The Moonwalk, Creed, and Missing Out

It took a couple of weeks in San Francisco for me to get fully acclimated, but I was in love the first time I stepped foot in that city. During the first six months there, I experienced some of the happiest moments of my life. I remember talking on the phone while walking up and down the hills with the wind blowing and the buses going by – I had never lived in a big city before, so it was weird getting used to the surrounding noise – and different family members on the other end would mention how happy I sounded. I really did feel a certain joy.

I was starting to get into a rhythm in my graduate program. I was getting good grades and becoming comfortable with my cohort. I was slowly getting adjusted to the city and the surrounding area; I liked it there. A lot. But when the summer rolled around, things changed, and it’s taken me this long to figure out why.

In the winter and spring, everyone was envious of the amazing California weather I was supposedly experiencing. Although SF is much different from the rest of California weather-wise, most people back home didn’t get to play Frisbee on the beach or go for an afternoon hike along the coast. I wasn’t missing out on much because most of my friends were stuck doing boring things indoors and working. Many of them wanted to come visit, as seeing me gave them an excuse to vacation in California. I welcomed and invited them, as everyone else does when they move there.

Over the course of six weeks in the summer, five of my closest friends (three of them girls) and my parents came to visit. It was during this period that I started losing it, and I had little time to stop and decipher my thoughts.

On one occasion, one of my good friends from college had come to visit. I felt like our friendship had been slowly losing ground because of the distance, so I was glad to have her in my reach once again. She joined my SF friends in going out one Friday night, and we had a blast. I signed up to karaoke Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at two different bars to no avail, but the people that did get called up to sing provided plenty of entertainment. Toward the end of the night, the bar was clearing out and quieting down, so we got to goof around and enjoy each other’s company. I thought it would be a good idea to bet Nic he couldn’t moonwalk all the way to the grocery store down the street. I remember closely watching him the entire time to make sure the moonwalk was official, and sure enough, he made it. So much laughing. So much happiness. With my friend from home now here for the moment along with my other friends, I was missing out on effectively nothing. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

When my friend left, something felt amiss. I began taking antidepressants for the first time since I moved, and I started to lose interest in school.

I had little time to think about what this feeling was before another friend came to visit two weeks later. This time, the culprit was a girl I had a little history with. I missed her, and it was fun to act like a couple for the week. Toward the end of her stay, we decided to go out. Nic had just gotten back from Eastern Europe, so it was a “boys are back in town” moment on top of the girl visiting. We had this thing for playing Creed songs on jukeboxes over and over again. Immaturely, we thought it was funny then, but it is still hilarious now. That night was karaoke night, so we thought it would be fun if we each signed up to sing Creed songs. I honestly can’t even remember what song I did – I think it was “One Last Breath,” but the response from our trolling is what I remember more. The DJ was getting a little aggravated after announcing, for the third time in a row, that someone would be singing Creed. Frank and Nic nailed their parts. Long story short, I finally got to karaoke “Lose Yourself,” and the night culminated in Frank singing Juvenile’s “Back That Thang Up.” He knew the song so well that he ignored the censored words on the prompter and sang the uncensored version in a rap voice, while some random girl starting dancing on stage with him. It was one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen. My friend joined in on the fun by singing Meredith Brooks’s “B###h.” Once again, I experienced that feeling of contentedness because I was missing out on nothing; the action was happening right in front of me.

After she left, that unsettling feeling began again. More medicine. More confusion. It is all a blur after that. Two years later, I find myself in a vastly different Bay Area, again far from my original home.

I now understand that the feeling of “missing out” is one of my greatest weaknesses. It is so extreme that it’s hard for me to feel happy for someone if they had fun and I wasn’t there. Thanks to Facebook, text messaging, and my imagination, I was able to see and guess what was happening back home after I had moved. When summer came, I became less important. My friends had less of a reason to stay in touch and more of a reason to enjoy the summer weather and their own friendships back home. I felt like they no longer needed me. I felt like the whole Midwest no longer needed me. When these friends came to visit, I momentarily had control over the situation, and everything was fine. But these friends also brought stories, memories, and feelings along with them. Besides the few good friends I already had in SF, I really hadn’t made many new friends due to the time commitment of my program. The foundations I was beginning to develop were not strong enough to fight against the foundations I had created back home. It wasn’t home in SF yet, and the flood of visitors in such a short time had me confused as to where home really was. Once the seed of “missing out” was planted in my mind, I could no longer be happy in such a distant land.

The things I could not control controlled me.

I love traveling, and as much as I hate moving, I enjoy living in different places. I don’t know how long I will be in my current location, Tampa, and if an opportunity arises in a distant city, country, or planet, I might start off on yet another journey. My point is not about staying in one place, but rather enjoying the moment while I’m here, and not worrying about what I’m missing out on somewhere else.

