Friday, December 27, 2013
So This is the New Year
So this is the New Year/ And I don’t feel any different…
So everybody put your best suit or dress on/ Let’s make believe that we are wealthy now for just this once
Ben Gibbard, you know I love you, but why couldn’t you have written happy instead of wealthy, for that’s how I’ve always sung it…
As this year ends, I, like so many others, find myself reflecting on the last year, which, like any other, was filled with ups and downs, a stereotypical statement if ever there was one, and yet I find in it some truth. My divorce was finalized and I lost two teaching jobs; I dated someone I had liked for years, even while I was married, and watched the dissolution of that relationship, just as I had watched the dissolution of my marriage the previous year. I find myself now in almost exactly the same situation I was in last year: just out of a relationship and working at a new job that I’m still learning to navigate and understand.
This past year held many changes for me: a change of careers, a change of partners; tackling life as a single parent. And through it all, I’d like to say I learned something about myself, about who I am and who I’m not. And I suppose I did. It just seems that such lessons always come with a price, and dealing with that realization seems to get harder as I get older.
At least now you know. Spend the night in the dumps. Allow yourself the evening to be depressed and upset and then get your ass out of bed tomorrow and go at it as hard as you can. It’s a little thing called life and sometimes it just kicks you in the nuts. Better days are ahead and you will not die alone. You will meet someone worthy of your love and attention.
Older? What a strange sentiment, for I’m only 27, yet most days I feel so much older than the number of my years. I’ve always been an old soul, as many of you who know me know, and I know my circumstances are not unique, yet I sometimes think that they weigh more heavily on me than on others—ridiculous, I know. I’m fortunate, for I have a family who loves me, a son who adores me and whom I adore, and friends who care, regardless of their limited number.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes/ five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan/ Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes/ How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?
During the first few months of my marriage, I put on weight and began to fill out for the first time in my life. A friend of mine looked at me one day and said, “You’ve put on weight!” a look of incredulity spread across his face. He was always one to make fun of my small frame over the years, and as I accepted that I had put on weight, he told me he could see it in my face. Contentment pounds, he called them—what a misnomer. Over the last year, that weight has fluctuated as I’ve dealt with the divorce, the ramifications thereof, and my subsequent relationship struggles and job searches, all of which have exacerbated my depression.
It’s funny that when I had no job and was dependent on unemployment checks and family to make ends meet, the rest of my life seemed to be going well; once I got a job, the rest of my life seemed to take a turn for the worse. I know this sounds melodramatic, and that is not my intent. It just seems that the various components of my life can never peacefully coexist in harmony, likely the result, I’ve learned, of some character faults on which I admittedly need to work.
And one of those faults is with my thinking. I used to think that person’s career choice was a quintessential defining element of who he or she was. I was a teacher—regardless of whatever else I was (writer, husband, father, friend, office manager, cashier) I was a teacher. I was an academic who enjoyed intellectual discussions concerning politics, pedagogy, literature, theatre, and film, and tried to use those interests to make those around me think about the world differently than they would otherwise. I wanted to change minds, enhance vocabularies, and broaden horizons. That to me was my defining statement: I’m a teacher.
But I’ve begun to wonder how much a person is truly defined by a career. I have two college degrees and have nearly completed an MA in English (the focus being on education), and yet I’m training to run a gas station. And I don’t see myself going back into education anytime soon. Had anyone told me at seventeen or eighteen—even at twenty-five—that this was where I would be in my life at twenty-seven, I’d have thought the person was crazy. There’s a lot more to me than just the person who wears a black polo instead of blue polo to work, a name tag stuck to my shirt, but as I’ve watched my status as a teacher be erased, I can’t help but wonder how I would define myself to someone. Hi, I’m Dave. I’m a co-manager of a gas station. And I used to be an academic. That’s a turn-on, right?
After all these years, I suppose merely asking how you’ve been would seem a rather silly way to start a conversation, but it’s the best I have at this point. So, how’ve you been?
Well hello there. I have been alright I suppose. Good times and bad but that’s just life. How about yourself?
