I remember it was a Sunday. October 13th, around 8:00AM, actually. I was sitting on the bus, staring out the window onto a hollow San Francisco street, feeling entirely empty. This guy I knew in high school walked onto the bus and sat next to me, and said hello. He used to have a huge influence on me: top marks, football player, religious, and personable. If you had met me as a teenager you would have seen, among many sartorial sins, a misguided and frantic child. We spoke for an agreeable amount of time, and he got off two stops before me, at a nearby church.
A few hours later at work, I gave my notice and decided to leave San Francisco for good.
But we should back up a little first. One year ago, I was an entirely different person. On the outside maybe I was pretty much the same, because I don’t look good with facial hair and I know all there is to know about men’s fashion accessories. But on the inside, my thoughts and feelings and disposition were just about as awful as I can think of.
Drive your car onto an empty freeway at night going 30 mph over the speed limit, and turn the music up loudly, so it hurts you. The heart starts to strain, and you realize all of a sudden you are going too fast to see into the dark, and that you may reach the end of the universe before you know that it’s not where you want to go. Something like that, I think. Despite living in a mecca of both culture and opportunity, I found myself anxious, angry, and confused.
I resorted to drinking, a lot. People think that drinking alone is saddening, and it can be. Sometimes it’s therapeutic, but mostly it’s torturous. I chain smoked because being filled with fumes felt better than being inhabited by nothing at all. I hurt people who cared about me, because I didn’t really care about myself, which is no excuse at all.
It is unnerving to be around those who only want the best for you, but want nothing but the worst for yourself.
And then, I made the change. Not like an ‘okay, I’ll drink Pepsi if you don’t have Coke’ change. I gave away or sold almost everything I owned, and I drove south to Los Angeles to start over. If my life were a Nintendo 64 game, I took the cartridge out and blew pretty hard. What’s most odd is that the fear of not knowing my future was not nearly as overwhelming as the fear of knowing exactly where I was going and not liking it. Some friends felt betrayed by my departure, or that I wasn’t dealing with my issues in a healthy way. A lot of people gathered around me, and said how much better things will be, each and every day. One person said that Los Angeles smells and that’s a bummer because it sort of does but with a decent air-conditioning unit it’s tolerable.
It’s important to remember agency when making change. Agency is the difference between, ‘The situation happened to me’ and ‘I walked into the situation’. The reason this is important is because no matter how my life changed, I was the one to do it. I am responsible for the fortunate, the unfortunate, and the in between where it’s sometimes okay to rest your eyes.
During the transition, there were times when I boiled over with hatred for myself, and it was uncontrollably pushed onto others. There were times when people who I loved very much could not love me any more, because I did not let them. Through the tumultuous chaos, I became. And those people will never, ever fully know what they did to support another person.
The reason or I guess point to this story, is that sometimes the ocean is not tranquil. For some people it takes more. More pondering, more development, and more alternatives. For some, it’s a struggle for a while, because the world is painful. If you’re like me and you think that you’re stuck or this is as good as it gets, it’s not. Reach out and just talk. Get every word out of you even if you have to scream it in your car at night going 90. Pour the words onto the ground and watch how fragile they are.
Get them out of your mouth because once they’re out, you can destroy them.
Communicate to everyone you care for, as often and as well as you can. On your list of people you love the most, you should come first. You are always becoming a new person, so you must, you must, you must learn about them. Every night before bed, talk about what makes you content, what makes you despondent, what you desire tomorrow or maybe in ten years. Doing this guarantees you will become more of yourself. Smile as much as you can, because you’re beautiful. And deep down, you’re filled with indescribable happiness. To become spring, means accepting the risks of winter.
The guy on the bus who I admired for so long, he told me about going to USC and finding an amazing job in the finance sector. He still found certain occasions for church, but his long hours and commute never gave him time for himself. Sometimes, he said, boiling noodles was stretching it. As he told me this, he looked out the window and said to me words I will never ever forget. He said, “Do you ever wonder, when it’s going to be more, or if maybe this is just it?” He said it and I didn’t give him an answer, because I knew he didn’t want one. And he looked over to me with a smile, but it was the same expression I made when there is nothing behind it, there is nothing left.
We parted ways, agreed we should meet up sometime, and then I continued to work.
Columnist Trenton Keith is a writing and pop culture enthusiast. He's also a sarcastic humorist, a dismal satirist, and frequent user of non-sequiturs.