This has not been a horrible week, and that’s why I want to write about it.
I easily fall into the same trap that many, many, many bloggers do — I write when angry, or sad, or when rote tells me I need to write. I realized I was falling into that with my Progress Friday posts, which is why you haven’t seen any in a couple weeks. Well, that and any weekday is basically the worst day for me to be trying to write a blog post and hit my fiction word count in the same day. I’m trying to decide what to do about Progress Fridays (possibly a Facebook update?), but in the meantime, I am blogging when I want to blog.
But, the point of this post is this: I am happy with where I am right now.
Maybe not literally where I am literally right at this moment, which is at my day job desk an hour early because I got asked very late yesterday to attend an 8am meeting; but in general, where my life is at. It’s not perfect, at all, and there are things I need to handle, but this is so much better than what I used to think was better.
Let me explain that through the medium of talking about Ozzy Osbourne.
I did my undergraduate work at UC Santa Cruz, a beautiful, hilly college with its identity stuck between being a sprawling research university and a loose, let-your-hair-down hippie school. I majored in Literature, which may explain why I find myself having to either power through books or find myself taking aeons to read them because I stop every page or so to examine the symbolism. And of course, this is the place where I forged my identity. So of course, I find myself nostalgic for it. Like a lot. It doesn’t hurt that I had many fewer responsibilities at college than I do now, at least in terms of hours I am specifically expected to be spending in specific places. I still have a yen for the level of socialization I got to do in those days.
Nowadays, my day job is a copyediting gig at a wonderful little technical book company that I will not discuss more here, in case I have fans who would try to come find me. And being a copyediting gig, I sometimes need music or podcasts to get myself through the tougher assignments. Or on days like today, through everything. My iPod is a weird beast, a mix of high-tech stuff and old, old music of mine; my access to a CD drive with which to upload albums and money with which to buy MP3s has been highly varied over my adult life, as cloud storage and media delivery has become more and more prevalent, so a large amount of what is on my iPod is stuff I added the last time I owned a desktop computer with an internal CD drive — which is to say, when I was in college and graduate school. KMFDM. Corrosion of Conformity. Portishead. Ministry. Dead Kennedys. Ozzy Osbourne.
Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to accompany my editing work with a little listen to Blizzard of Ozz. It’s a great album, with some great post-Sabbath Ozzy work, though often on the extreme end of either melancholy or angry. I started up the album, and I heard the opening strains of “Perry Mason,” and I got hit straight in the solar plexus with depression. Not a literal depressive episode, but just a total bottoming out of my emotions. Luckily, my first instinct was to pause, and my second instinct was to wonder what the hell just happened.
I first got Blizzard of Ozz around about the time of my nineteenth birthday, which for an October baby meant my sophomore year of college. In my sophomore year, I hit the well-known slump. Bad. I lived in a dorm that was partially below ground, so I got almost no sunlight except during daytime classes, with roommates who blamed me for the mess of another roommate (and let’s be fair, some mess of my own) and hated me on sight. I took a lot of classes that were general-education chaff, stuff I knew I could handle in the sciences and composition department, so I didn’t feel inspired. Even my Creative Writing class left me feeling terrible, because while the Intro course was great, I was rejected from the Intermediate course (and had to then add a new class two weeks late to keep my financial aid) because they refused to accept genre fiction writers.
Academically, I was troubled, and socially and medically I bottomed out bad. I had two unhealthy relationships and a pair of just-as-unhealthy flings. I slept too little and then too much. I ate mostly junk food, and was so out of shape walking to class managed to hurt. I was a flake, unable to keep a lot of my promises because with my low energy levels all I could deal with taking care of was myself. I was so clingy with one of my best friends that we stopped talking to each other for about two weeks. All around me I watched friends’ relationships implode, barely avoided failing a couple classes, got yelled at by one old friend and cried on by another, and in between, I LARPed to try to take the edge off of how miserable real life was. Because that is a healthy way to handle things. I think around now was when I started being so bad with money that I got yelled at basically weekly by my parents. I remember playing credit card roulette at Jeffery’s Diner in downtown Santa Cruz, with me and my other friends all seeing who had the money to pay for post-LARP dinner that week. I still cringe when I see bad money management on TV, and I always think my own money management is bad. I’m grateful I didn’t have a credit card in those days, because I would assuredly be ankle-deep in debt to this day.
