16 February, 2008

How Did It Come To This?

Ten years ago, this was a relatively normal family. Two parents, three kids in school. And you know, it might sound arrogant, but I felt like I was the favored child in the family. Not because of how I felt about myself, but because of how I perceived others feeling about me. Compared to my brothers - and no offense to either of them - I was the genius, the smart kid who consistently got good grades. And in those days, grades are the sole determinant for future potential (LIES!). The way the formula's supposed to work is something like this: kids all go to college, graduate, start promising careers, find a wife, marry, start a family, the cycle continues, while the parents get used to their newfound freedom and as retirement age sets in, they learn to sit back and enjoy life and go after the dreams they may have forsaken in their hardworking youth.

Of course, the devil fools with the best laid plans. My mom desired freedom and independence, and so my parents split up right around the time when the oldest of us sons were getting ready to graduate high school and move on to college. Within a year of that turning point, my dad lost his job to down-sizing, and though I don't know what his plans were then, it's been years and he hasn't gone back to work, so for the time being, it seems like it was a forced early retirement. He keeps himself fairly busy holding down the old homestead, and spends a lot of time watching TV, which I know he enjoys, but there's a question, at least in my mind, of whether he'd have an interest in pursuing something else in life, while he still has the time and the health, if he didn't have the potential concerns about taking care of us kids that he wouldn't have if we didn't end up being such parasites. As for my mom, she seems to be doing pretty well for herself, maintaining a positive outlook, and working like a machine to get her own business off the ground.

As for us kids, at least one of us managed to hit the mark, mostly. My older brother has been working constantly since the age of, like, 14. He bought a very pretty, used Firebird while he was still in high school. After graduating college, he was immediately placed in a prestigious accounting firm, where he's been the past few years. He works a lot, but he makes a lot of money, and as far as I can tell, his future looks promising. So far he's chosen to live out of this, our dad's, house, for whatever reasons - there are plenty to choose - although I'm confident that he could afford to move out if he wanted to. He's got friends, too, and it seems like he's perfectly suited to living life. He might envy my lifestyle of effortless laziness without responsibility, but I envy his ability to deal with the world and get done the things that need to get done.

So what happened to me? I remember touring my dad through the physics building one day when he visited me on campus while I was enrolled at college. I showed him some of the posters on the walls in the halls, of various students' collaborative projects, and he was amazed at it all - all this mind-bending complicated science-stuff. Everybody was impressed, I was studying physics, I was gonna be the next Einstein, I was gonna redefine the laws of the Universe, I was gonna win the Nobel Prize, I was gonna go to space, I was gonna invent new technology. I was on the cutting edge of knowledge. Hell, I believed it myself, for awhile. But then I learned the reality of things, and certain events undermined even my ability to keep up with the pace I had set for myself. So I dropped out. I may have graduated college, but that doesn't change the fact that I dropped out of life.

On the other hand, my little brother has dropped out of college, but he still seems able to pursue his dreams, even if they're the runner-up dreams (Living The Plan B!). He's been making efforts to get a job, and here I sit, wasting away. It seems as if not one of us is really supposed to be here, like this, but that's the way things have turned out. I have dreams and desires, but I don't have the motivation or ability to do anything about them. I'm paralyzed. I'm living in a shelter, and I've lost the desire or ability to protect myself, out there.

What do I want? I want to move into an apartment somewhere - get a place to myself. I want to be in charge of providing for myself, getting my meals, paying my bills. But I'd need to have an income, and that means getting a job. I want to have a job. But any job I can imagine, doesn't feel like something I could do. It's all so strange and unfamiliar, and I'm terrified to go out there. I'm terrified to be on my own. I want to be on my own, and I want to experience that excitement. But at the same time, I'm terrified of the possibility of failing, and not knowing how to deal with it, whether I can figure out what to do to get what I need and want, and actually doing the things I know I need to do - because they scare me!

1) Get an apartment. What do I have to do? Look. Look where? Go around neighborhoods? Look in newspapers? Look online? What kind of place am I even looking for? How much can I afford to spend? What kind of things do I need? Where do I even want to be? It's too much, I don't know where to start, and even if it came down to contacting people and looking at places, and moving in, I don't think I could handle that. Too much uncertainty, too much unfamiliarity, too much fear. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

2) Get a job. What do I want to do? Should I force myself to do something I don't want to do? Then how do I pick a thing? I feel terrible getting a low-end job because I'm a freaking college graduate, but the higher-end jobs (including middle-end) are too intimidating and selective. Almost any job you can think of includes interacting with people, and that terrifies me. Even if it was a lonely job, I still can't put myself in a place where I'm being evaluated, judged to determine whether I'm fit for the spot. I don't feel like I'm what any part of society is looking for, and I have a hard time justifying who I am to a bunch of tight-necked squares. Why do I want this position? Truth is, I don't, I'm only applying for it because I need a job, badly. I don't wanna do it, I don't wanna be here, I don't want to talk to you, I don't want to talk to anyone else. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

