Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

As we come to the last day of 2014, I look back on a year that's seen me break through a terrible trauma and move on to accomplishments that would once have been unthinkable. I have successfully completed a semester of graduate school and charted a career path, have made a new group of friends (proving to myself that what happened at Major University wasn't a one-shot deal), and have generally asserted my control over my own life in a way I once thought was permanently lost to me. At the close of last year I had nothing to celebrate save my near death; the year before that, a full twelve months of unemployment.

Things are much better than they have been in a long, long time, and I look forward to turning this stride into a sprint towards a future I can be happy in.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Same But Different

My first semester of graduate school occasioned one of the longest absences from this blog I've ever had, but I wanted to assure everyone that I am very much still here, albeit in a different way than perhaps you are used to--or perhaps than I'm used to. I haven't written because I've been so busy. But I also haven't written because I haven't known what to say. You met me at such a different time of my life, when I was only nineteen, and immediately after we made one another's acquaintance I rocketed out of a terrible valley and up a glorious peak. You met me in an era of sunshine like I had never known before. I was young and beautiful and happier than I would have ever believed possible. It's tempting to leave it at that, to let this blog stand as a memorial to the joyous peak of my youth. But that's not in my nature. It's always, as you know, been my instinct to write, to reflect. So I'm still here. I'm not what I was, though.

It's funny how, when you're quite young, you somehow manage to convince yourself that that time will last forever, and as befits the end of my youth the feeling I have often these days is one of profound oldness. I don't say age because I can't claim it (I'm only twenty-six), but I can very much claim oldness. I struggled in childhood and adolescence against debilitating illness. I weathered coming out and defending my identity. I fought my way to a college degree despite the relentless financial obstacles thrown in front of me by my own parents. I endured long-term unemployment. I died at twenty-five and then came back. I've soared and been shattered. I've been degraded and exalted. I've collapsed and rebuilt, twice now. I'd had more hurt by twenty than most people will know in their entire lives. I'm so enormously old.

What you would like to hear and what I would like to tell you is that everything is amazing, that through the storm I came out stronger. That last part is true. But what's also true is that there's still a great deal I'm bothered by, and my melancholy nights are still more numerous than I'd care for. The loneliness, for one thing, weighs heavily on me. When I was a club-going college kid I don't think I felt this so acutely, but now as I proceed through the second half of my twenties I find myself, more and more, hoping for a real bond and a partner. Whoever he is, he seems elusive. A sort of pre-date I went on recently was a bust, though the fellow in question was nice enough. And because I've sworn off any more one-night stands, which satisfied a base need but left me so empty, I've not been with a man in well over a year. I don't know when I will be again.

Then there's my beauty, which took a beating in the aftermath of my death. In my university years I gloried in my trim body and youthful prettiness, but six months on powerful medications resulted in a substantial weight gain from which I have only slightly recovered. I haven't looked in a mirror and been satisfied with what I've seen since at least a year ago, and there's no way that's not hard. I find myself saying "I was" and "I used to be." I think about the weight yet to lose and it feels like a mountain in front of me. My great fear is that I'll never be beautiful again. Sometimes I weep over it. Sometimes I think I'll die alone.

For the issues that remain, however, there can be no question that my position is immensely improved now from what it was. I completed my first semester of graduate school with a 3.5 GPA, have eliminated from my life all those who are not constructive, recently finished a student-teaching practicum that I loved and for which I was lavishly praised, and am in the earliest stages of investigating a subject on which to obtain my PhD. It's years in the future, and it will come after teaching for a bit, but it's there. Those are all very good things.

My hope is that the enterprising attitude with which I took charge of myself and laid out a career path will enable me to confront, then remedy, the remaining concerns I have. You met me as an enchanted boy. I can never be that again. Even the platforms through which we first communicated, Blogger and Flickr, have materially declined since the days in 2009 when I flowered with such magic and majesty. But if you care to, we can still be friends. I'm at sort of a weird juncture where I'm figuring things out and adjusting the blueprints I'm working off of, but the foundation I'm building is solid. I'm doing everything I need to do now to ensure that one day, maybe as soon as three years in the future, I'll be stable and happy, self-sufficient and aware of my place, content with my body and content in a partner. Graduate school will be an interregnum of sorts, a two-year twilight in my mother's now-welcoming home. Afterward? The world I've longed for, whatever that is.

I'll still be here if you will. Maybe you can help me brighten up the place.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Golden Boy

He’d sung the song a thousand times, of course. It was the song, the one that had started it all. Before, he’d been a kid in a garage, a suburban teen with a dream. And after: the magazine covers, the television interviews, the roaring concerts, the world tours, the whirlwind surrounding an endearing young man at the twilight of an innocent era. Or maybe he’d only seen it that way because he’d been innocent himself. It was all because of that song. People had connected with it, felt it stir something inside of them, and then there he was, a golden boy with a golden voice singing a golden tune. He could have performed that song asleep and one legged. There was no reason to have butterflies. But it was here. This was the stadium where he’d first sung it live on a summer night in 1976.

He peered out across the throng, gathered in that same green field, and for a moment through a beam of light and out of the corner of his eye, he saw them as they’d been. The young girls, unadorned faces shining; the young men, pretending they didn’t want to be there but secretly mouthing in their heads the words their sisters and girlfriends shouted aloud. And him, mounted atop a metal throne, screaming into a sceptre, one voice rising above all the others like a tidal wave of beauty. The man he loved had been behind him wielding a guitar. Man, hell. They were 16. But they became men together.

The shaft of errant light shifted and several hundred grey men and women stared back at him. The eyes were the same, though, the same as all those years ago. He looked down to his hands, wrinkled now as they held the microphone. The famous mane of auburn hair, what one journalist had called “silken fire,” was gone, the remnants faded from copper to grey. And the man he loved was gone, too. He had the memories forever, though.

“I don’t know if you know,” he told them. “But this was the first place I ever performed this song. Some of you might have been here.”

