I wasn’t seeking any fame or fortune; I wasn’t looking for a pot of gold. Iff’n you don’t know by now, just think twice it’ll be alright, and you’ll realize that it had been all lyrics until this clause. I’m going to have to work hard to keep this from turning into some slimy and grimy stream of consciousness. Honestly, the timing of when I chose to revive the blog from the dead is relevant, as is the title – at least personally.
It’s been a year and a day since I teed it up at LeRoy country club in Central New York and began a whirlwind tour of these great United States, and to say that a week goes by when I wistfully wish for a return to the road would be a tremendous deception. As it happens, I vividly remember much about my trip. It was a particularly sentimental feeling, however, that crept into my heart upon listening to “Lodi” by CCR a few days ago. Having driven a lot, I listened to a lot – the Phillies collapse as I was in the South, Howard Stern when I was tired of music, Dillinger Four’s “Versus God” for the entirety of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.
No song or record, however, had quite the impact on me that “Lodi” did, the first time I listened to it on the trip. I was on 95, heading to Piscataway, New Jersey for the evening. Manhattan was to my left as I cruised down the wide open highway. Minutes away from the center of the world, I found myself passing through an essentially unpopulated area, even if it was a slim one. I was, by any definition, on the road. Lodi, however, deals with having been on the road, not being on it. I knew at that time, that I would, at numerous times throughout the remainder of my life, look back on my weeks on the road, whenever I would reach my own “Lodi,” wherever or whatever it may be that I was stuck in. I quickly dismissed the thought and, full of energy, barreled on down the highway, looking forward to the next day.
So again, I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune. What was I looking for? I wasn’t entirely sure – and am still not entirely sure. The passage of time, for all the blurring of particulars it may do, is bringing into focus some of what I found – whether I was looking for it or not.
In the ten plus months since the conclusion of my trip, I’ve returned to a somewhat predictable routine. After a few months to decompress, I started working part time for a beverage distributor, and also delivering subs for a sub shop. I have met new people, made new friends and have had a rewarding expansion of my social circle. After a few months, the part time gig with the distributor turned into a full time gig with all the bells and whistles – more than adequate pay, benefits, stability, all that good shit. The greatest attribute of the job, though, is the culture of the company for which I work – it is relaxed, carefree and easy going. It’s a far, far better match for me than the doldrums of white collar cubicle work. I love my job as much as is reasonable for someone who has to work five days a week – don’t mistake it. However, to come away from something so radically life-altering as quitting a stable, well-paying job to travel and golf for 7 weeks only having learned that I prefer some other line of work more would be classified, at least to me, as a failure. The other things I’m coming to find that I’ve learned – or learned to accept – might not meet a classical definition of positive or successful, but they are what I am.
I have an insatiable wanderlust, and not simply in the narrow vein related to travel. It’s a desire for experience – of any type or kind. I want to travel – and I could do it accompanied or alone. I want to add to my stable of cars – and I’m thinking about branching out from VW. I want to keep growing my appreciation for any type of art. I want to read all of the news, every day. I want to read all of the noteworthy literature – all of it. I want to deepen and maintain all of the long-term relationships I have – I want to continue growing the new friendships I’ve made – and I want to meet new people and get to know them. I want to write more consistently. I want to keep making music. This is just a sample of the things I want to do – of the things I’m always telling myself I need to do more of. My brain is a busy place.
Clearly, there isn’t enough time in the week to devote an adequate amount of time to everything – let alone anything. I’ve only played 6 rounds of golf this year! And the last 3, I scored 81, 77 and 75! Me – the guy who played 50 rounds in 7 weeks last summer – only playing 6 rounds this year?! There are only 168 hours in a week – and how to spend them I am finding increasingly difficult to figure out.
Late last week, I met up with one of my good buddies for a few Belgian beers at the premiere beer bar in Buffalo. As always, the conversation was fluid, and as the beers flowed, the laughs only grew in volume and consistency. That’s not to say it was all fun and games. The single most constant topic in my life came up – depression / anxiety. I raised money last year for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, but I was relatively quiet about the subject during the lead up to the trip, and especially during the trip itself. What I am realizing I learned about myself is that I will always struggle with the cocktail of depression and anxiety. I didn’t bring up my friend merely to segue into this revelation. Rather, he shared with me his experiences with anxiety. By this point in my life, I’m never surprised to learn that someone I’m drawn to has struggled with mental illness - I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I guess that a solid quarter to half of my closest friends over the years have dealt with the specter of anxiety, depression or, most often, a frightening combination of the two.
This particular friend and I reached a somewhat, by this point, standard conclusion: we both felt that a broad, intellectual, curiosity about the world is the main ingredient in a depressed/anxious person. Re-read the paragraph three prior to this one. That is a tremendous, and widely varying, and not nearly complete list of the things I want to begin or improve on. But I can’t do all of those things as well as I want. As well as I feel I deserve. No one can. My tremendous curiosity and desire to experience things necessitates failure in accomplishing many of them. That breeds guilt, feelings of incompleteness, inadequacy. I feel that these feelings are natural, given both the desire and ability to achieve some of them, but not all. I learned all about opportunity cost in High School economics, but holy god am I continuing to learn about it the hard way every day.
It’s not all doom and gloom – far from it. For all the negativity associated with it, I do think there is value in being a “Jack of all trades and master of none,” particularly if your interests are diverse and wide reaching. There is no “answer” to life – it’s a constant effort to have fulfilling experiences; a constant struggle to pursue happiness, be it fleeting or sustained. And there is no need to stubbornly or naively navigate these waters alone. Therapy has been a constant in my life for long, long stretches. I haven’t been in therapy since my last therapist unexpectedly died in a car crash about 3 years ago. There is tremendous value in therapy, and everyone I know who has undertaken it has found it beneficial. And that’s okay! We are complex creatures, and we are, in one way or another, in constant need of adjustment. We’re not always capable of doing it for ourselves. I can’t manage my wildly firing brain by myself forever – I will be back in therapy many, many times in my life – and I’m okay with that.
What I was looking for was acceptance of this. No doubt – at the end of my tenure at GEICO, I was anxiety riddled and deeply depressed. I needed a break from that – and I took one. A big one. I may need another one at some point in my life – and that will be okay. I was hoping to outrun anxiety and defeat depression, when in the end it dawned on me that I will always come back to that baseline – and that’s okay. I just need to do something about it when needed. It’s that simple.
I’m sure any of you who have made it this far are either my family or someone who shares much of what I’ve described. Realize, brothers and sisters – it’s okay. Life will go on. Things will get better. And worse. Then better again. You get one shot at this – so do the best you can and never hesitate to seek out anything that will enhance your life – be it help in navigating your emotions, or wild new experiences that are pure and raw in their excitement.
Good god this was shitty. Unfocused and with no clear end point. D-.