Dear readers, if you still exist,
Welcome back to Daroomiesroom, now nearing its 6th birthday and entering its 3rd year without a new post. Until now, when I decided to be my usual blend of asshole-savior and break that trend.
There is a lot to update you on: I haven’t posted in over two years, and my last post was an idiotic defense of a movie that was fun in the moment but left me with no rewatchability, no real merit, and two hours of wasted time. I will leave my review of Ghostbusters (2016) up, but please know that you should take it with a grain (or entire bag) of salt.
When I last reported on any actual news in my life, I was a month out from my breakup with Rose. Well… that feels like a lifetime ago. Since then so much has happened. I claimed I wasn’t having a rebound while absolutely having a rebound for a few weeks in there. I dated a girl at Penn very briefly (it didn’t work out — turns out she liked someone else at the time!) And finally, I started dating Katara in May 2016. We have been together ever since. And I have to tell you, she’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Which is good, because I needed someone like that. I’ll explain as we go.
Fall 2016 (my Senior year) was intense. In a ton of different ways. For one, my oldest habit — gaming — changed its pace. The team was around less, and so I stopped gaming so much and started spending more time with Katara. That was hard, at first — I had to adjust my schedule to align better with her early mornings, and cutting back on League felt unnatural. But it helped. I had started a strong trend in my classes of being able to lock down straight A’s after a rough slump my sophomore year, and even though I was taking the hardest bio class I’ve ever taken, I was able to continue that trend with better sleep, more workouts, and studying with Katara, who was also taking the class. I focused more on school, more on her, and less on gaming. Which was fine, at the time. Fred and our other friends weren’t on quite as much as we all had been in the past that semester — there are a lot of reasons for that, which I won’t go into here, because I think that’s mostly Fred’s story to tell. And as time went on, I found ways to put League and Elder Scrolls Online back into my schedule — sometimes I even found ways to make my night-owl habits click with Katara’s schedule, because I could pick her up coffee just a few minutes before she woke up (and I went to sleep). It wasn’t always a perfect system, and it definitely took us some time to figure that all out. That should probably be its own post, though, because I have a lot more to get through.
That Christmas break was fairly life-altering. First, Antonio graduated early from College. That, in itself, was a jarring change to my life, as I got stuck with a foreign exchange student the next semester. Through no fault of his own, he could not hold a candle to the god-tier level of roommate that Antonio had always been. But more important than that was the fact that I went down and stayed with Katara for a few weeks while she was working in lab over Christmas break. Fred came up one day and we did New Years in Philadelphia. And it was *awesome.* It began the true, now time-honored tradition of meeting up and going out on New Years Eve, just like we had always imagined (and actually, the inspiration for that came from a blog post here a number of years ago, so now I can say that that idea finally came to fruition!) Simply staying with Katara, though, was incredible in a lot of ways. I felt like an adult for the first time — we cooked all our meals in her little dorm apartment, and I had most of the day to get work done and do a little gaming while she was out at lab. (On a side note, one day I will have to address the Elevator Situation that New Years. Fred, you can also write that post since you were in the highest degree of misery that weekend…)
After break, I was excited — it was about time that Katara and I would both be hearing back from graduate programs! She had applied to med school MD/PhD programs, while I had applied to PhDs in psychology. I thought we both had a strong shot at getting in somewhere — she had an incredibly strong research background, and my test scores and grades were very solid with some research experience. Well, I was half right: she got into a school, and I didn’t.
I have never really talked about how this felt to anyone, past the times I’ve cried about it, snapped back at people who told me I could go to grad school if I just applied somewhere, or said with a fake cheery voice, “Yeah, that was a bit of a bummer!” Quite honestly, that round of PhD applications took my self-worth and melted it down to the bone. I felt lost and confused — not so much because I didn’t have a job lined up for after graduation, but mostly because I now felt unconfident about my very sense of self. I had thought I was a strong candidate for a grad program in psych research — I thought my skills and my personality matched well with the programs I had applied to. Getting rejected EVERYWHERE was like a slap in the face to that idea — I wasn’t a psych researcher, or a good student, because all the schools I had applied to had practically dismissed my application in what felt like a half-second. Was I really so easy to peg as someone who didn’t belong in their program? Then — I obviously couldn’t be a qualified candidate.