He recalled the man behind him, the hand on his shoulder anchoring him to the world so he wouldn’t soar to Heaven on the wings of his melody. Absurdly, his eyes stung.

“I’m a little different now,” he said after a pause. “It’s been a little while. But I still know the lyrics. And if you do, too, will you sing them with me?”

Then he closed his eyes, and he sang.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


The fire of October
Is ember in a ditch
It glows in desperation then
It blows out into pitch

October gets the portraits
October gets the songs
But life after October
Endures painfully long

November stretches cold and grey
And dull and brown and dead
November's wisdom blooms in spades
Not 'till its leaves are shed

November somehow carries on
Once red and gold have died
Once what remains upon its stems
Attracts no gleaming eye

November holds not for the joy
It holds because it must
It alone can know the pain
Of sunlight turned to rust

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Moving On

It's been a long time since I've written a post, but graduate school has kept me busy. Between new friends, new classes, new professors, and a workload that's been pretty shocking, I've had precious little time to write. But that busyness is a good thing. It's a hell of a lot better than the two years of essential stasis I experienced between my college graduation and my suicide attempt this time last year.

I think I'm going to enjoy being a teacher. I'm observing a nearby middle school right now, and while middle school isn't the age I'd like to instruct, I still look at the teacher in that classroom and feel a degree of envy. She spends every day standing before a group of children and talking about history. I could do that.

Of course, the end-game for me remains a history professorship, and that goal is never far from my mind.

"Getting your PhD is going to be the most stressful part of your life," one of my history professors cautioned me a week ago. "It was the most stressful part of my life, and I'm getting married this year. But you'll be able to do it."

Visions of the future I will have, of myself as a high school history teacher, living far away and pursuing a second master's degree alongside a doctorate, crop up in my mind every now and again, but amid the daily grind of the education program here, that someday is a little hard to envision.

I'll get there.

It's a little disorienting to me how much things have changed since I started this blog. Back then I was a nineteen-year-old college sophomore, damaged but innocent, sharp but delicate, bright but oblivious. I was a boy. These days, after everything that's happened, after all the inner aging I've done, there's a weariness and, yes, a wisdom to me that's a little out of place on someone who's not yet thirty. Sometimes I feel like I'm one hundred years old. And that's just it: I've grown up. I'm still goofy and imaginative and fun, but whereas at nineteen I feared the onset of adulthood I now embrace it. I feel comfortable being the grown-up in the room, the one who takes care of others.

I've seen first hand what happens when someone can't make that most critical of transitions, seen the emotional weight it imposes on everyone around them, and in light of that Marie's recent course of action is perfectly understandable. On August 15, she asked my father for a divorce. After years of alcoholism and abuse, years of being a middle-aged man who comported himself with the worst traits of petulant adolescence, he at last pushed my stepmother too far. And now he's gone. He has been for about two months, in fact, and what is most striking about our once toxic household is how peaceful it's become. When I arrive home for a long weekend from school, I find Thomas and Pie lounging on the couch, hear Marie working in her office, and before long we're all seated at the kitchen table having dinner and talking about our days.

It's almost normal. And the home I once dreaded has become a place I enjoy, a place I seek out as a welcome refuge against the stresses of my master's program. When I leave this place in the summer of 2016, bound hopefully for a teaching job in Northern State, I won't have to flee. And I'll actually want to come and visit.

So that's about it. I promise I won't be as absent in the future as I have been since the start of school. I'm finally getting my bearings, and all of this is a lot more manageable. You guys have been with me for a long time. Thanks for sticking around.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Odd and Delightful Bunch

I quite like the members of my father's family, but I am beginning to question their taste in leisure activities.

"With your brother gone, it's just Aunt Crazy and me here," my grandmother told me today on the telephone. "She's staying until Uncle Responsible and Cool Cousin fly back."

"Where are they this time?"


"Oh," I scoffed. "Are they chasing wolves again?"

"Bears," my grandmother replied. "They're chasing bears."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I Am Afraid

Up until today it was a bit like pretending. I was back on a college campus, once again living in a dormitory, once again surrounded by undergraduates, young men and women at the peak of their physical beauty and for the most part wholly oblivious to that fact. The feeling of being out of time was inescapable; I didn't belong here with these children, carefree and unaware that their world was so small, sheltered and buoyant and so very, very young.

Yet here I was. If they couldn't tell that I wasn't one of them, maybe it was time for me to forget, too. This afternoon that illusion was shattered.

I entered the classroom for my first graduate-level course and was greeted by an assembly of faces that were almost all older than mine. The professor thanked us for our time, thanked us for our attention, and said he understood the strain some of us must have been feeling from working during the day.

That's why all of the graduate classes are in the evening, I realized suddenly. It's because these people work.

The gulf between their world and mine was enormous, but I realized that in one moment it had been irrevocably bridged. I did not operate under the stresses these people did, but we were now, all of us, firmly in the realm of adulthood. No longer were we initiates--our professor spoke of "our industry" and "our careers" in a way that made the burden we were there to assume unmistakably clear. This wasn't schooling. It was vocational training.

That training will proceed more quickly than I  might be comfortable with, and all of us will be obliged this fall to participate in a practicum, on-site observations of local high schools in which we will appear as "educational professionals."

This brought up an immediate host of worries: what am I to wear? How am I to act? What if the students don't take me seriously? And how can I possibly stand at the head of a classroom and pretend to be an authority when so much of my own life is unresolved? I thought I would have become more secure by now. I never imagined how unsure and lost I'd actually be at twenty-six.

And there it is: I am twenty-six.

One of the hardest things I've had to come to terms with during this process is the fact that I'm not young anymore. Don't laugh. It's true. Sure, I'm young, but I'm not a kid, not a late adolescent whose audacious dreams are still within the realm of possibility.

As a boy of twenty-one I did absurd things, things like aspiring to a recording career and, what's more, achieving measurable success in pursuit of that goal. That sort of fantasy is, of course, closed to me now.

"You shouldn't say that, BB," Anne said. "Some famous musicians didn't get their big break until they were in middle age."

