deceased leaves crunching below me
a year of growth
plunged to the earth
only to be turned to dust
I’m back from a short break of preparing to leave. It was a great weekend with friends and family, and it was much needed.
To wrap up my series on my hometown, I’m jumping ahead a half-decade. The healing process was so crucial, but it was also slow, plodding, and frankly, not that interesting. It was a lot of painful days, nights, weeks, and even months. Dips back into depression and learning how to cope and pull myself back out of it.
And this is in no way to minimize it. I still go through these spells and struggle with my past. But I handle it differently and know myself better. It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.
So, I’m jumping to the last few months. In hindsight, I can say that I didn’t smile for nearly a decade. Not truly. It was always a fake smile or a smile drawn out by the pain of another. A mask meant to portray a feeling of wellness when all I felt was unease.
Society, generally, doesn’t handle unease well. We want everyone around us to be ok because it makes us feel ok. We are all more empathic than we realize, and when someone is sad or angry around us, we reflect that. Hide those feelings, because you don’t want to make someone else uncomfortable.
And its all bullshit. The saying growing up was, “Don’t talk to people about sex, money, politics, and religion.” The four taboos. The irony, now that I’m an adult, is that I see people, particularly those older than me, struggle with those topics. We were never taught how to handle talking about them, and now we’re too embarrassed to admit we don’t know enough about them. It’s a vicious cycle.
Regardless, after years of putting on the front, it took my being completely broken again to bounce back to a new level.
About six weeks ago, I had my heart broken for the third time. And this one hurt in particular because, for the first time, I hadn’t felt like I had done something wrong. In the past, even as I was deflecting, I knew I was in the wrong. So, I handled this one differently.
I didn’t eat for two days. I cried, sometimes for overthinking things, sometimes for no reason at all. I couldn’t do anything as part of my regular routine. That was on a Thursday. By Monday, I had to rejoin society. I wasn’t ready, but we rarely are. And all week at work, it was fake smiles. I could barely focus.
But then came the weekend. I needed to clear my head, and being in nature has always been the easiest way for me to do that. One of my favorite places to do that is a place just outside the city called The Parklands. Eventually, it will be a 100-mile loop around the city of walking and biking paths. I mostly go there because Jefferson Memorial has always been much farther away.
I started walking. And walking. Poem ideas sprung to mind, I was able to take in some of the amazing views, and my heart rate got going. But no vision, no epiphanies, no final puzzle piece. I walked about four miles, feeling ok, but not having the moment that I so desperately needed. And then, I felt happy. None of the fake feelings I had over years of struggle. I was genuinely happy.
I thought it was because I was in nature. It was the only thing that made sense in that first moment. But the longer I walked, the more I realized that I had been in nature many times. That wasn’t it. It was the awareness that I was going to be ok. An assurance I hadn’t had for a long time.
Since my early twenties, I had always felt on the edge of disaster. Always on the edge of backsliding or blowing up completely. But I don’t feel that anymore. I went through something painful, felt it fully, processed it, and came out of the other side largely within a week. There were additional feelings I had to process after the fact, but if that first week had been the end of my experience with those emotions, I would have been ok. It’s more than I can say for myself at any point in my past.
I’m not sure how much of this revelation and elevation of myself I chalk up to The Parklands themselves. But I know that that was the place where I finally accepted myself. Where I was able to grow my worth beyond other people and where I decided that I deserved a life that I was capable of living.
Thank you for reading this series. I really enjoyed writing it, and while I feel like this was a new beginning for myself, I also feel like I can finally close the book on this stretch of my life.
I’ll cut to the chase. This one is rough for me to write. As I wrapped up my last post, I was spiraling out of control. I was deflecting and refusing to look my demons in the face. I was scared. But I was still arrogant.
The drinking had become my escape. I wasn’t an alcoholic in the sense that it is portrayed in movies and television shows. I was drinking 2-3 nights a week, which now seems like a lot. But I was in college, newly 21, and wanted anything to make me feel better.
I ran out of anti-depressants, but the damage had been done. I needed to keep feeding that beast. And at the time, my job was located two blocks from the downtown nightlife scene. Perfect.
I know most of this probably sounds like normal early 20s behavior, but the problem wasn’t the drinking. I don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol. But it was that removal of my mind from reality that I became addicted to. If I was conscious, I wanted to be thinking, doing, being anywhere else, but where I was. And to compound the problems, I was hellbent on trying to figure this out alone.
I was drifting between work, the bars, and home, and I got lost in the haze that had become my life. I was staying busy at work, going to the bars and drinking, and then sleeping, none of which involved me thinking about my own issues. And I existed in this bubble for a couple years.
It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom, a drunken night with friends that I decided I needed help. A group of us had gone downtown, my usual spot, and were having a good time. My friends decided they wanted to leave, but I wanted to stay. They left me with someone I had known for a minimal amount of time, and the next thing I knew, I was alone.
No problem, I’ll just go back in and keep drinking. It wasn’t like I had never done it before. But there was an allure. I wanted to meet back up with my friends. And, in a moment of drunken decision making, I tried to drive myself to them.
Now, I was fortunate that night. Not because I made it to the next bar safely, but because I didn’t even make it out of the parking garage. I had started to drive but wasn’t coherent enough to figure out where the exit was. Finally, a security guard stopped me. And to this day, I have no clue how I wasn’t arrested. He took my keys and told me to call my friends. There’s part of me that wishes I could ask him why that had been his decision. The more substantial piece of me wants to stay as far away from that night as possible.
But my night wasn’t over. I sat against the wall of the parking garage, calling my friends with no answer, drifting in and out of sleep, while getting sick on myself. I was a complete embarrassment. I sat surrounded by those stone walls, thinking about my life to that point, a prisoner in my own mind.