I had to do something after graduation. So I applied for anything that seemed to be interesting. I applied to be a talent recruiter, a research assistant, an office clerk, a high school teacher, a math tutor, etc. (Side note: people at Penn were annoying as fuck throughout this whole process, aside from my close friends. Seriously, if someone is telling you that they want to apply to be an office clerk, fuck right off with your “I just don’t think you’d be FULFILLED doing that!” crap.) Two things eventually stuck: first, a math tutor; second, a high school math teaching job. I was going to be teaching high school in a place that (I thought) was not so different from the Academy.
That brings us to June 2017. Here begins my Year of Wonders.
Now, the unknowing reader may think that this is a happy tale of good news and fun times, but they obviously haven’t read Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks, which is about the most depressing book I think I’ve ever read. It’s about a village in England where terrible things happen over the course of a year: people die of the Plague, they hang a witch, a priest sleeps with a member of the congregation, etc. It was required reading at the Academy and was pretty much universally known as the second-most hated book ever required for reading (second-most only because of the infamous Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff).
In June, I had settled into my current city, which I feel comfortable telling you all is Baltimore, MD. (Now, I’m trusting you with that information, so keep it to yourself.) Almost immediately, I got hit with a month of super-severe allergies. I took loratadine voluntarily for the first time in my life. While this was happening, something else changed: I added a Saturday morning routine to my schedule. This was largely by accident: there was an ice skating session that Katara could skate at, then we could go to the grocery store, and I could tutor her brother in math. None of those things were, or still are, objectionable to me. The problem was (and still is) that they were on Saturday morning.
Have you ever felt like you were permanently out of rhythm? That’s how I felt for the first few weeks of 5:30am wakeups on Saturdays. I didn’t want to be a whining baby who couldn’t wake up early on the weekends, but my body has continually refused to cooperate. To some degree, I can’t blame my body for behaving this way: over the course of college, I trained myself everyday to function on 2am – 10am as my prime sleep hours, and NEVER woke up early on the weekends unless I absolutely had to. I had times during the week (not too many, but times) when I was following a relatively normal schedule, but my weekends were sacred. In fact, towards the end of my senior year I was working incredibly hard on my research project for psychology, and my weekends were a crucial chance to work late nights (when I tended to be the most productive, creative, and relaxed) sleep in, restore my natural low-stress personality, and recharge.
Waking up early on Saturdays, then, felt like I was taking my late-night-trained, chill self and locking him in a box from Friday night to Saturday morning, leaving him sleepless, tired, stressed, and missing out on my usual blend of late-night productive/creative/gaming time from the night before. I felt awful every week, but I knew that complaining would be unfair to Katara, because she relied on that time for skating, it was the best time for us to get groceries, and I did want to help tutor her brother in math. I figured that I could grin and bear it, and I would find another way to de-stress.
Of course, it turned out I couldn’t. Every week I felt like the biggest baby, because my head (and later my knee) hurt so bad that sometimes I felt no choice but to clutch them as I walked around. I felt like a burden on Katara — why couldn’t I just adjust my sleep schedule and get a good night’s rest the night before? — and I didn’t even feel like I was helping her out in any way. Though it didn’t make any sense — I was the one driving and tutoring — I continually felt like if I just wasn’t there, everything would be easier for her. I felt like a huge block in the way of her happiness, and I hated myself for it.
To make matters worse, Fred would ask me every Friday night if I wanted to jump on a video game with them for a few hours. The worst part was how badly I wanted to — there was nothing more that I wanted to do than kick off my weekend right with a few games of League and some fun chat with the team — because Katara would be in the room, it seemed like it would be a whole bunch of people I wanted to talk to all at once! But I also knew that I was getting up at 5:30 the next day, and I knew without a good night’s sleep I’d feel even worse than I normally did. So I declined, time and time again, and each one hurt me as I’m sure it frustrated Fred.
Saturday nights were — and still are, fortunately — our last bastion of gaming. I have nothing to do Sunday mornings and neither does Fred, so every week we are both around we jump on League, Fortnite (we’ve been playing since last July — get on our level, n00bs), Rust, Dead by Daylight, or something else to game, but more importantly to catch up. It was hard juggling this time between him and Katara at first — Saturday night was also the only night that Katara and I really had free together. We have mostly found a good balance, after a year of practice. The one thing that still makes me hate myself is how sometimes I’ll come home on a Saturday and think for some reason that I shouldn’t try to get on a game, even though i want to. Then I’ll waste my entire afternoon trying to work on something, but being incredibly unproductive because it isn’t really what I want to do. At that point, I just feel like I should keep working, because I haven’t gotten anything done. Then I end up getting online at like 9pm, and it just feels like I’ve wasted the whole day.