"That's true," I countered. "But it wouldn't be now what it would have been then."

"No," she said. "You had that whole Justin Bieber thing going on."

At twenty-one and twenty-two I was dewy and bright, a golden-voiced young boy who looked about sixteen. I was surrounded by numberless friends and built a vibrant social world whose center I occupied with undisguised relish. It was such a change from the years before, when illness had isolated me, that I felt like some sort of superhero. Invincible. Eternal. Beautiful. And a moment like that simply cannot last. A more durable happiness can be achieved, and hopefully will be, but it will take me years to do it, and in the meantime I'm left moving forward from a past that makes me feel so degraded.

Even this institution conspires to align itself with that perception. It is smaller than Major University; its food is less varied and less nutritional; its buildings are older; its students, born and bred in this poor mountain community, are less attractive; its professors are less regarded. It is a seismic step down that has at moments left me stunned.

Where are all the people? I wondered time and again on my first day. There were more students in our food court than there are on this entire campus.

It's hard for me to rid myself of the notion that everything is less than what it was. That I am less than I was. The weight gain that followed my suicide attempt has only amplified these thoughts: I do not look significantly different now than I did then, but I am still substantially less attractive. In decline. Decayed.

That decay, physical and social and moral, is something I am working desperately to reverse. I'm losing weight. I'm befriending anyone I can. I have, most importantly, a career path in mind and am adamant in my refusal to veer from it.

Here's the thing: I can handle taking a detour in order to accomplish bigger professional goals, but I cannot handle settling into a life I don't really want. I have no particular desire to teach high school. But because I need to pay my bills while I'm seeking the bachelor's and master's degrees in history that will allow me to become a university professor, I am willing to do it. On the sole condition that I immediately begin pursuing my history education once I commence secondary teaching. That's the only way it would be bearable.

And I am so terrified I'll fail. That the dream of a professorship will be the fairytale I use to lull myself to sleep at night, until one day in middle age I wake up and realize it's an ambition I'll never achieve.
If it is at all within my power to reach the benchmarks I've set for myself, I will do it. I will exert all of my energies towards that end.

And in the meantime I'll try to figure out who I am and what kind of fulfillment I can find as grown-up BB. I'm so horribly lonely sometimes. And I'm so scared of growing into a lonely, sad adult. All of it is new and frightening. I can only hope it will end well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Day

On the morning of August 25, eight years to the day after I first began undergraduate studies, I became, once again, a college student. That first August 25, in distant 2006, marked the beginning of a long and black journey, but this one inaugurated a full-on thrust towards a bright future.

As welcome as this new start is, however, it has also been a bit strange.

Three years ago, during the fall of 2011, I commenced what I believed would be my last semester on a college campus. At the time, closing that chapter of my life felt right and fitting. To suddenly find myself a university resident again at the age of twenty-six is surreal.

"I was thinking of you today," I said to Laquesha on the phone. "Moving in has made me all kinds of nostalgic."

It's been like traveling back in time, walking amongst these young men and women who were only in middle school when I first began college.

But maybe I don't stand out as much as I imagined.

"So, are you a freshman here?" one boy asked me as I waited in line at the dining hall.

No. No, I am not.

Classes are good thus far, with Mountain State History emerging as the surprising favorite. And my dormitory on campus is complemented by a house only twenty minutes away, so that when the pace of things at school slows down the comfort of home is but a quick ride down the road. My second college experience is proving to be more relaxed than my first.

The welcome absence of my father makes that nest all the more inviting, and will, I hope, contribute to a happy and productive semester.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Between Shadows

I stand between shadows
What was and will be
The greatness of yore and
The future of me

My towers have fallen
My banners are gone
The world that enthroned me
Is changed and redrawn

I wander a lost one
I'm faded and weak
The beauty that thundered
Is shrouded and meek

But I have a power
That others don't hold
From cinders and rubble
My hands can spin gold

I rode the waves once and
I'll ride them again
The mountains and oceans
Will be my seat then

It's already started
As in days of yore
Haven't they told you
I've done this before?

It won't be like last time
It won't be the same
My soul has grown stronger
And brighter's the flame

I rise as a giant
The stars show my way
And with every sunrise
Advances the day

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Home Alone Adventure

It's been less than a year since Our Family moved into this wonderful house just across the border from Southern State, and seeing as at the end of the month I'll be relocating to a college campus to commence graduate studies, I jumped at the chance to enjoy the property by myself for a week.

David and Marie, in what very well may have been their last vacation together, were off for to Hispanic Island with my sister Pie, and with Thomas away in Humid State at the beach I was left to hold down the fort all on my own. Kind of.

Beautiful Cousin joined me for the duration of the week to help care for my parents' five dogs, whom Marie knew I would not tolerate catering to. Off of work and on leave from the National Guard, this 23-year-old took the opportunity to catch some sun by the pool and, when the occasion called for it, seized her relaxation with military precision.

"I asked your mom if I could borrow one of her bathing suits, but she told me she locked her bedroom door and took the key," Beautiful Cousin said. "That bitch don't know I'm the Army."

"Oh, my gosh, please don't fall," I called from the window. "Can you imagine how we'd explain that? 'Beautiful Cousin was just trying to break into your bedroom...'"

After climbing out one window and jumping into another, Beautiful Cousin emerged, the bathing suit clutched triumphantly in her fist, from David and Marie's chamber.

"Dumbass didn't lock the window."

"Yeah, because what normal person would break in from the roof?"


"Um, Beautiful Cousin? What about the screens?"

"Oh, shit. I can't put them back in from the inside!"

This is what led to me frantically dancing around the porch with a shaky ladder as Beautiful Cousin shimmied down the shingles trying to gain purchase with her dangling foot.

"Hold it still, fucker!"

"I'm trying! There are bushes in the way!"

I wobbled, nearly sending her headfirst into the shrubbery, and she tumbled, cackling, into my arms.

"Let's get this thing put away before your neighbors call the police."

