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Shot in the arm


I was 21 the first time I did mushrooms. That isn’t a sentence I would usually use to begin a blog, but it’s where I’m at right now. I can count on a relatively small number of moments in my life that I would say changed me — down to the fabric of my being — but that night was one of them. In movies and television you always see people taking psychedelic drugs and seeing crazy shit, like colors or shapes or elephants, or whatever, but the reality was completely different. At its core I think it’s supposed to be a lighthearted experience. I wasn’t actually planning on learning anything about myself.

What I learned I won’t try to explain, since it felt so dynamic and complicated while it was happening, but the main bullet points had to do with my parents. Appreciating them, and learning from them. What hit me hardest weren’t the very real waves that crossed over my vision, or seeing purples where it should have been green. It was the realization that the only reason I am here is because of those who came before me, and that it would be the biggest waste of all if I didn’t build on where those people have brought me.

I spent the majority of my night in conversation with my once good friend John. We sat in the back patio of his sister’s apartment machine-gunning through every cigarette we had at our disposal, and all we did was talk. Something funny happens when you take those kinds of drugs, but maybe it’s just me. You can see straight through people. Over the course of the night I think I saw through myself more than anyone, but I could see that John was a genuine, standup guy. It was probably the most honest conversation I’ve ever had.

The contents of that conversation, at least what I can remember, are no longer important. It revolved a lot around family. Everything has a way of circling back to that. We came from different backgrounds — namely that I was once part of a “nuclear” family while he never really knew his dad — but the moral of both our stories was that the importance of life was about doing better, and being better, than our parents. They did their part, and learned what they had to learn, and it was our job to take what we had learned to improve on that. And then our future kids would take what we learned and do the same. And then theirs would continue that, and so on.

I’ve always felt like I’ve been close to my mom. Throughout every stage of my life, from schooling, to my first girlfriend, to my first heartbreak, to my first job, to my first career, to depression and anxiety and everything in between, she has been my ear to listen and my guide to offer advice. She and I have a lot in common as far as our interpersonal relationships are involved, how we interact with people, but we are also very different. She was basically a straight-A student who was in ASB in school; I was the kid who put minimal effort into everything I ever did, and still managed to shine by virtue of my natural abilities. I’m more like my dad, a lifetime underachiever, in that sense.

My dad and I have a much more complicated relationship, but it exists because I feel like I’m the only person who really understands him. Neither of my brothers puts in any effort to get to know him, probably because none of them know where to start with one another. I can’t relate to my dad as far as his history of being in the Air Force, of being a typical Republican who knows very little about politics beyond despising the left, or being “traditional” in every sense of the word. Where I relate to my dad comes by way of seeing that he’s a naturally smart person who never found a way to put any of his talents to good use. At least as far as capitalism is concerned.

My mom was a do-gooder who maximized her talents (even though she still isn’t fairly compensated for them), and my dad was a dude with low self-esteem who would rather bullshit and smoke pot. I have to respect both attitudes, since they ultimately produced me, the guy who underachieved in terms of academia yet still overachieved by way of falling into an industry that pays pretty well. I’m very much like my mom in terms of faking it till I make, but I am always going to be my dad as far as relying on my nature is concerned. It’s damned me before and it will very likely repeat a million times before I die, but it’s who I am.

The existentialist in me would say change is a choice. The realest in me would say that, if I am comfortable, what’s the point?

I am and have been conflicted for as long as I can remember, for any number of reasons, but it’s mainly because my inescapable nature on the inside has never meshed very well with who I present myself as on the outside. I can’t shake that on the surface I look like the most corporate person ever, the politician who shakes hands and kisses babies, while on the inside being a complacent and smug and arrogant scumbag. I have always been perfect in my own world, yet I lack the self-assurance and confidence where it counts.

My dad might be the most naturally gifted person I’ve ever known, but he doesn’t have any of the answers in the real world that I’m looking for. My mom, on the other hand, might be the hardest worker I’ve ever known, and she has always been my lighthouse to guide me back to shore. I guess I’m stuck somewhere in the middle.

Where I need to get in life is fairly simple and straightforward, but of course getting there is going to be complicated. John and I agreed that the goal was propelling ourselves from the shoulders of our parents, and building from there for all-time. My struggle is taking the natural gifts from my dad, and the work ethic of my mom, and becoming a true breadwinner for my family.

I was raised in the middle class, back when the middle class was a thing in the United States. As such, maintaining that has never been good enough. I know life isn’t about money — it shouldn’t be, anyway — but at the end of the day you want to see tangible advancement, and the way you see that is through capital gains. Fuck I hate capitalism.

If I started life at the five yard-line I would probably be really satisfied making it to the 50. That would be a win in every sense. But when you start at the 50, maintaining isn’t a consolation prize. If you aren’t going for a touchdown, then why are you here?

Why am I here?

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