And during all this, during days where I was pretty sure someone had painted a tinfoil glaze over the sky just to make sure the sun couldn’t shine too bright for me, I listened to Blizzard of Ozz. And Corrosion of Conformity (mostly Deliverance), and Faith No More (Angel Dust) and Acid Bath (When the Kite String Pops). And now, whenever I listen to any of those, I become a mess. I tap back into how miserable I was, and how sure I was that there wasn’t a way out.
I don’t say this to get empathy for how much my life sucked. I say this because yesterday, sitting there with “Perry Mason” on pause, I realized, that was the life I was pining for all this time. That was actually how I felt at UC Santa Cruz, and that was actually who I was, when I was still learning to be me.
My life now may not be the most glamorous or the most amazing. But, I’m married to my best friend and one of my all-around favorite people. I have had my writing published, and am working to publish even more. I work at a job that allows me to pay my bills, and save a little, and challenge my brain. I’m running the single best campaign of a tabletop game I have ever run. I get to unabashedly and unashamedly enjoy Sharks hockey, and pro wrestling, and comic books, and Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick and every other amazing author who is now at my fingertips because of modern technology and the amazing media access it gives me. Some mornings are bad, and sometimes my anxiety crashes down on me because I am convinced it is all going away. But most of the time, the large percentage of the time, I’m happy.
I have another memory from my sophomore year. It was spring quarter, the final quarter of the academic year. I had finished up all my gen eds (except two that would have to wait until the next academic year), and I was taking some classes in the major I had just decided I wanted to do — English literature. Among those classes was “Intro to Horror Film,” taught by one of the greatest film/literary theory professors I have ever met, Marsh Leicester, who was taking us from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari all the way up to Aliens, with stops at Halloween and The Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I took the class with Nate, Matt, and Joe, three of my best friends at the time; and after class, in the afternoon when the air was warm with the oncoming summer, we would walk back to our dormitories (or in Matt’s case, the parking lot where he caught the bus back to his apartment), which took us through most of the west end of the UC Santa Cruz campus. We talked about the class, and video games, and the shit-storms we were all going through in our lives; and we found ways to laugh about it.
Twelve years later, Matt, Nate, and I have all stood at each others’ weddings; and Joe was at my wedding with his own fiancee, both ready to hug and congratulate, and soon the two of them should be getting married, too. Trying to be near Nate and Matt was what brought me to Mountain View, which is what brought me into the online dating circle that caused me to meet Sonya, so in an indirect way they helped me meet my wife. I see Matt for games of Wild Talents and whenever else we can fit into each others’ busy schedules, and I have a pseudo-weekly date with Nate and his wife to play whatever roleplaying game we feel like playing that week. Joe comes by for board games and updates me on how his own life is going in his neck of the woods. And we all sometimes reminisce about UCSC, or this or that LARP, or this or that phase of our lives; and we smile, and we move on, and we do the cool stuff adults in their mid-thirties get to do.
And what’s most important to me in that shared history is not that those times were necessarily the best; it’s that without having gone through those times, I would not have known those upstanding men, and gotten to share in their weddings, and gotten to do with them all the things we have done since. And it all started with that awkward pancake breakfast where I met Matt, and with Nate coming over to my house and asking if we wanted to room together at UCSC, and those horrible days in my sophomore year…but those horrible days led to those walks after Intro to Horror Film…and to those weddings…and to today.
So, that’s the way I want to remember UCSC: as a place I walked through on the way to this awesome thing I have now, that I am privileged to call my life.
Letting go of those days being my halcyon days is one of the hardest things for me to do; but I think, just maybe, I’ve finally done it.
Now excuse me, I need to go edit some textbooks and then read about the Avengers traveling through time to stop their ally’s future self. And maybe cry.