Coincidentally, an agonizing need for clarity is what punctuated the start of these last two years. That's what makes a two-year period the logical chunk of time for me to examine. I'm struggling to find words to write, but that's exactly why I need to do this. I need to reclaim my identity. I need to reclaim control over the direction my dreams and aspirations will even pull me, if they pull with any significant amount of force at all.
Succinctly, 2012 was the year my world was shattered, and 2013 was the year I picked up the pieces. The point is not to dwell on the shattering though, because life went on. Life still goes on, and I honestly have no idea how it does. At the end of 2012, my mind could not grasp the idea that a new year, 2013, was about to begin. I didn't think more years were possible. It took until summer for me to consistently write "/13" whenever I signed the date on a document. Compared to the thought that 2013 was even allowed to exist, the only thing more incredulous to me is that it's about to be completed from start to finish, like the placement of the keystone in a stone arch of time that took 365 days to construct.
What happened? What's happening? Why do things keep happening? Maybe my disbelief that life goes on stems from a lack of control. This isn't what I wanted, yet time keeps on moving. Life isn't going to wait up for me-- this much is evidenced by the fact that life hasn't waited up, and it still isn't. There is no pause button. This isn't goddamn Mariokart where I can stop midway through racing Donkey Kong through Koopa Troopa Beach and finish the rest later.
I never imagined what it would be like to be 24. I also never imagined what it would be like to be 19, 20, 21, or any age beyond that. As a child, I dreamt of what it would be like to graduate from the limitations of being a minor--in my case, this consisted of reserving a hotel room, renting a campground, and maybe ordering something from an infomercial that spoke that haunting mantra, "You must be 18 or older to call." I had no interest in drugs or buying porno mags (because I'm from the generation that knows how to use the internet). Still, adulthood in the official sense was something to look forward.
I didn't really know what to expect in college, either. My parents never really told me about their respective histories. My dad started at community college and didn't even last a year, and my mom had a rough time in her teens and twenties, working part-time and attending school while maintaining herself with the added difficulty of both her parents having been deceased. I had no concept of what my college years and my young adult life would look like. This cluelessness was a new feeling to me, because life has a pretty clear path for you when you're in school. When you're in sixth grade, you look forward to seventh grade. When you're in junior high, you look forward to high school. But when high school hits, you realize that your future could play out in a plethora of different possible ways. The paths of your peers become more divergent than ever before. You look at the photo of your third grade class, and you see how you defined your peers--the kid who brought an air freshener to school, the kid who made uncanny cricket noises, the kid who used to play Pokemon cards with you, and the kid who called you a pineapple with rabies that one time. But that all seems petty and unspecial compared to the way you remember these former third-graders as adults-- the guy who struggles with his sexuality as he tries to become a minister, the girl who had to drop out of college to help her dying mother, the guy who moved to California to found a startup company creating I-Phone applications, or the guy who remained unmoved after spending months in juvenile hall for selling drugs in eighth grade and is probably selling more somewhere.
We weren't equipped with the power to curb-stomp our own innocence as children, but as our respective destinies became more pliable, we bent them into untold combinations of ridiculous shapes. And now that I've seen the wide array of different ways a life can be moulded, I can only question my own decision making more than ever. The power we each hold over ourselves is perhaps the most important power to consider, and every action I perform is punctuated with the question pulsating painfully in my mind, "am I doing it right?"
My first rebuttal to that question is, "of course not. If I was doing it right, I would be happier." But then I have to suggest to myself a different idea: maybe the key to being happier isn't doing better-- maybe the key to greater happiness lies in refraining from asking myself these pesky questions. Maybe all I need to do is to stop myself from second-guessing all of my own actions. Being an idealist is a disease.
I don't know what I'm doing. But maybe all the others don't know what they're doing, either. Yet, they've come to terms with the thought of marching onward through life without perfect 20-20 foresight, and if this is why they're happier and more secure than I am, then perhaps I'm the one with the disease. No one told me how my twenties would look, and that's because my parents have different personalities than mine. And I suspect that the other twenty-somethings differ from their parents in a similar way, too, implicating that they had no idea how their twenties would look based on their parents' experiences, either. So that means I'm reaching forward blindly into the darkness looking for the light switch, and all of my contemporaries are, too. I guess I am the one with the disease, and I should settle down and get used to this perceived blindness.
This is what it's like to be 24, then.
Now, in the tradition of reflecting on the past year, I will discuss the last two years of my life. It has to be two years, because I spent this year picking up the pieces from the wreck that was the year previous. 2012 was the worst year of my life, for several large reasons and for several smaller reasons which supplement.
