Ambition

Finally,
what was once
an act of god
is now the gentle pull
of the moon.

I feel the satisfaction
of having done all
that could be done
in the day.
Even the hours of leisure
and failure were inevitable.
Before I sleep
against these hours of calm.
I suspect
moments of confession
are hidden in them.
If only I knew
where to find them,
it would make sense
to stay awake
in the night.

Are Baby Horses Failures: Reframing an Age-old Question

Considering the educational opportunities I had in my teens compared with the career path I took in my twenties, I’ve often been overwhelmed by a great sense of failure. My career path could be compared to an infant horse trying to walk for the first time. It struggles to stand. It stumbles and falls. It looks like a total dumb ass and you’re like, “That baby horse is a failure at walking.”

But, all of a sudden, something magical happens. It manages to take a few steps before it falls again. Eventually, it becomes a proficient walker and you realize you were the dumb ass all along. You explain your stupidity to the baby horse and invite it out for a drink. Being a devout Catholic, the baby horse feels compelled to forgive you, and the two of you develop a longstanding acquaintanceship in which you can’t help but wonder if the baby horse is still wrestling with a grudge against you. But you grew up Protestant and maybe Catholics are just kind of like that.

Similar to many baby horses of historical significance, I’ve been fired from, walked off of, or resigned from more than fifty jobs over the past ten years. My resume is very much a work of creative nonfiction. It describes actual events but the author has taken some liberties for narrative effect. Years ago, I was let go from a car dealership after passing out on a test drive with a customer. One therapist described this event as the behavior of an alcoholic. Actually, I was just exhausted from all of the fun I’d been having the previous two days. Either way, in this position I learned to maintain a sense of ease during negotiations. At least that’s what I’ve told later employers.

Obviously, these weren’t the expectations I set for myself when I entered the workforce, but life isn’t predictable and sometimes you have to expand your expectations. I used to tell myself things like, “As long as you save a decent amount for retirement by the time you’re thirty, things will probably be okay.” Now, I say things like, “As long as you’re mostly sober when you drive, you’ll probably never be convicted of manslaughter.”

Of course, it hasn’t been all fun and games. It’s just this question of what to do for money has plagued me. Mental illness and a constant suspicion that I’m in wrong place have driven me away from a steady stream of opportunities. I frequently approach the stream only to find the water tastes of monotony and stale conversation.

I used to think it’s unfortunate that I’m not motivated by money or status. Yet, every self-destructive second of my life helped me discover what I really value in this world, so one day when I’m dying I’ll be able to look back and be happy with a decent portion of it. And all of the behavior of the past that doesn’t make sense to some people makes perfect sense in my head. In my head life is meaningless on a cosmic level, and the gravity we give it is just a joke we tell ourselves. It’s only in the present moment, that fickle awareness of passage, that we find meaning. When we grasp it, we find that we exist somewhere between our best and worst selves. When we lose it, we are always at our worst.

The Dirty Spoon Bin

I just realized that I’ve been stirring my coffee at Heine Bros with a spoon from the dirty spoon jar. It’s possible this has been going on for years. I assume people only use those spoons to stir their coffee and not for anything else, but part of me thinks some people have incorporated those spoons into some very depraved acts. This puts into perspective the lengths I’ve gone to in order to avoid touching anything inside of the bathroom at Heine Bros due to fears that were probably irrational. All the while, I’ve left the restroom uncontaminated only to be using those spoons, which, the more I think about, have definitely been inside of someone’s body.

Lorelai and the High Road

What does a thirty year old man do at 9:00AM when he realizes his paralyzing anxiety is rooted in an incessant search for approval from others? He smokes a bowl of weed, drinks five cups of coffee, and checks in with the Gilmore Girls. Why? Because he doesn’t know how to work on cars. Besides, it’s a different era from the one in which our fathers came of age. Cars today run on magic and no one understands how they work.

Now, you’re probably reading this and thinking, This guy is adorable! The absolute cutest! Boyish charm aside, I have something serious to say about my anxiety and why I think Lorelai Gilmore will help me even more than my ten years in therapy.

I have to admit that the first time I tried to watch an episode with Kristie, I was a real Luke about the whole thing. I kept thinking, Coffee and cheese fries coupled with a total disregard for aerobic training! These Gilmore Girls are gonna die from issues related to cardiovascular disease before the third season even starts. On top of that, the show seemed entirely vaginal. I felt like I was watching a vagina queef and menstruate simultaneously in slow motion over and over again. Call in the blood spatter analysts.

