Most days I can’t tell if I am dead or alive. My life has become nothing more than going through the daily motions. It wasn’t always this way. I try not to dwell on the past as it rarely serves any constructive purpose. I try to take my lessons and move on, but there are days when I look back on who I used to be, that confident young man full of potential, and pine for what has been lost.
To paint a complete picture and be fair to myself my teen years were not fantastic, and I would not wish to relive them. That said there are things I miss from my youth. At that age there was an almost daily thrill to being alive. The adrenaline rush of life was a regular occurrence. I have said in the past that the tell tale signs of depression were there even back then, and I was a sensitive serious kid, but I had yet to feel the deep dark lows that were to come, and I had the ability to feel the rush of life on a regular basis.
The rush I am talking about came from a lot of sources in those days. I was successful in academics, and treated school like a competition. By my senior year of high school I had developed into a mostly straight A student, but those grades were mostly a function of me being good at school. Sure I was bright, but I had also figured out how to play the game that was school. This was a skill that I really capitalized on in college. When I am taken by the feeling flatness as an adult the rush I really yearn for is the one that came from athletics. Forgive me while I let me inner jock out for a moment. I was blessed to be from a small town and attend a small high school. This meant you didn’t have to be particularly talented to participate in varsity sports. I began swimming competitively when I was eight years old, and competed until I graduated from high school. We didn’t have any youth football programs, but when I got to high school I joined the team and despite being only 160 pounds I played all through high school including two years of varsity where I was co-captain my senior year. I am not trying to relive my “glory days” here. I have run across acquaintances from that time in my life that never left the area and still talk about nothing but the days they spent in pads. I have gone on to do many more things, but I do miss they rush that came from standing on that field. I was 160 pounds and a very slow runner which meant I couldn’t play on the outside with the other small kids. They were all way too fast. I played inside where all the big boys were. I was easily the smallest kid down in the “trenches”, and there was an intensity that came with those circumstances that I miss feeling. To physically overcome another guy who outweighed me by anywhere from 20 to 100 pounds to make a play was a rush that defies description. I felt strong, vital, and alive. Anybody reading this who has ever watched a football game has probably seen a player make a big play and break into spontaneous celebration. I didn’t have any stupid or offensive dance like you see in the pro game, but beating another guy in a contest of physical skill and making a big play in a football game takes a lot of energy and intensity, and when it all comes together and the whistle blows that energy needs an outlet which usually comes in the form of jumping, yelling, fist pumping, and helmet slapping. Imagine having such a rush of positive energy that it actual needs a physical outlet. It was a thrill to play down in the mud with guys so much bigger than me and be successful.
I got the same charge from swimming. The contest was not one of trying to overcome or control another physically, but putting forward your maximum output of energy over a race had a similar effect. The nice thing about swimming was that it was often as much about beating the clock as it was the guy next to you. You didn’t need to win the race to get the thrill. There were times when I started a race knowing full well the guy next to me was faster and was probably going to win, but chasing him could lead to a personal best in an event which was a rush in itself. Swimming was the only place I ever saw the loser of a contest celebrate. Hours, days, and weeks, of practice would culminate in seconds of racing and seeing that effort and dedication show up on the clock was exciting.
My junior year of high school I discovered another source of life. I have often repeated that we had no money growing up. I didn’t really know what a family vacation was. I had never traveled. When I was 16 a small group was selected from a pool of applicants to spend a month in Ecuador on a community service trip. I was one of ten picked to go, and spent the better part of a month living with host families and traveling about the country. We were with a group, but lived alone with our host families. I heard and saw things over the course of that month that a small town kid from the north could barely wrap my brain around. We weren’t on vacation we were immersed in the culture and it was an amazing experience. When I came home I was all fucked up. I had seen too much poverty, too many dirty hungry kids, and my perspective was clouded. I eventually got my shit put back together, but the wanderlust seed was planted. A couple years later I was sailing to the Caribbean where I would again be living in the island communities as opposed to behind the walls of a resort. I was pretty well grounded all through college, but a couple years out of school I had the chance to move a sailboat from Fiji to Australia by way of Vanuatu, and was again able to breathe in the life of new cultures. Other than a business trip to Europe that was the last time I had any significant travel and it was nearly ten years ago.
There has been nothing in my adult life to replace any of the above. I am sure many people get their rush from success in their work, and others have interests or hobbies that keep that spark going. Some may get a sense of purpose from raising their families. I am in a job with no future, circumstances have taken the hobbies I had and most of my passion for pursuing them. I love my wife and my child, but I don’t find personal serenity in either. I am no longer strong, and I don’t feel vital or alive. I mostly feel angry, tired, and short tempered. The routine of daily life is a long way from exploring new cultures where a fresh experience is waiting at every turn. Adult life is about monotonous repetition, and it is snuffing out any spark that may be hiding somewhere in my soul.
I am tired of just going numbly through the motions of life. I am tired of missing out on the experience of living. On paper it seems easy to recognize this and plot a new course towards a better place, but there is nothing easy about the real world. It’s like solving the world’s problems in a classroom or at the water cooler. Things are easier said than done, and are often simpler in theory than in reality. Every decision has its consequences and the grass is not always greener. A drastic change in the direction of my life would likely lead to unacceptable personal consequences so I am left with finding acceptance in my heart for my life as it is or with minimal changes. Changing my perspective on my current circumstances to find some peace for my soul is the goal, but the path is not clear. Sometimes I think peace in the Middle East is more likely than peace for me, but that defeatist attitude is not productive either.
Through this blog I hoped to skip another expensive trip through therapy and a return to the world of SSRI’s. The thing is I know what the first thing a new shrink is going to say. Get more exercise and better rest. They all say the same damn thing, but here is the truth; I have tried exercise, and as an adult with no competition to train for I have a hard time staying interested and it becomes just one more chore. It is just another piece of the monotony. I have given it an honest try a few times. I am not saying I couldn’t use a little more activity, I can see that in the mirror, but I have never felt and great lifting of my mood from sweating at the gym. Regarding rest it doesn’t seem to matter how much I sleep I am always tired… hello depression we have met before.
So I suppose I am at a cross roads of sorts as I have been since this blog got started. Something needs to give I know that for certain. When and in what direction remains the question.