The Consequences of Perpetual Marginalization

After writing my previous entry, I got up from my desk in an uneasy state of mind. A big part of why I don’t write so much lately is that getting the thoughts out of my head, into text form, and slapping a period at the end of them means that they’re completed and done with. Keeping things private and inside my head is a mental equivalent of bargaining “just one more cigarette”, a little longer to mull things over on a given aspect about myself. Being at home and without any reason to project otherwise, it was pretty clear to my roommate/best friend that I was not in a good place. He asked what was wrong, and I told replied that it was just more of the usual mess that runs inside my head that bums him out to have to hear, only now without any restraint. To myself, I acknowleged that it makes me feel guilty for talking to him about these things as well — roles reversed, I would feel very saddened and frustrated to have to hear from someone that I care deeply for tell me that nothing feels worthwhile and would love to not have to deal with being alive anymore.
We discussed what was going through my head and what I had just written and posted moments earlier in our conversation, but it ended up derailing and becoming more about the barriers in communication that keep me from being more open and forthcoming about. That conversation was eventually dropped in favor of playing video games and watching TV together. However, in the time since then, I’ve been continuing to unpack the underlying though processes behind that feeling of disinterest in life that keeps cropping up.
When I decided to start blogging about myself in this manner, the idea was to put my truth out there, to show what a bad place I was in and, over time, capture the journey down the road of self-actualization. By now, I had planned to find myself in much better physical shape and realizing that version of myself that I envisioned. Instead, I’ve continued to falter, merely trading in old problems for new ones. Skimming through all of my old posts (published and private) the entries I wrote from 2010–2014 all revolved around an identity crisis, lack of confidence, chronic self-loathing. From Fall of 2015 onward, I’d been doing pretty well, occassional falls of the exercise wagon not withstanding. I haven’t felt that ruminative melancholy and crippling self-resentment in a very long time. The thing I wrestle with now is that I still haven’t found the sense of purpose I started looking for this year.
I am a introvert. I like the idea of being one of those charismatic life-of-the-party types, and while I can pull it off when I make the effort, in truth it tends to tire me out. But while mine is not a social nature, it is heavily tribal. In an old-world social structure, I would have been a watchtower sentry — mostly removed from the group in order to keep it safe, but still very much a part of it. To be where I am now, without a tribe that I belong to after years in self-exile and having left behind family and many friendships, leaves me bearing the shame and and loss of purpose I’d liken to that of feudal Japanese ronin who refused to commit ritual suicide after losing in battle. Where before I didn’t see myself as capable of contintuing to fight, now I just don’t feel like I have a reason to. I keep working on career development, getting in top physical shape, making more money…but for what, to afford fancy material things? Secure a place to wither away and die in at old age? Without anyone or anything to be doing it for, it just feels like I’m doing meaningless shit over and over, day by day. While I would like to champion the idea of doing things for oneself, it’s not able to sustain me; all that translates to is dragging out an already long lonesome existence to its inevitale end.
Because I’ve gotten very capable at stepping outside of my own thought processes, I can look at myself objectively and rationally. I realize that a problem that only I can fix. I realize that letting this go unresolved is likely enabling self-fullfilling prophecy complex. Yet, no matter how much I dissect things and try to goad myself with supportive messaging, it all amounts to very little; buying into that line of thinking seems like forcing on a pair of rose-colored glasses and false optimism and negligently ignoring years of historical data that tells me otherwise. With my mind being as logic oriented as it is, the latter train of thought always wins.


Believing What the World Has Repeatedly Told Me

Why does it feel like nothing matters?
Because I don’t matter.


