This was the year of peanuts, sustainable loops, and growing pains. It was the year I got a therapist on my own (using my own healthcare benefits). It was the year I approached daily routines with reverence and geekery. It was the year I gave up cooking. And it was the year that I solidified some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had. Probably the best way to illustrate all of the changes that happened is to tell you three stories.
Near the beginning of the year, my friends took me out to see a punk rock show. I was anxious about it, since I usually get incredibly sad at these events for unknown reasons. But I joined them anyway, hoping that this time would be different. It wasn’t. I sat in the back of the venue, watching from a distance, and my friends occasionally looked over their shoulders from the front row to see if I was still there. I texted them to tell them that I was too sad to enjoy myself, so I went outside to smoke my way through a pack of cigarettes.
I had a list of things I was supposed to do when I felt like hurting myself. So I called a friend and ate pizza alone across the street. “Contact loved ones”, “Be in a public place”. When the show was over, my friends dropped me off at home. They went out to continue dancing and I slept. This night was important to me because it was one of the first times I consciously made steps to be better than I had been. I remember it because I was hurting so much, but had managed to change my behavior in order to take care of myself.
The second story is about work. Along with my 9-5 day job, I would side-hustle all the time. I conducted interviews with my entrepreneurial friends and posted them on my blog. I started a Patreon to give out business advice. I did a little bit of personal assistant work for whoever needed it. I tried to monetize everything that I enjoyed, hoping that I could make a career out of my pastimes. And as a result, I exhausted myself.
I legitimately forgot how to relax and have fun. Fatigue and depression hit me hard as I realized that I was working myself to the bone and not really getting anything out of it. I met some incredible people and had phenomenal conversations. I built my community to be the best that it could be. But I lost weight that I couldn’t afford to lose, I spent too much money since I was never home, and I never really had time to do the thing I liked most: read for reading’s sake.
An idea continued to pop up in my twitter, retweeted by people I respected: do less. I realized that I had been suckered into a weird, unfulfilling loop of trying to cheat my way into a good career by overworking myself. I kept on hearing “the only way to have more free time is to do less” and it stuck with me because I knew it was true. Only recently had I come to terms with the fact that I would need to stop trying to do everything. I toned down my blogging, I let certain projects go, and surprisingly there were no angry mobs pounding on my door, asking for my time. I was able to fade away.
The last story is about friendship. To be honest, it is a culmination of one hundred stories that happened this year, a montage of my friends being kind to me even when I felt I did not deserve it. But in the interest of brevity, I will try and pick just one.
In therapy, I often get anxious and sad to the point of nausea. When I am at my worst, my therapist hands me a wastepaper basket and I gag, sob, and spit, wishing I could somehow vomit up whatever is making me feel horrible. One day, after therapy, I returned home feeling a bit like a ghost. My housemates were hanging out in a bedroom, and I entered, puffy-eyed and distraught. Not knowing what to do, and for the most part at the mercy of my emotions, I broke down and told them what I was dealing with, why my heart was hurting, and how I felt. Unsure of what to do, E passed me a wastepaper basket for me to dry heave into as I cried. I took deep breaths and eventually composed myself, and when I looked up and my friends were still there.
I don’t know where I got this fear, the fear that if I cried in front of my friends they would disappear. Seeing that they were still around, and still my friends, did something profound in my heart. It is hard to describe, but I think that I mostly felt recognized, appreciated, and understood. J shifted in his seat. “Connor, I am super glad you opened up to us just now. But I also have to let you know… my edible just hit and this is fucking crazy.”
We laughed about this for a really long time. Over and over again I had these experiences, where I would hit my lowest points and my friends, instead of ridiculing me, were kind.
I ended 2018 much better than when I started. I am still not good at saving money. I am not a better cook. But I am more equipped to handle my depression, and I feel lucky to have such close friends that care about me as much as they do.
I am so tired. I am twenty-five and my mentors tell me that I still have a whole life ahead of me, which sounds daunting. If 2018 was about repair, I want 2019 to be about rest, anonymity, and solace. Knowing myself, I am not sure if I will ever be able to curb my ambition, my curiosity, and my tendency to bite off more than I can chew. If I cannot change these hard-earned character traits, perhaps I can find quieter ways to apply them. In the same way D’Angelo took a fourteen-year hiatus between albums, I find myself also wanting a dormant period of that same amount of time.
Right now I am in my bedroom, sitting in my reading chair. The weather is classic Seattle: cloudy and rainy. I spent the morning tidying up my room, cleaning my bedsheets, and slowly drinking my coffee until it went cold. More of this please, I think to myself. I want more of this in 2019.
You can check out a Google Photo Album of my 2018 highlights here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/sG1sL8fboycccxFt5