On Wednesday, Peruvian Girl came over to enjoy horror films and pizza, with a walk in between the two movies to work off some meat-lovers calories.

"Look at the sun," she mused as the orb glowed bright red behind a thin veil of clouds. The mist of cumulus was such that we could stare directly at the setting ball of flame.

"Isn't it crazy to think," I added. "That people have been staring at this same sun for millennia? Two thousand years ago some Roman friends probably took a walk and did exactly what we're doing now."

We stood there for several minutes, having the kind of profound conversation that only really good friends can just fall into, and then after pondering the ephemeral reign of humanity headed back home to watch a good old-fashioned slasher.

It was a nice way to spend some of my last free moments before the start of the school year. Very soon, I'll be leaving--and another member of this household may soon get a long-overdue boot out the door. But that is for a later post.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Beginning of an Era

I thought I'd failed it.

I flunked, the words repeated in my head. I flunked, I flunked, I flunked.

I wasn't going to pass the exam. I wasn't going to get into graduate school. I wasn't going to have a career or ever escape the house that had brought me embarrassment and misery and my violent rendezvous with death.

But that isn't how things are actually going to go.

The envelope came in the mail with two very simple words: 86th percentile.

I hadn't just gotten through the thing. I'd scored higher than almost 90% of the people who'd taken the test nationwide.

And I'm in.

On August 25, I will commence classes at the delightful little school--Mountain University--pictured above, and in two years I will conclude those classes with a master's degree in education. After that, I've decided: I'm headed north. Our Family has resided in Southern State for the last four hundred years. Well, it's been a cool four centuries. But I'm me.

"Yes, yes, come to Northern State!" a blogging friend encouraged me by text.

"Get up here!" chorused a college buddy who teaches in the City of Fate. "I'm so happy that you're doing this."

I've been fascinated by the Snowstorm region since I was a teenager, and why shouldn't I pursue my dreams? I'm having this marvelous revelation that life can be a thing you enjoy.

"I wonder what the North will be like?" I mused to Black Dress Girl between sips of iced coffee. "I've never really been there."

Because let's face it, the City of Fate is a region unto itself.

"People up there are generally nicer," she said. "And better educated. It's kind of refreshing. But don't expect me to visit you in the winter. I am not even about that."

After the teaching career, of course, comes the second teaching career: a high school position is just a stepping stone on the way to a college professorship in history. That will take a doctorate, which I hope Northern State's outstanding universities will prove helpful in furnishing. But we have to take one step at a time.

So the blogger you met as a college student will soon be a college student once more. And this graduation will be a world removed from the last one.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Things Recovered

"Oh, my God!" the young woman with the glossy black hair exclaimed. "I haven't seen you in forever-o!"

"I know-o!" I responded, my voice contorted into the absurd Spanglish dialect we'd perfected as our own. "I cannot believe it-o!"

"Oh, my gosh, BB, how long has it been?"

"Years. At least two years."

"I think it's been longer than that."

The last time I'd seen Peruvian Girl was while I was attending Major University, but the intervening time had done nothing to dampen a familiarity that we quickly resumed as we strolled in the park, clutching our coffees to our chests and raising our hands against the light summer rain.

College brought many wonderful new friends, but Peruvian Girl was one of the few who predated my university years, a girl who knew me when BrightenedBoy was truly a boy, eighteen and innocent and with a world of hurt ahead of him.

Before long we were reminiscing about the same stories we'd gone over a dozen times before--"and then your brother left me in the woods"--and sharing the inevitable details of siblings growing and lives changing.

"My sister is graduating from college this fall, and my brother will be eighteen in September! How did this happen? BB, you were seventeen when we met."

Time has dealt us both some blows, hers in the form of a breakup and mine in the form of a breakdown, and both our bodies and our achievements have fallen short of the ambitions we had for them. She's twenty-four years old and once again living with her parents; I'm twenty-six years old and in the same position. We were both once substantially more attractive than we are now and we both feel it.

"We are each carrying a little chub," she noted, making an observation I would have permitted very few people to make. She clutched her stomach. "I used to be so skinny."

When she learned how my new bulge had come about, tears welled in her eyes.

"BB, I don't know what I would have done if someone had called me or I'd seen it on Facebook. Did you really almost die?"

But in between bemoaning what we were and what we failed to be, there were bright glimmers of something very different.

"I think I'm going to go back to school and finish my degree," she said. "My mother says I'm too old, but what does she know? I'm twenty-four. I can't work in a restaurant the rest of my life."

"That's funny," I said. "Because I'm starting graduate school this fall. To be a teacher."

"BB, that is so great!"

"And you know, we're both going to be hot again."

"Oh, I know-o. I started hitting the gym today."

Peruvian Girl knew me before, before my own mind betrayed me and I came unmoored in a spiral of death and drinking and mania. She knew me before I stopped being me for a little while. And her unblinking faith in the sweet, beautiful BB of yore, the one she met and grew to love, reminded me both of what I was and what I could be.

I'm still that person. As I move forward with a boy's spirit wedded to an adult's experience and, yes, wisdom, I can shine as bright as I ever did and maybe even brighter. In the mail there's a graduate entrance exam application that holds my future. In my new phone there's an app that tracks my weight every single day, counting down the forty-five pounds I have to lose by January 1, 2015. Twenty miles to my west there's a school where my career will begin.

I did not die at twenty-five. And my life is far from over.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Damn you
Damn me
This thing is such a vicious cycle
And it's so obvious it's not love

But it's love in the moment
Of the moment
Of the way you make me feel
Of the way there's only glittery you
When there's only glittery you

My absence ends you
Your presence decays me
And what I hate the most isn't what you do to me
But what you make me do to myself

I know it even as my lips touch yours
That I'll regret you when we're done
You're the worst of me
I'm the best of you

I'm the end-all-be-all
So much more extraordinary than what I let you tell me I can be
But I'm addicted to the way you whisper your lies
And even in my best moments I wonder if they might be truths

That my soul is a mediocre flash of broken light
That I was made for only one moment
That I was doomed from the start
That I'll never be beautiful again

One day I will take you in triumph
Wrap you in my arms
Lean in and whisper
"I won."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Exercising Restraint

It's hard to say what exactly went wrong in the time leading up to my October 20 suicide attempt, but I think it's safe to conclude that the causes feeding in to that awful eventuality went back many years. Take your pick: homosexuality, brain disease, childhood abuse, financial desperation, and then an embarrassing and pervasive failure to launch in the face of the worst economy since the Great Depression. It was a perfect storm. A time bomb.