What felt like an entire evening passed before my friend came to pick me up. In reality, it had been a couple hours. And the real twist of it was, I knew I could have called someone else to come to get me, and they would have been there in a heartbeat. Much quicker than what had actually happened. My parents, the woman I was dating at the time, other friends, and family, all could have gotten there ASAP. But I was ashamed. I couldn’t even muster the courage to do the right thing, after doing the wrong thing all night. I was a coward.
I still drank after. Still do. There have been low points and rough days when the willpower hasn’t been there. And nowadays, I can drink without delving into those negative emotions. But I’m careful. I rarely have more than two drinks, because two turns into seven very quickly for me. And I never drink if I’m not in an appropriate mental headspace.
Eventually, I’ll stop drinking altogether. There are social circles, especially in Louisville, where it’s hard to not drink. And I haven’t figured out how to tackle that. I don’t believe this an acceptable excuse, especially given my past, but I’m working on it.
The good news is, this is my rock bottom. Which means from here on out, it’s much happier. There are significant things that happened to pull me out from this stretch in my life, but it took roughly five years to get to where I am. No matter where we come from, we can always be better and do better. But we have to want it for ourselves.
I’m moving! Seriously, I’m moving across the country. I want to share my story not just because I’m excited, but because I want to connect with more people across the country. I wanted to give details about my exploration but wanted to do so in an easy, quick way. I also wanted to cover as many aspects of the trip as possible, so I naturally turned to journalism. The 5 W’s and H are my compass: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
Me! And only me. I’ve gone through a lot and I would be lying if I said that part of my journey wasn’t to spend some time alone and ruminate on things. I’m being very intentional about this being a solo road trip, and I can’t wait to spend a few weeks just…being.
A road trip! I want to travel on the road because its the greatest way to see the beauty all around us. One of my favorite parts of my last road trip to Colorado was how awestruck I was by Kansas. Most people associate Kansas (and much of the “flyover” states) with being boring fields and nothing to see. They were some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen. The soft, rolling hills and beautiful ambers, golds, and beiges were a perfect, warm way to enjoy the drive.
By the end of the year. My current goal is to leave my job by October 22nd and be on the road the next day. I’m getting a lot of work done on my car as we sit here, so I’m being flexible on when I leave for financial reasons. That is my target, but 100% by the end of the year. Side note: my job knows I’m leaving and is being super flexible with me, which is great and a privilege.
West! I say that generally because I genuinely don’t know where I want to live. I have IDEAS, I’ve never visited, let alone lived in most of these places. I know I like a ton of things about the state of Washington, but maybe I get there and hate it. That’s another reason I’m doing a road trip. I want to be able to stay in or leave any place at any time. If I arrive in a city and can instantly tell the vibe is off, I’m out. I have great intuition and know when something isn’t for me.
I worked with someone about four years ago at a running store named Todd. Todd was one of the most eccentric, interesting people I’ve ever met. Part of that was a story that he told me about his experiences. He was from Indiana but traveled with some friends to Colorado. They were headed to Steamboat Springs. Todd described riding into the valley Steamboat sits in and getting that feeling. The feeling of home. Goosebumps on the arms and legs, almost nauseous gut. That’s what I’m after.
I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life. For years, I’ve viewed my life in three parts: my learning stage, my execution stage, and my prime. It’s not to say that I’ll stop learning, but I’ve learned a lot of necessary skills to help me execute on ideas and plans that I have. I’m single, have no kids, and almost no debt. I’m grateful for every opportunity those privileges allow for me, and I intend to use my flexibility to my advantage. There’s a lot of people who would look at someone like me and think me a failure. No college degree, not married, no house. I look at myself and see someone who is full of life experience, thirsty for more, and just entering my prime.
So, how can you follow along? I want to do a pseudo travel blog for my journey, so follow along here for sure. Additionally, I want to do videos and post pictures on my Instagram and Twitter, so follow me @sunkencircle for those as well.
Lastly, I want to thank anyone who has been in my life up to this point. Every good and bad interaction, friendship, relationship, heartbreak, bits of support, and criticism has lead me here. My family and friends have been nothing but supportive of my decision to move, and I couldn’t ask for a greater support system.
Does anyone have some stories about places in the west that they’ve really enjoyed? Really couldn’t stand? Let me know!
I wrote this poem in September of 2017. It was the first poem I had written in about 15 years. I had gone through a long stretch of really good energy and positivity, but it was coming to an end. I had taken on the task of going back to school, working two jobs and volunteering 10 hours a week. I was sleeping maybe 2–3 hours a day and my body and mind had had enough. My depression was back.
This is not my best work, or even good I would argue. But it sparked something in me and started me on the path that I’m walking now. I’m revisiting it now because I’ve drifted back to that place again. I wanted to read my thoughts the last time this happened, to compare the feelings and work out the differences. Thank you for reading.
My depression snuck up on me today
An old friend I hadn’t seen in a while.
He asked how I had been, I said great.
You see, I had finally found a way out,
A way to not be around him anymore.
He used to be ok, I would tolerate him.
He was company, filling a void of conversation and companionship.
Slowly, I realized there was more,
Other conversations that needed to be had,
Other connections I was missing out on
Because I experienced only him every day.
Yet here he was, invading my space again.
I know how this ends.
I know that he’ll hang around for a few days
Maybe a couple weeks
Hopefully no longer than a month
And then I’ll kick him out
Tired of his bullshit.
But in the meantime, I’ll sit
I’ll try to push him out but fail.
Not because I don’t have the strength,
But because in some small way,
I don’t want him to leave.