I have gone most of my adult life believing that I can do pretty much whatever I set out to accomplish with the right mindset. As an angst-filled adolescent I thought someday I was going to fulfill my dreams and live as boldly as I envisioned I could, leaving behind my roots in a rural Massachusetts village smaller than this island that was at its most progressive after the show “Glee” premiered during my senior year of high school.
I was graduating soon and did not dwell on what could have been. What would come next for me, I thought, watching fully-grown people pretend to be teens on my laptop in the dark in 2012, would be a great adventure, one fueled by stubborn, daring optimism and a chance at something that would finally break my overlong childhood once and for all. And for the most part, that’s exactly what I got. Eat it, Kurt Hummel.
It was that tirelessness that brought me to new places, that taught me new things about myself and the world, and prepared me to fight and win some of my greatest battles. I got knocked down in college by friends I thought I was safe with and commitments that I made and couldn’t keep. But I grew and I set myself back on the same path to follow always, the one that glowed the brightest in my mind because I already knew the story of the boy that went that way, and I wanted that story to be mine.
Since the tenth grade, I have been the stay-up-all-night, give 150% percent guy, less because I work best under pressure and more because I have horrible, dreadful, time management skills. But I usually hit my stride around 2 a.m. anyway, and if there is one thing I know how to do better than most, it’s pull through at the eleventh hour with a thrilling finish that proves I knew where I was going all along, that I always had a grip. And by now, I’ve gotten used to the normal plummets my mood can take, but that’s never stopped me before. I used to be unshakable. I’ve faced off with a Category 5 hurricane, done the whole unrequited better-to-have-loved-and-lost thing, convinced a psychic that I’ve lived at least one other lifetime that somebody, somewhere, still can’t believe was real. My life was on track with a grand plan that I made up when I was 14 and up until now, I have followed it almost to the letter.
The world has been coming undone for some time. I was not supposed to fall apart as well, but as it turns out, I can confidently say that never before in my life have I felt so lost.
And there’s not a trick of the mind that I haven’t tried yet to change that, some snap of my fingers to set things right and find the right perspective. I have yet to succeed.
I had also yet to be honest about this until now, which I realize was helpful to no one. If I have not replied to your email, I am sorry. I have read it, but for some reason I cannot bring myself to send you a simple reply. I still have ideas for writing stories for the paper that I can’t seem to initialize without going into some existential tailspin. Tina Fey had her sheet cake for quitters sketch for Saturday Night Live. I have a box of Ho-Hos on my desk that I bought to reward myself for opening a Google Doc, only to leave it blank while I watch TikTok videos on my phone until another hour goes by.
There was some thinking there before anxiety plunged me back into darkness. I find that getting started on anything is the most difficult now. But surely getting started on one thing — literally, one thing that matters, just pick one thing — has the same potential of a life preserver for someone chest-deep in quicksand. I’ll take it. And this column today that you are reading is my one thing, for now. I can stick my head out of the muck a little higher and take another breath.
Paul Rowley is a reporter at The Beachcomber.