The end of the journey out west

It’s closing in on 3 am here on the west coast. In a few swift hours I’ll begin my trip back home. By that point, it only would have been 10 days since I left. It is amazing what 10 days removed from everything, placed in a completely different setting, just relaxing and trying to enjoy every moment of life can do. I wanted to write a few times while I was gone. I even considered keeping a daily travelogue, but I either failed on that front or just didn’t have the time. I kind of like that it turned out that way. I get to culminate instead.

First thing’s first, I want to say a few things. For once, the last post that I actually published was about depression. I want to make it clear one more time, I don’t suffer from any sort of clinical or physically induced depression. I just hit seasons in my life sometimes. The past 8 years or so are probably years most prone given all of the transitions hitting in succession as well as the final stages of metamorphosis from ‘a kid’ to ‘an adult’. But once again, I don’t regularly suffer from depression, so don’t misunderstand me. If I get depressed, it is just a very temporal phase in my life– we all go through these things.

Secondly, I’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way. I’m going back to school. The fact is, I never intended on not going back and finishing, and for all I know something in my life may sweep me away and I don’t, in fact, make it back at the time I expect/am declaring now, but for all intents and purposes, in this moment I can say I am going back to finish up the little bit I have left. If I keep my Spanish minor, I only have 19 hours left (one of which is a 1 hour total joke class, so it is really just like taking 6 classes instead of the average 5). Or, to my understanding, I can even graduate without that minor and only have 11 hours (what I was told). Either way, I know that there is a large part of me that has such a distaste for how messed up the system is (the loan system + mercurial rise of tuition and costs is oppressive) as well as how much I think school is just a hoop jumping contest (and I hate jumping through hoops), or how I pretty much completed my major course of study and just quit going 1 week out from having practically no work left, but there is also the prideful part of me, who wants to bring that degree home, not just so I have it as some sort of superfluous credential to tote around the career field, but to my actual home. You know, this piece of paper that nobody else in my immediate family has, something that my parents would be immensely proud of, even if we all understand that in the scope of things it bears no meaning on the world, or if it doesn’t truly prove much of anything as far as my personal capabilities go, you know pride, something that is ok in the most minuscule of amounts. There are other parts of me, such as the one who has genuinely enjoyed my experience at Belmont University. The one who realizes that I made a lot of meaningful connections there, and opened the door for many more. The side that understands how significant so many of my experiences as a student there were, inside and outside of the classroom. The part of me that underwent the slow process of becoming disconnected from the entire university and the people it consists of and feeling insulated from the entire atmosphere longs for one more stab to get plugged back in. Finally, just the plain fact that I’ve never been a quitter, and I never intended on quitting when I left. It was simply a means to an end– the end being graduating. It is just something I am feeling strongly. I spent a long time feeling all types of dread, anxiety, ambivalence and apathy when even thinking about anything associated with school, but now those feelings have subsided, and as I continue laying out a general groundwork for the path my life is on at the moment, I hope to get that aspect paved as part of the process.

So like I said, 10 days, it really isn’t that long, but then again, most vacations are even shorter. It was the perfect length in the sense that I don’t know how much longer I (or the generous friends I have) could have financially sustained it. At the same time, it was at the borderline length of removing myself from routines, I feel like when I get back, I might have to work a bit more to kick myself back into gear (especially physically), but I’ll be back to the shape I was in and into the routines I need to be in– as if I never left. At the same time, it there was just enough kickin’ it time for it to be meaningful, to be impactful, to make a real difference. As each day went by I got a lot more comfortable with everything, but especially (most importantly) with myself. I haven’t been comfortable with myself in forever– to the point I had forgotten myself. I’m not starting to feel comfortable in my own skin again, the gloves fit my hand again, basically. Since this is the end of it and the last night, I can really reflect, and just reflecting on this day alone, I feel really good. I feel that today I really did get broken in a lot more than all the other days combined, not to say that there wasn’t more exertion all of those days, but just that the progress today was the greatest. So not only am I building off of that progress, but because I felt the effects increase in an exponential manner that means I have momentum. Momentum will be everything to me in the coming weeks. There is no other way to put it; it’s just freakin exciting.

