A few months ago, I was having drinks with a girl I like and–because the DJ had been playing up-tempo ’90s hits and because I was with the girl I like–I told her: “I feel like I’ve only started to live.”
But, and this is huge, it wasn’t just because I was having drinks with a great girl. I was back in school and had a job lined up and was feeling better than I had in months. Years, even.
You see, for quite a while now, I’ve lived with the idea that I didn’t really deserve to be happy, that I don’t deserve a great life. Like, even if things are going my way, they’ll eventually turn sour when I get found out for being less than what I seemed. For being me, I guess.
Oh, I was great at hiding it–and avoiding it by getting drunk and all that fun stuff–and it wasn’t really a crippling thing.
But because of that, I tended to let other people have their way, tried not to rock the boat as it were. I figured if I was nice to people, things would generally keep going well.
And it worked well enough, until it didn’t and I hit rock bottom. For a long time, I didn’t know I’d hit it. Or maybe I did, but kept denying it. In any case, things eventually got so bad that I hated who I had become: So desperate for acceptance and affirmation that fidelity and honesty and even my dignity became negotiable things.
In the meantime, I pretty much sabotaged my personal and professional growth with vices and misplaced priorities. That I’m doing fairly well is despite myself, and not because.
It took me long months of introspection to realize, for example, that they asked me to leave Yahoo! not because I was too cool*, but because I was no longer bringing anything to the table. At the time, I put my relationship before my work (and myself, really) because I thought that was how love worked. It doesn’t, and having a career doesn’t work like that either.
And then, rock bottom. And then the realization that I had to stop seeing being worried and distrustful all the time was normal. And then the realization that, fuck that, I deserve better.
And so, I found myself at a bar along Tomas Morato dancing in my seat and having drinks with somebody intelligent and funny and all sorts of cool. And the thing was, I wasn’t in any rush to fall in love or to get her to fall in love, or love in general. Maybe something will happen, maybe nothing will.
I was just enjoying the moment and, man, maybe things will get rough again eventually. Life’s like that. But if things do go bad, it won’t be because God hates me, or because I deserve to suffer. It’ll just be because shit happens sometimes, and that’s all right too because I’ve had 32 years of experience with that.
And so, after more than three decades of trying to see what more I could do to ruin my life, I’ve decided to just get a life, and start L-I-V-I-N’.**
If life were a movie, I would have ended up dead that night and those would have been my last words and the audience would discuss over coffee how simultaneously apt and ironic that would have been.
But life is not a movie, or at least, not that kind of movie, So, I kept living. And it has been great.
*I never really thought this was the reason they let me go, but still.
** As an aside: While heading out to the bar, I ran into N., who helped my ex do something I didn’t really appreciate. It was awkward, but she gave me a hug and said “we’re looking past that.” It was a bit too zen for me, but she had a point. And so I am.