPS to prepare for a drive that may take hours and hours. I feel an incredible sense of hope and potential when I’m on the highway, and when I’m inside my car I feel safe from the outside world, where I can control the temperature and the music and the entertainment, and I can pull over whenever I want or go to a rest stop or a restaurant whenever I want. I feel most in control of my life when I’m driving. My car is a safe and happy place for me, the place I feel most at home, probably more so even than in my bedroom, because my bedroom is at my family’s house, and being with my family is not something that makes me feel safe.

I have so much that I need to do.

My greatest regret in life is that I haven’t gone to college, and it’s not just because I need a degree, but because I want to have the experience of being in college, of being around other young people with fresh ideas who want to go out and live life, to find a friend group, to have a lot of sex, to try drugs and drink, to meet people who share something with me, to feel a sense of belonging I’ve never had, to have the ability to go to someone else’s dorm or apartment and just sit on their couch or lay in their bed. The commune, the safe brotherhood of other people, their friendship enfolding me. This is what I’ve pined after my whole life, and what I’ve never truly experienced, instead spending my days alone, on the couch or my bed or in a chair, playing video games and listening through headphones to music, to audiobooks, to podcasts, to Youtube essays, to TV shows.

My goals for today were to begin, yet again, the process for applying to college, which I’ve started many times but never finished, to go to the gym and do some kind of physical exercise to help me toward losing weight and overcoming both the type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea I struggle with, and to write in my blog, this one in fact. I’m writing this over on Blogger, rather than on my usual WordPress blog (although I’m likely going to cross-post is there), because even though I’ve been blogging since 2010, I often feel the need to reinvent and start over new. I’ve tried on several occassions to number my blog posts, so that I can say “I can’t believe I’ve actually reached number one-hundred!” or something, but there’s just no good way to do it, because my blog entries have been written at different times for different reasons with different potential readers in mind, although always they’ve been for me, and not really for anyone else.

I’m not influential enough to have my posts read by a wide array of people, but I like to imagine that one day I will be successful and people will care about what I have to say, and they’ll scour the back logs of things I wrote throughout my twenties to see what I had to say then. In the current 2019 climate of combing through someone’s back log to find incriminating evidence with which to label them problmatic and decide someone is “cancelled,” I’ve made some of my old posts private or deleted them altogether. I don’t think it’s wrong to keep your old thoughts up online, I think it shows growth. I don’t want to be judged in my thirties for something I thought in my twenties, but that’s the world we live in, and I’m hoping that pretty soon people will come around to the idea that everyone is problematic, everyone is always growing and evolving, and people shouldn’t be held responsible for an insensitive or bigoted thing they said, particularly without intent to offend, years and years ago.

So, I’m hoping this post will be entry number one in a new chapter. My old blog isn’t going anywhere, but I’m toying with the idea of trying things out over on Blogger and starting a “new” blog, which is something I’ve actually done in the past and ultimately gone back over to WordPress, but I’m going to try it again just to give myself a bit of a reason to keep writing. With a fresh slate I can keep coming back here and journaling, which is essentially all that my blog has truly been all this time.

I often feel that the past decade of my life has consisted of so much wasted time and potential. It’s a harsh thing to say because it implies I wish I hadn’t have met the people I’ve met in the past ten years, and there are people who I love today who I wouldn’t want to disappear, but still, if I could go back and do it all again, I might do things very differently. The first thing I’d do is find any way, no matter how difficult, to get far away from my family and stay far away, something which I still haven’t managed to accomplish today. But college would have helped me find friends, find a support group, find a way out. I wish I’d gone to college when I had the chance to do it without so much fuss, and without needing to juggle a full-time job along with it to survive.

A friend of mine from high school is now an English professor at a local community college who promised she would help me to get applied, and now all I have to do is just do it. I wanted to start the process today, along with putting in applications for a new job as I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable where in my current job, but I didn’t get any of that done. I did, however, write this, meandering as it may be, and that is something. My friend, the English professor, says that she knows I’m a good writer, that she can tell I’m talented. I know this too, but it’s hard sometimes because of an issue which I’ll talk about at length another time, the fact that I have difficulty finding my own voice, in every avenue of life. I assimilate the styles of my friends and influences and emulate them, and I don’t know if there is a truly unique voice within me, unless of course I’m wrong about what the concept of originality really is, and every unique person has always been reinterpreting the world around them and reflecting their influences through their own prism, which of course I know is true, but it’s still difficult because I don’t know who I am yet. I don’t know my own voice as an artist. I appreciate my innate ability to emulate the writing style or musical style of other people, but I also have the fear that someone else will see right through me: this passage reads just like Anne Rice, this song sounds just like Tori Amos, that kind of thing. And the reason I’ve been writing tonight in an ornate, circuitous style is actually because I’ve been reading Anne Rice, and there’s a particular quote that really struck me today, from Interview With The Vampire, that I feel really captures how I feel about the way other people affect me, as a writer, as a musician, and as a person:

“I didn’t know I thought these things. I spoke them now as my thoughts. And they were my most profound feelings taking a shape they could never have taken had I not spoken them, had I not thought them out this way in conversation with another. I mean that my mind could only pull itself together, formulate thought of the muddle of longing and pain, when it was touched by another mind; fertilized by it, deeply excited by that other mind and driven to form conclusions.”