This post is starting to break down into disorganized ranting about how my brain has made me hate myself over the past year, so let me try to streamline it back into a coherent story. I hope I’ve gotten across the fact that my weekends have been stressful, not so much in the sense that I have had too much work to do (I really haven’t) but in the sense that my instincts and thoughts and actions pull me in a few different directions at once. Well, this wound up leading to me feeling overwhelmed and panicky a LOT. Doctors translated this for me as anxiety, but I don’t think that’s really accurate. The core of the problem is that sometimes, a fundamental decision I make on a routine basis makes no sense to me, or leads to two different conclusions (ex. it would help Katara be happier if I just weren’t there on Saturday mornings, but it would also help Katara be happier if I were there to help out on Saturday mornings). It’s often impossible to reconcile different conclusions, and this leaves me unable to process the decision or move forward. At that point, my brain essentially locks up, and I can’t think, so any new input instantly becomes overwhelming. As I said, the doctors I’ve seen have categorized this as anxiety, and maybe that’s what anxiety is.
Speaking of doctors and diagnoses, I have been in and out of a lot of doctors’ offices in my Year of Wonders! The first thing that was bothering me were the “panic attacks,” which didn’t really feel like panic attacks to me, but that’s what they looked like I think. What happened was that when my brain locked up and any new input became overwhelming, it would freak me out because I couldn’t process it. I don’t think that’s really anxiety, it’s just what anyone would do if their brain wasn’t thinking or doing anything. But my doctor said it was probably anxiety, and I figured a medicine for it would help, so I am taking that now. It does help, in two ways: it gets me more sleep, and it makes me more sluggish/makes everything seem further away. This is metaphorically true in the sense that I feel things in a more muted way now, so it’s easier to ignore my body freaking out when my brain won’t function, and my brain doesn’t seem to notice lockups as much and just kind of goes with the flow. I am also literally further away from everything because the drug has made me gain quite a bit of weight (I think this is partially due to the more muted/automatic way I do things now, because I sort of just eat crap automatically, and it is harder to motivate myself to go to the gym). I guess the best way to describe it is that it feels like I wrapped myself in a whole bunch of thick layers of toilet paper. It’s a lot harder to move, and I can’t feel anything quite as well, but it keeps me a bit more protected from things around me that might hurt. Another way to think about it is like if I took myself and put me in a box, but not quite as bad as the box I was describing earlier with the Saturday mornings. It’s more like I just put myself away in a nice comfy box and then some kind of weird, empty autopilot takes over my body and does my life for me. I guess the part that isn’t so great is how hollow and empty I feel, like I’m not myself anymore.
The other thing I’ve been seeing a lot of doctors for is my knee. It has been hurting for the past year, ever since I did some deep squats and then, when I was swimming breaststroke in the pool, I kicked and felt a blinding pain in my knee. It is no longer blinding, but my knee now will often click when I move it, usually has kind of a gnawing pain, and occasionally feels like it’s grinding bones together in there or hurts significantly worse. I was taking a bunch of Advil to keep the pain off, and wearing a little compression sleeve, but the thing that really helped was going to a physical therapist and getting some massage done on my quad, which was apparently really “overactivated” and maybe causing the knee pain. I couldn’t afford to keep going to the PT, so I stopped going, but at least my pain isn’t quite as bad now. It gets worse the more I drive, so it’s unfortunate that now my work is starting up again, because it means I spend at least an hour a day in the car for my commute. Eventually I will go to a different PT for a second opinion and see if they can fix it, but it usually feels to me like it will never get better and I’ll be stuck like this until I die. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, a little bit of knee pain, and it really isn’t. It just means I can’t work out as much as I used to, since I can’t do legs; it means I don’t really trust myself to run on it, so I haven’t really been running anymore; it means I can’t trust myself to swim breaststroke anymore, which is what I really loved swimming. So it has taken a lot of things away from me, and it is awful sometimes to think about the fact that it might never go back to normal. It makes me feel ashamed, weak, and broken.
My job has brought with it its own can of worms. However, I set a goal of publishing a post tonight catching you all up and, at 3100 words, I think this is sufficient for a re-launch. I will do my best to tell you about work in the coming days, but there’s a very good chance I will forget, since I really do mostly run on Autopilot these days.
Thank you to any of you who are still out there reading our blog. I don’t know if any of you exist. It feels hard to say “Stay Resolute!” right now — even though life has, slowly, started to take a turn for the better, which I hope I can talk about in my next post. So I’m going to close with simply,