A couple nights ago I found myself in a familiar position: I’m awake; I’m imbibing; it’s warm and I’m outside and I’m on my computer. My sleep schedule is turned upside down, and I don’t know what to do about it.
The nights bled into the mornings, from midnight to six to seven to eight o’clock in the morning. I’m still awake. I finally made it to sleep — this was Friday afternoon — around 12:30 PM. It may have been later. All I remember was laying down in my bed, sprawled out face-first, and beginning around 10:00 AM I would periodically roll over to check my neo-old-fashioned alarm clock (the digital ones that make the most annoying wake-up sound, ever) to see another half-hour has passed. And I’m still awake.
I got a few hours of sleep before I woke up at 4:00 PM to get ready for work. I stayed in bed until the last possible minute, because that’s what I fucking do, got up, showered, put on my all-black uniform attire and went on my way. My shift starts at 7:00, and I got off at 2:00 AM. Before I got home I stopped at McDonalds for some feel-good, and saw it was 3:22 AM when I left.
Clerks was on when I got home. I don’t remember how much of it I watched, all I remember was waking up at 5:00 AM. I think I got (maybe) an hour of sleep. I was tired out of my mind — I knew this — but for some reason my body was like “Good! You got your sleep for the day!”
Then I was awake again.
At 9:00 AM, the Virginia Tech football game started. They were playing Georgia Tech. I thought it’d be pretty cut-and-dry: Either they take a big lead on us or we take a big lead on them (I’m a Virginia Tech fan so when I say we I actually mean them), but as it turned out (of fucking course) it was a close game the whole way. VT lead 16-10 at the half; GT took a late 17-16 lead before the Hokies scored to make it 24-17, but since it’s my favorite team and the universe is a cold bitch Georgia Tech managed to tie the game before winning it 27-24 as time expired. I sure can pick ’em! All my favorite sports teams break my black-ass heart.
More importantly, though, I was emotionally invested in the game, so the end result means a lot less than the fact that I couldn’t get any sleep while it was happening. I’d been running on (maybe) four hours of sleep over the last two days, and by the time the game was finished — again, around 12:30 — I had another three hours of sleep to catch before I had to get up for work. I suck at life. Especially because I’m still awake.
It’s not a big deal, really. This is just one small anecdote in a line of many, many other completely irrelevant anecdotes that make up the sum which is me. The reason it means something, anything at all, is because, for some reason, lack of sleep is the main trigger to my anxiety. When I’m running low on sleep, which I have been the last few days (and weeks, really), I suddenly find myself at a blackjack table, with no players on it, and I’ll be looking down at the tens of thousands of dollars of chips in the rack in front of me, hearing the slot machines going off in the background, listening to people laugh and argue while they drink their cheap cocktails and smoke their cigarettes, and my mind can no longer handle it. My mind tells my heart to start rushing, beating harder, and harder, tells my palms to start sweating, and it’s then that I’m at my own mercy. I just want it to stop.
I don’t want to be awake anymore.
* * * * * *
I tried really hard to make this work. I’m still trying, actually, although I would never admit it to anyone. Even to say “tried” in the past tense in the first sentence makes me sad to see. One of my tragic flaws is I’m a fighter; I have never learned how to give up.
Part of the reason I blog in the first place doesn’t have anything to do with being special or having special things to say. I’m far less talented than I used to think I was, and frankly I don’t have the words at my disposal to make anything of myself with what was once my dream: To be a writer, to inspire.
There aren’t many people who know me — who know me that well — but, the ones who do, know what dreams I’ve let pass me by. I don’t come from a family who will one day lament that I could have been something, like a lawyer, or doctor, or whatever other cliché you could come up with, but I’ve always thought, er, known, I could have been any of those things. When I was 18, and 19 and 20 and maybe even 21, my choice was that I was to be a professional writer in some capacity. I was going to write about the Texas Rangers, or Virginia Tech football, or Duke basketball, and I was going to be damn good at it. That was my dream.
Unfortunately, with age comes reality, and with my experience came practicality. As a 21 year-old — the legal gambling age — I developed a gambling problem. I don’t mean I liked to go to the casino to play $20 a day on slot machines; I mean I would cash entire paychecks and drop $500 a day on blackjack tables at the casino. What is it they say… idle hands are the devil’s playground? Well I was swinging on the mutherfucking monkey bars every single night, and it created one of the more memorable stages of my life.
But after awhile, the practicality set it. I do stupid ass things; I’ve made stupid ass choices; but I am not stupid. I’m not as smart as I used to think I was, but I’m still smarter than your typical schmo. I know what the fuck I’m doing with my life.
It was during this stage, though, where I found some semblance of clarity. I found out that going to the casino every day probably wasn’t the smartest long-term business plan. (It worked out for a bit, don’t get me wrong.) My priorities were all fucked up. One night, my best friend noticed I count faster than most dealers, so it turned into a thing: I should become a dealer. Then we started surveying different dealers to ask how much money they made, and we were shocked. (When you think of a casino dealer, you think it’s a pretty average job, therefore average pay. I admit it takes a pretty bland skill-set, but the money is no joke.)
