Life has a funny way of ripping you down to your studs, testing your fortitude, and then building you back up tougher and stronger than ever. For me, the past 18 months of my life has been one under immense construction, but prior to that my life was a dilapidated home left unattended for a decade. From my career to school and a brighter future, to my family and most specifically the development and growth between my wife and me, the past 18 months has been a construction project that a contractor would give you a 12-month window of completion knowing it was two years’ worth of work. As is the case in one’s career, or their hobbies, my development was not linear. After years of stalled progress, I finally feel that I found a path for me that will lead to economic and emotional fulfillment in a way that I began to doubt was possible over the past many years. These past few months have been some of my finest, as well as months in which I can finally feel prideful of. It wasn’t always that way though, and there’s no better way to move on and heal than to be honest about what has transpired.
First, I lost my career – a career I had worked very hard to move up within after year after year of stagnation and broken promises. COVID struck me and my wife down as it did with many others in America, but I took it as an opportunity to get back on my feet and replant my life’s flowers in that same concrete that had remained sterile for the decade prior. I enrolled at DePaul to complete a degree that had eluded me like a snow leopard on white powder covered mountain peaks. I owe that final push to my wife who wanted more so that we could give ourselves and our children the same future that I was graciously provided by my parents – two people who remain true role models who have supported me through each step of the way. I had dabbled in the school application process prior only to quit at the last moment, as I had done so many times before when situations became tough or challenging. I had been a self-taught data analyst who built an analytical department for a large catering company that was stuck in the stone age of modern analysis. I had seen the fruits of my labor, as I moved up within the company to a position of “decision maker” as well as a well-respected employee who was relied on to produce work that was critical for company expansion and growth. That was the first sign that things had begun to change, and while it was ripped from underneath me by a pandemic that took the lives of 3.57 million souls around the planet and counting the accomplishment could not be taken. Although, the journey to that point was one of great tribulation.
For much of my twenties I felt lost; a failure may be a better way of putting it. Just as happens with many who feel that way, I was in a hole so deep I figured the best way to get out was to dig deeper and succumb to the depths of life’s perilous journey. My “depression” was not the same as those who feel hopeless, or lesser than – no, mine was much different but every bit as painful. I always knew I was capable of much more, but I also did not know how to overcome the hurdles in front of me that I had personally built with every fiasco I created due to a lack of consistent motivation to be better; to do better. My outside-of-work laziness had led me to sell my car because I did not have the desire to renew my drivers license or my license plate and registration, and my ADHD – while managed in the workplace – still overwhelmed me at home. I distanced myself from friends and family, who I felt would see what a disappointment I had become despite years and years of promise and, even worse, opportunities. I did not think anyone cared about my problems, because we are all dealing with challenges and in the grand scheme of things my wounds were self-inflicted while so many others were dealt a hand that was short a card. How could I possibly complain given that I was playing with a full deck? I stopped dating for three years, instead feeling sorry for myself and if I did not love myself how could someone else? The arrogance and confidence that had been prevalent in me during my younger years was now only a surface level façade, presented fraudulently to those who worked for me and those who did not realize the truth behind the man.
Being honest with myself was something that felt impossible, so how could I possibly be honest with others. As noted, I did not suffer from the same depression that others did and maybe depression is not even the right word. Complacency and surrender are a better way to describe the thoughts that flooded my brain like New Orleans during Katrina. I had accepted what I was and realized that I would probably never reach the ceiling of my abilities just as has happened to so many before me. I was not a complete failure by any means, I supported myself financially and, by all accounts, I was a good boss and leader for those who worked for me. I was able to be such because they did not really know me – at least, that is what I told myself then. I spent so much of my money on transportation to work after I sold my car, I might as well have been earning $20,000 a year less than my salary – all because I was too lazy to take care of my car just as I was too lazy to take care of myself. There were years where my interest in things I loved doing such as watching baseball and basketball waned to the point that I was not even sure if I liked anything anymore. I spent hours and hours online seeking affirmation for my intelligence from strangers because at least on there, no one truly knew who I was.
When I turned thirty things began to change, although rather slowly. My home at the time became more organized, and I decided to store more than two forks, two knives, one glass and a few plates in my kitchen. I began to cook for myself and spend less money on food. I lost weight through exercise and a healthier diet and the confidence that had hidden itself deep within like a suppressed memory of a childhood trauma began to pop to the surface like a seal trying to escape a killer whale. I began dating and at that point and after a few different partners, I found my wife. At the time we met, things certainly were not perfect, but that imperfection was what drew me so close to our bond. My wife and I were a work in progress from the day we met, but we were willing participants in that work, and, for me, that was a big step in the world of relationships and life. I often quit on things that became complicated or difficult, but with my wife I knew there was something else on the other side that was worthy of perseverance. It was around this time that my life began to shift from “poor me” to “what about us?” As I look forward on this journey and story to come, I remember harsh words spoken to me as a child that have never rang more true than they did throughout those years of self pity "life isn't fair, get over it, or you're going to turn that unfairness into failure that's only fault is of your own doing."