The Three Year Long Bad Year

The other morning in the shower I told Ben that it had been a bad year, and he responded that it seemed more like two bad years. Sure enough, my diagnosis of depersonalization disorder in June 2011 was what I thought of as the 6 month mark of Bad Year Volume 1. So we’re well into Volume 3 at this point. That’s some shit. For 6 months to a year I thought I was going insane, then for about another year I was in a massive depression about my mother, then for another year I was emotionally pretty stable except that my career was going down the drain and I had no idea how to deal with it.

2011 was the first year of my adult life that wasn’t better than the year before it. I had a really difficult time with that. I was used to being a sort of wunderkind, I had this amazing hard luck story of survival and accomplishment. But by the time I was 25, I was just another low level office drone swimming in debt and overwork, trying desperately to move up in ranks and getting nowhere fast. In real life, nobody cares who your parents were. Unless they were rich and connected, then you get a lot of shit for free. Which is especially ironic because you’re the last motherfucker to need free shit.

You can’t walk around with a sandwich board notifying people of your mileage. When you show up at 25 completely exhausted, living in the ghetto, driving a car that is literally taped together and you don’t seem to understand how to negotiate a corporate environment with the same grace and skill as your middle class companions, nobody gets a memo about how far you’ve come. Nor would they care if they did.

By 25 you’re officially a grown up. You can rent a car, no more excuses. People just want you to pay your bills and do your job, and keep your head down. Whatever weird survival instincts you developed in whatever twisted history you came from are completely irrelevant. You’re not shiny anymore, and neither are you a success just for having a job that prints business cards. All of a sudden, you go from being special to being remedial. Every person you encounter wants to know why you aren’t “getting it” by now. And you can’t tell them because that’s just whining.

So, three years ago, I came up against a problem I couldn’t solve: the mundane constancy of ordinary life. And I spent three years spinning my wheels and feeling inadequate. One day you’re keeping a jam bag under your bed because sometimes your mom looses her shit and it’s better to be somewhere else for awhile, and before you know it your tasteful flats don’t go with your biz cas attire and you can’t understand why that’s some kind of big deal, but it is.

I started cleaning houses door to door when I was 14 because my mom stopped buying groceries, but I wasn’t promotion material because I lack discipline. Specifically, I swore too much, and I didn’t treat the executives any better than I treated the receptionist or the janitor, who I was always polite to because I know what it’s like to have to serve and clean up after a series of self-important morons.

Thanks to my corporate job, I learned more about the advantages of diplomacy, the importance of appearances, and how to pace myself. But I also spent at least one full year feeling like a fool. It was like wearing a wool sweater in the desert and telling everybody how much I enjoyed it. But I didn’t know what else to do. I understood why things were the way the were, I saw clearly what kind of person I should be in order have the most positive impact on the organization, and then I was constantly confronted with my failure to be that person. So I stayed and got more and more awkward and miserable. From time to time, I tried to change my surroundings instead of accepting that maybe I’m not office material, and that just made the people around me upset because I wouldn’t stop fucking with things that weren’t bothering them.

At this point, I feel like I tried to be normal, and it was nice and everything, but there’s so much more to my life than that. I need to be able to walk into a room and have the most important thing about me not be that my shoes don’t match my dress. I just can’t stand to be that frivolous right now. I feel a little sad, that I couldn’t just be an office person and run around filling the hours of the day with varying degrees of meaningless busywork until an actual project came in. The world needs more cogs than it needs wheels, and I know a lot of people who pretend their failure to be the former somehow implies that they should automatically be the latter, and that’s bullshit. It’s something losers tell themselves when they’re dropped from even the lowest rung of the shittiest ladder.

The current state of my life is nothing short of failure. I tried to be a shining star and I ended up in the scrap heap. It sucks. But that’s just one thing it turns out I’m terrible at. In a way, failure helps me focus, helps me move forward and not back. Now that we know I’m a terrible drone, I get to spend my energy trying to be something else, something I’m actually good at being. What that is, I have yet to figure out.