The Filter (Part 5) – The Year of Apathy
We’re nearing the end, only one more part to go number six will be the last one. That one will be called regressing to high school or something like that. If you haven’t read them here are the previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
I never thought would be so counterproductive to join the workforce. At the end of the “Stagnation,” I was on the verge of taking everything I had produced so far and going to my psychologist with it. Just before I had the courage to put it all on paper and take it to my psychologist, I received a job offer. Since the middle of high school, I thought the workforce would be the best place for me. I jumped at the opportunity. The job was not awesome by any means, but it was a great job for someone like me, someone who had been living with their mom and dealing the way though mental problems for the last six years. It was part time, provided no benefits, but I worked about 30 hours a week. It took me roughly an hour and a half to get there by bus. Bus was the most reliable but fastest mode of transit available to me at the time. I had put all of my introspection onto the back burner. I was happy to banish of all the doubt in my head and just “live” for a while. I quickly repressed all of the work I had done over the last six years, and hid it in the back of my mind.
The work was not anything special, but it provided something special. It provided a different perspective, which did damage to my mind at first, but expanded it in the end. I was in a call center doing recruitment. I would call the potential employee or they would call us. Usually the first step was some kind of screening a series of basic questions that precluded them from doing the job they have applied for… Things like “are you a US citizen?” or “can you regularly lift 50lbs.?” I saw an interesting cross section of humanity. I heard so many stories from truckers, garbage men, flight attendants, warehouse workers. I thought about things I had never thought about before. One trucker in particular talked about navigating New York City in the snow at night. I never before thought about the size of a truck and how they maneuverer differently from cars, it was amazing to me how much work and special reasoning skills they needed on a daily basis. Another trucker told me about how one “incident,” even one that is not his fault, can put his entire license up for review, and once that happens your employer can release you. The stories I was hearing gave me a perspective on life that was new. It took me out of my own life and started considering the stories of other people around me. I started listening to the stories and feeling bad. Sometimes empathy can be your enemy.
I moved into the city, specifically up to Lake View (near Wrigleyville). Walking to the train every day and being on the train during rush hour made me think about how each one of those people had their own story. Each story possibly as unique and special to them as mine is to me. To write each story would take many volume epics. Just in one train car, you could probably fill a bookshelf worth of text from the stories of the people inside. I extended that scope in my mind, all the stories on the train. Then I extended scope repeatedly until I started thinking about all the people in the world and each one having a unique story. Coming to the realization of how many stories are out there, shocked me. Statistics would imply there had to be a repeat of my story somewhere in the world. I no longer felt unique or special. Thinking about the potential stories of each person around me, I slowly slipped back into depression and decided that it would be best if I just did not think and “rode out” my life. I put myself into the Total Perspective Vortex. Unlike my good friend Zaphod Beeblebrox, I did not survive well.
What is the Total Perspective Vortex?
Zaphod survived by putting himself at the center of the world. He survived though ego, self-esteem, and self-confidence. I was not that strong. I thought it was possible for me to avoid thinking. I thought I could just go with the flow and live a quiet life being non-descript and uninteresting. I tried to become “nobody.” At this point, I had fully come out to everyone as gay. I was in a small two bedroom with a couple who were friends of mine. I was just riding my way through life. I had no goals or motivations. I went to work, I did my job, and I played video games. While I was not having any dark thoughts, I was having almost no thoughts. I was barely making ends meet, but I didn’t really care. I would claim that I was more depressed during this period than any other time in my life. I had no drive, no motivation. In retrospect, being in this state were probably some of the unhappiest days. To me this state is worse than even the darkest thoughts because at least I was thinking even if it was thoughts of ending my own life. No matter who said what to me during this period it pretty much bounced off me. Nothing mattered. This was a time in my life where externally showed extreme amounts of progress externally but during the time I stagnated internally. There was nothing in my heart. My existence became meaningless and lost inside the City of Chicago. I just hung out and did whatever. I lived right by Wrigley Field but not once did I go to a Cubs Game during this time. I even began to hate the Cubs and Cubs Fans. One word described this time best. “Meh.”
When my roommates got a dog, everything changed. They gave me a chance to stop it and I let it happen. I wasn’t thinking about myself, just floating in the wind. I adopted the cat, they are dog people, and I am a cat person anyway. Now it was three people, a cat, and a dog in a cramped two-bedroom apartment. To give a little perspective: I think the apartment was a one bedroom but was converted. What appeared to be the living room became the second bedroom. Moreover, what appeared to be a dining room became the living room. There was no dining space. The kitchen was “a hallway with a sink and appliances.” It was far too small already for all living things in it. The dog started acting up and I no longer really felt comfortable in the Living room. That isolated me to my room. Again, I just kept going with the flow. I went to work, came home, and played video games… That was about it.
Then another change happened my husband, who I was dating at the time, needed somewhere to live. Of course, I offered reflexively that he stay with me. He accepted and the head count increased. Now it was four people a dog and a cat. For the most part my future husband, Carrot (our cat), and I stayed in my room. It wasn’t long before it started feeling extra crowded. He quickly got frustrated with the cramped living conditions and so was I, but I did not feel like I could change them. In fact, all four of us could not last very long. They started looking for another place to live, and we did too. However, nothing was affordable. I did not want to move so far away that it would take me more time to get to work… In addition, the place we were in would not be affordable for the couple that remained. Tensions got higher and higher frustrations started boiling over, but I was still indifferent and just floating along. I still was not motivated to change my life. I was starting to feel lethargic and depressed. I needed a change, but I didn’t want to reach out and grab it.
Then, it happened, yet again another opportunity dropped itself in my lap. A tech position had opened up at the high school from which I graduated. My friend told me about it after his internship. A few of the people from that work had joined his group of friends also so I already knew them. I applied and wanted to see where it would go. I more applied because my friend said I should, not really from any desire to improve my own life although it ended up doing that as well.
After applying for the job, I was sure I wouldn’t get it; I didn’t have the credentials they were looking for. I didn’t have the experience they were looking for. Therefore, I got a call for an interview. I was dumbfounded. I went in for the interview. After that interview, I was sure I didn’t get it… I mean I even tripped and fell standing up after the interview and left the interview in a wheelchair. In retrospect, that story is funny but it was large hit to my self-confidence… The interview other than that went pretty well. Turns out, I damaged a muscle and tendon in my ankle pretty severely. They called me in for a second interview. I was again dumbfounded. I showed up to that interview, in a cast. This interview was a skills test I was unsure of myself and did my best but asked many questions. My self-confidence and self-esteem was very low at this point in my life. I thought I would be fated to work menial jobs and live in relatively cramped conditions my whole life. I was accepting of that too. Then they called to offer me the job. I returned to my high school, this time, as staff. I started working back where I lived and the commute went back up to an hour and a half one-way.
However, now we had the resources to move out of the city. We moved back to my hometown (where I had just moved from) and my one-year stint in the City of Chicago came to an abrupt end. I was a suburbanite again. However returning to the place that housed many bad memories for me was a challenge to myself. I needed to heal; I thought that facing the place that had all those difficult memories would be all I needed… Almost all the pieces had come together. Little did I know that the moment they all came together in my mind I would have one final breakdown before I would feel better…. It was like a time bomb ready to go off. My year of apathy was about to explode in my face.