The narrator, and my favorite character in Anne Rice’s chronicles, Louis, also in the next paragraph refers to “the great feminine longing of my mind being awakened again to be satisfied.” I feel that way too. I have my own thoughts, my own style, my own music, but it waits to be touched and fertilized by someone else, that’s the starting point, and then I’m off. But I don’t have the starting point. It’s funny, because as I hope I’ll write about at length, I have a real reverence for the male aspect of life, for the male form and the male mind and the mind being, and I wish so dearly that there were a movement like feminism for men, that was about the empowerment and appreciation of men without the toxicity and chauvinism that tends to ordinarily imply, a wholesome place where men could appreciate and respect and love themselves and one another as men, and to organize around the issues that face men which need societal addressing (i.e. male victims of abuse, circumcision, the favoring of the American court system toward mothers even when they are unfit parents, etc.). And here I have what Anne Rice, who herself has said she doesn’t really identify strongly with any gender or see people with any gender, might describe as a feminine mind, a feminine longing to be fertilized by another. Tori Amos fertilized my musical mind, Anne Rice fertilized my writing mind. And I hope there are more and more who will fill me ideas that I can transform to create my own stories, my own music, my own voice made up of others, as all voices really are. A chorus of voices in one person.

We’re all made up of the experiences of our lives: the squeaking shoes on the floor of the school as the kids march in from the rain, my grandmother recounting her harrowing life stories through the smoke of a cigarette, the days and nights sitting in quiet, sedate calm with a video game controller in my hands, looking in the eyes of the first boy I fell in love with on my fifteenth birthday, the moment another, different, young man first pressed his lips against mine two years later, the shiver up my spine and weakness in the small of my back as I was kissed and finally, finally, felt safe. The aching hours spent in regret that I’ve done so little with all this time that I’ve been given.

Struggling, even on a day when I feel I’ve accomplished next to nothing, to believe that the life I’ve been wishing for, the day when the loneliness will finally end and the world will open up like the highway on a long drive, when I will feel the warmth and safety of smiling and laughing friends beside me, and the warmth of lovers in my bed at night, will finally fill my life with the meaning and the purpose and the hope that I’ve been longing for since those first days of sexual awakening when I was thirteen and thought surely it would be years and years and years before I ever felt the satisfaction of someone who loved me. I thought that by thirty I might have begun to understand, but I am confused by life’s questions now as I was then, and afraid, afraid of being alone as well as being without purpose.

This is my small attempt to find meaning in a day that doesn’t go wasted.

It Isn’t Raining

It Isn’t Raining

She’s there at the bottom of the lake
The mother I never had
Waiting for me to join her
Waiting for me to hold her
Like she could have held me back then

He’s hiding in the cavern
The father I dreamt of loving
Waiting for me to kiss him
Waiting for me to lay in his lap
To keep me warm the way he never did

When I needed so much
I faced the wall and said not a thing
Cause what could I say
What good does it do to beg fate
For things it never gave you

It isn’t raining, but I wish it were
I’m not crying but I wish I was
The human capacity for suffering
Is really something, isn’t it?
How many days you can wake up and do nothing
And keep on getting up again tomorrow
When there’s nothing to do but jerk off and read
When there’s nothing to feel but a hot biting need
When the sugar in your blood has grown too sweet
So you can’t even feel both your feet
And the way your body gives up just served to remind me
In the end everyone leaves me behind

I said I’d be nothing like you
But a prescription and a street drug are points of view
And my feet won’t stay awake
So the handsome European man gives me more pills to take

It’s not raining but I could use it
Time isn’t real until you lose it
I wish I were anyone else but this
And it’s here that I lie
And it’s here that I’ll die
I wish I could be a rain cloud in the sky

On 2018

I just realized that I’m “twenty-eight” and the year is “twenty-eighteen.” Words are funny.

I didn’t intend to write an “end of the year wrap-up” post and lord knows if that’s what this will be, but here we are either way. When coming here to write this I got a notification from WordPress that I registered this blog nine years ago today, which is funny because I always thought my first post was in December of 2009 but apparently it was mid-way through January of 2009. I think that’s actually because I had a very short-lived blog somewhere else around the same time that enjoyed a total of three posts before I gave up and started over. I tend to do things like that a lot.