But one of the things for which I bore responsibility was an intemperance that grew more pronounced as I drew closer to death. In college I was an infrequent if enthusiastic drinker, but after graduation a couple of drinks every few months became a couple almost every night. In the despair that followed my suicide attempt, my lack of restraint only grew: I drank to numb the pain, and when drinking wasn't enough I turned to boatloads of bad food to warm my heart. The results were predictable but stinging: an abysmal performance at a friend's party that effectively ended our acquaintance and a weight gain of forty pounds that, in the space of a few months, destroyed my once-admirable physique.

I've always been the pretty one, the skinny one who from early adolescence attracted male attention. To suddenly not have that was disorienting and disheartening. But I brought it on myself.

As I found my professional bearings, embarking on a stable career path, I decided to reevaluate some other parts of my life as well. That is why, shortly after my twenty-sixth birthday in April, I decided to give up drinking for a full calendar year. I'm not tee-totaling for life, but it seemed to me a good idea to put the brakes on a habit that was causing me to act in a way I found unsatisfactory.

Two months in, the most surprising thing about this endeavor has been how easy it is. I occasionally find I'd like to have a drink when out with friends, but there's been no real temptation to break my vow. I haven't had to fight myself. The lack of struggle has been a refreshing reminder that maybe I didn't have as much of a problem as I imagined.

Much less sanguine has been my relationship with food. I love to eat, and I eat to feel better. It's an unhealthy relationship that has had a major detrimental effect on my appearance and self-esteem, but today, after six months of attempting and failing, I made the same kind of solemn commitment to stop overeating that I made to stop drinking. For a full year (with a select few cheat days built in), BB is on a diet. And it's awful. Today is Day #1 and I'm so hungry that I could eat my right hand, but I've lost two pounds since this morning. By June 9, 2015, I'll be back to my college weight. That's an amazing thought.

So here's to restraint, direction, temperance, and discipline. They've been absent from my life for far too long, and I'm so happy to welcome them back again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Much-Needed Update

I'd like to apologize for being absent so long--more than a month, which I think may be a personal record for me since I started this blog in 2008. It's just that I've been busy. I am, after all, getting ready for grad school.

The photo you see above is one I snapped on the campus of Mountain University, and it is there that I will report later today for my first class in a teacher-certification program that will take me approximately two years to complete. What I'll embark on this afternoon is an undergraduate prerequisite (I won't formally begin graduate studies until the fall), but it is something I need to do for this program and so in a sense it's the program's first step. I'm so excited for this.

My six years here have seen a lot of dreaming, the kind of really audacious ambition that only a very young person can have, and I suppose it's a mark of my emerging adulthood that the aspirations I have now focus not on pop stardom or music renown but on a stable career and a liveable income. There is, to be sure, something sad about that; I am a boy of twenty-one no longer and will never again be that shining youth. Yet the things I want for myself all result in my happiness, and they come without the immense pressure of having to change the world in the process of achieving them. It's a good thing.

And I have some audacity left in me. I grew up in an abusive hellhole run by two homophobic anti-intellectuals, and yet I have the nerve to think that I might one day be a history professor who leads a fulfilling love life. Your BB won't settle. And I still sing sometimes. My voice has a lot more rasp to it now, as if it's weary of the world, but I still sing.

So today begins the whirlwind. I'll wrap up my prerequisites this summer, then, financial aid in hand, will commence graduate work in the fall and will move onto the campus of Mountain University. Bye bye, David and Marie. It's been swell.

As for the long-term plan? I'll complete the teaching program in 2016 and then will secure a position teaching high school history. While working, I'll go back to school yet again, this time to obtain a bachelor's degree in history. That done, I'll apply for fellowships to pursue a master's degree and a doctorate in history, almost certainly with a focus on the antebellum South and the planter class in particular. And then it's off to the college job market and, hopefully, tenure. Call that one a ten-year goal. Hell, maybe a fifteen-year goal. But it'll be so awesome when I finally reach it.

Thank you guys for being so understanding and supportive all this time. The last few years have been rough--hell, I tried to kill myself--but I finally feel like I'm stepping in something like the right direction. I'd really like for you to witness that.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Six Years

Today it has been six years since April 7, 2008, when I sat down at a computer in the Student Newspaper office of Major University and typed out my first blog post. Sometimes it's hard to believe so much time has passed; sometimes it's hard to believe how recent it was. Six years in the blink of an eye. A lifetime in six years.

Back then, I was a boy of nineteen, an adolescent with a host of problems that would bedevil, release, and then consume me over the course of the next half-decade. Some of these anniversaries have been happy ones--2009 and 2010 were both joyous occasions. Others, such as last year's, found me at lower points. Today I'm at a median, recovering from the horrible pit into which I fell throughout 2013 but not quite out of the woods yet. I have plans for the future and will act upon them soon.

So, for those of you who don't know or would like to be reacquainted, my name is BB. I am a twenty-five-year-old college graduate pursuing work in public relations, and by this summer will be either engaged in a job in that field or in graduate school.

