Clean Break

Transitioning between the ramp and the highway, I burst into laughter.

It was 5 AM.

January 1.

2008.

Finally, the new year. Something to get away from what I wrongly thought would be "lucky number seven." Up to this point, sevens were always lucky for me. Ask my parents: I was born on March 7, 1987, just before 7pm, weighing in at 7lbs, 7oz. If you were like me, you'd love to believe this means something.

Finally, 2008. My symbol of finally having beaten the odds by surviving 2007.

I was laughing to myself in my car.

It was 2008. And I'd already had a couple of real good, heart-to-heart conversations this year.

To think -- one of the more uneventful crushes I had last school year... (Uneventful? Well, look at what happened to other crushes I'd had. Between "groupcest," general drama, being played, or friends and I falling for the same girl at once... sheer normalcy was uneventful in itself. Or is there such a thing as "normal" these days?)

In a strange way, it apparently wasn't uneventful as I'd thought. To me, perhaps it was, but it was a bit more connected for a few others close to me.

I'm not sure what was worse -- the mild jaw-dropping feeling I got as she spoke to me, or the odd and interesting side story that I couldn't tell her.

I should have figured things weren't actually as simple as I'd thought.

I reverted back to being shy and cautious last year and I guess that whole situation is precisely what I'd avoided. Unknowingly and jokingly, she told me that I "should be proud" of this.

I laughed to myself on the highway.

If she only knew.

---

The lowest points of this year represent the lowest I've ever felt in almost every aspect of my life: mental, productive, social, spiritual, and emotional. I remember staring myself down in the mirror not too long ago and seeing the broken shell of a persona that used to be smarter, happier, friendlier, more caring, and more enthusiastic than the man in the mirror.

Groucho Marx once said "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

I think back to three, four, five years ago and in my mind some of those things actually seem more authentically "me" than some of the things I've done this year. Especially over the past three or four months, I feel like at times I've been becoming nothing more than a shell of a man and simply going through the motions of the day.

I've been myself before. But this wasn't it.

It's not that I'm in a bad spot right now or that my life right now is all that terrible -- far from it. But, I've been getting this feeling lately, as if I'm coming to the realization that I'm not really attached at all to these things I've surrounded myself with and the actions that I pursue day in and day out. I'm just going through motions where once I had a drive and a belief upon which I acted on.

My sense of "belonging" has been fading in and out like it's decided on something random like a coin flip.

And while I'd like to blame the past year on that reason, I know it's just part of the mess. It's like saying "my desk is messy, I should clean it" when you haven't looked at your closet yet.

I'm going to admit that I'm finally trying again. In school and in my external life. Cleaning some of that stuff up, if you will.

---

Luck was on my side tonight and I want to believe it means something for the upcoming year. A couple of near-miracles, just enough to tease some hope out of me:

In a game of "up the river, down the river" (essentially a 14 card one-man "higher or lower" drinking game) I made it up the river (first seven cards) and nearly the entire way back flawlessly, only guessing the last one wrong. Never seen a perfect game in my life, and I've never seen anyone come as close as the very last card. That's damn well bringing a perfect game into the ninth inning and giving up a hit to one of the last two batters.

And in a game of beer pong, facing a six cup loss, I nearly made a miracle happen by sinking five straight cups on rebuttals. Finally, we lost on the sixth. It's like being down 30-7 going into the fourth quarter, making a miraculous comeback, but not being able to put up the final score to win the game.

If you were like me, you'd love to believe this means something. Like "I'm going to do something nearly miraculous this year, but come up just short." Hell, I hope not.

---

I learned a lot about myself last year. But I also realized that I've lost track of who I actually am.

If I say I'm going to go "find myself" this year, I'm going to say it with honesty. (Or at least I'll go find a few more things to add to the list of "things I'm not.")

I'm going to go find myself and some faith. Faith in myself, my friends, my family, humanity in general, and any higher power out there. Seems like faith's been hiding from me for a long, long time now.

The sun comes up in an hour. Though I'll be asleep by then, I'll be excited for it.

Everyone here, is wondering what it's like to be with somebody else
Everyone here's to blame,
Everyone here gets caught up in the pleasure of the pain,
Everyone hides shades of shame,
but looking inside we're the same, we're all the same
And we're all grown now, but we don't know how
To get it back to good
--"Back 2 Good," by Matchbox Twenty

Lists

"I think I've checked everything off my list," Ben told me.