I do not regret moving from California – I was far from home and confused about life. I do, however, regret letting my insecurity over missing out influence my move so greatly. I wish I could simultaneously be in different places right now, but I will always only be in one place. I’m taking up a tiny portion of a tiny section of a tiny dot on a huge map, and I need to try to be happy where I am for a change. Instead of not missing out on the things distant from me, I need to not miss out on the things right in front of me. There will always be a rest of the world, but I can control nothing more than where my own two feet stand.

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Final Score: Chicago 1, Curtis 0

People say the long, bitter Chicago winters build character. They also say dealing with adversity builds character. Well something is being built alright, but whatever it is certainly is in danger of toppling to the ground.

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My time in this city is coming to an end; everything has happened so quickly. I never seriously thought I would be leaving this soon. A roller coaster from start to finish, this experience has exposed a breaking point I never knew existed.

In the midst of this whirlwind period, I managed to get my master’s degree. I wasn’t running on fumes, though – I was running on fumes of fumes. Barely able to sleep. Barely able to wake up. Barely able to do anything in between. I was operating at such a low level that I was more dead than alive. I was so burnt out from studying for the CFA and working hard at my internship, that I could barely handle my very challenging projects and final exams. In this last semester / quarter, I got a B and a C+, which in grad school are the loose equivalents of a C+ and a D+. I was broken. I had nothing. There was so much going on and I couldn’t wrap my head around it all.

As the lease expiration date on my apartment quickly approached, I was forced to actually think about my plan past the CFA exam. I just wanted things to stay simple so I could study and focus on doing something productive in my life, but I was faced with a dizzying amount of problems, situations, and deadlines. I brought much of this upon myself, and I didn’t handle this period well. Still, it left me in pieces.

I considered staying in my current place, then I looked at apartments in the city, then I looked for places in the suburbs. The next week, I found myself thinking about staying at home for a while. Days later, the idea of staying in Florida became more of a reality, especially after a surprise phone call from my sister. Within weeks, I knew going to Tampa was the most logical decision. I can’t afford to stay in this expensive city without a real job, and no jobs have come my way. I need a break from my mind. Peace. A situation where I’m not spending much money. Family support. An indefinite change of scenery. A haven from this hell. At 25, I need to take more responsibility with my life, and this is the responsible thing to do.

The doctor started me on Strattera, a drug to help both ADHD and anxiety. It stays in the system 24 hours, so it shouldn’t have the ridiculous peaks and valleys that come with Adderall. However, it takes months to actually start working. When I moved to Chicago, I had really started taking the gluten-free thing seriously, and I had just started Adderall and stopped a bunch of other drugs. All of that took time to start working. It’s funny how I move during these adjustment periods. They seem to provide an amplified sense of closure: I moved to this city, I found an apartment, I started school, I dated and loved a girl, I adjusted to a drug, and I began a life here. Now, I am moving from this city, I am leaving the apartment, I finished school, the girl is gone from my life in the most extreme and sad way, I quit the medicine, and I’m giving up all the momentum I started here. Did this city even exist? Does it even acknowledge my existence? Will there be any mention of me in the record books? I don’t know if I like this closure, but none of my hardest efforts have been rewarded while I’ve been here. As weird as it feels, it’s time for a(nother) change.

I guess a year is my attention span for a city. I’m looking forward to being around my sister and nephew and grandparents in Florida. I wish I could say I was going there under better circumstances, with a set plan in life and a job in the area or something like that, but this is the best I can do. I have no clue how long I will stay. I’m not signing a lease. I’m not buying new things. I’m only taking the bare minimum with me. I’m not tying myself down in any more ways than necessary. It’s a commitment-detester’s dream. Until I figure out what I’m doing with my life, this is the smartest route.

I have dealt with adversity ineffectively; time will tell if I become a better person because of it. Until then, it’s simply adversity, and it sucks. In two weeks, my work here will be done. Hopefully I can take my experiences and knowledge with me and thrive in a completely new environment. Here’s to new beginnings and sad endings. Chicago, you won. You beat me senseless. I’ll learn from this. I’m not going to let my surroundings beat me again.

 

 

 

 

Edit: At this very moment, I am supposed to be in Cancun with some of my best friends, but I’m not. I canceled on short notice. I was looking forward to that trip so much, but it just didn’t feel right when I had to move out and take the CFA in two weeks. When I’m this stressed in life I usually drop out of every possible obligation (luckily, I managed to not drop out of grad school for a second time). I don’t feel as bad about canceling as I thought I would, though. I’m taking the most important test I’ve ever had to take, and getting my moving situation dealt with is a big deal. I’d rather have my guy friends complaining about how stupid I am for not going than about how an otherwise smart person keeps avoiding the real world and not doing anything with his life, which has been the more frequent topic covered when I’m mentioned. I need to take a bunch of deep breaths and get through this last two weeks alive, and only then will I feel up for a vacation.

Removing the Quotes from “Family” and “Holiday”

I recently visited my sister and grandparents in Tampa, an extremely apprehensive feeling clouding my thoughts. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, I have to fight back tears that I get because of an awareness of my family situation. Holidays used to be normal, at least as normal as they could be with a family like mine. But over the years, things changed for the worse, and the holidays are synonymous with isolation, sadness, and a longing for the past.

