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.