So I was actually about to begin THIS particular paragraph by saying that this year was a total shit show that sucked from beginning to end, when I remembered that wasn’t true. Actually some VERY good things happened this year, it’s just that they all happened during the early parts of the year so I’ve kind of forgotten that they happened this year at all.

Let’s start the beginning. In January I was about three months in to a job at Walgreens which I actually enjoyed pretty well and was moderately successful at, things which do not often happen to me when jobs are involved. In February I discovered I had an incredibly painful protrusion inside my mouth which turned out to be a bone spur literally coming through my gums. The worst thing is, this has actually happened to me once before, and I had to have surgery to fix it. So after going back and forth between a dentist and an oral surgeon, I was basically told to take some pain medication and wait for the bone spur to fall out all on it’s own. For about a month I was hopped up on pain meds and just waiting for this incredibly painful piece of bone in my mouth to fall out, a process which included missing practically weeks of work, trying to pull the thing out myself with my fingers resulting in a lot of bleeding and a midnight call to an ambulance because my entire family was out of town, and then finally a trip to a completely seperate oral surgeon who just took a pair of pliers and ripped the remaining bone spur right out of my mouth without any buildup or numbing injection or anything. It was, um, fucking painful. I got so used to being in constant pain over the course of weeks and weeks of just taking meds and constantly reapplying mouth-numbing ointment and gel.

Also in February, my stepfather was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital, and within two weeks they learned he had terminal cancer and then he died. The death was more surreal than anything, I’ve never had any kind of relationship, positive or negative, with my stepfather. My mom married him about six years ago and he’s usually worked and lived several hours away, so I’ve honestly just not had much interaction with him. An incredibly strange after-effect of his death was that my mom inherited a lot of money from him and suddenly we were, as far as we could tell, very financially well-off, at least for the time being, something no one in my family had experienced before. Suddenly money just wasn’t an issue for my mom anymore and there would be stretches of time when I would have her debit card in my wallet for weeks and just use it here and there for whatever was needed. I kind of understood what it must feel like to really be middle class and have a family that isn’t struggling to survive. I won’t lie, it was a really good feeling. All of the sudden our life felt like an adventure. My mom moved out of the house into her own apartment with my sister, leaving me all alone in the house for a limited time before my brother and his wife moved into the house with me.

I know it seems wrong to have been excited about this sudden wealth when it happened because my stepfather died, but I’m not really in control of how I felt. At the time I felt guilty, and I still acknowledge that it’s odd, but the truth is, for me personally, my stepfather’s death resulted in an improvement in my life, not because he was no longer in it, but because I was no longer at the mercy of my mother needing money from me or threatening me with not being able to eat or stay with her because she didn’t have the money to keep helping me. It’s just a weird situation.

Around this time, an incredibly positive thing happened. I asked my mom if my best friend of several years, Jacob, could move in with me. I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into all the details, but she said yes, and after a couple of weeks of trying to convince him, so did Jacob, and he moved in with me for two months. I drove up to get him, dealt with his obnoxious, religious and homophobic family several times, and then he and I got to have something like a life together for a couple of months. Neither of us were working but money wasn’t really a huge issue because my mom could help me and he had money saved up from a very lucrative paid internship. We were taking trips to the mountains, listening to music in the car, and spending every night cuddled up naked together.

I think maybe I got to know what it feels like, for just a little while, to be part of a functioning, healthy, loving relationship. We had a cozy little life, for a couple of months.

Then came May, and he went back to his family for the summer to do his summer internship, and a couple of months later, after we’d visited once, we both agreed it would be best for him to move in with his dad, something which still hasn’t really happened but hopefully will at some point soon. We hoped that he would have more freedom and it would be easier for us to see one another. I’ve not seen Jacob in about six months now. I miss him still, but it’s not like it was in the beginning, where I was endlessly yearning for him.

After Jacob left, everything really went downhill. My doctor switched me to a new antidepressant, the first one in my life to cause any kind of serious side-effects, almost all of which were sexual. I also tried to fill the void I was feeling emotionally by having a lot of promiscuous unprotected sex with strangers I met through hook-up apps, including one HIV scare. I haven’t gotten tested since then and I ought to, but I think I’m afraid that maybe by irresponsibility earlier in the year will end up causing me to pay some kind of consequences, and maybe I’m scared to know what those consequences might be. But I think I’m healthy. Sexually, at least. Except for the fact that the antidepressants make it hard to cum, hard to keep an erection, and hard to feel much of anything sometimes.