This was not the kind of get away filled with reflection and all sorts of arduous introspection. This was just getting the hell out of there and just hanging out, just chilling you know. My two point men out here, Robert and Ryan have been incredibly generous to me, and it is almost hard to feel blessed because really it gets me thinking, “What exactly did I do to earn anyone who would go that far for me in my life?” And of course, other friends and my hosts have also blessed me a lot more than I deserve. I’m glad I got to spend time with the people I did, hopefully it can be a sliver of time that various people can look back on and recall it being an enjoyable week and half, and if I’m lucky, a time that was enjoyable in part by my temporary company.

I know I’ve talked about moving, and I am still considering it. Of course, amidst having to figure out a lot of things in my life in terms of the present and also needing to finish school, it is impossible to tell how that will work out, but it is funny, the LA area is a place I always thought to myself I could never live, but I think knowing there are people out here who can erase this entire concept of  inability goes as far as to make it an appealing place to live, all other things aside (and there are a lot). So who knows, maybe I’ll still end up back out here. Plus Ryan Baker is still my point man on a project. So I may have to chase a dream for a while, and this could be where I have to end up in order to chase. The thing about it is, chasing a dream for me isn’t some quest to attain this mythical artifact (the dream), but instead, it is just the chase. Sometimes you need to chase just to say that you chased. I wouldn’t mind chasing for a while, at least you’ll give your legs some work. For all I know the dreams I end up chasing may take me to the obscure corners of the earth after all, the may take me to crazy southern California, or they may plant me down in middle Tennessee for longer. Either way, I am now starting to once again see the excitement in life both long term and short term. Most importantly, my journey out here is done and I’m coming home. For now.

It’s good to be with friends no matter where you are. It’s good to be home, no matter how everything else is. I’ve missed all of my people back home, and I’ve missed plain home. All the while, I’ll miss the people I have spread out all over, as well as the places I’ve been familiar with in my life.

Really, it’s just good though.

On Depression

Ok, I’ve wanted to do this one for a while now, but other things got in the way. Throw in having to move all of our web stuff over to a new host and playing in MySQL for a couple hours and by the time I am able to actually get to something, it has passed me by. I’m hoping I can take some sort of brain laxative on this one and force it out though.

I’ve really had a lot of thoughts and feelings on depression and anxiety. For one, I’ve been ‘suffering’ from depression for months now, maybe even a year. It’s not something I’m proud of. You won’t see me hopping from rooftop to rooftop, sliding down the chimney of unsuspecting families with my neo-70’s dance crew and doing a laser light show number where I proclaim that I am depressed. I’m not ashamed either, though.

The fact of the matter is that it is, well, was it is. Too much is to handle? I’m only getting started. I don’t know if it really is a modern phenomenon, or a more culturally prevalent one for us (speaking as current day Americans) to suffer from depression in almost cyclical phases of our lives, but people would seem to lead you to think that. I, for one, almost suspect that we are just a society that has such an attitude and way of handling things that it is more likely for these phases to surface and so on, but I’m not making any sort of official claim on that, I’m familiar with research on these things that would probably argue me to the core of the Earth. What I’m getting at though, is that this is something I personally have gotten used to. I don’t spend most of my life battling depression or anything, but occasionally things in my life orbit around in a way that leads to things aligning in a manner that leads to me ending up depressed– assuming these eclipses last long enough. In that regard, I’m prepared for these seasons to fall upon me, and the time experienced through the previous ones are just experiences I use to make the next dark age a more positive thing– something that I can grow more out of.

I guess that would have to be my first thought on all of it. It’s like there is this idea that falling into any level of depression is something to be avoided at all costs; like lava or spikes in any video game– game over. At least, I know I’ve fallen under that line of thinking before, holding some sort of mentality that I’m too tough to be sad over nothing, or that my life is too good to always be down, or that I don’t want people to think there is something wrong with me. Life just isn’t that simple, though. And before I go any further, I am not saying that cases of severe chronic depression isn’t something serious and often requires some form of council and even medication, but this is not what I’m talking about at all, I’m just talking about the human experience. I fall in and out of communication with a lot of my close friends, so sometimes it is hard to keep up, but even given the statistical drop offs, a number of my good friends have gone through similar down periods in recent months. I can’t say that I’ve seen a notably different story with any of them. Just getting to the point where I know they are depressed takes me practically beating it out of them sometimes, or bluntly saying to them, “Hey, so I guess I’ve been pretty depressed these days…,” and I can’t imagine what its like for the lesser classes of friends and colleagues. This paragraph has been drivel thus far, but it necessitates a question that I’ve often tried to work out: why do we live under such conditions in almost a level of secrecy?

