“But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders.” – Charles Darwin, 1861
I am 36 today.
Technically, yesterday was my birthday, but I can never remember exactly what time of day I was born, and that means that for a while yesterday, I was still 35. So today is the first full day of the 36th year of my life. Status report: I’m struggling.
Not only am I working through the existential dread that afflicts me every year as I grow ever closer to death without achieving much in the way of accomplishments or a lasting legacy, a depressing fact which always leaves me feeling grumpy and irritable around my birthday, but the last couple of years in particular have hit especially hard.
Not to be dramatic, but not only is my entire generation pretty much resigned to the fact that things will never be good, ever again, and all of the happy, fun, carefree days are over, squandered by the generations before us before we ever even got a taste of the pie, but we’ve also been permanently affected by COVID deaths and isolation, rocked by economic uncertainty, victimized by skyrocketing housing, healthcare, education, childcare, food, fuel, and all-around living costs, and exhausted by traitorous politicians, greedy buffoons, anti-intellectual idiots, conspiracy theorist morons, and regressive fucks, all while the entire world boils alive and narcissistic billionaires rush to flee the planet instead of working to save it.
I’m exhausted boss. I’m burnt out, depressed, and anxious, and all of that has been working together to create a never-ending hell loop I lack the imagination to see an escape from. I’m depressed because I’ve been isolated from my family and friends for two years due to the pandemic. I’m anxious because if I make the wrong move and irresponsibly pretend nothing is wrong and spend time with my friends for my own enjoyment and happiness, my selfishness may very well kill somebody. I don’t know who is immuno-compromised and at risk, so I’m trying to do the right thing and act compassionately and responsibly. What I do know is that I can’t think of a single person that died from the flu or any other trendy illness du jour in my entire life, but I can think of at least a dozen people I am acquainted with who have died of COVID in the past year, so this shit is no hoax, and yet there are still assholes refusing to get vaccinated or wear facemasks, which just keeps extending this damn plague when it could have been fucking over already. So not only am I depressed by the perplexing selfishness of a significant portion of the US population, I’m also depressed because my anxiety has gone so far off the rails that I’m having panic attacks while driving, so even if I could safely plan a visit with my friends, I don’t know if I’m even physically capable of getting to them, which has me feeling especially trapped and isolated, and I’m anxious because even if I successfully meet up with my friends, I’m so depressed that I worry I might not be funny enough, or entertaining enough, or just enough in general for them to continue liking me and wanting to be my friends. Which naturally isn’t helping my anxiety. Which obviously, is compounding my depression. You see the pattern.
So, it’s fair to say that for the last two years, I haven’t really been living much. Just existing.
My hobbies have suffered, because I have lacked the energy, enthusiasm, focus, or drive to really do anything. I’ve just been feeling really dumb and useless. Look at this website for example, I’ve barely posted anything over the last 24 months. Honestly, I’ve barely written anything at all, online or off. I mean, it’s been three years and I still haven’t completed the sequel to my most recent novel, and that story was supposed to be done in 2019. It gives me nightmares thinking about how I’ve let everybody who wants to know what happens next in the story down so thoroughly, and I’m still working on it, slowly and unsteadily, but lately writing anything at all has felt like a chore. Can you imagine? One of my favorite activities, and I can’t find any pleasure in it these days.
My work has suffered too, because something has to give, and I’m frankly not at 100%. The way I figure it, sometimes simply doing good enough needs to be good enough, and while my bosses say they totally understand that things are crazy, and support their employees, and care about their emotional and physical well-being, they absolutely do not understand, and do not support us, and care only for profits, and if our performance slips even a smidge below some arbitrary benchmark, we will be thrown to the wolves immediately without a second of regret, because to them we are faceless interchangeable cogs in an ever hungering machine, so, you know, that’s not really great for my overall state of mind.
My health has suffered, because constant stress, anxiety, and depression will do that to a person. Beyond the newfound anxiety, which I have grown half-convinced is from a brain tumor, or blot clot, or impending stroke or aneurysm, or an even more rare and exotic syndrome or disease which will kill me at any moment, although logically it’s probably just the anxiety making me think that, but I’m not going to actually go find out, because what’s the point? I can’t afford to go to the doctor, because this is America, so if I go and they actually do find something wrong, I may as well just kill myself then and there so that my family can collect on the life insurance policy, because otherwise we’d be saddled with so much medical debt that we’d lose everything and our economic prospects would be ruined for 100 generations, and I’m not doing that to my family.
On top of the natural physical consequences of growing older, COVID isolation has had me stuck at home, sitting on my ass eating sugar snacks and growing fatter and fatter, which, compounded by the depression making me too lethargic and weak to lift weights or exercise, of course makes me feel worse about myself, and contributes further to my depression. Like I said, vicious cycle.
But you know what? It’s not all bad. I woke up on my birthday yesterday still exhausted after a fitful nights sleep with a pounding headache and ready to choose violence all day, but then something wonderful happened. My phone started buzzing, and it did not stop.
All day I was bombarded by texts, and calls, and social media posts from my family and friends wishing me well and giving me tangible proof that, isolated though I may be feeling, I’m never truly alone. Not even a little. Even if we can’t share the same physical space as much as I would like, I am still surrounded by people who care about me. To them, I matter. To them, I’m enough.
So for all of those people who took a moment out of their day to reach out and wish my a happy birthday, thank you. It means more than you can ever know. Even if I’m having a rough day and feeling very poorly & very stupid & hate everybody & everything, as our old pal Chuck Darwin so eloquently stated, those feelings pass. I ended up having wonderful time yesterday, and went to bed feeling so loved, and so thankful, and dare I say, even a little optimistic.
And wouldn’t you know it, it looks like I’m writing again.