Month: August 2018

Exit 213. All of this has taken a heavy toll.

August is almost over.  It has been good so far.  The new school year is mostly starting well, although I have one class with all of the behavior problems together in the same room.  And I have had a lot of fun times with friends and family.

But all of this has taken a heavy toll on me.

I am exhausted all the time.  I have been having trouble sleeping again.  And at times, I have been short-tempered and irritable over insignificant things.

I need to get back into some healthy habits that have gone by the wayside during the last extremely busy few weeks.  Getting more exercise.  Eating less junk food.  Time in prayer and Scripture.  Stuff like that.

Hopefully September will feel a little more normal.

Exit 212. The best part of a birthday.

I recently celebrated a birthday.  And I think I’ve figured out what it is that I love about birthdays.

It isn’t the excitement of getting older.  That stopped being exciting in my 20s, especially when I was going through that phase where I was invited to a wedding about once a month, and it felt like everyone else’s lives were moving on and I wasn’t.

It isn’t the excitement of getting to treat myself.  I’m an adult.  I do what I want.  I treat myself plenty of other times.  And I suspect that people who like treating themselves on their birthdays probably do too.

For me, the best part of a birthday is feeling loved.  And this birthday was one of the best yet by that measure.

This is the first year that I have had a fair number of coworkers on my Facebook friends.  For years, I always kept Facebook and my job separate as much as possible, just because I didn’t ever want to say anything on Facebook that would get me in trouble at work.  A couple years ago, I did start following and occasionally replying on a Facebook group set up by the local chapter of the teachers’ union where I work, and a few coworkers started to find me there.  I allowed it, and I added a few more of my own, the ones I tend to talk to about more than just work stuff, because compared to most people I know, I don’t really share a whole lot of controversial stuff and I’m being paranoid about nothing.

So when I got to work on the morning of my birthday, several of my coworkers knew that it was my birthday.  We had a staff meeting in the afternoon, and they sang to me and gave me cake.  (The principal’s secretary got it all on Facebook Live, and a former coworker who retired commented on it and said hi, so I’m now back in touch with a former coworker whom I hadn’t seen in over a year.)  Two of my classes also sang to me, although I wrote up on the board next to the date that it was my birthday.

This weekend, I invited people over to help me celebrate.  I always tell them that gifts are not required, but a few of them bring gifts anyway, and the ones who do are usually so thoughtful about it.  I have one friend who makes artwork of pixelated retro video game characters out of plastic beads; my game room with all my old video games is decorated with quite a few of his creations, of which he always brings a few new ones every year as birthday presents.  My friend who made the cake made it in the shape of a basketball jersey in Sacramento Kings colors, with my last name and the number 42, both because I turned 42 and because of the number’s use in the works of Douglas Adams.  (There was a little more to the story of the cake, but I don’t need to get into that here.)  Someone else made me a t-shirt of a Jeopardy game board, with categories that would be perfect for me, like Mathematical Equations, Sacramento Kings, and “Firefly” Quotes.

I think what makes this all the more special for me is that I remember a time when I really didn’t have friends.  I know what it’s like to be on the absolute bottom rung of the social ladder, and because of that I will never take for granted the people in my life now.

Thank you all.

Exit 211. I see them running too.

I discovered classic rock in the early 1990s, my high school years.  As my teens wore on, I realized that I was enjoying less and less the R&B and rap that the remaining radio station of my childhood played.  By the middle of my high school years, the stations that played what I considered good music of that time period were gone.  MTV still played music in the mornings, and they had the show where they played the most requested videos of the day that came on in the early evening.  I watched a lot of that, especially during school breaks when I was home in the morning.  But when I was listening to the radio while in my room doing homework, or in the car once I started driving, I wasn’t finding anything I liked among the numerous R&B, rap, country, and Spanish-language stations that Monterey County was in range of at the time.  There were a couple of classic rock stations, playing rock music from a time period that spanned from the mid-1960s (my parents’ teen years) to the mid-1980s (my childhood).  Most of these songs were before my time, and I didn’t remember them.  Some of them were by artists I had never heard of.  But I came to discover that I enjoyed it.  Good music.

Some of these songs remained background music to me for decades, coming up every once in a while while flipping around the radio, without me actually paying close attention to the lyrics.  And sometimes, I will actually listen closely to the lyrics of a song like this for the first time, and I’ll have a sudden realization and find some meaning in the song that I had never found before.