I live in Mountain State with my father David, mother Marie, and siblings Thomas (age 18) and Pie (age 10). My brother Powell (age 24) lives with my birth-mother, Anne. And now, the previous year in review:

April 2013: I turn twenty-five years old

May 2013: Thomas turns eighteen, which inspires both happiness and disbelief on my part

June 2013: Pie turns ten, another emotional occasion

July 2013: I attend a convention in Misty City and begin the final slide towards suicide

August 2013: Our Family prepares to move from the reviled Farmhouse

September 2013: I slip ever further into the suicidal trance, and often wonder how I'll be able to make it to my planned execution date of January without throwing in the towel early

October 2013: I move in to the new house on October 7 and attempt suicide on October 20. I am nearly successful and am subsequently hospitalized in a psychiatric ward

November 2013: I begin a long recuperation at home

December 2013: I at last buy a new car after trading in the 1996 Oldsmobile that got me through college, and Our Family enjoys its first Christmas in the new home

January 2014: I begin an abortive unpaid internship in Marble City, but abandon the position by the end of the month

February 2014: In a moment of darkness, I conduct myself in a spectacularly offensive manner and lose several friends in the process

March 2014: I come to terms with my destructive behavior and initiate a plan to move forward

So that's it. Hopefully a year from now I'll be recounting much happier events than these. In the meantime, I'd like to thank all of you for the support you've lent me during the many peaks and valleys of the last six years. It's meant a lot.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Dark and Violent History

Longtime blog readers will know that I have periodically discussed the illustrious history of my mother's family. They were a truly remarkable group of people, self-sacrificing patriots who gave their all in the defense of liberty, in the Old World and the New. I have for many years enjoyed reading and learning about them, but have known exceptionally little about my father's line, about the story of my own last name.

In retrospect, it might have been better not to look. But look I did, and I found what I found.

More than anything else, this journey, undertaken during lunch breaks and the few hours between work and bed, was full of surprises. To begin with, I started looking in the wrong geographic direction: north. My brothers, sister, and I were all born in Native State, as was my father and his father before him, and I presumed that the family line would stretch back from Native City to some village in Germany. Not so.

In fact, the census records detailing my great-grandfather's life revealed an unexpected twist: place of birth--Southern State.

"No way," I whispered, delighted.

Southern State, you see, is my adopted homeland, the place where I've lived and where all of my life experiences have taken place since I was sixteen. For a twenty-five-year-old that's getting to be quite a span of time, and I've long since come to regard the locality where I attended college and came into my own as home. It was validating to learn that my roots evidently originated in the place I'd grown to love. But how far did those roots sink?

"Exactly," Powell said. "If they came to Native State from Southern State, then where did they come to Southern State from?"

I smiled.

"I'm going to find out."

And so I dug.

After a while I started to become concerned; the records just stretched back and back and back, and for a while I wondered that I'd never find the Our Family origin.

"Richard Our Family, born 1881 in Southern State. John Our Family, born 1851, Southern State. James Our Family, born 1823, Southern State...Peter Our Family, 1750...Salathiel--Salathiel?--Our Family, 1725...William Our Family, far back can these go?"

The answer, to my astonishment, was 1619, and the place was a touchstone of American history.

"King's City," I marveled, reading the name recited by countless generations of American schoolchildren. "King's City."

In the King's City population census of 1624, there he was: John William Our Family, age 24, arrived November 1619--from Wales.

"We're Welsh?" my father asked.

"And French," I clarified. "A French family married into Our Family in the 1700s."

"What does 'Welsh' even mean?"

What, indeed. The Our Family history in this small country adjoining England is evidently a long and impressive one, but it was what we did after arriving in America that interested me. And it was that, the devilish details, that dampened the happiness I'd felt at learning my family had been in Southern State for 400 years. Which was, obviously, a great thing to learn.

"It's like when we moved here, we were coming home," my brother Powell said. I thought that was such a lovely notion. But in this ancient home of ours, we did things that should not be done.

The land records for 1645 list John William Our Family as purchasing 1,200 acres of land near King's City, the area his descendants would occupy for the next 300 years. It also lists him as furnishing the labor needed to work that land. For two centuries, from this initial endeavor to the great Civil War that forever freed four million human beings from bondage, the economic mainstay of my family was slavery.

It is tempting to dismiss this legacy by saying, "Well, everyone in the South owned slaves."

And it's not true.

"Of the 6 million white inhabitants of the so-called slave states, less than 350,000 owned slaves, and only 40,000 controlled plantations requiring a working unit of more than 20 field hands. But the 3,000 or 4,000 principal slave-owners generally ruled the politics of the South." (Churchill, The Great Republic, 137).

They were an elite among an elite. Criminals among criminals.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Our Family's involvement in slavery is its consistency over two and a quarter centuries; the family ruled an empire of the lash, maintaining at least fifteen to twenty slaves per leading member throughout the entire Antebellum period. James Our Family, the last head of the family, before the destruction of the Civil War, is listed in the 1860 census as holding forty-seven men, women, and children in chains.

Individual instances of brutality were more shocking, more visceral, than the fact of the immense legacy could be.

In 1774 my sixth great-grandfather, Salathiel Our Family (tell me that doesn't just sound evil) posted an ad in a newspaper seeking a runaway named Sam.

"This Negro shall be easy to identify," assured Salathiel. "For I have branded him upon his face."

You can imagine that, as a progressive young gay man, the knowledge that I am in fact descended from a dynasty of vicious Southern slaveholders (which, you'll note, bothers my father's conscience not a bit) has not been welcome. Which is not to say there aren't things to celebrate in the Our Family history.

The family had a habit of educating its sons at Harvard, an oddity that I learned was actually common among Southern planters, and on the French side we are descended from Huguenots who came to Southern State seeking religious liberty in 1689. Since at least that time my ancestors had subscribed to, in another bizarre coincidence, the Episcopal Church, which is my denomination of choice.

So I am, by chance, an Episcopal Southern-Stater who learned he's descended from 400 years of Episcopal Southern-Staters. Perhaps your history defines you more than you know. But what rings across our story, louder than any other sound, is the crack of the whip, and it is that that haunts me.

Of course, the Our Family story changes dramatically after the Civil War. The plantations are burned, the slaves freed, the fortune lost, the masters at last served their richly deserved comeuppance. Within two generations of the war we'd left Southern State, my great-grandfather and his father seeking factory work in Native City. In 1923 my great-grandfather, at the age of only thirteen, landed in a local newspaper when he was injured in an industrial accident.

