Chapter 24 : Familiarity Breeds Contempt
(subtitle: you are most familiar with yourself)
Jan 18, 2000

Depression breeds good writing, typically. Well, perhaps not good writing, exactly, but engaging, at least. Look at Sylvia Plath, for one. There is something about the blues, the mode of depression, the overbearing weight of uncertainty turned inside itself until you are a jumbled ball of nerves, unsure of the next turn, unable to organize the simplest of tasks because they all come at you so fast, so loud, so needing attention now, but you donít know what to do first, or if you can do anything.

Depression seems to just be built for engaging reading; the tortured soul, teenage angst, the trials and tribulations of another person who may or may not have it off worse than you, or at least who you, the reader, can relate to in some small way. Take Tom Wolfeís Conrad character in ĎA Man in Full.í Now, Iím barely a quarter into the book, but this guy, my heart just goes out to him. Letís ignore the fact that heís an architypical Ďsuckerí character, building up to be some sort of antihero, the sufferer for the story. I mean, one girlfriend in high school, gets her pregnant, marries her, intelligent with a promising college career ahead of him now cut short by the responsibilities of sudden adulthood, just about scraping out of the hole when heís suddenly laid off, and doing it all to be the good guy, to do the right thing, not for himself, but for everyone else.

I mean, how cliché can you get? But, for the love of all that may or may not be holy, Iím begging Wolfe to spare this poor bastard. His mother in law is a witch, his wife looks down on him, and heís doing all the technically Ďrightí things (ok, so Iím taking a societally moralistic viewpoint) and getting stomped on and unappreciated for it. After saving that crash Ďn burnerís life, he should have been spared, no matter what. Itís a classic sympathy builder, because the reader on the other end can do no more than yell ĎDonít take that from her! Stand up for yourself! Youíre doing everything you possibly can do!í

So begins the writing experience.

I occasionally get these panic attacks that send me into a fit of depression. It may or not be spawned by some exterior catalyst, such as reading about these kids, younger than I, becoming millionaires overnight even while I can see they have less talent than people I know, or even myself. Or just the realization that there will be things I will or have missed out in my life because of the choices I have made. Like Conrad, I am stuck, or at least mired deep enough to feel stuck, in a role. It is of my own choosing, of course, and regrets can only be countered by the unmitigated happiness I have reaped from making those choices. But it becomes the mutual exclusion that troubles me the most, the opportunity cost (to borrow an overused concept from my MBA) that I was not aware of, or undervalued at the time.

And then sometimes, Iím just surrounded by the enormity of it all. Questions of life and death pepper my mind while questions of what I want, the seeming impossibility of attaining my goals, when I am even unsure of what my goals are or should be. Then the bills come, and I look at my paycheck and wonder how I have even survived this long without going into debt (which, of course, I already have). Why do I have to do this? Why canít I just live day to day without the worries of money, a job, those things that seem to encompass over half of my daily life in lieu of things I want to do full time.

It is, of course, the resurfacing of childhood fantasies of Ďwhen Iím an adult Iím going toÖí that instead turn into Ďwhen I was a child, I should haveÖí

The unrequited desires of a life that, externally, seems so full and complete can, at times, simply overwhelm the senses and knock you into a reflective mode that inexorably ends in a depressive fit. Because there should be a purpose to a life, shouldnít there? There should be some point to an existence. And if you donít buy into the simplistic offerings of the various religious institutions that you exist for the ultimate judging by a god that created you in the first place, then what is there? Sure, we may belong to some type of connected energy forces that permeates the universe like some Zen Buddhist Nirvana, but what about the now?

Do we build up for the future life, or do we take today by the ears, shake it and say, "I will have you!"? What has all the posturing, analysis of the web, writing of poems, slick deals, and swing dancing gotten you unless you affected something, not least of which would be yourself?

I feel myself grasping at pieces of what I need, what I want, to somehow make life more complete if I canít have all of it in whole. I find myself grasping at pieces of who I was, trying to refute who I have become because I donít believe I ever intended to become in whole what I can somehow foresee myself moving towards. Each grasp at my ideals is simply a pebble moving the rolling boulder fractions from its final destination and all I can hope is that the final destination is one closer to where I aspire that further.

At the end of the day, though, I am left with who I am right now. Perhaps the whole of the disappointment, anxiety, and fear I keep bottled yet simmering just below the surface results from the fact I am still a work in progress.



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