Like this one.

Running On Empty was first released in 1977.  I don’t remember 1977.  I wasn’t old enough to eat solid food or wipe my own butt in 1977.  I probably was in high school listening to classic rock radio in the car when I first heard this song.  Or possibly it might have been while watching Forrest Gump, during the montage in which Forrest is running across the country; that movie was released a few months after I graduated from high school.  But I think I already knew of the song’s existence by then.

And I did have some idea what the song was about.  Life on the road.  Constantly moving from one place to another with no clear destination.  And that is a feeling I know well.  Sometimes I don’t know where my life is going.  Sometimes I feel like my direction and goals are unclear.  And I literally spent four months on the road in 2005 trying to find myself, not knowing the specifics of where I was going more than a week or so in advance at the most.

But then, a couple years ago, the song came on, and one part of the lyrics really stuck out to me, at the end of the third verse:

I look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too…

I see them running too.  Everyone around me has their own struggle to find their destination and meaning in life.  It’s not just me.  I’m not alone.

Knowing that doesn’t always help me find my answers or my destination.  But it still helps to know that my struggles are not unique, and that there are others running on the same road I am.

Exit 210. A letter I’ll never send.

Dear ___,

It’s been a while.  582 days since I have seen you, and 220 days since I have had any sort of communication from you.  I have no idea what’s going on in your life.  I’ve been thinking about you again the last few days. I know why. It’s pretty obvious why, considering what day it is. I’m not proud of this fact.  I feel quite immature that I’ve been thinking about you today.  But my mind isn’t like that. I have been cursed with holding on to memories and thoughts long after their times have passed.  So why can’t I just move on?  It sure didn’t take you long to move on.

I still feel like I owe you an apology for unfriending you and cutting off all contact.  I never wanted it to be like this, and I’m sorry for that.  I don’t know if that was the best way to handle things, but it felt like something I had to do in order to have some chance of moving on someday.

To be honest, it almost felt like a blessing in disguise when you ditched all of us and found a new group to hang out with.  As much as I spent most of 2016 trying to stay on good terms with you after everything that happened, it was hard sometimes.  We used to be so close before then, and I was just watching you grow apart from me right in front of me.  I wasn’t getting much more from you than small talk.  You never shared your life with me like you had before.  You were always off flirting with whichever drunk guy was paying attention to you, while you were giggling and claiming to be shy and awkward.  And after you found your new friends, I only heard from you in texts once every four to six months, and those conversations always ended quickly and abruptly.  I just couldn’t stand to go through that.  You said that we couldn’t be together because it just wasn’t a good time for you to be in a relationship with anyone, but you sure had no problem running after other guys.  I kept getting my hopes up that we would be close again, and I eventually realized we wouldn’t.  I normally get annoyed with people who find new friends and disappear from my life, but in your case it probably needed to happen.

I don’t know what you’re doing today.  You’re probably out doing something fun with your new friends.  I don’t need to know.  You’re out there living the perfect happy life that I always thought I wanted, while I’m growing apart from some of my longtime social circles and finding new ways to be hurt and ignored by women.  And for as much as your bad decisions have hurt me in the past, this particular part of the struggle is entirely on me.  No one has promised me anything, and I have no right to actually find the happiness that I pursue. How your life turns out is no concern of mine. My long memory and my logical mind make forgiveness exceedingly difficult. Believe me. I have tried. I even wrote here about forgiving you, back when we were trying to be on good terms again.  What changed? Was I being dishonest? I don’t think so… but, as I said before, at the time I was hoping that we would be close again someday, and your actions in the time after that have shown that you aren’t interested in this.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if we were suddenly to cross paths again, face to face. Would I want to talk to you? Would I want to work things out and welcome you back in my life? Would I angrily tell you how much I am still hurt by the way you pretend to want to communicate and then leave me hanging?  I honestly don’t know. I can’t say what I would do. And maybe that’s why it is best that our paths not cross right now.

I’m not good at letting go and moving on.  I still sometimes carry around hurt from others before you.  I’m just going to have to learn to live with it, to accept that it happened and choose to focus on more positive things.  And hopefully as time goes on, it’ll hurt less and I won’t think about you as much.  So, in case you ever seen this, I’m sorry I’m not emotionally strong enough to keep you in my life, messaging me every six months to see how I’m doing.  But that’s okay.  You seem to be doing very well without me, and it’s probably just better this way.