Getting Stuck 

Back when my future seemed to hold more promise for me than it does now, I planned on becoming an English instructor. I envisioned myself in some tiny office grading essays, with a window overlooking a nondescript University library made pleasant to look at by both familiarity and a handful of oaks below "shhhsh-ing" in a lukewarm breeze. I had thought I wasn't harboring any foolish illusions about this future fantasy because I paid keen attention to the warnings of my professors, listened to various academic experts, and read all of the advice - - by both expert and laymen - - I could find about a life in academia.

Thus, I planned on having a substantial amount of student loan debt, a tiny apartment (maybe even into my sunset years), and the aggravation of endless committee meetings with the attendant academic politics. Yet, even with those expected problems, the life of an English Instructor held out a modest hope of enjoyment. I liked to read. I liked discovering the history of ideas as humanity moved obliviously through time. I liked analyzing complex or interwoven themes in stories. And, I liked to write. English professors could be overworked and frustrated by a life in academia, but it might be a life of modest dignity and a way of supporting myself without relying on external help any more. Could I even dare to hope that I would earn enough money doing something I liked and was moderately good at to provide for a family and a home of my own? Those were thoughts that I quickly banished. The superstitious fears of my unconscious whispered that thinking such things might prevent them from becoming true.

After the seasonal excitement of filling out various college applications and writing hopeful essays, after the adventure of figuring out how and where to take the GRE's, I was accepted to a State College. I thought I knew the risks, and having had accepted them, I allowed myself to feel some excitement for the future.

And yet, as realistic as I thought I was being, I hadn't planned on my personal life causing so many problems as to prevent me from focusing on getting necessary work done. At the worst point, it took all of my effort to maintain the barest threads of my emotional reserve. So, when life made even the simplest and smallest of demands, I couldn't meet them. Checking my mail in the boxes outside, normally something so mundane as to not even be noteworthy, became a major accomplishment. Eventually, after days, and then months, of lying in bed or on my couch - - after masterfully stretching out every last chance I had with the college through pleading with various departments - - the University finally "invited" me to leave with a brief form letter. This ultimate outcome did not come as even the tiniest of surprises. Still, reading it fell like falling down a small embankment towards a cold and dirty creek. Just that month, the weather had been warming into spring, and I began feeling strong enough to develop a plan of action. I felt on the verge of turning it all around and regaining my footing. Until, the letter. I do remember thinking, in that pivotal, horrible moment (letter in hand held against the back of the envelope), how it was somewhat ironic that even with countless writing experts at the college, this final letter could be so poorly written.

What I did not know at the time was that my past history, my childhood even, laid the foundations for this crushing failure. Either through a series of bad choices or a substantial defect in my emotional makeup, my "being" was somehow trained for being derailed by problems. Almost every setback I experienced felt like a final puzzle piece completing an obvious, but as yet, unforeseen picture.

"Yes," my heart screams to my head, "you are indeed a failure. You are destined to be thwarted at your every turn. Life will not be enjoyable for you, and it is useless for your to try and make it better. Poverty will make it so you will not have the same chances as some. 'You can be anything you want with hard work and effort' is a bitter lie meant to make common people feel better about being brutalized by the system. Ad infinitum." This thought process appears to have been true since my early childhood, gaining new eloquence, new levels of complexity and certainity as I get older.

So, I get depressed and do nothing. Intellectually, I feel the duty of what needs to be done in life. "Yes, life may be horrible," but it is that way for everyone. The only moral choice one ever has is to live life steadily and grow beyond its terrible grasp, to not let the unpleasant things in life become strong swells that threaten to sink the ship of self. But knowing what must be done, I still can't seem to motivate myself to do it. The depressed part of my mind, that shadow devouring monster, dismisses the intellectuality of moving on by calling my mind's attention to the riveting pain of now. The future is meaningless in the face of the pain of "now."

In spite of all of the above, I think I could respond more to kind words and genuine encouragement, but most of it feels rote and false somehow. I don't know why. This could be the "bug," the error, the mistake. The "un-knowing" of the problem or how to fix it. I run through all of the code, analyzing the data to find the blank spot, the problem, but even if I find it, I do not have a clue about what to put there. So, I get stuck. I feel overwhelmed and get lost before even knowing where to begin.

12 January 2009
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