So that’s what happened. I became a dealer. I gave up on my dream of writing and sold out to be a table games dealer. Really, though, I just see it as a means to an end. If I have a steady paycheck, make steady tips, then I can go back to school and finish my writing degree and we’ll see what happens from there. Worst-case scenario, I can deal in California, Las Vegas, Atlantic City… wherever I want. Those casinos will never go away.
Since I was 18, but more so my age-19 through 21 years, writing (or blogging) was one of the only things that gave me any satisfaction in life. My style, as it has been on ericreining.com, as it is during this very article I’m writing now, is to romanticize the mundane nothingness of existence. There was time — it may have been the most rational period of my life, in retrospect — where I thought: I’m a writer, and writers need material to write about. So I took more chances; I pressed more buttons; I turned over rocks just to see what was on the other side. I had things to write about.
But then the whole paradigm shifted. I alienated friendships, conspired against some people I loved, lied to people point-blank just to see if I was as good as I thought I was. And I was. I started talking to girls again, slept with them without any end game in mind aside my own selfish ego.
Shortly thereafter, as I had many times before, I realized I’d been going about life all wrong. Everything was moving quickly and all at once, and many ties were severed. This is who I am, I thought, but it wasn’t really. I was supposed to be better than that.
* * * * * *
Experience is a tricky thing. My uncle once told me, “You get it right after the point where you actually need it,” and I think that’s probably the best way of putting it. Life isn’t nearly as hard as I sometimes make it out to be, but over the last five years I still haven’t found someone whom I honestly feel relates to me. This isn’t to say I’m one of a kind, just that I am in my own mind. I cling to that as a means to convince myself life is worth living.
I got in a massive car accident and almost died a couple months ago. It was by far the realest ten seconds of my life, but I made it out. Unironically, I had my first drink — a Jameson — in three or four months after I got home just because I was so jacked up. Once the wreckage was complete, I saw my car (that I’d just bought a few weeks earlier) was totaled, I hopped out and started screaming obscenities at a god I fail to love. I don’t remember what I said, just a lot of F-words aimed somewhere at the early-morning sky, but I know I’ve never felt more alive. Looking back I think I was happier to be alive than I was pissed off that the car I had saved money for was now gone.
Everything doesn’t happen for a reason; things just happen. That morning when I got home — it was probably about 7 AM — I sent a text message to an old love who I haven’t spoken to since last Christmas. I said I crashed my car and almost died, and it just makes me think how stupid it is that her and I are no longer speaking. I genuinely miss her, sometimes more than others, but all I wanted was some sort of acknowledgement that my life isn’t as stupid and worthless as I feel it is. There’s no one in the world I more wanted to hear from in that moment, but I didn’t hear anything. There was no response.
When I turned 24 on March 20th this year, my dad didn’t wish me happy birthday because he forgot. My mom and grandparents and brothers all thought that was a bullshit situation and that my dad fucked up, but I wasn’t really focused on it. I didn’t care. It stung more that I didn’t hear it from her. I’m hopeless.
One day, everyone I know is going to leave me. I probably have abandonment issues since I think about it so much. It’s sort of crazy to think that I am everything I ever wanted to be and still I’m more worried about everything that will one day go wrong. I’ve never acquired the tools to be able to stop and smell the roses; I always want more. I’ve built myself a shrine of myself, and I fear I’ll be the only person who will ever be able to enjoy it. I have a shitload of love to give, and I know I’m a good person in spite of everything I’ve done wrong, I promise you, but the person I’ve been trying to prove it all to won’t hear it.
So often I hear, mostly from women a generation ahead of me or girls who like me, “How are you still single?” It’s one of my least favorite questions, mostly because I can talk myself out of most situations and that’s one of the only questions that I have no clear-cut response to. It almost irks me, even though I know it’s supposed to be some sort of compliment.
The truth is, I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s a curse to be so in love at such an early age, especially with someone you think you’re going to marry someday. And it’s stupid. So, so stupid. But I’ve maintained that I’m never again going to be with someone until I find that feeling again, and it’s depressing because I know I’m never going to be 18 again and there’s a realistic chance that feeling no longer exists. For the remainder of my life I might be chasing something that isn’t even there anymore.
Still, I want it all. I want a pretty little house with a pretty little wife, money to be able to afford whatever I want (within reason), nice clothes and a nice car and everything that comes with it. A couple sons would be preferable. I want to retire someday and move to some desolate place — a place I’ll end up if this doesn’t work out, if I end up alone — have a ranch with horses and nowhere but room to ride.
These are words that won’t be heard, but it’s probably better that way. I make such an effort so that no one knows what’s really going on in my head, so that no one has to be bothered with the average emotions of another human being. This isn’t a cry for help, because I don’t want your fucking help. I don’t need to be saved by anyone or thing. Like I said, I’m selfish.
I have to figure this out on my own.