I quit my job at Walgreens and lied to my family that I’d been fired for being absent so much. The way I quit was even worse: I just walked out the door without saying a word, got in my car and drove away. I sent my manager a text and never said anything afterward. My friend at work was very sad to see me go but was understanding, and I still visit him periodically while he’s working. I’ve not seen my old manager again but I’m told she isn’t angry at me for leaving. Through the summer I had no job, until I was finally hired full time at CVS in their pharmacy. I went to work to do training modules and then had one full day of on-site training, something like a nine or ten hour work day, and then I got scared and I quit that job because of the anxiety I was feeling at work. I again lied to my family, I said that I never registered with the board of pharmacy (which actually was true) and so I was fired (which was not true). After a lot of pressuring and threats from my mother, I found another job, this time at Starbucks.

Then I got very sick. I had food poisoning from eating bad eggs that came from Starbucks and were past their expiration date. I spent ten hours in an emergency room that refused to just outright diagnose me with food poisoning and had to sign a paper saying that the ER would not be held responsible if I died when I went home. I went back to my doctor to ask about changing my antidepressants and help with my food poisoning, neither of which happened. After this I tried to quit my antidepressants altogether. It wasn’t originally my intent, because I was taking two different kinds and was only supposed to quit one of them. The thing is, the second one had no effect on me in the first place, so what I ended up doing was quitting psychiatric drugs altogether.

I fell into an intense… I don’t know what to call it. Depression isn’t the right word, because I wasn’t depressed, I was anxious. Constantly, incurably anxious. And my doctor would only give me limited prescriptions of weak Xanax which I had to ration out in order to survive. I became obsessed with some events that happened a year or two ago, and couldn’t get them out of my head. I had some intensely bad experiences that still haunt me, and at least one person who knows about them has tried to share them online and publicly humiliate me, which they in fact, did. I wanted to kill myself. I was afraid I was going to either end up dead or living a life that wasn’t worth living. I was afraid of very real danger, not just the kind that I make up in my head. Looking back on it now I don’t really understand how I got through it. I started developing these mental techniques to release the stress by constantly reminding myself of the few bits of positive encouragement I’d had from trusted friends who I knew weren’t just trying to comfort me because they loved me, but because they truly believed I am a good person who has not caused harm to other people.

I’m still not truly over it. I don’t think I ever will be. I guess that’s okay, but even though it ISN’T okay, it kind of has to be because I have to keep living.

I started taking the antidepressant again, the one that caused me all the sexual side effects. I take it less often than I’m directed to so that the sexual side effects aren’t as intense. In general, it’s been helping. Ever since I started back on it I’ve felt more positive and more productive.

A month or so ago, I got a call for a job interview, and after the first one I was given a second interview, then a job offer, and then finally I went to Virginia for a week of training, and started my new job a few weeks ago. I really, really like it. I’m having a good time there, and most importantly it’s a job where I feel I can excel and my talents and personality are put to good use, and I am cautiously optimistic that I’m actually going to be making enough money here to take care of myself, maybe even afford a small apartment.

It’s been hard. I’ve had more casual sex with more strangers this year than any other time of my life, and it’s probably not unrelated that I’ve been more lonesome and sad than ever before in the past year. I’ve spent many, many nights curled up in my bed, listening to quiet, somber music, with tears either rolling down my cheeks or always on the verge of coming forth, and I’ve sighed again and again and again.

It’s so hard to be alive.

My goals in 2019 are similar to the ones I always hope for in a new year. It’s a weird thing that we choose the beginning of a new year to choose goals for ourselves, but honestly, maybe it’s not that weird either. I want to become more healthy and do more creative things like writing and making music. I recorded a somewhat low-quality improvisation earlier this year in a piano store that’s probably my favorite recording of anything I’ve ever played on piano. I actually listen to it on repeat to help myself sleep at night. I’ve got some ideas for running features I want to do here on the blog: one is going through the tracks on an album I love or have listened to a lot and discuss each song individually, possibly while ranking them and discussing some B-Sides as well. I also want to share more my self-made greatest hits and playlists/mixes that I make as a hobby, and maybe learn how to record good-quality and pay to have my piano tuned so I can study more with it and record with it as well. I also have wanted for a long time to do a series themed around something like “confessions of a liberal” where I talk about things that annoy my about culture, both on the opposite side of me socially and politically and the things that annoy me about fellow liberals, and believe me, both groups behave like a bunch of entitled whiny brats, probably because that’s just what people do. I think I might call the series I No Longer Give A Fuck.

And honestly, maybe that should be my new years goal: to stop giving a fuck about unimportant things, to speak my mind and my truth unapologetically, to be even MORE loud and unapologetic, and to take care of myself first and foremost. Maybe it should be what we all do.