I spent 2011 hopelessly fallen for this girl who really didn't end up caring for me like I thought she did. In January, 2012, she let me down. I don't remember a time in my life when I was more heartbroken. I'll just leave it at that. I was decimated for months. I didn't fully get over it until later in the fall, almost at the end of the year. My resolve in 2012 was that I would never fool myself again into believing that someone loves me when she, in fact, doesn't. You might also use the word "paranoia" to describe this "resolve," and it lingers to this day. I haven't dated since, and it partly owes to this.
I had a world in mind for my future, and this world consisted of the two of us. I hoped to do everything together in the future. I had to redefine my entire idea of my future with her departure. This adds to my inability to cope, because this isn't the life I expected. I blame a lot of my inability to cope on my inability to expect any of this. I didn't know from my parents what to expect, and I didn't know to expect heartbreak and solitude.
I came home on spring break to my dog dying. My dad found Tosha and her brother, two husky puppies, stranded in a parking lot at Midway Airport in 1996. She was all white, and one of the most gentle regal dogs I'd ever known. She was quiet, but had a personality all her own. I watched her die. She had become unable to move or support herself. My mom was hysterical; my dad, our family friend Randy, and I loaded her into the back of our red 1999 dodge caravan so we could drive to the emergency vet. There was nothing to do for her. RIP Tosha.
I graduated college in May 2012. From there, I started a job in June working for a transportation engineering consulting firm, where I could practice my lifelong dream of designing roads. Having a job right out of college doing exactly what I always wanted to do was a sweet deal. After a couple months, though, I started coming home with intense migraines, complete with dizziness, visual auras, and sharp pain to my forehead, behind the eyeballs. The pain was often so intense I had to vomit. These migraines would persist every other day, or every single day. I tried various coping strategies, but it reached the point at which showing up to work was a form of willingly subjecting myself to torture. I had to leave my job. It was kind of my dream job, too.
In June 2012, I heard unbelievable news regarding who I later realized was my best friend from my childhood. At an intersection very near my house, my friend Garrett was struck and killed by a drunk driver around 2:00 A.M. as he was walking home from a local bar. He was married to a girl he met in Canada, Patricia, who would later become my friend. I can't imagine being widowed at age 24. Could you?
On the day of his funeral, it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit and hailing. I won't forget that, because it's one of those instances in my life that led me to believe that there's someone or something upstairs in the heavens-- and in this case, that someone was infuriated.
I'm working on a song about him. He didn't care about silly things that most people care about but shouldn't. That's why he allowed me to be his friend in the first place, when many others wouldn't. Many held a prejudice against me because I was widely known as the smart nerdy kid. Garrett never thought anything of it, though. I always had his respect, and he always had mine, even though there were choices he'd make later in life that I wanted to stay away from. What kind of bizarre world is this?
My relationship with my mom went south that year, a couple times. For a couple prolonged periods of time, I wouldn't speak with my mother. We couldn't get along. After I quit my job, I helped my dad's surveying business for the rest of 2012.
Enter 2013. I'm still working with my dad, standing next to that machine on the big yellow tripod that you sometimes see on construction sites. That winter failed to live up to expectations; we hardly got any snow until late February. In fact, it was February when I received a call from a man interested in my resume. As I was working outside in the backyard of a house in DeKalb, Illinois, I talked to a man who wanted me to come to Chicago for an interview. I accepted, and before I knew it, I was sitting in an office with an older man and a younger man answering questions. It wasn't long before they offered me a new job, and by mid-February I was commuting via train to the big city.
Commuting from the outer Chicago suburbs isn't a gig you want to endure for long, because of the amount of time consumption. I would leave the house at 6:15am to reach work by eight; then, I'd leave at five to arrive home again at 6:45pm or so. This adds up to three and a half hours in transit each day. At least it was nice to zone out on the train; it was less taxing than driving all the way.
In March, as I was sitting at my Chicago desk, I received a call from another employer, a county highway department. Without really thinking about it, I kindly informed the lady that I was sitting at my new job and that my search for a new job had concluded. When I went home that night, I reconsidered my actions. This new opportunity was for a job where I could work outside, and no longer be confined to an office cubicle for eight hours per day! I used my lunch hour the next day to call the lady back and ask if they would still consider me for the job. They called me in for what would become known as the most enjoyable interview I would ever have to date, and I was accepted for the job. This meant I would have to drop the bomb on my second employer (third if you count my dad) that I'd be leaving them for a third (fourth).
In May, I started at what is now my current job.
In October, I moved out of my house. I now have my own apartment close to work. It's pretty nice.
In December, I rekindled my relationship with my mom and we get along great now. I also got sick over Christmas and she selflessly took care of me. I'm still kind of sick from that.
I have a job and my own place! And my credit score is pretty darn good. I have taken off on the runway to adulthood.