Is it because we don’t want people to think there is something wrong with us? Or maybe even be worried? Or is it more like we don’t want people to not care? In the many elements of truth, I almost think that the prospect of people not caring, getting fed up with some a miserable, pitiful, helpless creature and distancing their lives as far away as possible from the dysfunctional. And maybe this isn’t even the case, but from the view of ‘the dysfunctional’ I think this is the more likely angle of perception.

There are further possibilities that come into play. Do we want to avoid being that one person who just wallows and virtually cries out to the world as much as possible, as if to come off as some attention whoring brat who just wants people to spend their time and energy on them? Do we just want to avoid being perceived as that, even if it is the antithesis of the truth? Or maybe, do we even secretly want that kind of attention without having to work for it, even if we would never admit it to ourselves? I think in this case, I am bordering a lot on common questions that tend to go through the minds of an average person, but I’d think that if you’re depressed, the intensity of this is even greater. I should say this right now, the first time I ever really went through some real level of depression (I was 18 or 19, though you could make a case for me at 14-15, but that was different, I believe) I was this stereotypical case. I had this mindset that I wanted people to know I was depressed because people should care, hell, it might even be their fault I am. Misery loves company, right? I completely shut myself down. I had no drive to do anything, the only thing that seemed to feel good was the lay down.. by myself.. in my room.. preferably in the dark and feel sad, actually more like pitiful. I felt pitiful so I could pity myself. Someone had to do it right?

I have my days still, those days where you don’t even think a rock would let you hide under it. Even so, I guess that would be a lot of what I learned the most in that first bout with depression. People can think whatever they like, but you have to take care of yourself first. You know this analogy, if the plane is going down, put on your oxygen mask before you think about anybody else. I guess that is hard when you’re having to go out and be, you know, a person, especially on those really low days. It’s like being bubbled up with anxiety and the slightest movement or outside pressure and the whole thing just gets expulsed out in this big sinewy mess of guts and rotted feelings. To not care what anybody might think about you, even if it is in the most indirect, irrelevant manner is a gift that is reserved for savants and the like, and to be expected to win that battle of man vs. self in a state of anxiety-filled depression probably lead to the most laughable point spread since Alabama played newly christened Georgia State.

Anyway, at least I’m not sheepish about it, even if I don’t have the rest of it down quite right yet. That is the interesting thing about customs. Why do we always ask how people are doing as a formality, it basically sends the message that we don’t care. When I’m really not alright, at the least I try to say, “You don’t want me to answer that,” almost as a way of politely saying that I’m doing pretty crappy. I know I can’t go around door-to-door and let everyone know this but, if you spend the time to read this you can learn this about me:

If I ask how you are doing, I really want to know. So if you are really intending on getting into a conversation with me, then answer it as extensively as you like. I guess it is another cultural thing that I’m sick of. Well, actually, formal anything comes off as a waste of time to me, and time is something we’re always losing.

Finally circling things back fully to myself, it is funny how things work out. After spending about 3 years with the girl of my dreams, and the dream to end all dreams, and now having that part of my life filled with a huge void, you’d think I’d be even more down. The funny thing is, I think I’ve actually gained a lot of altitude instead. Not because that removal from each others life isn’t something that makes me really sad, but all the other things that got me down seem to be losing their stranglehold on me. Though on the days where it all brings me down, well yeah, those can be rough, but so can any other day, if things decide to favor the tragic.

So yeah, I don’t mind saying it again, I’m depressed. I have been under this spell for quite a while now, but a long time ago I realized that there is no good done letting that affect the rest of my life. So you will likely see me smiling or laughing, or at least trying to have a good time, or just doing stuff and never have any idea how I feel in the larger scope of things, because you know what? The two don’t necessarily have to be partners. Life is beautiful, even when its all grays.

Hmm, I don’t know if any mental laxative could have gotten that out well, but at least its out of my system.

These days I’m not much into being sentimental, but I think I’d call this a love letter

I know, I should have done this already. I’m sorry. Again.

Since everything has ended this is a hard place for me to go. Lord knows I’ve already been depressed enough the past year, and I spend as much energy as I can spare to just function normally, but it is still wrong of me to neglect this. You’ve meant too much to me and deserve better, but instead, in what is likely the final scene of the third act, I will offer what I can. I know anything coming from me will mean nothing at this point, but maybe one day these words will acquire some value.