From My Immediate Family

With my mother having sole custody, I was raised in a Mexican household with the cultural belief that family is of utmost importance and comes first, and I bought into it completely. So, even though growing up I preferred to spend most of my time to myself in front of my video games or a book, being the most intellectually inclined and technologically capable person in the family gave me a great sense of purpose from the times that I would be called on to do things for them that no one else could: format and revise my sister’s college papers, draft rental contracts in Spanish for my mother when she was managing my grandmother’s property in Mexico, design and create signs/flyers when needed, and so on.
But as I grew older and left adolescence behind on my way into young adulthood, the dynamic changed. I stopped being a part of the family after the events of summer 2001 (which I’ll get around to actually writing down some day) left me with only one of my sisters, who lives in North County San Diego, a 45 minute drive away. Not being able to drive myself anywhere at the time, I found comfort in a new “family” I fell into, my first actual group of close friends. After a couple of years, once the rage and resentment dissipated, I tried practicing forgiveness and started rebuilding relationships with my sisters. Though as much of an effort as I made in trying to be a good brother, my only reward was to be treated like a tool. Every time I would visit my sister up north, I was almost guaranteed to be updated that one of the others had called her and asked about me in the course of their conversation. It used to even bother her, as some calls she received from them were specifically to inquire about me and nothing else. Yet, my phone never rang…until they they needed something from me. My best friend lived with me for a time before I turned my back on them again for good back in 2012, and he’s recounted that he used to feel bad knowing how much I cared for them and that only time he ever saw them come to visit, he’d find me hunched over a desk fixing a computer or to have me e-filing their taxes for them.
In the Fall of 2010, my older brother went “missing” when he checked himself into rehab without telling anyone. In response, my sisters rallied and became a search party task force. They even reached out to their estranged biological father to enlist his aid, and for weeks straight, crossed the border into Mexico to keep up the search and make sure he was alive and well. Yet, when I was showing tell-tale signs of suicide risk and openly admitting severe depression, they let me go. None of them tried to support me, or intervene and fight for me when I started to drift away for good.

From My Extended Family

While everything above was happening with my immediate family, that one-degree-of-separation trend began manifesting itself with extended family. With my father’s home being located on the second story above the family liquor store business, I would regularly hear from my dad and uncle that one of my various cousins had stopped by and asked either for me or about me. I would always get in touch and let them know I’d heard they’d been by, and suggest finding a time to get together and actually interact; as is common with Mexican families, my cousins were like a set of lifelong friends and generally liked most of them. The idea was always met with with enthusiastic agreement, but it would never come to fruition. No matter how many times I made sure they had my cell number or followed up with them to make it happen, I could never get them to commit.

From My Friends

Once I noticed that trend with my family, I started to recognize that it was also happening all the time with my friends as well. I realized that the only time I would see the people I called friends was in large group gatherings. Because the majority of these friends overlapped between me and my best friend, I became the “comes with” for him — I would rarely get direct invitations, and was always informed about group plans through him, creating this feeling that I was constantly am unofficial invitee that he was going out of his way to keep me included.
I attempted to make a change by trying to find time to spend with them on an individual basis and strengthen those bonds in a way that group environments don’t really lend themselves to, to be more than just social drinking buddies. I started pitching the idea of haning out one-one-one with many of them, and just like with my cousins, they would seem delighted and enthused at the thought of it, but nothing would ever happen. I could give a two-week outlook on my schedule, and rare were the times that I would get a response to calendar, and even those were usually subject to last minute cancellations.
This is what made cutting all ties with family and friends in 2012 possible.

From My Relationships

The few times that I’ve been romantically engaged with people, there’s been a similar recurring trend there to. They got something out of me — emotional support, personal validation, etc. — but at the end of the day, I still wasn’t good enough for the long term. With every person, it’s always ended up in being left behind while they went off and made someone else their boyfriend.
And without fail, after the period of awkwardness passed and the emotional wounds healed, each one also came back later telling me how much I’ve been missed in their lives, regret over how things played out, and wanting to rekindle friendships.


