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I lost my job two months before my wife and I were expecting our first child.

The first phone call I made after hearing the news was to my father in law who had talked to me about the possibility of me working at his shop in the past.

I begged him for a job.

He had me tag along with another salesman for over a month, learning the craft on the road. He had me write a report and find a market corner they weren’t utilizing as part of my interview process. I had a lengthy interview where I had to demonstrate all of my knowledge and I think I impressed the old man. He gave me the job and I started the next Monday.

I have never been anything but grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by people I know. Of my seven jobs, I came by six of them by knowing someone inside the business. It is the dirty little secret they don’t tell you in college. ‘All this stuff matters only if you know someone’ should be inscribed in Latin over the entrance to every building. Hell, maybe it is.

But my job now is not something I am passionate about. I like it, some days I like it a hell of a lot. And I can see myself staying here for a very long time. It has everything I never had in the world of architecture, good pay and security.

The question I have to ask myself comes down to, is that good enough? Do I have to be creative at my job or can I just do it at home in my spare time and still feel satisfied? Am I just working for the weekend?

My shrink tells me that most people aren’t entirely happy with their job, but I obsess over it, so why? And my response to him is that I’m not most people. I have never felt like most people. And I have never wanted to be most people.

AnxietyBipolar ThoughtsBlogFriends and RelationshipsObsessionsPersonal History

I very distinctly remember the first time a girl took off my pants.

At the time I wore Bullhead jeans exclusively, and Bullhead always put a little colored tag on the inside of the fly to demarcate the cut. Well when the girl in question unbuttoned my pants and unzipped my fly the first thing she said was “Oh I didn’t know there was a tag there” as a way to cut the tension mounting in the room.

She must have noticed that I was dying. My heart was pounding so hard it was making my voice quiver. I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t any of the things I thought I would be based on my many viewings of the movies “Animal House” and “Porky’s”. All I wanted was to tell her to stop, to zip me back up and to go back to hanging out and watch a movie and make out or something.

We didn’t do any of those things. She moved forward with her plans to disrobe me and eventually I enjoyed my evening, even though I felt terrified the entire time. By the second time with her I was completely ready and willing, it was just that first encounter.

It happened like that with a few other women in my life too. In fact, I was told a number of times long after the fact that I could’ve had a much broader and more developed sex life if I hadn’t been so scared to dive in.

I guess in a lot of ways I’ve been like that with a lot of things. Too nervous to jam with some musicians, too nervous to join a softball team, too nervous to fix things around my house, too nervous to do what I really wanted with my life.

I think I’ve always wanted to preserve an image of myself as really good at whatever I try. I always wanted to be a “talented person” in many regards instead of so few. People hear that you’ve played guitar since you were 12, you must be pretty damn good, guess again. People hear you love baseball, you must be pretty good at softball, not this time. People hear you lived on honor roll and dean’s list your whole life, you should make something of yourself, keep trying.

Maybe it isn’t lack of talent that kills the masses; it’s the consumption of self by fear, just like a girl unzipped your pants for the first time.

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BlogFamilyFriends and Relationships

When I was a child, I remember my Dad, his brother, and my sister’s godfather sitting around at parties riffing. They would crack everybody up. Parties at my house were small and infrequent, but fun. I come from a small family, just one sister, my father with just one brother, my mother was one of four but they were scattered across the country so we never saw them growing up.

My wife’s family is huge. My father in law is one of five, mother in law one of four. Three and four children families are not out of the question and it is cousins galore.

I’ve yet to figure out how I fit into this family.

With my own family I fit with my dad pretty well, and the person I can’t be around him I can definitely be around my sister.

My wife’s family just doesn’t get me. I start from the outside and work in. Her mother’s side knows I like baseball but refuse to talk to me about it, probably because they don’t want to hear my opinions on the sport. But they know nothing else about me at all. They kinda know I play guitar, but not country so it doesn’t matter. On her father’s side I don’t fish or hunt or work with my hands so I don’t really matter. They too know I play guitar, but again, it isn’t country so it isn’t anything worthwhile.