Then something happened. Netflix presented Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I had only just returned from the out building, aka the place I smoke pot so Kristie doesn’t have to smell it. I told her I would watch it with her in order to keep the marriage alive. (Good move. We’re still together.) And I’ll be goddamned if a seed wasn’t planted deep inside of me that very day. I don’t mean the genetically modified, Monsanto kind of seed that causes babies to be born with one eye and two dicks. Rather, it was a seed of understanding and much needed self-awareness.

I’m in desperate need of approval from others. So much so, that I can’t tolerate the idea of someone not liking me for almost any reason at all. Approval is my key driver, and without it I become paralyzed. Actually, I become obsessive, resentful, angry, and,sometime after that, paralyzed.

I don’t know how it happened. My best guess is that it’s a product of an evangelical upbringing. The emphasis on the superiority of god’s will over my own will conditioned me to seek external sources of approval. Over the course of time, I transferred this power from the idea of god to people. I did it for so long that I eventually lost touch with my own values and interests. Building your life around your values and interests is essential for happiness and fulfillment. Otherwise, you end up feeling detached and thinking you’ve disappointed everyone anyway. That’s how I ended up high as fuck and running a Gilmore Girl’s marathon.

At thirty I’m figuring things out. It’s nice. It’s often painful, but I’m not paralyzed anymore. I’m moving forward. I see what I’m doing to myself everytime I make a major decision hoping it will make a boss or a family member like me more. I see it, and I’m ready to stop it. I’m capable of stopping it. I’m ready to see the person I’ll be and the life I’ll build when I try to live up to my own expectations instead of everyone else’s.

At sixteen, Lorelai Gilmore had a baby and a job at an inn. From there, she built a life that she loved. She did things on her own terms. She upset a lot of people, but at the end of the day that didn’t matter. She didn’t need their approval. That means a lot to me right now. I’ve built almost everything in my life around gaining approval from other people. In this moment, I need a role model who can show me what it means to not care about what everyone else thinks.

I know I’ll get there, and people will probably say, There’s Jeremiah. He’s a real Lorelai. However, it won’t matter what they say because I won’t need anyone’s approval.

A Brief Moment of Clarity

Kristie had done almost everything one can do in order to avoid a spoiler. She ended old friendships, boarded up doors and windows, and sacrificed a cat for Satan. I’m certain she would have killed a goddamn human being in order to preserve the secrets of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. All of this within a forty-eight hour period of the show’s Black Friday release on Netflix. Yet, she underestimated one depraved and shameless cash hog: the t-shirt industry. As she browsed cyber deals on Groupon, she discovered that either a single asshole or, most likely, a group of assholes working in unison had already printed t-shirts with the final four words of the show—the final four words Amy Sherman-Palladino had been alluding to for over a decade. While Kristie processed her trauma, a familiar sadness welled up inside of me.

I’ve logged many miles on that slow road we call mental illness. It manifests itself as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. I started young. I was lethargic, isolated, and possibly gay. I’m not gay, but back then it was hard to tell. I was all goth in the late nineties, and, in the late nineties, all goth kids seemed a little gay. By my sophomore year of high school, I had turned to Christ for help and spent my high school years developing a sense of guilt and shame that would overwhelm my thoughts and determine my decisions for years. At Berea College, I soon realized that Jesus had managed to get himself so wrapped up in checking gay men’s balls for the residue of anal sex, that he didn’t have time to help me find inner peace. So, I turned to weed, alcohol, and the camaraderie of sinners. They delivered the only relief I had experienced for years, yet, on their own, they were unable to mend the damage years of religion had dealt to my soul. So came a ten year journey across four therapists, each helping and hurting in their own ways.

During this journey, I developed a cocky, care-free persona that revealed almost nothing of my sadness and fear of the world. That’s how I wanted it. That’s how I was—a bit of a douche—when Kristie walked into my life. We held each other and the mass of bullshit I had accumulated in order to protect myself proved too much for us to carry, so I began to let it go and reveal a real person. Broken, confused, and in need of many epiphanies, I fell in love with her. Together, we mended each other’s souls from all of the little traumas of normal lives.

Although I had healed, the sadness where it all seemed to begin was still present. I could manage it. On its own it’s not depression or anxiety. It’s not even shame or guilt. It’s a kind of hunger that I don’t know how to satisfy. It’s a desire for meaning in a good life. In a day filled with Gilmore Girls, decorating for Christmas, wine, and the Comedy Central Roast’s of Rob Lowe and Justin Bieber, a part of me remained sad. Not sad, but hungry. Hungry for what? Wisdom? Spiritual truth? God? Although I’m uncertain, I have to say that it’s none of these things. I know whatever it is, I’ve accidentally satisfied it at times. Now, I have to pinpoint it and build a part of myself around it—not all of me, just enough of me to feel satisfied.

I am empty and in need of god. In the absence of god, I write.