The End Result: A Pointless Now


The above is only a surface level summary of how the various relationships in my life have played out. What isn’t accurately communicated is just how people that happened with, how many individual instances there were, and how often it still happens even today. Yes, the only way to create change is to take action and to never give up on trying…but my past experiences show me that no matter how differently I approach people, how drastically I change my thinking, how much weight I lose, things do not get better. Furthermore, not feeling like anything has changed makes me feel like a fraudulent hypocrite, writing today this post that flies in direct contradiction of the one I wrote one year ago to the day.
Irrational and petty as it sounds, like I’m choosing to trap myself in a self-pity party that doesn’t end…it’s as if there’s just something inherently wrong with me; why else is that even the people who allegedly cared for me the most have been so naturally inclined to use me as a tool, keep me at a distance, and turn me away/let me go so easily? I can handle rejection just fine, but a lifetime of positive verbal messaging and contradictory actions from others — it really fucks with your self-esteem and makes you doubt your own rationale, choices, and emotions. It took years of revisting old memories countless times to convince myself that I had done the best my young self could and that it wasn’t all entirely my fault.
It would be possible to disregard the past, commit to living in the moment, and believe in the future…were it not for present reality. Like I mentioned above, that enthusiasm about spending time together and subsequent lack of follow through still happens all too often. I know that a lot of it has to do with the current phase in life my peers are in; we’re not in our 20’s of abundant free time anymore, and many people have their jobs, significant others, and/or children to juggle in their schedule. Yet, with that being the case, and the detached nature of mobile messaging and social media dominating modern day social interactions, what chance does that leave to build the meaninful relationships that I would like to achieve? It feels like taking on a losing battle, one that I’ve already failed abysmally at multiple times before.
Thing is, I’ve already answered myself. Out of all the amazing things mankind has been able to accomplish, this definitely falls within the realm of possibility. The solution lies in the words of an old Roman emperor:

Unselfish action, now at this very moment.
Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events.
That is all you need.
—Marcus Aurelius

The true challenge is not letting my inherent limitations as a human being and the weariness of so much past failure get in the way.

Galvanized

It’s been a rough past months. Since the last time I sat down to draft an update for this blog, I once again fell off the workout bandwagon. Where before this cycle used to be triggered by cycles of demotivation and lack of affect, these last three months the cause has been rooted in my physical health. I expected to get back to business as usual after that bout in September, but late October and again this month, they came back at me harder than before and knocking me on my ass, so to speak.
Then came the Presidential Election. That upset was strong enough to drive me to write myself a pithy journal update, but I didn’t feel like I had much to say there; I was thinking and feeling the same thing that pretty much every rational and objective American was thinking that day. That Tuesday night feel like watching a country, logic, and pretty much all fucking reason die in real time, and it made me sad for the country — not just because of the obvious rammifications to come, but also because it seemingly forced everyone to take up that bleak realist lens through which my years of depression I’ve long written about put on my eyes.
As I wrote the day after social media:

Well…at least all those past years of experience combatting depression and constant suicidal ideation using nihilistic suppression of psychological affect (to varying success) makes waking up to a looming Trump America a lot easier to process effectively. The way the world feels shitty and senseless after last night’s results? That was my day-to-day for the better part of a decade. #UsedToIt

That old adage isn’t entirely true, misery doesn’t always want company. And in time since, it’s been a struggle to fight through whatever mess I’ve got going on physically and regrouping myself mentally. As much I was handling it pretty well on my own, I’m highly empathetic to my roommate/best friend/“little brother”, and his reaction to the outcome knocked whatever fortitude I had right out from under me. So much to the point that even though I’ve been highly aware of how long I’ve gone without writing at all and how much I would stand to gain by processing my thoughts through it, it all just seemed so pointless. The world itself is in such turmoil now that anything I’ve got going on the individual is absolutely trivial by comparison, and rendered moot by the course reality has taken. What does it matter to self-actualize and start writing the personal narrative I’ve been trying to obtain for so long when there’s a looming facist government rule that’s going to ignore the pressing issues with climate change and kill social progress until the Earth literlally drowns itself?
This train of cynical nihilistic thought isn’t exactly something new to me. In fact, it even managed to bring back my pernicious lesser self that engages in mortal ideation — that part of me that doesn’t want to deal with my self or this world and just wants it all to be over. But just like in times past, when I’ve stepped outside of my perception and coached myself with the tenets of stoicism to recollect my personal resolve, the lack of affect has won out. I hear what I’m telling myself and I know I’m right, but I still can’t bring myself to care. Even my forceful negative reinforcements — “don’t be such a weak lameass and get back to work” — have had no effect.
I think back to when I was in my adolescent years, and I remember how it used to feel like I was constantly fighting for my self and my identity, as well as the energy, confidence, and optimism with which I faced it. Fifteen years later, after losing all those things and struggling to find them all within myself again, I been feeling ragged, worn, and weary. Years of effort expended, and with very little to show for it, barely breaking even with my teenage self.
But now that mourning period for the 2016 election results has passed, and this present day reality demands more from me. I demand more from me. As much as I want to get away from feeling like the lone wolf fending for himself and be a happy social butterfly, it’s my nature. And while I can resent it for being so all I want, at the end of the day, it’s where my personal strength comes from when I’m not fighting it. Not being afraid of being alone and dying is empowering, but it also requires being familiar with loneliness and saddled with awareness of one’s mortality, and that can be crushing in itself.
But as stated above, I’m used to it at this point. It gets me down only because I choose to let it get me down. Yes, I want to be “done”, but the fact stands that I’m not. Being dejected and unwilling to fight accomplishes nothing, so even though it’s hard for me to see a point to it at many times, striving from the struggle once again is my only way forward. Things may be in a terrible state right now, it may be too late for us to prevent serious consequences of global warming, and the election outcome may have broken me down, but all that this has ultimately accomplished is shock me back into action. In spite this body and spirit that are both moderately past their prime, I will run, study, train, work, fight, and every other verb you can think of, harder than ever before.

