“‘Drinking when you’re depressed is like kerosene on a fire,’ I read in another self-help book at the bookstore. What depression ever felt like a fire? I think, shoving the book back on the shelf.” – Maggie Nelson, _Bluets_
This past weekend I saw Alison Sudol, known professionally as A Fine Frenzy, at the Majestic Theater in Detroit. It was one of the most deeply affecting concerts I have ever attended.
She opened with a song from her new album, Pines. My friend Jamie (who attended the show with me) and I enjoyed that, but were excited to hear something we knew.
But that didn’t happen until the very end of the set; she only played two songs from her earlier albums.
At first I was annoyed. Concerts are, from my experience, more enjoyable when you actually know what you’re getting yourself into.
But finally, about four or five songs in, she explained the title of her album: something about (and I’m paraphrasing here) “getting to where you need to be by finally learning to let go of what you’ve been pining for.” She also mentioned that this album tells the story of a journey– one that started from a very dark place.
Which is where I am right now, I finally forced myself to admit, standing there in the audience.
And so, all of a sudden it clicked, and I respected the hell out of her decision to just play new songs. Because sometimes life hurts so fucking much that you can’t even stand to deal with any of it anymore, and so you just have to move on: let go of what’s familiar, even if you face all kinds of disapproval from people, including, at times, those who love you.
This is a lesson I am still trying to learn.
In my most recent post, in which I acknowledged my prolonged absence from this blog, I wrote, “My initial purpose in creating this blog was to focus more closely on… what I intend to ‘do’ with my life.”
And I haven’t updated in so long because I don’t know the answer to that question.
Or I do know, but am afraid to actually make it happen, because it’s so different from what’s expected of me.
As of right now, I am:
- an unmotivated college student
- inexplicably popular with children
- restless as hell
There, I said it. I’ve been depressed, to the point where some days I don’t even recognize myself. But the weird thing about it is that these feelings come and go. So a few weeks ago, in the throes of one of these episodes, I finally forced myself to write down what I was feeling, if only so that when I woke up the next morning, ready to pretend it just hadn’t happened, I’d be forced to confront it.
I don’t really believe in bucket lists, mostly because I tried once, to live my life in a way that was very ordered and predictable. I valued to-do lists and the appearance of my resume. And I got so terribly anxious about my inability to control certain aspects of my life that I fell apart, and had to learn to let go a little.
So, I’ve since shied away from making a bucket list, because I’m afraid of ever feeling that disappointed in myself again– it’s as if I see the things I don’t cross off as failures.
But here’s one anyway, because literally everything I want to do lately has nothing to do with what I’m doing right now. And it’s about damn time that I learn to be honest about that.
I want to:
- drop out of school (there, I said it– after six years as an undergrad, I finally said it)
- work on an organic farm
- join a band
- dye my hair red
- paint my walls black
Those last two are things I’ve wanted since I was about 8 years old. The others are more recent wants / loves, but they all stem from things I’ve cared about for a long time. Little known fact: I spent my childhood performing in choirs and musicals. Then, in high school, I learned how to play the piano. I only “gave it up” because I didn’t have room in my high school class schedule to take both choir and creative writing.
I’ve been waiting all my life for bullshit to stop getting in the way. When I finished middle school I thought, “They offer creative writing classes at the high school level! I CAN WRITE POETRY AND IT WILL COUNT AS HOMEWORK!” But to do that I had to give up choir because I had to take math and science and computers.
Then, applying to college, same thing: I was so excited to be done with classes I didn’t care about so I could just be an ENGLISH MAJOR and study ENGLISH and not do anything else, ever.
Except lol, they made me take math in college, too.
And then I transferred colleges. And my new school had a WHOLE NEW SET of gen ed requirements for me to fulfill, and all of a sudden I found myself learning French? Not that that’s not worthwhile but seriously, how the fuck did I wind up spending my days like this? Because it’s not like I don’t have an idea about what I love / care about / want to do. It’s that I’ve spent so much time–so, so, so much time–jumping through hoops for payoff that may or may not ever even be coming.
I’ve been putting off my real dreams / goals / aspirations / etc because I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for the bullshit to be over so I can just let my creative energy explode.
And then I realized that the bullshit never stops. In fact, it gets worse, because you have to get through the bullshit just to be able to eat, and clothe yourself– to survive.
And so, the depression. The feeling like I’ll never ever ever find the time to do anything meaningful, anything that I’m actually good at, anything that would ever really let me contribute to society in the way I best know how. Obviously people find the time, they make the time. Even I do. I wrote a poem today while the kid I babysit was napping. And I’m up late, writing a blog post now.
But it’s not enough. And I’m not sure what I want to do about it, but admitting that it’s a problem is a good first step.
I guess all I’m saying is, I’m probably going to make a lot of decisions soon that are going to surprise everyone– even me. Please still be my friend. Because I will need it. If the anxiety and depression I’ve felt at the mere thought of even confronting this problem is any indication of how bad it could get if and when I actually decide to act on these desires, then promise me you’ll stick around, like I did, ’til the end of the A Fine Frenzy concert.
Because as unsure as I was about where that was headed, it was one of the most memorable experiences ever.