We used to celebrate Christmas at my grandparents’ on Christmas Eve after what seemed like the longest church service in the history of man. The night before the 24th, I would fool myself into thinking that, the earlier I fell asleep, the earlier the day would come. Of course, I would fixate on this tirelessly for 8 hours until, upon waking, I would realize I got about 30 minutes of sleep. Nonetheless, everyone could plainly see my anticipation and subsequent rapture; I would jump around like any other kid on this happy holiday with wonderful spirits and an eagerness to seize the day.

We would usually spend the next morning, Christmas morning, reading the relevant Bible passages, eating a good breakfast, and opening presents at my parents’ (mom and stepdad’s) house. Then my dad would pick me up Christmas evening and I would walk into my room at his house to find a large quantity of presents that I was always hoping would be more than the previous year (he wrapped everything, even packs of gum and Chapstick, to boost the number of presents, but he still got me a ton of things). I would then visit my cousins’ place one of the next few days, and sometimes we would visit my mom’s aunt and other family and friends.

This was the case for most of my childhood until high school, and although the family was never perfect, they got along enough to do the same thing every year without many problems. Then everything changed: besides people growing up or moving, which happens in all families, the hostilities increased to the point where Christmas as I knew it could no longer exist. I was used to spending Christmas with the same group of people in the same place on both my mom’s and dad’s side. Long story short, no one wanted to be in the same room anymore. I was the only one who talked to everyone, but it was now much harder. I would have to see each entity individually, on both sides of my family. Christmas got smaller and more depressing.

Now holidays are spent very casually, if they are spent at all. It’s like three or four people usually. My mom sometimes cries, and it has become hard for me to feign excitement because I share some of her pain. The few of us have gone out to eat at a casual restaurant a number of times in recent years. My dad is usually alone or with a girlfriend, and we usually just play some cards and eat food. I visit my grandparents and sister in Florida and enjoy seeing them, but it just isn’t the same anymore. We don’t really do much for it except share cards. It’s warm in Tampa so it doesn’t feel like winter. And there isn’t a Christmas tree or many packages anymore.

I guess this wouldn’t be as bad if I didn’t know what family feels like. But I do know that this group of people, in the past, has worked together to share warmth and happiness with each other and provide me with a sense of contentment. No one is perfect, but it is nice when everyone gets along and has a real actual holiday. The growing up part, where the young people grow old and are busier and don’t want many presents besides money or actual useful things, would be manageable if I knew the people around me had a sense of togetherness. I don’t feel like I can provide enough love and solidity by myself to cover for the nonexistent part of the family. Besides personally wanting to enjoy the holidays without having to deal with divided units, I want the people I am with to be individually happy. When I put myself in their shoes, it is impossible for me to believe they can be at ease when people they care about are not in their lives. I don’t know what that feels like, but everyone else in my family does.

I’m not trying to depress you. I’m not asking for sympathy because my holidays suck; I have some great friends who have made me feel like part of their family on numerous occasions. Really, I just feel that something must be missing from my family members’ lives, because I know it is missing from mine. I wish there was more I could do.

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I was walking along Sand Key Beach on a perfect day as my sister followed behind with her camera. The waves occasionally came up farther than I anticipated, and we both laughed when my rolled-up jeans would get soaked.

During this walk, I thought about our childhood. I thought about how much I missed my sister. I thought about the week in Tampa. We had a great chat and bonded for the first time in a while (I keep more to myself nowadays, plus we’re both busy and far away). I got to be around my nephew for an extended period of time. Holding little baby Jacob was a reminder of how important my sister is to me. I am a part of his life. I’m her brother. I’m his uncle. I haven’t seen my grandparents smile that much since I was young, and it makes me smile seeing how much love they give to the baby. My family might not work well, but this is family. A new start. The person I looked up to growing up is now a loving, happy mother. The man she is with makes her happy and is a wonderful father. I don’t get to see her as much as I would like, but I’ve never seen my sister this happy.

I guess I forgot what that feeling of family is like.

Who knows, maybe I will move to Tampa after I finish in Chicago. Maybe that’s what I have been looking for. Maybe spending more time around this part of my family is the solution to the holiday problems.

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There are plenty of things in life we all take for granted, but during this holiday season, please spend time taking in all the warmth and cheerfulness your family gives you. Even if someone gets on your nerves or asks you annoying questions about school, work, and growing up, realize that it is so much better having that person around than not. You probably haven’t seen some people in a long time; put away your phone, forget personal problems, and don’t worry about when you will get to leave. Spend time listening and talking and eating and smiling and hugging and laughing. I know I might sound like some 80-year old giving advice to his great-grandson, but this is all true. It’s so easy to forget how important these things are to you when they are, in some way or another, a regular part of your life. Even though mine haven’t been the greatest recently, I have hope for happier holidays ahead.

Merry Christmas, everyone.