This year, I continued to work on my novel, finished my first play and wrote a few others, and sent out work for publication, all of which was rejected. Yet I continued to push myself as a writer, looking for outlets, one of which is this blog. I never expected much response from people when I started this, but I’ve received praise from people who’ve read it, people who have thanked me for my honesty and for writing pieces that are relatable, that allow them to draw parallels to their own lives. But let’s be honest: I was hurt, pissed, and depressed, and needed an outlet. So it really started for me, as a place for me to try to make sense of the world around me. The fact that you read it and related to it is an added bonus. I’ve received compliments from people I don’t really know that well who have responded to a post and messaged me to tell me about it, people I’ve not seen since high school. And I must admit that it’s a little disconcerting that people from my church read the blog, what with my discussion of alcohol, religion, politics, and the use of language usually deemed foul in church circles. Yet even from church members, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive, perhaps signifying a difference in the Church I’ve come to know and the Church I thought I knew growing up.
A few of my friends quit smoking this year, though one relapsed. Good for them. I started again after nine years of just the occasional cigar (again, sorry to those of you for whom this is a startling revelation.) This past year I was the first time I ever took medicine for depression and anxiety. I was prescribed Lexipro and it was great until my insurance ran out. I had wondered to what extent it truly helped, and I was interested to see if a change of life situations (marriage and my job) would have eliminated my need for it. I’ll admit that I did feel better even after my refills ran out, though that result was short lived, and I felt myself longing for something to make me feel better. I suppose that is why I spent a cold winter’s night last January around a fire drinking too much moonshine and bourbon on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Why I drank too much Fireball and bourbon a couple months later at a bar where I obviously did not belong.
A short time after Amanda left, I was walking into work at the college when I noticed a rather attractive woman, maybe about my age or a few years older, walking into work as well. I don’t recall now what I was actually doing there, as I was teaching on a different campus. But I recognized her as someone on the staff, though I don’t know who she was or what she does, and I noticed she was smoking. My first thought was “She’s hot” (forgive the baseness of my phrasing and thinking) and my second was “Could I date someone who smokes? I have a kid to think about.” This was obviously before I rediscovered that smoking can take the edge of. A lot of my time in the early months of the year, it seems, was spent thinking thoughts like that: where do I go from here, and not just for myself.
As I do with many things in my life, I went to Travis for guidance. I don’t recall our conversation, but I find myself thinking the same things now: where do I go from here.
As the new year starts, I suppose I have many resolutions, as there are many things I want to do in the coming year and many things about myself that I wish to change. I want to write more and finally publish my book, assuming I can get around to editing a final draft; I hope to stage at least a table read of my first play; and I hope to finish many more works.
But in truth, I want to find a way to be happy. It would be easy for me to say I want to find someone I can make happy and with whom I can be happy, but if I’ve learned anything in the past couple years, it’s that you can’t rely on others to make you happy. You have to find your own internal happiness before you can be happy with someone else. That’s a harsh realization to reach, one that is easier said than accepted, but it’s a truth I must own.
If work will allow, I plan on becoming more active in my church, maybe even getting up in time for Sunday school. I joined a church softball league this past year, and though I’m not athletic or skilled in the least, I enjoyed it far more than I imagined I would, for it offered a sense of community and togetherness. I know there is something missing in my life. If we’re being honest, I kind of thought it was sex. But I’m starting to think it’s community.
--If I think that you're good looking, I say you're attractive. Just sounds better. Dont ya think?
--I think attractive does sound classier. Plus it has the association of attraction, which carries with it the idea of drawing together. So much better than the Neanderthalithic hot that has worked its way into our vernacular. (And better than handsome—old grandmothers call their grandsons handsome.)
A friend of mine recently told me I’m hot (a statement I find unfounded) and that I likely won’t be single for long. She said that looks aside, I’m still quite a catch (her words, not mine) for I’m a devoted father, and I’m funny, smart, and talented. Maybe there is some truth in that. But I think what I maybe need to accept in the new year is that I can be single. I went from a six-year relationship into one that lasted almost a year, with no silent time in between. Alison and I started talking (whatever that means) a week after Amanda left, went on our first date nine days after my divorce, and were together for nearly eight months until just last week. My natural inclination is to find someone, for I don’t like being alone—there are too many ghosts in my house that dance around me when I’m alone—but maybe if I take the time to be alone, to truly reflect on my past lessons learned, I’ll be a better person for it, and I’ll not make the same mistakes I made this time around.
So here’s to the new year, a time of introspection, growth, and building; a time of reflection, creation, and devotion; and a time to ensure that next year doesn’t end the same as this one and the one before, for if we continue to make the same mistakes, we surely haven’t learned.
Here’s to hoping I’ve learned.
If you take the time to read this, know that I appreciate it.
Have a happy New Year.