Monday, February 11, 2013

The Click is a Lie

I was going to start this post - since it somewhat gets into the genuine, scary depths of my crazy - with my traditional apology for being semi-serious this week (especially since last week wasn't exactly an upper). But I've decided to officially retire the "sorry that I'm being not hilarious this week" intro permanently. I just figure that A) if you're here reading, you're at the very least mildly interested in my thoughts, and like any person they're not always chipper and B) I may be crazy, but I don't think I'm the only person in the world who's gone down spiraling down the crazy thoughts rabbit hole; so maybe someone out there will find this relatable.

Or maybe no one does and I'm an anxiety-ridden nutbag. One of the two, definitely. Either way, like Hannah Horvath before me, I'm going to write a blog that exposes all of my vulnerabilities to the entire internet.*

*Having said that, I'm shooting for something more light-hearted NEXT week, don't you fret. If this is your first time with us, go ahead and check out some of the early posts. I'm sometimes funny, I'm told.

For the last six months or so, I'd had a plan for the near future. Having a plan is fun, because it's a way to trick your brain into thinking you have any control over or sense of what the future holds. It keeps you from losing your mind the way you would if you spent every second going, "WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN? WHAT WILL BECOME OF ME?" I'd applied to a couple grad school programs in California, and been contacted by one of them to do an interview. This was certainly encouraging, though I wasn't putting too much stock into it. I don't even know that grad school is what I want to do - getting a creative degree doesn't even guarantee you success, and grad school is hella expensive. To top it all off, I'm not even certain the area of study is even what I want to do with my life.

But those concerns aside, the plan was the plan, and I was happy to go along with it and not feel completely lost in the world.* Fall: move to California. A plan, a plan. Last week, the aforementioned educational institution contacted me to let me know that they actually would not like me to come in for that interview and that also they would not like me to come in ever in any way shape or form. Yes, in addition to the interview being rescinded, I was informed I was not accepted into the program. The reason it stung is because I had been asked for the interview; I felt like a child who'd been offered candy, suddenly considered eating the candy and started to like the sound of it, then suddenly had the candy torn away. And then his parents got hit by a bus or something, I don't know. The point is, it didn't feel good. This all was on top of the generally unfun current state of my life - all work, no play. Like, seriously - I have no social life, I don't do anything creatively fulfilling... I just go to that damn office all day.

*Baseball and deluding ourselves - the two national pastimes. 

So later on, I was half-watching the season premiere of Smash. Before you make fun of me, know that I have my reasons; firstly, as someone who enjoys being part of the critical conversation about TV, Smash is show that comes up a lot, and I like seeing things for myself so I can have my own opinion. Second, it's a show I only need to half-watch so I can do other, more important things while it's on.* At some point during the episode, some of the young characters went to a party at someone's Brooklyn apartment. I suddenly got sad. It was a bunch of young, creative people in a great city having fun** and enjoying themselves. I wanted that. I wanted to feel excited. "Maybe I should move to New York", I thought.

*By important things, I of course mean looking at stuff on the internet. Because I am nothing if not an exemplary couch potato.
**What is this thing you call fun?

I think it speaks to how deep my longing must be that a thin, barely interesting scene of young people sort of having mild fun from the TV show "Smash" was all it took to snap me. Clearly, I may have been fragile to begin with. Because with that tiny thought - "Maybe I should move to New York" - the plan (location, career path) I'd been sitting on for six months just evaporated. Gone in a second; like being outside in Chicago winter and suddenly having your clothes disintegrate - the protection is no more. The bottom fell out and I suddenly began to free fall. Hollowed out completely, I went to go lay down, my mind racing:

Oh (lowercase g) god - maybe that plan wasn't even the right plan. There are six million different plans... what do I do? If that wasn't the right plan, what is the right plan? What am I doing with my life? What should I do next? I need to move, I need to get out of here; I need a new start*. I feel like somewhere there's a fun, exciting, creatively fulfilling life and I'm missing it. I'm wasting my life away doing nothing worthwhile, and someday I'm going to be old and full of regret**. I think other people are living the life I want to live and I hate them, I'm just jealous and angry and sad, and that's not very becoming so I hate myself for being so petty. I want to tear my skin off and combust and be a whole new awesome person and fly away somewhere and start something. A new version of my life - life 2.0. I feel like I've spent years and years now just being lost. I'm tired.

*My mind suddenly became fixated on the need to move - for some reason, in my brain moving meant an amazing exciting life. Because that's TOTALLY how that works.
**And REALLY gross-sounding coughs.

