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.