I'm lost and I'm scared and I don't know what to do, and nothing's happening because I have this happy place that I can crawl into where I can forget about all of that stuff for awhile, and just simply exist. I understand the need to pull the rug out from under my feet, but there's nothing in the world that can make me do it, and I'm too afraid to let anyone else near it, because I'm terrified, scared to death, of standing on the naked floor. That's a silly metaphor for a serious problem. I'm confused and I don't know what to do. I've been taking small steps for two years, hoping that a convenient solution would present itself, but it hasn't, and I'm not equipped to do the things that need to be done to improve my condition. I want help, but I'm willfully isolated from any person who could help me, if such a person exists.

There's a conflict going on inside, between the two sides of me. There's the side that's ruled by fear, and the side that's ruled by desire, and the side that's ruled by fear has the upper hand. My desires demand recognition, but my fears refuse to acknowledge them.

Why can't I be making periodic posts about how great my life is going, about the interesting things I'm involved in at work, about the fun trips I go on with friends, about the great connection I have with my girlfriend? Why do I have to live in a state of periodic distress, between the periods of being comfortably numb with my life and who I am? Why do I have to be this person, and not someone else? I understand that everyone has problems, but why can't I be a person who's got the equipment to deal with his problems? Why did I have to be the person who doesn't have what it takes to handle his problems? Why did I have to be weak? How come in this overcrowded world it's so easy for me to avoid the people who might go out of their way to help me? How come more of those people don't exist, and how come they don't do a better job of finding the people that need them?

I heard there's this program in Japan, created to help hikikomori, where the parents call in and hire a Rental Sister to act like a concerned sister and do whatever it takes to get through to the hikikomori and encourage him to join a program and improve his life. I want a Rental Sister...but they'd probably be expensive, especially if I have to ship her from Japan, and I'd probably need a translator, too...


  1. Yeah, I remember those days... I don't know what Mom would think, but personally I think her leaving was the best option for me personally. She was a traditional kind of parent... used to yell at me for saying naughty words like "butt" and "scrotum." Can you imagine me with a person like that? I don't even accept those restrictions from teachers at school, let alone in my own home. The two main things that made me the generally adequate person that I am were of course your intellectual upbringing of me and Dad's independence I guess it's just a shame that she didn't get out sooner, for your sake. And that's probably a horrible thing to say, but you know what they say: no matter what you do, you fuck up your kids. It's entirely enevitable.

    I was very suprised when Kevbo reacted boundlessly harshly towards my plans for a superior existance. My impression of his feelings, based on things he's said to gram and my negative assumptions about the universe, were that work was the truest hell and nobody should do that to themselves. But I guess that could still be true. Perhaps he's worried about me having to work my whole life whereas he'll eventually be rich and get to stop working. Plenty of things I would say about that, but this isn't the place. I think you're putting WAY too much happiness in Kev's mouth. When does he EVER seem particularly happy to you? 'Cause I can't think of ANY times. And he doesn't have very many friends. And he works his bones past the marrow every day. Sure he's got things going on, but the grass is never green, period. I thin Kurt Cobain's suicide must be the greatest event in human history because it proves that no amount of innumerable talents, no amount of love and adoration, no amount of absurd riches, and no amount of a promising future can ever offset the terribleness that is life.

    I don't mean to start a pissing contest or something, I'm not saying you don't have it harder than the rest of us. I wouldn't call Kev fortunate but I know that I'm sure a lucky motherfucker. I mean... love has kicked my ass in some pretty cruel ways, and there's never been a day I didn't want to kill myself since I was a toddler (if then), but from an outside perspective, I get the good end of virtually all the sticks, and my life would be a perpetual hell if I didn't have my resolve. I'm just saying I don't think life ever gets good, no matter how many "good" circumstances happen. I've gotten my dreams several times and it has never made me happy in the least. My personal opinion is that those happy potentials you see in the world don't exist, not for anyone at all. But I guess that could just be me and who I am. But when I see all of the pain in the world, with people like Kurt Cobain and Kevin, I feel like it's probably true.

    Advice is probably the last thing you want, and I'm an idiot to give it, but have you ever considered becoming angry? 'Cause we all know you and me are pretty similar people, but everything I do is fueled by anger and irreverence. After all, it's not YOUR fault that life sucks. It's the universe's fault. And it's not your fault that nudity is banned, it's the squares fault. Just a suggestion...

  2. You want me to join the Dark Side? You'll have to do a lot better than that. I won't submit to hatred! Know that if ever you choose to let evil rule your heart, I will be forced to vanquish you, for the sake of good.