Frank Ocean – Blonde

I’ve never been fond of keeping track of the passing of time via the New Year. Each calendar year gives you these weird 365 day chunks that start with senseless optimism and end, frequently, with this cold, harsh disappointment. It’s akin to a night of drinking and partying with your friends. You’re not yourself in those moments, though you may temporarily be a more ideal version of yourself. You talk big talk, embellish the best stories you’ve got, and make promises you can’t keep. In the morning we wake up with fragmented memories gently meandering in the bubbling mess of our thoughts, slowly feeding in as the day goes on. So as the hangover cures the night, the calendar year treats our bigger promises, failures resolved with “Next year I’ll be better.” I generally segment and layer my time whenever major life events happen. It helps me track progress where I want to make it, and more importantly, when. In any given track, I know precisely how much focus I’ve given it between major landmarks. Instead of tangible, numerical goals, I can just subconsciously keep track of where I’m at compared to where I was at said landmark, so long as I’ve dedicated some of my time towards creating a separation between the two. For me, it creates less pressure to absolve past failures and transgressions, or set unachievable goals for your future self, albeit you can no longer fall back on that yearly reset.

Speaking of segments, I’m approaching a year being single, and I’m reflecting a lot on a younger version of myself. When I was 17, I broke up with my second girlfriend. We had a weird tiff and I stopped talking to her. We went to different high schools and a few days later she tried to track me down on my lunch break, but was unsuccessful. She let me know things were over. A few months later one of my best friends started dating her. He asked me if that was okay. I was naïve and didn’t want to cause any animosity between us, so I said yes. I remember the months that followed with clarity: it was bitter cold that winter; I would never take off this hideous blue-and-cream white letterman style jacket my dad had given me, and a sense of betrayal lurked behind me at all times — not from my friend or my ex, but deep within myself.

The next few months were a downward spiral for me: I dropped out of a hilarious Music Theory class my band director had created and opted for a study hall so I wouldn’t have to be near my friend; I took petty jabs over social media and text; I went to prom by myself, wore a top hat and ruined most of my photos with this goofy smile I felt like doing in the moment. As high school came to a close, I became more jaded with each passing day. I didn’t enjoy that summer like I could have, and didn’t prepare for college like I should have. The night before my first day of college classes started, I told this same friend, whom I hadn’t seen all summer, that I wasn’t familiar with campus and would like to walk around to go find the location of each building for the next day. I showed up to his dorm and he showed me around. He was living with another one of my best friends from high school, who happened to be dating a friend of my ex. I remember seeing my friend and my ex as his PC wallpaper, which he quickly closed and laughed. So did I. I knew in that moment that we were going to be alright. We walked around for an hour or two in the dead of night. It was hot and humid, our words were accompanied by the constant buzz of college nightlife, and my anxiety about the impending semester was, for a moment, lifted.

The next few months were very busy. I was quickly distracted from any hostility I had built up, but my friend and I didn’t see each other in this time. While eating lunch on campus one day, I saw another one of my best friends from high school. He informed me that my friend and my ex had split. Shortly after, I texted my friend and asked him to go get some coffee with me, playing clueless. I didn’t even drink coffee at this time, and neither did he. Regardless of what we drank, he informed me that he and my ex had split. I was expecting to feel this massive burden lifted from my chest, but instead I felt more conflicted than ever. The enmity that had compounded over the previous year was exhausting, and I felt that a significant amount of my time was lost to thinking about it. It would take me a few years to fully shake that feeling. Still, my friend and I worked to recapture our former friendship. He got me drunk for the first time, and two semesters later we were going to be living together in a downtrodden apartment across town. Things were good.

During this time, I got the urge to message my ex and ask if she wanted go grab lunch to catch up. She told me no. A few weeks later, she messaged me and said she had given it some thought and said it would be nice to catch up. We went to lunch at Zaxby’s and it was extraordinarily awkward. She told me she was sorry for dating my friend. I had spent so much time resenting my own actions, I had forgotten how others perceived the same situation. Still, if an apology was ever owed, it was years overdue. Over that same summer, I thought a lot about how angry I was over the whole situation, despite it being two years removed at that point. Eventually, I sort of just forgot why I was ever mad at all. Months later, my friend and I were hanging out and talking in his bedroom at our apartment. I don’t remember anything we talked about but it was the first real connection we had managed in several years. I remember worrying the whole night that one of us would bring it up, we’d cry a little bit, hug it out, then things would be alright. Thankfully, we didn’t. Before we knew it, the sun was rising in his East-facing window. Time had passed in more ways than one, and a sizable amount of the hefty burden I had been carrying was lifted that morning. We bought donuts at a nearby donut shop, came home, and passed out.

