I apologize upfront if this is a bit scattered. You’ll understand why.
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I got a job this week. It’s with the company I was with for ten years prior to this, and I don’t want it. Nothing sounds less appealing than starting this job, but I’ve forced my hand by doing everything that I’ve done for the past few months. We’ll swing back around.
Kobe Bryant died yesterday. He was 41. He died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter, two of her teammates on their basketball team, and some parents, along with the pilot. Nine in total.
I’ve loved basketball ever since I can remember. I remember going to see the Globetrotters when I was a kid. I remember playing for the “B” and “C” teams in grade school because I wasn’t good enough to make the “A” team. Or maybe I didn’t fit into the familial political climate in my Catholic grade school. Probably a bit of both.
I remember trying out for my high school game, and instantly realizing how out of my depth I was. Rather than not play, I played for my grade school’s intramural team. Basically, if you weren’t good enough to play in high school, the grade schools would throw together a group of their alumni.
I remember playing those intramural teams, getting tackled in one by a football player, and crying myself home because they beat us so bad and never let off the gas. And I remember getting home, staring my tear-stained self in the mirror and promising not to let anything get to me like that again. I didn’t cry again for probably ten years.
Never once in my almost 30 years, though, would I have called myself a Kobe fan. I admired the mental aspects of his game, but I always had other players and teams that I liked.
That made yesterday really…interesting for me. The whole story has left me in a dark space mentally, for myriad reasons. Namely, the empath in me cannot stop imagining those last moments for everyone on board. Parents with children, knowing they won’t grow old. Children with parents, knowing they can’t protect them this time.
But also, Kobe felt transcendent and somehow accessible at the same time. He was on that pantheon of people who you’re dumbfounded by their passing. But was supposed to be in the “when he goes” category. He was supposed to be in the category with Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Elton John and other greats of their craft. He wasn’t supposed to be in the category with Michael Jackson, Prince, and John Lennon. Not yet.
Kobe was far from perfect. Many of the things that he’s done are part of the reasons he never was my favorite player. Though he never admitted guilt, it’s fairly widely accepted that he was a rapist. That’s something that I never could forgive or forget with him. He once called a referee a gay slur, which I also never forgot. And I’m not here to litigate those offenses. They are terrible and I don’t blame anyone for allowing those to be the only things of import from his life.
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Because I could barely think straight yesterday, I spent a lot of time thinking. Thinking about how everyone on that helicopter thought they had time. They all thought they had more. Maybe some thought they had a little. Maybe they felt like they had a lot. Maybe those teenage girls weren’t even aware of time, blinded by adolescence. But they certainly didn’t think yesterday was it.
Thinking a lot about, not just how I’ve lived life up to this point, but also where I’m going. And I’m realizing, though it’s been a long time in the works, that I’ve consistently put myself in positions to do something great, only to either give up or fumble the moment. And I think about these moments in terms of happiness.
One podcast that I’ve circled back to numerous times is “WTF with Marc Maron”. He consistently frames things in a way that, at a minimum, makes me think. And one thing he said that stuck with me, years ago, is “I’m not a man who knows when he’s enjoying something.” More recently, he said something else that stood out. “Joy and happiness are not something I ever looked for, more relief. Looking for…how I don’t feel insane, or anxious, or full of dread or worried.”
That’s been my life for a decade at least, probably more when I look back on it. And it comes from this place of disappointment. I never fit into the construct of what society expects from its participants, in almost any way. It’s made it hard to connect with people and find groups that I fit into without feeling self-conscious about something.
I’m very familiar with fleeting moments of happiness. A joke, a funny video, whatever. I’m also pretty familiar with slightly longer stretches of happiness. A good day. A few days of something unexpected. But those haven’t happened in a couple months. But still, more frequent than the final stage of happiness: sustained.
I don’t know sustained happiness because I can’t remember the last time I felt it. That’s a slight exaggeration, I know when. It was college. But it’s been almost ten years. So while I remember WHEN I felt it, I don’t really remember what it feels like. To feel completely unburdened by my own thoughts and just experience life as its happening for an extended period of time. That, to me, is happiness.
I don’t want this job. But I also know that I can’t do anything much longer without one. I don’t even know what I really want. These were things I was supposed to have figured out months and, for some, years ago.
But I know this. The fatal helicopter crash that took nine people entirely too soon has at least snapped me out of my malaise. I wasn’t being honest with myself about what’s happening and working to find solutions. I was hiding aspect about it when writing or talking to people because I didn’t want to be seen as a failure, or even to think about failure from my own perspective.
I may take this job. I don’t want it, and I will hate it. But I may have to take this job. At least until I figure out my next move. I’m not done.