So now I know a little bit more about who I am and where I come from. The Our Family name stood for something, something repugnant, but something that I now understand. And as I marvel at some of the strange ways in which my own life has lined up with this history--my moving to Southern State, my becoming Episcopal--I wonder at how the defining aspect of that history, slavery, may still influence us.

If anything, I hope to take it as another reminder of how the powerful treat the powerless. I have suffered nothing like those whom my ancestors enslaved, but I, too, know powerlessness, and that powerlessness at the hands of vindictive men and women has taught me the value of mercy and compassion.

It is my aspiration that, one day, when centuries from now someone looks back upon my name, they will say, "He was good. He was kind. He left things better than he found them."

There are precious few peacemakers in Our Family's shared history. Maybe I can be one of them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

There is a Time for Grief and a Time for Other Things

I had a lot of mourning to do back in early winter. I'd tried and nearly succeeded at killing myself on October 20. I was two years out of university with almost nothing to show for my frantic job search, I was isolated from my former friends, the recreational drinking I'd engaged in while a college student was turning into a quiet problem, and my relationship with my parents had arguably never been more toxic. So I decided to end it all. And then, inexplicably, I woke.

That's the part you never count on, what happens if you somehow make it out of the thing alive. Immediately I was overwhelmed by guilt about the ordeal I'd caused my family, and I had to do some painful self-examination regarding the factors, some external but many internal, that led me to combine those two poisonous bottles one morning in early fall.

So the winter was a time for introspection. It was a time for withdrawal from the world and, yes, for grief. I cried. I dreamed. I laid in bed at night and wished I'd been successful. I used alcohol to numb the pain and then said hurtful things that turned away a good friend. And I ate.

Goodness, did I eat. In the cold emotional wilderness that followed my suicide attempt, the warmth of food offered an easy and immediate comfort that I was all too quick to take advantage of. The result: by the time spring rolled around, I'd gained somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty pounds.

This is what BB looked like before, back in November:

I won't show you pictures from now. I haven't taken any.

Its drawbacks aside, though, winter was a time of shelter, of warmth and possibilities, a time of discovery about my past that has helped me to plot my future. I understand now why I did this. And I am determined not to do it again.

They say attitude is everything, and I've come to believe they're at least partially right. The months leading to my suicide were marked by a fatalism that was both freeing and horrifying, but the months since it have been defined by a search not of how best to die but how best to live. With a growing awareness that it was my task to revitalize myself, I resolved that the endless loop of job applications and false hopes had to come to a close. I needed to take decisive action, and so I have.

There are two options facing me now, one of which I will be embarked upon by June 1: the first is public relations; the second is academia.

Having blown out of my Marble City internship after two weeks (a decision I now, despite early misgivings, regard as being one of the best I've ever made), I've continued to apply for paid internships in my chosen field and will do so until the onset of summer. At that point, should I not have secured a position, I will enter academia either in a master's of education program or a bachelor's of history program.

Both of these academic branches have the same eventual goal: my teaching history at the university level, but they entail taking very different tracks to get there. If I start the master's of education program, which is my preferred route, I will finish it in two years and around the fall of 2016 will take up a job as a high school history teacher. From there I'll obtain my undergraduate degree in history while working, followed by a master's and eventually a doctorate.

Should I be denied admission to the teaching program, which seems improbable given that I meet all its requirements, I will simply enter directly into the bachelor's of history program and go through to my doctorate. This second option would appear the more straightforward, but the first is preferable by virtue of securing me a more immediate income.

So there you have it. BB, whom you met as a college student, may soon be a college student again. This is a time for journeys. For increased knowledge, for decreased weight, for ever-widening horizons.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pugnacious Pie

My ten-year-old sister Pie is, as many of you have no doubt gathered, a plucky little pastry. She enjoys football, burping contests, contemporary pop music, and entertains aspirations to one day attend West Point. She has recently decided that she is Irish, in no large measure because my step-mother has Irish heritage and in no small measure because Niall Horan, of boy band One Direction, happens to hail from the island.

The other day the talking cake and I were headed into the grocery store when a female motorist, her hair dyed an absurd shade of orange, cut us off as we attempted to use the cross-walk.

I ignored the offense, but Pie wasn't content to let it go.

"Pedestrians have the right-of-way!" she called over her shoulder. "You red-headed she devil!"

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Letter to a Friend

It's been nearly a month since my last blog post, and I figured I'd post a general update. A recent letter to a correspondent of mine covers all the points nicely.

February 21, 2014


I’ll have to begin with an apology for my lack of correspondence; looking back, I realize my last letter to you was from July 2013. In my defense, a lot happened in the interim, and I suppose in retrospect surviving a suicide attempt created a bit more of an emotional health to-do than I anticipated.

It’s been a rough few months, a period in which I’ve slid from one pit to another and remained in a seemingly inalterable state of flux. I jump in my mind from possibility to possibility and nothing, it feels, ever really happens.

It’s a funny thing, what disaster can do to a person. You sort of find that your core qualities, those things that made you you, begin to slip, and then one day you turn around to see the roof in shambles and the pillars that once held it up—for me temperance, studiousness, religious faith, and optimism—dissolved.

Up until 2012 I was a genuinely sunny person, despite what I can—not immodestly—say were a number of difficult challenges: childhood abuse and illness, financial distress in college, and other things. You’ve had your share of knocks as well, so I’m sure you know how it is.

But what should have been an inevitable time bomb never went off; I graduated high school, entered university, and got through school a happy and well-adjusted person in spite of the chaos around me. It was only after graduation that the things comprising my identity started to erode. Persistent unemployment in the face of tremendous effort left me apathetic, and in time rendered me immoderate where before I had been controlled (in eating, in drinking, in leisure, in everything), uncaring where before I had been attentive, plagued with doubt where before I had been devout, and cynical where before I had seen possibility. Two years of this finally culminated in the suicide attempt last October, and led to a sort of lethargy that prevailed after that for several months up until very recently.

