The Radio Silence Is Hurting My Ears

Yesterday afternoon around 5:45pm a woman jumped in front of The L in what police are calling an “apparent suicide.” She jumped off the same platform I find myself on most days, as it’s two blocks from my apartment, and it connects me to the rest of Chicago. Per my MO, I was glib when I talked about it with my coworkers last night.

“I mean, suicide is a selfish act already. Why do you have to add to that by screwing a bunch of commuters out of being on time?” I said.

“Right? Plus now there’s a guy that has to power wash the front of that train. He’s fucked up for a good week.”

I think we both had pretty good points there, but I still can’t help but relate to the lady. Lately, I’ve had serious depression gnawing at the edges of my consciousness, waiting for moments of quiet to chew threw my mental walls and say, “Jump in front of that train!” or “You’ve got that gun… Have you considered…”

My schedule is full and my dog always needs walks, so I’m pretty capable of pushing those thoughts back with reasoning or the emotional appeal of sticking around for the pup, but that doesn’t make the thoughts go away. It just delays them – suicidal procrastination, if you will.

The dark thoughts aren’t all about ending it, obviously. That’s just sort of a fun fantasy that the thoughts play around with. The more prevalent rumination is meaninglessness. The feeling that the days don’t matter, that my contribution to society doesn’t matter, that I don’t matter, etc. I’m reminded that all of that isn’t true when I talk to friends or family, but I find it difficult to reach out to anyone, and if someone reaches out to me I tend to reject it, so I strongly encourage you not to view this as a call to arms.

In fact, stop worrying! I’m fine. I’ve always been fine. I’ll always be fine (I mean, we all die eventually, but I won’t be dying any time soon). I can’t always worry about your worrying in my writing, otherwise I’ll just be stuck not writing anything at all. Sometimes I just need to write things down to process them – share where I’m at in order to move forward, which is what I’m doing right now. I’ve been stuck in a quagmire of writer’s block that stems from my concern for your feelings, but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been healthy for me, so we’re all going to have to suck it up and power through it.

My point – if there is one at all beyond the need to vent – is that I understand that woman. Her choice presents me with a stark contrast between my feelings and her action. It highlights for me the fact that I don’t want to be her. I’ve got very cool things to accomplish in the near future. I’ll be applying to grad schools soon to study things I’ve always had a sincere interest in. I’ll get to research and teach ways of viewing the world that I believe in strongly, and that’s cool as fuck. This little vortex of negativity is temporary.

Mother Nature is wasting no time in driving the point home, as it’s raining heavily outside right now. Annie might’ve been a little overly optimistic, as the most recent weather forecast says it’ll keep raining for a few more days, but the sun will come out again. This storm will pass as all storms do, and unlike our sister on the L, I’ll live to see that happen.

In case they have WiFi in the afterlife, I’d like to take a quick moment to say, “Thank you, you kind, tortured soul. Whatever your misdeeds in life, in death you’ve had a strong positive effect on at least one person, and I appreciate the fuck out of you. Rest easy, dear.”

Purposefully Lost

I try to make a habit of getting lost whenever I’ve got some free time. Years ago, I’d drive around the back roads and farmlands of California, turning whichever way the wind took me, and enjoying the scenery before making an effort to find my way back. Now, I spend time walking my dog along different paths as often as time will allow. The best part about being lost comes when you allow yourself a bit of presence.

There you are, not entirely sure where, subject to a completely new environment filled with sounds and sights and smells that in all likelihood, are familiar to you, but with a subtle tinge of newness.

Just the other day I stopped at a house that I was captivated by. I had never seen that color of door, that type of wreath, that arrangement of stones, those hearts painted on its staircase, and that sign telling me that they were glad they were my neighbor (not in the photo, sorry). It was striking, and had I not had my head on a swivel, I would’ve missed it completely.

On a similar route recently, a middle-aged woman with short, salt-and-pepper hair and high-end winter gear nodded at me with a smile as my dog barked frantically at three dogs in a window above us. I took precautions and went around her, but something in her eyes told me she had something to say, so I pulled out my headphones, too.

As it happens, she also had a rescue dog that was quite reactive and around one year old when she got him. He’s a bully breed, so she was able to sympathize with the kinds of looks I get when my dog gets loud. She also saw past that, and remarked about the “special connection” he and I clearly shared. She also complimented him on his vigilance. We talked dog books for a few minutes, then she thanked me for stopping and we said goodbye.