Repurposed

It’s hard to believe that March is almost at its end. Even though I’ve been telling myself I need to plant my ass down and write an update for “a while”, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since my last entry about that inconsequential social media block from BT. One of the main drawbacks to going so long without composing an entry is the loss of momentum — even with the blog feed pulled up on screen, I’m hard-pressed to remember what all I’ve written lately and what topics I’ve made mental notes to write about I’ve actually touched upon. It’s difficult enough to recall what it is I did just last week without having to use a point of reference like social media updates and camera roll snapshots, much less what it is I wrote about almost a whole calendar month ago. Now that I do find myself sitting in front of a text editor ready to get at least one of those talking points fleshed out and posted, it’s challenging to pick one and get to to typing — not unlike the exasperation that comes when tidying up a room that’s a catastrophic cluttered mess.
Having taken a good break after the introductory paragraph above, I’ve finally picked a thread to pull on: purpose. Late last year, I wrote an entry on the subject and concluded that it came down to “power”; specifically, how I went about trying to rediscover mine. Re-reading it now, it feels like reading something I wrote much further in the past, but the underlying idea still holds true. I know that I still have plenty more to say on that journey through my own personal hell, not to ruminate on it but to have something that may be useful to others come out of it. That said, in a fashion similar to how I looked back on 2014 in that entry and saw an entirely different state of mind, so too can I do for the ones I wrote in 2015. On this side of a new year (and another decade in age), I’ve now spent months of my life in the place of personal cohesion and fortitude that I spent years trying to obtain. Now that my “self” has been removed as an obstacle, now I’m faced with tackling the reality of my existence.
At this stage in life, I’m past the mournful remorse of needing to spend so much of my time putting together that broken individual I used to be and the setbacks it’s left me with. I browse my social media feeds these days, and see the peers I used to be adolescents with now become working professionals, homeowners, parents, and so on. Meanwhile, I’m little over a month into 30 years old, and feel like I’m at a place most people find themselves somewhere in their mid 20’s. Where in the past this used to be a demoralizing point to acknowledge, I now possess the clarity and acceptance to actually do something about it and make up for all that lost ground.

“Fear and Anxiety are what drive us to compare ourselves to others because we start deriving our sense of who we are and what our value is based on how we stand next to other people”
—Merlin Mann, Back to Work Episode 4