There's this constant hum, always buzzing inside of me, this worry that time is running out by the second. That I'm not there yet, that there's still more work to do.

"What do you want?" my friend Andrew texted me. "Like, what would make you happy?"

Belonging somewhere. Contributing something. Feeling like I'm a part of something and that I matter or I make things better, and that I'm not wasting my potential and all these big things I hope for myself aren't a joke, because maybe I genuinely am special or something. The thought of never amounting to anything... it makes my skin crawl, it makes me sick. What a disappointment I turn out to be.

And then also, of course, I have tons of cool, awesome friends who I'm constantly doing cool, exciting things with, and we go over to each other's places and laugh and laugh because we're just. so. cool. Obviously.

"But, like, what specifically would you?"

Well, if I knew that I probably wouldn't be freaking out, would I? That's the problem. I wish I knew exactly where I supposed to go, because then I would just go there. I wouldn't be constantly tearing my hair out feeling like I'm not finding this place I'm supposed to be. I don't know what it is, but I'd like to actually spend my days doing something, anything that uses my intelligence and skill. I'd be way saner if I knew exactly what it was, because I'd know what I'm shooting for and I wouldn't feel so adrift. I don't know, writing maybe, working in TV or film or even writing about pop culture, or blogging or really just working in any field REMOTELY adjacent to ANYTHING I like or have to offer. At my job I'm constantly made to feel like an idiot, but I am, in fact, NOT an idiot. Maybe I'm not meant to be involved in TV. Maybe I'm going to pull a Single White Female on David Sedaris and write short essays. But I know I feel pointless and like I'm wasting the few good qualities that I have.

The future is so vast, so empty, so enormous that staring into it strikes fear into my heart. That hum starts, and I feel like I can't breathe because I'm just nowhere near the place I need to get to, and oh yeah, I don't even know where that place is so good lucking finding it. I'm trying to steer the ship in the right direction but it's like I don't even know what directions are. It feels so horrible, like I have this knot in my stomach all the time. Sometimes, I think it would be easy to just give up and stop fighting it, to stop thinking about my future and how ambiguous it is. I see people in my office who've settled comfortably into numbness*, and I think that might be nice - to stop thrashing against the waves of the water and just float and let the waves push you along.

*In a moment of weakness and daydreaming, I imagined taking a chair and smashing out the window of my 35th floor office, shouting goodbye forever to the office, and taking off flying into the horizon, the air rushing past my face. I said, smiling to my co-worker, "What if someone just blasted through one of the windows and flew away? Can you imagine? What would you even do?" She took a moment. "I'd pray." She said.

My roommate tried to tell me this is just part of being in your twenties, but I think that's a lie. Several of my co-workers are in their thirties, and if anything, i've learned that your thirties are just more twenties*, so we're all just fucked, aren't we? Is this it forever? Is all of life actually spent just scrambling around, grasping at anything that seems like happiness? If so, boy, was I lied to. My whole life I was led to believe that at some point you figure things out and you click and life settles in and things will be okay.

*The thirties are the sequel to the twenties, tentatively titled "Twenties 2: Electric Boogaloo", coming in spring of 2014 from TriStar Pictures.

But the click is a lie. And ninety percent of my anxiety is because I want that click, I'm waiting for that click, and I feel wrong - deeply wrong - for not feeling that click... the click of security, of certainty, of confidence, of whatever it is I feel like I'm missing and am searching for. Of knowledge in what I should be doing, in feeling whole and right and feeling direction. The click is never coming, I think.

I wish we didn't lie to our kids. I wish we didn't perpetuate this fantasy that you grow up and things get straight and you're happy and life is hunky-dory. Maybe if we were honest about that fact that life is confusing and scary and there's no way to guarantee anything for certain, crazy type-A people like me won't beat themselves into an emotional pulp for not feeling this fictional emotion they're supposed to be feeling. I wouldn't feel the hum of "you're not perfectly happy yet, you're not figured out yet, YOU BETTER GET MOVING BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS". If the click is indeed a lie, then nobody else is. We're all in this thing together, right? This big mess is all of ours.

And so that's, I think, why I wrote this bizarre, lunatic episode down. If anything, this weird stream-of-consciousness is my hope that everyone else is with me, that everyone else is just as lost or messy as I am. Maybe the click is real, and you're all perfect and fine and together like your Facebook status updates would lead me to believe.*

*Everyone's "MY LIFE IS AMAZING" posts do nothing to alleviate my feeling that I'm failing. Everyone, stop faking it. Seriously, you don't need to try so hard.