"Of things you're planning to do with that place?" I asked. I assumed so, but I wanted to prolong what little conversation I had with him, knowing both he and I aren't usually big fans of smalltalk.

Earlier in the evening he told me about the new place he wants to open up, just down the road. A new bar or club with a classy restaurant attached to it. A new place with something more than the plain ol' bar-and-concert-venue formula like the Blue Fugue and most of the downtown locales.

"No, of things to do before I die."

As bold as it was, I didn't doubt it. I've heard over and over the stories of how he and Scott started the Fugue years ago, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, as the place of their wildest dreams. Ben always struck me as the type of man that can put the work in to get what he wants. How old was he now? Thirty or thirty-one?

"Well, you'll come up with new ones, I'm sure."

He stared at me with deadpan silence. It wasn't the usual "I hate smalltalk" silence, but rather, it seemed he was actually contemplating how to respond for once.

"It's a bit late in the game to start adding things, though. Maybe I should've spaced them out a bit more..."

And as quickly as it started, our conversation ended as Ben sauntered off to go do something else. The man always had a way of ending conversations -- like I said, not a big fan of smalltalk.

And at this time I'm thinking to myself: At least he's got a list. At least he's got direction. At least he's got something.

How the hell do I start?

Trailer Preview

For the couple people that read my blog and don't see my Facebook or read Adams' blog:

It's the trailer for a trailer, as obnoxious as that sounds.

You know, something to follow the 2006 edition.

Vacation Update

Okay, so here we go. I'm 1000 miles / 15 hours away and I'm loving it.

I'll have plenty of stories to tell soon. Some highlights thus far: Car breakdown less than an hour away from St. Louis. Arriving at 3am and then staying up and messing around 'til sunrise. Yankees game in some really awesome seats that my uncle won in a raffle--he's not much of a baseball fan so he let us use 'em.

---

Some photos:

Yankee Stadium

Sweet Cherry Pie

Old Man Jenkins

…And in this world everything can change just like that.

The line score looks like this:
A- (1), C- (3), D- (3), F (3), F (3); Term GPA 0.838; Cumulative GPA 2.457

MU's academic standards state:

Journalism students are placed on probation when either their journalism or their overall (term or cumulative) grade point average falls below 2.0. Students may remain on probation no more than one term. They regain good standing when their term and cumulative grade point averages, for journalism and overall, climb to 2.0 or higher

[...]

Students are dismissed and become ineligible to enroll for a period of one calendar year when their term grade point average (journalism or overall) is below 1.0, when they pass less than one-fourth of their work in any term or when they fail to perform their academic duties.

A student who has been declared ineligible to enroll may be readmitted only on the approval of the dean of the school or college in which the student desires to enroll[...]

My cumulative GPA is enough to bring me out of probation and back into good standing. That is, if I were on academic probation.

But apparently one bad term alone can simply wipe away an okay (well, admittedly it's mediocre) track record.

---

"Frustrated" doesn't even begin to cover it. "Depressed" doesn't quite fit this, though it's closer. Maybe "angry." At nobody but myself.

I've done relatively well for the past 24 hours, keeping my cool and not freaking out. Staying level-headed enough to go about fixing this mess methodically.

Should I even mention how uncharacteristic this is of me? How surprising this is?

I was the honors student, I graduated 7th in my class, I was that kid who got a 32 on the ACT and took it again to see if I could score a little higher. This is the benchmark from which I've been judged--by parents, by peers, and by myself.

But read it all again and you'll notice one detail in there, one little word:

Was.

I was responsible in school. But I guess I grew out of that. Just as I started getting my footing on being responsible for my life--inching closer and closer to being financially and responsibly independent--I ended up losing that part of me.

I can't explain it. The many jobs I hold and the work I do serves as a wonderful excuse--but is it a reason? I'm a stickler for differentiating reasons and excuses.

But no, that can't be the sole reason.

I woke up one morning in March and all at once, I realized that I didn't care anymore. I knew I had to change it, but I knew it was too late. It crossed my mind that I could be overworked or stressed or depressed, but again--I found them excuses and not reasons. Something about me just did not care and did not get worked up about school, work, or anything for that matter.

I'm trying to keep my cool so I don't do anything stupid to myself. I'm being methodical about this so I don't get overemotional trying to fix it. But it's a bitter pill to swallow when you find that you're so close to destroying everything you were raised on, everything your life was built on.

Heh, ain't that somethin'. If worse comes to worst, I have a decently clean slate to work from. To (probably mis)quote an unpublished story that Adams wrote: "Today I set my life on fire."