I’m in a good and stable place at the moment. I have a day job that I enjoy and pays moderately well. Though I regularly feel as if I do not have enough time to make the progress I’d like to, I know that I’ve got a comparative advantage over many people out there. I do not have the obligations of dependents or the considerable debts that come with educational loans that most others are working at paying off at my age. Yet, on the flip side, I’m also keenly aware of my disadvantages. My professional skill set is highly generalized. I don’t have anything by way of vocational or academic accreditation. As a matter of fact, I’m technically not even a high school graduate outside of the state of California; back in the early-mid 2000’s, the only out I had to avoid being a high school drop-out or repeating a year of general public education after the events of the home/personal life at the time took their toll on my credit requirements was to take the state’s California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) and obtain a certificate that is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.
Though I’ll abstain from going off recapping in detail, what I’ve already explored multiple times in entires past does bear repeating at this time: my life after high school that has not been the best it could have been. Despite the ups and positive experiences I’ve had along the way, I lost whatever shreds of strength and fortitude I believed myself to have. I gave up on life. I became chronically depressed, I stagnated, and over time, grew to resent myself to the point of outright hatred, disdain, and disgust. Though I’ve only admitted this next part to only a few close friends, it got so bad in 2012 that I got to the point where I wanted to die. I never took up any actively self-destructive behaviors or ran the risk of suicide, but for a good long while, I did start my days secretely hoping that some mortal tragedy would find me, getting plowed down by a runaway bus or taken out in a terrible car crash.
2005 was when things first started to spiral downward, and 2011–2013 were my darkest times.

“No one should brave the underworld alone”
— Poe, “Hello”

But I did. I didn’t have the love or support of family or close friends to guide me through or alleviate the suffering, all I had was the pain, doubt, and self-hate that goverened me. Drowned in the chaos, I finally chose the metaphorical death in lieu of the literal one. I chose to externalize and detach from my past and my emotions. I chose to accept and believe that I didn’t have anyone, and that I didn’t need anyone. I chose to let that old self die, and to build a new one of out the handful of remnants that I allowed to remain.
Which brings me to circle back to the topic of purpose. This is still about power. These days, not so much on my efforts on how to find it, but rather how I did, and more importantly, how to begin utilizing it productively. That tumultuous past I’ve endured is something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but one that the Internet and current events clearly indicate others do share. I read about people, children even, who succumb to their hardships and misfortunes to where they do reach that point that I never met, where they do decide to give up completely and end it. Yet, I know first-hand that it is possible to go from losing everything, fiercely detesting one’s self, and feeling absolutely lost and hopeless to being strong, determined, and capable. But as I’ve suggested above, getting away from where you don’t want to be is only the first part of the battle — the second half, and arguably the harder part of the whole, is getting yourself to where you do want to be.

Lebensgefühl

Seems it’s been a whole month since I last composed an update. Life’s been full of change and really busy since the end of the previous month. My best friend and long time roommate moved out, leaving me facing the prospect of being out in the world and sharing living space with someone I didn’t have an existing relationship with for the first time ever. After doing the interview rounds on Craigslist, I ended up with a 25 year old guy from Germany that’s going to be studying at San Diego State University for a year.
From the night I picked him up at the airport, it’s been a non-stop month full of activity. Since he had the first three weeks as down time before the semester started, we’ve been going around getting him setup for his stay (getting cell phone service, a bank account, etc.) and familiarized with the city. Even on workdays, soon as I’ve gotten home and knocked out a run, we’ve been off to go explore San Diego. All that foot travel has been definitely helping with the weight loss efforts — every weekend, I’ve been matching/exceeding my running miles (5-8) with our sight-seeing walks.
As far as a roommate goes, I think I got really lucky. He’s very easy going, and generally open to trying anything and maximizing his experience here in the US. Almost every night we’ve gone out to a sit-down place, we’ve ended up meeting new people and sharing a dinner table with complete strangers.
One of the German words he’s taught me that I really like is lebensgefühl, which means one’s “awareness & attitude towards life”; mine has improved greatly over the past few weeks. I feel fully locked and engaged with life now, steadily moving forward. The memories of the past few years, all the posts I’ve drafted along the way, seem feel completely foreign to me. That place of confusion, fear, doubt, and helplessness, all those past burdens I couldn’t unshoulder, all left behind for good and determinedly a place I am literally incapable of returning to. I don’t worry about myself having relapses into depression and unhelpful mental/behavioral loops because they don’t apply to me anymore.
This sense of completeness and confidence in both it and myself are what I’ve been relentlessly pursuing the past decade. To deconstruct, analyze, and reform an entire lifetime and personality was a hell of a process. Now, starting to really see and believe myself to be that person I’ve aspired to be, that opposite of the mental/emotional damaged mess I used to be, it’s good to have my inner monologue back in a supporting role, no longer the harsh and hyper-critical warden I forced it to become.
Readjusted. Rebalanced. Refocused. And ready to get shit done.