Large families can be smothering. I have no room to shine, there is no spotlight to spread around, and there is always too much going on to land a good joke. And let’s not mention the steep anxiety I feel surrounded by all these people.

Her immediate family is much of the same. They value brawn over brain and outdoors life over a bookworm. They care more for my music but not to the point where they request it honestly.

They all love me. I know it, it is undeniable. From the very first holiday I spent with her family I knew they were an honest, loving and supportive group of people. They love me in spite of me, not because of me. I long for the days of laughing at my Dad and uncle’s as they amuse the small rooms of my childhood.

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BlogFamilyInspiration

A photography professor of mine always told me to respect the edge of the frame.

It wasn’t just to be mindful of where the physical limits of your image are, but to embrace the edge as a way to create dynamic movement within the image itself. Paragraphs work the same way in writing. Where one begins or ends a paragraph can create dynamic tension, can change the entire feel of the written word.

See.

For years I’ve been trying to study the edges. I find that the most interesting work occurs there. How a resolution is made or forgotten. I’ve particularly focused my study on music. Edges are everywhere in music. How a transition is made, the conclusion of a solo piece, the end of the chorus, even down to a single lick played by a musician can have a fascinating resolve. Unfortunately, most artists never make the big finish and just let their music fade to black at the end, always disappointing.

Lately I’ve been looking at the edges of life. I have a 13 month old baby, and witnessing firsthand the initial strokes of presence and how clumsily graceful they can be. Babies are almost obsessed with finding the edges of their existence. They can’t wait to paint the corners, eager to leave the middle of the canvass for the masterwork that will become their life. But also having a child has forced me to look more deeply at the edges of my own life. I’ve been seeing the white space I’ve left unattended all these years, as well as the edges being left for the big moments or the end. My canvass is surprisingly void of vibrancy.

Most people would argue with that premise.

Most people don’t get to see my canvass.

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Bipolar ThoughtsBlogDepressionFamilyMedication

I wake up four to five times a night. And that is with taking a sleeping pill, Trazadone and sometimes Ambien and Klonopin.

Usually it is to take a piss or grab a drink, my Lithium gives me drymouth and makes me have to pee. Isn’t that a fun game.

But some nights I’m simply uncomfortable in bed. I go lay on the couch and that helps sometimes, but I really desperately crave a space where I am truly comfortable for eight hours a night, without interruption. My snoring doesn’t help. Numerous times my wife rolls me over so I stop.

I guess I crave comfort in everything I do. Who doesn’t? But one of the odd things about this calm that I crave is that it often comes at the expense of my family, my ambitions, and my creativity. In fact, it almost always does. I’m calmer relaxing on the couch than working on something that might get me somewhere. I go to bed early enough that I don’t have to put my daughter down to sleep. I push off all chores and responsibilities until I am too anxious to actually accomplish them. And none of that seems too abnormal, until you talk to me about my fears of leading a meaningless life, of being stuck where I am at forever.

When my daughter was first born I stopped taking my sleeping pill so I could be up with her and feed her during the night. About three months in I talked it over with my wife and went back on my sleeping pill and have been a nighttime zombie since then, leaving her to do all the work. She never complains, just like with just about everything in our lives.

I wish I was more available for my family, instead of the guy who wakes up occasionally go grab a sip of water and take a leak.

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Bipolar ThoughtsObsessionsPersonal History

I’m approaching 30 years old.

For whatever reason this has been a major deal to me for the last several years. I have been trying to stop time so I can wade in my 20’s forever.

I think it is the end of an era for me. My 20’s were awesome. I had a lot of fun. I attended college and had more fun learning more things than I ever dreamed. I was in the best band I was ever in, even though it was short lived. I had the most fulfilling job of my life. I closed down a lot of bars, had a lot of laughs, and danced my ass off. Not to mention I met my wife and got married. A lot of my friends got married. I love weddings!

I had my downs as well. I had a major bipolar episodes when I was 22 and again at 28, which I’m still recovering from.