What more can I really say? I love you. I guess I can’t say that anymore. I’m learning how to stop. I feel like one of the world’s most notorious criminals. For months, maybe even a year, all those times I said those words almost as a routine; not that I never meant it. Though, here I am today and I wish that I could have really meant it the way I feel it, but I also don’t think that humans can physically intimate such tender feelings, we can only find small things to vary in order to tack on small bits of emphasis where we can.

I’ve done you wrong. I know this. I guess I’ve known this for a while, in the sense that the past year was not one of my best ‘performances’. One of the last times we talked, you brought up the past. It got me thinking about it too. Not even our first real date or anything, but further back. Back to the girl that I had already started falling in love with before you ever made the decision to accept my affection. That girl that I sort of met that one night where I played Spoons for the first time ever with a group of mostly random strangers. And all those times I happened to see you, whether it was walking by or off in the distance with your usual crowd in the passing year. That entire time I didn’t know you, but you always captivated my attention. I think for me, speaking as a guy, it is one thing to notice a girl; she can be cute, or pretty, or hot, or all these types of adjectives, which typically can equate to pretty large differentiations. It’s similar to gold. Civilizations have always had some sort of fascination and infatuation with this so called precious metal; always captivating powerful rulers and wealthy nobility. When they saw gold, they couldn’t take their eyes off of it (and always had to have more). In that sense, when a guy sees beauty, it is hard to not have your attention, your eyes, your vision, your focus completely siphoned away by it, but I think for as long as I can remember, I have understood it is a further thing than that.

That ‘thing’ that catches our eye, that aesthetic factor that our brain convinces us is so satisfying is merely an attention grabber. You have always struck me as incredibly beautiful, but it is what follows that initial grab of attention that usually tells if a girl is attractive or what not. I kind of like to think we were wired that way for a reason. It isn’t just this concept of something nice to look at, but rather a signal. In this case, signals are meant to be further investigated. And I think that really is where the difference has always been. You weren’t just beautiful, or a pretty face with a nice figure, or any of those mere physical factors, but it was almost instantly apparent that there is something more here. That is the difference between seeing something that is ordinary versus something that you’re not sure man was meant to witness. You had my attention from the very moment I knew of your existence, because there was a spellbinding ‘something’ about you  that always made it clear that there was so much more behind the mask; a richness. A pure beauty.

And this is my problem I’m having with the whole thing. I can’t say anything right. I can’t say anything true without feeling almost somewhat corny. What I’m trying to say to you is this: you’re undoubtedly physically beautiful in every facet. I told you so many times that you face was perfect, and never did I not mean that, in my mind’s eye, it was, but when I see a nice looking lady, which isn’t a rare thing at all, I don’t make these types of judgments just by looking at them. There is that whole adage about a personality being attractive or not, which further leads into this whole, “looks don’t matter thing,” and that is just corny and tacky as crap, but I think that its meaning is in the right direction. Looks matter, personality matters, but personality is part of looks. You can see a person’s personality, this doesn’t mean you know them or the extent of their personality, but rather there are things we learn to identify as visual representations of someone’s personality. They are coupled; symbiotic really. I could always see how intimidatingly pretty you were, even as you pretty much never wore any significant amount of make-up, and I could also see that it was in your personality that you didn’t feel the need to paint a mask of what you looked like, plus that always helps with the whole guessing game of, “What do they really look like without any of that stuff on (even with only a subtle amount it is still a guessing game).”  I hope this makes sense. A coupling of pure visual aesthetics and personality. I know it isn’t the best example by far, but I am really just hoping the concept carries the meaning more than using a concrete example as a crutch.

I guess my point with that entire ramble was that you have always been a very rare thing to me. Someone who is instantly captivating and remains captivating. In my life, I’ve met a fair share of those who were instantly captivating and very shortly following nothing more than pop art, at best. Or on the converse, the type of person who cooks slowly and delicately, growing on me, but, and allow me to put it in a quite unromantically blunt manner, you’re like heroin without any of the bad side effects or risks– something so wonderful that it is reserved for mythology.