But I think - I hope - that the click isn't real. And if you feel that way, and you tell me that, and I know that it's fake, and that this sudden feeling of certainty and security and tranquility that I'm waiting for isn't coming... than maybe I can stop worrying about it. I can stop feeling bad that I don't have it, because maybe it's an impossible thing to have.


Get back to me, would you? Kthxbai.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dark Side of the Force

So for a while now I've had nothing to say - I still don't. Let's see what happens when I try to write something while having zero ideas or energy, shall we? The zero energy you can thank my job for (I hate you so much, job) but the zero ideas might just be me. I'm so distracted and exhausted by work that my brain isn't spitting out anything remotely exciting or creative.

Another thing I can thank work for is the slow darkening of my soul.

It's hard to be my normal hilarrrrrrious self while the dark side of the force is nipping at my heels.

At first, when I began at my job and found that most (though not all) people were snappy, rude, and generally agitated and irritable, I wondered why; why would anyone start with agitated? How could you wake up that way? Wouldn't you wake up fairly neutral (with maybe a standard deviation of, say, two on the feelings scale) and then become agitated during the day?

Then it clicked: they're irritable because they work here. This job made them this way.

When the head honcho creates a toxic work space, it trickles down. Trickle-down economics may be horse shit, but trickle-down tension is most definitely a thing. It's displacement. It's the chain of screaming. You feel bad and you can't give it back to those above you, so you get pissy with others. Which is maybe why people at my work think it's okay to snap at me on first request. Listen, if you've asked me to do something ten times and I haven't done it, snap away.* But to just start by snapping? I can't fathom it.

*Though frankly, I would never snap at anyone the way people do at me, because I think rudeness is a disgusting, unnecessary pollution that makes the world a worse place and I have NO PATIENCE FOR IT.

Some people deal with the tension in other ways. A fifty-something man in my office literally started muttering swears under his breath and having a mini tantrum at his desk when I asked him questions about the job I was supposed to be doing. At my work, I've been given no training, so people kindly speak to me like I'm an idiot when I don't know how to do something that there's no earthly way I would know how to do. Sometimes it bothers me that people think I'm stupid, and sometimes I just go, I know I'm smart, I don't care what these assholes think. 

The sad cloud of office life does other weird things to people. The same muttering swearing guy asked me a question about a client, and I told him that the client's family member had cancer. After a moment, he dejectedly said, "I'm probably going to get cancer. My dad had cancer. I'm probably going to get it." Stunned by the most depressing person I'd ever seen, I tried to connect with him by chuckling awkwardly and then telling him, "my dad's dad had cancer", having nothing else to really contribute. "Doesn't look good for you", he said. I quit trying to talk to him after that.

It's bad energy. It's smelly, smelly energy and it's bringing me to a smelly place. Now that I'm being forced (and yes, I do mean forced) to work three out of four Saturdays a month, the weeks blur by, no space for me to do anything of any import in my free time. I'm drained - I showed up at my friend's birthday last Saturday in a complete grumpy work haze - she took one look at me as I walked in the door and said, "okay, you need to start getting more excited like right now". I found myself having real, genuine anger at a waitress who brought me a Pepsi when I had clearly said Diet Pepsi. I got grumbly with my own friends for trying to make plans together when I had already made plans for my single precious day off - as if they could know that. Now I'm being rude to my own friends? My friends are all I've got, and if work is making it so I'm not even happy with them, what's the point of any of it? Not worth it, probably.

I'm becoming one of them. It's a disease, a zombie virus spreading and making us all grumpy angry people. The only reason I'm not completely desolate is because I know something that my bosses don't: I don't plan on being there past the fall. I mean, ideally I'm not there past next month, but finding a job, as I can easily recall, is not easy. But in the fall I know I'm gonna move happily the hell away from this job. So when my co-workers tell me, "after a couple years you get used to it", I laugh in my head. When I hear a co-worker tell me that he's soon approaching his five-year mark - even though he'd made a pact with himself that if he was there for five years he'd have to take a dive out the window - I know in my head there's no way I'll get trapped here. It won't be so bad.

I just have to fight the grumpy. I do not want to be the angry people I work with; I'm not that guy. Anyone who's read any of my blogs could tell you I'm nowhere near mature enough to be a stern office worker. I'm way too silly and weird. Gotta hold on to the silly. And the weird.

My insane nightmare boss - the one who says stuff like this - is constantly ranting and raving and yelling and degrading people, and I've taken to writing down every nutbag thing he says on my notepad, because I think someday it'll be useful to me. It's all gonna come out.

Fight the dark side. Fight the power.