One difficult thing for me is that I remember how close my friends and I were when we were 19, and how much we’ve drifted over the past decade. What will the next decade bring? Balancing family and friends is hard, and it takes concerted effort to make it work.

Another difficulty of mine is something that will be explored more deeply in another blog post, is the idea of a lack of success on my part. I thought I would be running the world by now. Every teacher I ever had told me I was built for something special, but it turns out I was standard protocol.

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BlogParenting

Life with a kid is hard. And I’m not very good at it.

Just about nightly my daughter wants or needs something vital, like nourishment, which I simply cannot provide.

Even when it comes to play time, I am hardly adequate at giving her what she wants. I feel as if she hates me for this. It is clear she loves her mother more. And when in crowds she will recognize me and warm my heart as she wants to be with me, but it is fleeting at best. I’m just the best of what’s around.

It extends beyond my daughter. This is a feeling I get around a lot of my family, especially my in-laws.

Normally, I’m able to command a room. I’m the funny one, according to my friends, and I’m certainly the loud and vulgar one. I have no problem making my attention known. But at family parties with my in laws I simply cannot do it. I don’t know if it is simply a different dynamic, younger crowd, my anxiety, but I simply melt into the background. And it doesn’t really matter which side of the family I am with. On the one side I am simply ignored by the people I want to relate to the most and on the other I am overshadowed despite having equal if not superior skills to those who woo the crowd. I attribute it to her family being so large; no one commands the room, really. But it is difficult for me to be out of my element.

Work is no different. I have the ability to dominate every conversation but I am rarely asked to join and when I insert myself it feels forced so I refrain. The obvious conclusion is that I’ve dominated too many conversations to be asked to partake, but the reality is that I’ve never gotten the chance, and at this age have learned to tone it down several notches.

At this point I’ll settle for just listening in on interesting conversations.

At the deepest level I just want to cuddle with my daughter every night. But she just wants to be independent, a quality I love in her, even as much as I hate it.

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BlogWork and School

Expectations are a hard thing to manage.

When I was young I wanted to be an architect, or an archeologist. I was dead set on one of those careers from as early as I can remember. I got interested in many things throughout high school: physics, music, teaching, but architect was strengthened throughout. I mean, an artistic path where you don’t really have to be good with your hands, or know anything about art, and where science is tantamount to creativity. It was perfect for me and my lack of skills.

So I went to college for architecture, and I did really well. I did surprisingly well in my art classes, which was an utter shock to me. I did alright in classes I thought I would nail, like history and theory (go figure I went on to study theory in graduate school). I graduated with honors and thought my life was about to be spread out before me.

But I couldn’t find a job. In fact I was one of the last of my class to find a job, almost a year later.

But when I did find a job it is a high design firm that was small which required me to understand the whole process from proposal to punchlist and I loved every second of it. I thought I would work there forever, even though they paid little, and worked me hard for long hours.

But they laid me off during a downsizing. And I went another year without a job in the field, working at a hospital in the meantime.

A good friend of mine hooked me up with my second job at a large firm working mostly on strip mall retail. Not exciting, but required a lot of travel which I loved. This is where I spent 9 months away from work due to a bipolar episode and lost my job because of it.

The world of Architecture never really lived up to my expectations of it. I never felt steady in my job. I never got paid what I wanted or worked on what I needed to work on. I felt like school had lied to me. But the truth was, I didn’t do enough research to understand the industry. Going back for my Masters only made matters worse as I was studying theory which was never being employed, even by the design firms. High theory firms were few and far between and probably paid worse than shit.

I think work in general never meets expectations, and I’m not sure why we aren’t more honest about real life with students.

BlogInspirationMusic and Movies

A big source of inspiration to me has been the early career of Kevin Smith. The influence on my life of works like Clerks and Mallrats cannot be overstated. But it isn’t the movies themselves, which I do find to be right in my alley of comedy, but rather the entire creative process. The gumption of maxing out several credit cards, shooting in limited takes to conserve film, using friends as actors, and hoping it got picked up at a festival for distribution, all simply because he had never seen a movie that spoke to him about his friends is incredible. I wish I had that type of gumption. Or maybe I do, but not the talent. Which is more important is an internal debate I’ve had for years. I’ve come to the conclusion that work ethic is much more important than talent.

