Fifteen Years

I only have one cat now. I used to have two but a few months ago, the older cat died. He was fifteen but I am still very sad. I am keenly aware that I am experiencing this mourning as one half. I still think of my two cats as one entity, two halves of a pair. So in a way, it’s almost like the cat who died is still here.  I have lost half, but not all.  When the other cat dies, I think I will be a lot sadder, and that’s a little frightening because I’m pretty sad.

Right now, my cat is rolling around on the floor looking like a beached whale. He has almost enough personality for two. I’m glad he didn’t go first because the other cat was the needy one. I think my living cat might prefer being an only cat, in all honesty. I often wish he could tell me.

Fifteen years is a long time. Fifteen years ago I was 21 and living in Massachusetts in a 3 bedroom apartment with 4 other people. It’s hard to conceive that that person was me, and I am still me. It seems like another planet, a chapter in a book. I have old journals from then, sealed up in a box that I am afraid to open. For some reason I do not want to revisit any of that past. I cringe with embarrassment just thinking about it. Feeling sad at age 36 is uncomfortable, but not impossible. At 21 I did not feel sad, I felt a sworling vortex of despair. Or so my vague memories tell me. I could read what I wrote and find out, and I will someday, but not yet.

I wonder if other people forget all the incredibly stupid, selfish, ill-conceived, dangerous things they did in their youth and that’s why people my age seem to have become incredibly judgmental and self-righteous. Sometimes I really do wonder if having children destroys the part of your brain that remembers what it is like to be young. I know those very same self-righteous judging people did the stupid, selfish, ill-conceived dangerous things, whether they remember or not. I remember.

I have this theory that every single person, self included, has at least one belief that is just 100% wrong and they have no idea about it. Think about it. When someone is wrong, they don’t know it so why would you? And whatever it is, it’s something big.

Fifteen years ago tonight. We were probably sitting around the table in our kitchen, which served as our living room since the living room was used as a bedroom. We were probably drinking, smoking pot, and playing Rummy. Or maybe tonight was the night we went to that party and he got drunk and/or lost his shit.  Maybe, fifteen years ago tonight, was the night that my best friend, whose life felt so intertwined with my own as to be indivisible, confessed he had knocked her to the ground before. And when he got home from the party where he had caused the scene, he used his knives and swords to slash up our furniture before pinning her to the wall by her throat. Lesson 1: never trust a man with a knife collection.

All this and more is all recorded in my box of journals that I kept religiously from age 15 to 25. What an age to choose to record. Maybe in another fifteen years, I will be ready to visit my past again, but then, maybe in fifteen years, I won’t want to look at today.


Not This

For as long as I can remember, my driving motivation for major life choices has been getting away.

First, it was getting away from my family.  When I was a little kid, I used to Run Away From Home regularly.  I would get my mom’s suitcase and walk off down the street.  I didn’t put anything in the suitcase; I just knew you had to take a suitcase with you to Run Away From Home.  I would wander around the neighborhood and eventually go back.

When we went on our first school field trip to a city, I knew I was going to move to a city as soon as possible.  The buildings and the sidewalks, all the cars and people, it gave me such energy!  Here, I thought, things really happened.  Not like my small town where everyone knew each other and nothing ever happened.

My family could have been worse.  I was not abused.  My mother was extremely lenient and soft.  She let us do whatever we wanted.  I never had a curfew or any rules.  She taught me to forge her handwriting so I could write my own late and absence notes for school.  We went to the mall together and bought lunch and looked at clothes.  There were lots of good things.

But other things were not right.  My mother wasn’t really a mature adult, in retrospect.  She wanted to be a kid still, not a parent.  Being a single parent was hard on her and I sympathize with that.  I was fine.  I was pretty much born a mature adult.  I have felt “older” than my mother from a very young age.  My brother was not fine.  He needed a stricter parent and she wasn’t it.  My house was chaotic.  He was constantly in trouble.  She listened to the police monitor in case something happened to him.  He threw tantrums.  We fought.  He pushed me down the stairs.  He threw things at me.  He paint-balled my car.  He harassed my friends and called me names.  She could not control him.  I hid in my bedroom reading as much as possible until I could escape.

Escape.  That word is like a light bulb to a moth for me.  Escaping holds so much promise.  Going somewhere else.  Anywhere.  The unknown.  Who knows what it will be, but it will not be this.  Anything but this.  How many decisions have I made in my life that were the result of “anything but this?”

I have lived all over the country because of it.  I am never afraid of a new place or change.  I love it and thrive on it.  I don’t feel tied to anything.  Through moving so many times, and sometimes long distances, I have whittled away my material possessions to the barest essentials.  I don’t need things.  I can pack all my stuff and move it in one small U-Haul in one day if necessary.

I don’t feel like I’m searching for something, I’m just always moving on.  It’s never the promise of what’s to come, it’s getting away from what was.

Some people think this sounds terrible and they love to have things and put down roots.  Not me.  I don’t want roots, they just tie you down.  I am a bird and I will be free.  I will go where I please and there is nothing stopping me.  The less Things I have the better.  I donate unneeded things to people who need them.

Maybe someday I will find a place that makes me feel differently, but if not that is also okay.  The world is large and there is so much to see.  Every new place teaches me something.  Every new state shows me the world from a different angle.  I do not know what it is I want, but I always end up coming back to the same thing: not this.  And then it will be time to move on.


Sometimes the Work I Do is Evil

I work for a company.  It does many things.  I am in a supporting role at this company.  It is my job to help communicate what the people at my company do.  I have worked there for almost a decade.

Sometimes the projects I work on are unquestionably evil.

To be clear, I don’t actually believe in “evil” in the biblical sense, what I mean is, not good.  Bad.  Wrong.  Morally objectionable.  I’m an atheist, so I have my own version of morality that’s pretty simplistic: don’t do fucked up things to other people if you can help it. Live and let live.

There are at least two sides to every story and sometimes I am working for the wrong side. This doesn’t generally bother me because both sides need to be heard. Sometimes the wrong side is interesting. If I didn’t do this job, someone else would. Most of the people I work with are what I would consider good people. But the company is basically evil.

Ideally, I would like to do something good or even neutral as a career.  What I do now is serious, sometimes morbid and a lot of times, it helps people I don’t believe deserve help.

I think people underestimate how difficult it is to change jobs.  I am too practical to jump ship without somewhere else to earn money to live.  Doesn’t seem wise.  Finding a job is hard enough while employed, apparently.  At least that has been my experience.  I know employers discriminate against those who don’t already have a job and that is scary.  It’s a ridiculous situation.

We hear a lot about unemployment but sometimes I wonder how many people are stuck in jobs they really don’t like for whatever reason.  Or jobs that treat them poorly.  Or jobs that don’t increase wages to keep up with cost of living increases, resulting in the employee effectively becoming poorer and poorer every year.  We don’t seem to hear much about that.

Instead I hear that I should be grateful just to have a job. In a way, I get what they’re saying.  Being homeless would definitely be much worse.  But in another way it feels like being told to grovel at the feet of your corporate masters for the privilege of them deigning to employ you in the first place. Because you are replaceable.  Never forget it.