That entire experience was the first time I remember thinking about my life in “pre-” and “post-” terms. There was before and after that event, and not much else seemed to matter. In that brief two year period there were two landmarks, and I made substantial progress in between them. As I’m revisiting 9 years later on a meaningless Tuesday night, I’ve concluded that very little that happened when I was 17-19 mattered much. Still, I find it important to revisit these experiences and recall them with as much clarity as I can. It helps me keep track of the passage of time. And if a younger me can make such meaningful progress in seemingly hopeless situations, so can 27-year-old me, or any me, really.

My friend and I are still on good terms. He lives with his girlfriend and my best friend. We get some beers every other weekend to remind ourselves that life isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. I hope he reads this because I think he’ll get a kick out of it, and if you do, go ahead and throw on Frank Ocean’s Blonde while you’re at it.

Grouper – Ruins

Focus shifts.

In the middle of September, I informed my director at work that I was tapped out. Five and a half year in operations positions at a transportation company and I was, to say the least, exhausted. He told me that he was sorry to hear that, and reminded me that the remainder of the year wasn’t going to get any easier. He recommended I apply for a new job in a Pricing position that would be less stressful but still busy, and allow me to keep my pay and benefits. I interview well and was a suitable candidate given five and a half years dealing with a specialty business segment — the exact segment of which the position I was applying was created to fill. I interviewed and was told they would get back to me the next week if I got the job. A few days later, I received a degrading email saying that if we didn’t want to keep up with the intensity required to make the account succeed, we should leave. I immediately informed my director that my last day would be October 18th, assuming I didn’t get the job I applied for. The remainder of that week was stressful — I was tired of my job, mad at the leadership, frustrated at my inability to reconcile the two, and shameful that I was choosing potential departure over powering through another busy season.

The following week I sent a follow up email and was offered the job I applied for. I recall quite thoroughly how I felt after I received that offer. The weight of the previous week was lifted — I could breathe. I started that position on Wednesday of last week. I like it so far, and time will tell what direction this takes me as my career rears its head. I don’t say any of this to defame anyone I’ve worked with in the past, but rather as simple observations of what I felt conflicting with what was in front of me.

After work I spent time with a friend of mine. I told her I wanted to buy a new pair of jeans, so we went shopping. Finding 29×30″ slim fit jeans isn’t an easy task, but I walked away with a pair I liked, to match the only other pair I wear. After that we went to a Vietnamese street food restaurant and talked about all the good stuff: coworker’s music tastes, healthy eating, mental illness, awful dates, the importance of writing, and more. A recent resurgence of what I consider a speech impediment has my mouth and brain on different pages, but words seemed to flow fine today.

I ended up getting home earlier than expected — it was barely dark. I had time to clean, shower, play a video game with some good friends, and, unexpectedly, do a little writing. Grouper has been the soundtrack to this full day, and since my words are sometimes not enough, I’ll end with hers:

Grouper – “Clearing”

Open up the window
Try to let the light out
Try to let the curtain float in
That way I can hear the water

Pulling on a pathway
Calling on the pathway
Whisper and passing
Shoes rattle and I was thinking I was running

And every time I see you
I have to pretend I don’t
You thought that it would help
But it’s only made us fall apart

I’m treading in the water
Human in the shadows
No longer your shadow
Clearing, I know where your light is

More or less nothing changes
Maybe I’ve been seeing things
Cry to yourself with worm that are
Going out of home

And can’t you see us fading
Soon there won’t be anyone there
It’s funny when you fuck up
No one really has to care

And sometimes I wish
That none of this had happened
Let our sad song
Be carried out to sea

And steady as the water
As tender as the evening
Where we hurry
Down to build a shadow

As softly as an echo
As solid as a triangle
Send a message as you
Where everything is walking, there’s a hallway

And maybe you were right
When you said I’d never been in love
How can I explain why it’s safer when
I feel alone

And what has been done
May never be undone
So take your sad song
And sail into the next life

And maybe you were right when you
Said I’d never been in love
How can I explain
Why it’s safer just to be alone