I’ve determined, after seeing in myself someone I neither liked nor recognized, to attempt a recovery of those qualities that once made for so salutary an existence. In that vein, I am resolved to drink and eat less, exercise more, and, in what you will likely find the most worthy of mockery, return to the faith that bolstered me through my adolescence and early adulthood.

People who know me have often found my Christianity to be the most incongruous thing about my character, seeing as how I’m both a flaming liberal and a flaming, well, flamer, but I’ve never really been able to conceive of a universe without a creator, and have always been drawn inextricably to Christ despite coming from a mostly irreligious family. I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s just what makes the most sense to me, and somewhere in my heart of hearts it’s what I’ve always known to be true. Given your level of wit, I fully expect some amount of lampooning when you manage to write me back. If you fail at this I will be very disappointed in you.

You’ll notice that we’ve moved, actually to a really splendid house that you’ll almost certainly be unable to visit—my parents are going away in April but have expressed a reluctance to let me have anyone over. Even if you come, you’ll have to be content knowing that the most spirited thing you’ll have will be the pleasure of my company; my mother has forbidden us to consume any alcohol while here because of the whole suicide-by-wine thing. I think they have it in their heads that if I get drunk enough I’ll try again. That betrays something of a lack of understanding as to what actually caused the situation, but as their hearts are for once in the right place I’m happy to abide by it.

You’ll be glad to know that our relationship is substantially better. Who would’ve thought that the experience of my nearly dying would prove unnerving? In any event, it did, and they’ve been much less dickish since they came close to losing me.

My rent, for instance, is kept at a much-lower $250 a month, and in general they’ve just been more concerned about me and solicitous as to my welfare. To be honest, I really needed it; when I first came back I was something of a wreck, and in that state I just wasn’t fit to do much of anything. I think I needed a time to mourn and self-pity and mope. I’m only now, with renewed faith and a renewed spiritual structure, beginning to pull out of that. Time really can be a lovely thing every now and again.

As far as professional pursuits go, I’ve jettisoned the internship in Marble City in favor of a public relations class at Mountain University. I was very afraid when I first made this decision that I’d done the wrong thing, but I’ve now come to the conclusion it was absolutely right; I am done working for free on vague promises of jobs that never materialize. I went to college. I paid my dues. I acquired a skill-set. And damn it, I am worth a fucking salary.

I have recently done a little poking around on that front, at least where public relations is concerned, but don’t want to write you about it until something materializes. At the moment I’m writing for the newspaper and editing manuscripts with plans to enter a teacher-certification program this summer if nothing comes up before then. And I really hope something comes up before then, because the course is two years long and would almost certainly require me to continue living at home while working and taking a full class load. I’m so ready to be done with this nonsense.

So how goes everything on your end? You’ve been in your new job for a bit now and have a place of your own, right? You’ll have to tell me everything—give me a book! And I won’t drop off the face of the earth this time, I promise. Let’s see about another in-person meet-up in the spring?

Hoping to hear from you soon.                                                                         


Monday, February 10, 2014

Saturday Evening

This is the poem I didn't want to write

For to pen it is to pen the frailty of my own dreams
And of me

Once when I was shining I convinced myself, as all shining things do, that my sheen would emanate forever
Never put out by the black curtain of death
Or, more resoundingly, by the grey curtain of life

Now all that's iridescent is not my spirit,
But the shimmering smoke of the bar, the gleam of the sun in my unwilling morning eyes
The glitter of glass bottles and momentary abandon
The false belief that it will all one day

Get better

And shine again

I remain here
No longer young, but still deluded
No longer shining, but still aflame

Lost in the haze of broken promise that was thrust upon us,
But for which we will be blamed
A generation whose greatest fault was to be born when it was

But maybe some of us brought it on ourselves

Maybe I did
Maybe I did

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Long, Dark Night

In the nearly six years I've been blogging, I've never been absent from the site for so long. I'm not taking a hiatus or anything of that sort--in truth, I can't imagine it--but I am pausing the narrative that's proceeded uninterrupted here since 2008. Back then, everything seemed like a progression leading to something else. Now, with the economic dislocation of of the last decade persisting into the middle part of this one, a number of my plans have been thrown into the air.

For the first time in a long time, I'm uncertain. Not regarding my eventual success--as uncertainty in that quarter has plagued me for years--but regarding what path I even want to take. What now? Teaching? A second undergraduate degree? Journalism? Public relations? Which of those is even attainable? And what will I do in the meantime?

So if I'm circumspect, please forgive me. It's not that I don't want to share, just that I'm not sure what's actually happening. And with everything changing so quickly, I don't want to begin telling threads that might just peter off. So for the moment we'll say that things are unmoored. And I'll let you know when that changes.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Move-in Day

It was just me, the rain, and eternity as I drove down a stormy grey highway from upper Southern State into the Goldlands. I listened to a record from one of my favorite artists, a new offering from an old standby, and otherwise occupied my time by talking on the phone with Black Dress Girl and reflecting on my worries. It would be a lie to say they weren't there.

Still, through ice and fog and freezing rain, I made it to the home that will at least nominally be mine for something like the next four months. It's a huge old place, a sprawling 1970s mansion placed inexplicably in the middle of a modern housing development. Its residents are a septet of young Christian men who have charged me a suitably charitable rent, and I'm eager to repay that gift with courtesy. I'd consider it a blessing if I could make any new friends along the way.

Tomorrow morning I'll get up at six o'clock--something that's been unfathomable to me since high school ended eight years ago--and practice the arduous commute into Marble City, a trek I hope time will tame. My biggest single obstacle, and my biggest source of anxiety, will be arriving at the train station and finding parking. If I can do that I know everything else will be fine.

And then there's the internship itself. It's only two days a week, but those two days loom large in my mind. I hope I'll learn all I need to learn. I hope I'll do all I need to do. This could be a gateway to my future, and I'm thankful for the chance to open it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Year

I have, as you may remember, a bit of heavy lifting that needs done. Time to get to it.

A happy New Year to you all.