The wondrous thing about being lost is that it affords you so many opportunities for discovery. It allows you the chance to dwell on how beautiful or interesting something is just for the sake of doing it.

Many of you are aware that I’ve felt lost lately. I’d go so far as to say it’s concerned you. Given the discomfort most people feel when they’re lost, that’s a pretty fair emotional conclusion. But this is me we’re talking about, and I thrive when I feel lost.

I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with my sense of wonder and mysticism. I’ve had the chance to solemnly reflect on my immediate surroundings, and take in the positive parts of them, and glean information from them that I wouldn’t have if I had been ceaselessly moving forward, head down, headphones blaring.

I am a passionate person. I am, therefore, passionate about a lot of shit. So, instead of fighting that, I intend on using it to propel me forward. I intend on taking all of the parts of my past that inform the person I’ve become, and turning it into a whole that I’m excited to tell you about. Comedy is a part of it. Design is a part of it. Writing is a part of it. Psychology is a part of it. Sales, politics, service… You get the idea. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve found myself, more that I’m learning to appreciate being lost with a purpose.

I’m an advocate for consciously losing yourself. Take turns you don’t normally take. Have a heart to heart with a total stranger. Take a deep breath and enjoy the vibrancy of the world around you by staring at a door instead of your cell phone. You might find some peace in the minutia, like I did.

Dammit! I forgot to be funny again.

No Feet at All

Career Change Two was a flop. I was particularly good at sales, but at some point I had a problem taking money from retirees in the middle of the country just because I talked pretty. I had a small medical procedure done that put me out of commission for a couple weeks, then that spiraled into an Oxycontin-fueled depression.  Turns out that a combination of job dissatisfaction, depressive tendencies, and narcotics isn’t a good mix. Who coulda guessed that, though?!

I moved myself to Southern California for the requisite “Return to Your Parents’ House” that’s so popular among people in my generation. It allowed me the chance to do some regrouping. I took the opportunity to get some degree of sober so as to allow myself some clarity, and I started going to counseling again. That clarity reminded me that I had an interest in the Navy, so I renewed my efforts to join it.

Well… I actually spent a fair amount of time pursuing a career in firefighting while I was in SoCal. My thought was, I’d like to be putting my life in danger in some capacity to save the lives of others. That was my main motivator for going into the military – I think I’m particularly well-suited for dealing with the stresses of being in mortal peril on a regular basis, so I might as well put that to good use. Also, the fire department would have allowed me to start a life with the lady I still consider the love of my life. For some obvious reasons, she took issue with me being away for 6-12 months at a time. That relationship fell through, though, so it was back to the Navy again!

I spent the better part of a year pursuing the Navy thing in earnest, but there were some obvious hurdles. First, I had a few legal infractions in my early twenties (for details, please refer to the yet-to-be-published book). I drove up and down the state of California collecting court documents, then I did it again when they told me they didn’t get everything they needed in the first attempt. Second, I have a sordid past when it comes to substance use and mental health issues. Honestly, I don’t have a huge problem lying about that sort of stuff, but if anybody really did their due diligence, they could find records for those issues. My solution to that was to just apply to jobs that wouldn’t subject me to a Top Secret Security check.

After a year of collecting and filling out paperwork, taking written tests (I got the highest score possible – just sayin’), taking physical tests, driving all over on errands, and dealing with the ABSOLUTE ineptitude of the bureaucrats at the regional recruiting center, I was told that my legal infractions disqualified me. I feel like they could’ve taken less than a year and a half to tell me that, but I guess not. The fine folks in my local recruiting office did everything they could to help me achieve my lifelong dream of being in the military, but at some point we all had to cut our losses.

It’s not easy parting with a lifelong goal. It feels very similar to the loss of a loved one. For me, joining the military was a right of passage; a way of proving that I was more than what everyone thought I was – a loser, a failure, an addict. It’s hard to accept the finality of the “no” I received in that go-round. Instead of really sitting with it, I changed tacks immediately, and moved to Chicago to pursue my other lifelong dreams – writing and comedy. Moving quickly and with conviction is my go-to (a trait that likely would have served me well in the service of my country), but it doesn’t allow for a lot of time to process anything.

Luckily this writing thing really helps with processing, but I’m still looking for an outlet for my badassery. Please let me know if you think of any fun ways to risk my life (ideally for the betterment of society, but I’ll take what I can get), and I will take them into consideration.