My friends and I have had several movies speak to us. For me, it was most notably Superbad and the TV show Freaks and Geeks. These two projects summed up high school life in a way I had never seen before and really showed what it was like for me to pass through that time. And this was important to me because I loved high school. I was remotely popular without being an athlete, I had a rock band that played dozens of gigs, I had lots of girlfriends, and a teal car that was all the rage. But despite all that, I really peaked in college. Going to design school was the first time I really got to be artistic and creative in ways I never had before, and I was good at it. I got into an even better band, even though that was short lived. And I still maintained good quality women.

It was odd though because I was really into Kevin Smith works about college aged kids when I was in high school, and I really got into Superbad and Freaks and Geeks, about high school kids, when I was in college. Partially due to when they were available, but also they happened to speak to me at that time. I think nostalgia in the later case and an urge to be mature in the former.

I always had the myth about myself that I was mature and advanced for my age. It is something I still have to shake off from time to time. I’m not good at it, by the way. I have yet to figure out if it is something that comes with age or work or both. All I know, I have put very little work into it and a lot of age. Maybe one day humility and honesty will be a trick in my quiver, but to this point I’m still shooting blanks.

One of the things Kevin Smith inspired me to do is be creative at all costs. Try to make your own thing and make it well despite evidence to the contrary. That’s why I’m starting this blog. It doesn’t require a huge commitment of resources, but hopefully it is entertainment for you and cathartic for me.

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Bipolar ThoughtsPersonal History

For a long time I thought that rapid thoughts, agitation, sleepless nights, obsessions, massive spending, deep depression, and near constant suicidal thoughts were, if not common, at least somewhat normal. I remember having at least some of these symptoms as early as 9 years old. I sort of white knuckled through the teenage angst that is high school until my first suicide attempt at the age of 16.

I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar Type II and put on some medications and sent to a therapist. The therapy was nothing new, I had been seeing a therapist for a long time to cope with anger problems I had as a child, but the meds were new and unwanted. I stayed on the meds for a couple of years before I stopped them on my own in college.

Once I was in college, I was forced to be creative on a daily basis and exercising regularly, and my Bipolar seemed to go into a remission. Sure, I would get depressed from time to time but nothing serious. I felt then and I still feel now that creativity is the best outlet for Bipolar mania, which is why I’m doing this blog. At the end of college I hit another rut and despite graduating I nearly drank myself to death while I was pretending to look for a job.

My depression at the end of college lasted a solid 9 months, consisted of drinking half a fifth a night and barely sleeping. I was able to work nights at a hospital and still be good at my job, but everything about my social life was falling apart.

I ended up making the choice, aided by my sister, who doubled as my roommate, to stop drinking and I pulled out of it just in time to meet the woman that would become my wife. And this began the second period of remission, and longest lasting. I exercised daily and felt great, even though I was not being creative. I got really heavy into playing my guitar and I suppose that was a good outlet for me.

This lasted until the day I was registering for my wedding. I was attacked by sharp pains in my chest that I thought was an arrhythmia. I went to the doctor who found nothing but noted it might be a panic attack, something I had never had before. I went back to my old therapist from high school who suggested another psychiatrist. Another Bipolar diagnosis came my way, this time Type I, with more serious meds. Lithium, Zyprexa, Klonopin, Xanax, Ambien, Trazadone, Latuda , are all I have taken to solve this latest round of mood changes. I wound up in the hospital again after another failed suicide attempt. I was off work for a total of nine months and it ended up costing me my last architecture job I will probably ever have.

I’m still recovering from this bout. Some days better, some worse. But I can still tell things aren’t right. I wonder if they ever will be again or if this is simply the hand I have been dealt for the rest of my life. My goal is remission. And hopefully meds and therapy will get me there, if not, who knows.