Of course, I haven’t even begun to cover anything substantial, or the extent of it. To this day, I don’t know if I ever was able to adjust being your other half. It was something intimidating. Me, as the ugly duckling and you the graceful swan. Me the unsophisticated and ignorant cave man, you the elegant and cultured duchess. Or really, me the bum, you the treasure. It’s as if I broke into the king’s castle and stole his crown and was wearing it all over town. There is only one King’s crown, everyone know I stole it, everyone knows I don’t deserve it. I am not the king. I’m really sorry that I was never able to fully conquer that inequality I felt, walking around with you at my side, but that is just how I felt. I can only act so well, and I can only shake a feeling so far. I wish that I could have been putting on parade’s greater than Macy’s for you anytime we went out anywhere, because you certainly deserved it, and better than I could offer.

Then there was the hard year, maybe and a half. Nobody is going to lie or pull any punches about it, it was a crappy time, but I look back on it all and there was never a period where I thought any less of you, or that I had to get out. It is kind of funny when I think about it, because really it is more like you spent some time being amplified, turned all the way up to 11. So even the smallest thing rung out in a deafening and overwhelming manner, often sending vibrations powerful enough to send Earth rattling shockwaves that rumbled on for days. But it also amplified just how gentle you truly were. Gentle is my favorite word I could use to describe it, because I believe out of gentleness, so many other wonderful things are born. Such as your sweet and always caring mentality. It makes me miss waking you up at 3 or 4 in the morning and just having you, without even opening your eyes or really ascertaining any real consciousness, latch on to me and never let go. It was as if all you had was me, then you were fulfilled. I think we both know it isn’t quite that simple, and there are greater factors for fulfillment, but it was just knowing that even if I had rejected everything and consigned myself to the couch and permanent bumhood, you’d always put a smile on your face and take care of me.

Man, oh man, what did I ever do to deserve that? How did I ever manage to earn that?

You see, that’s just it, I don’t know if I’ll ever know. I could say all sorts of sappy things, and use all this inventive, lush figurative language to try and paint out how wonderful you were in every way possible, but it wouldn’t do any justice and it would also preclude the point. You were someone so special to me that I never will understand what I did in my life to not only know such a person, but to really have that person grow to love you more and more each day. Sure, I actually feel like I could say that for a period of time, I was the best boyfriend anyone could have. Arrogant, cocky, ignorant, maybe, but heck, I believe it. How could I not have tried to be– considering who I was with? It was the nature of loving someone and having someone so special to love.

That’s why I will always feel guilty.

I know I lost that. I lost myself somewhere in it all. I was horrible to you for many months. I know you looked past it, tried to understand what I was going through. I know even when you were hurting the most, you would show your loving side even more. I’m pathetic, I know I am. You never deserved to go through any of that, even if it was my current stage of life. You never deserved to go through the end of it all. In my mind, I can’t imagine a more ideal person than yourself. When people go through break ups, they always say, you’ll be ok, there are going to be others– as if to insinuate that everyone can do better because it wasn’t meant to be or whatever. I also know that I have the ignorance of not having experienced the rest of my life following this moment, but that matters not, because it is in this present moment that I say that I can’t imagine a lovelier woman to spend my time and love on. I ruined it, and probably squandered the best person that ever happened to me for good. Assuming that, and the idea that “there will be others” (which doesn’t even concern me anytime soon anyway), sure there will be others, but there is only one you.

I guess you understand it too. Heartbreak would be a weird thing if we had programmable clones of ourselves scampering across the earth, because, in some manner, it’d be a lot harder to really lose someone close to you. I know for you, there is not another me. I think that makes me hope even more that I haven’t ruined you. You said you can never trust again, or be close to anyone again. You told me you felt betrayed, and many more heart wrenching things. These things make me obese with sorrow and guilt to the point that I might burst. That is why I just hope you can forgive me. I hate how I had to lose a best friend.

I promise you it was just the course of my life that sailed me off into this predicament. It makes me sound awfully hypocritical saying that my life is better off in the long run without the person who was the best thing for my life, but somehow, life doesn’t always make sense like it does in the way we come to expect with everything else. I think I need to end this letter now, I think the more I say will just do more injustice to you, I can never give you what you’ve really deserved. I honestly feel that. I know you probably hate me know, but I promise you, I love you. Even when I was at my worse, I loved you so much.

I guess this is it… closure…

I give you my least favorite phrase in the English language: I’m sorry.

I miss you, my best friend.

Love,

James

P.S. – Sorry for not proof reading my letter to you.