This recent hiatus has…well…it’s given me plenty of time to sit and think about where all I’ve gone wrong in the past. I hate it. However, if I don’t sit here and get it all out of my system, I’m just going to continue to sink further down this unfortunately bleak rabbit hole.
Compared to many–perhaps most, even–I had a privileged upbringing. My parents worked their tails off to provide for me. My sister was the best big sister a boy could ever want, and my brother was and is my role model for what it means to be a man growing up in our time. I had friends, some close, some not. I got into fights and I played outside as a kid. In spite of every advantage I was given, I’ve still made a mess of things. For the record, I take full responsibility for myself. I’ve just been examining how I got here.
When I made the leap from middle school to high school, I decided that football was no longer for me, and concentrated instead on marching band. I should’ve done both. Lots of folks did. Instead, I’ve slowly inflated over the years to the point I’m at now. Over a hundred pounds gained since high school. I forgot to learn that exercise isn’t a punishment to be dreaded, and that perhaps I shouldn’t eat to the point of misery at every meal.
At the end of high school, I had my fairytale sweetheart. We were like peas and carrots, she and I. I’d proposed and she’d accepted. We had a pastor to officiate, and we were planning a life together. But nope, I didn’t know how to treat a significant other. That’s not something I learned for a very long time, and perhaps still haven’t. I didn’t know how to handle feelings like jealousy, and thus became a controlling ass who was constantly throwing temper tantrums. Other things contributed to the decline of our relationship, but this was a big factor.
When I graduated, I had almost a hundred thousand dollars in financial aid. Free financial aid. Scholarships and grants. Not loans. I attended college for one year and dropped out to go be a hippie and learn about hallucinogens. I’ve noticed that this falls into a pattern of me failing to finish the things I start. I threw away my (essentially) full ride to a private university.
Continuing the theme of quitting things, I was briefly an assistant manager at a convenience store, quit with no notice. I was a prison guard! Quit. Seriously, though, don’t be a prison guard. It sucks the soul right out of you. I worked assorted fast food and Walmart-esque jobs for a while, never staying long enough to advance. The only job I kept for any length of time was driving a pilot car, but even that killed me. I loved it, but I didn’t–and still don’t–have any idea how to save money. On more than one occasion I had to break out my guitar and sing for gas money to get home.
Three years into my one year off, I finally went back to school. To study the exact same thing I was studying when I dropped out. Only now I’m older, fatter, more out-of-shape. I am fairly proud of most my time at Tarleton. I pledged the fraternity that has kept me from homelessness on a couple of occasions. I finished my degree. Fucked up a few good relationships, though, so we all know how well I’m progressing thus far on the “be a good significant other” scale.
After I got my bachelor’s, I made the always-brilliant decision to stick around until my partner got out of college, and I enrolled in Tarleton’s master’s of music education online program AND started working at the local cheese factory. I could have stuck with either or both of those and been just fine. Instead, I dropped out of the master’s program in the first few months. I gave myself some BS excuse why, but in all honesty, I have no idea. Gun to my head, I would guess that I was afraid of being found out as a fraud and told to go home because I wasn’t smart enough to be there. Still can’t believe they let me have a bachelor’s degree.
About six(ish) months after that, I decided I wanted to go to grad school! So I googled “musicology grad schools in Texas” and applied to Texas Tech because they have a good Irish scene and the colors are red and black. Also, it’s in Lubbock, which gets snow about once a year (remember, I’m fat; I need cold). I got everything squared away, got admitted, and then left my job at the factory. Just as I was coming up eligible for promotion. If I’m honest, though, I was a lazy worker. I didn’t mean to be, but I was.
So, to grad school we go! Gonna get a degree that almost requires me to also pursue a PhD before I can do what I thought I wanted. First day, first class, I was immediately out of my league. Everyone at grad school was so much more advanced than I was. Good heavens, I feel like I faked my way through the parts of it that I actually made it through. I also made the very adult decision to not get a job and instead live off of student loans. What could go wrong? College professors are super rich, right?
I will say that one wonderful thing came from my time at Texas Tech. I found three of the best friends I will ever have. My people. My tribe. I’d gladly die or go to prison for these folks, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful to have them in my life.
Halfway through the last semester I attended at Tech, I realized that I don’t belong in that world. This was probably all in my head, but I was (and still am) having this identity crisis. I felt like the people I looked up to in grad school saw me as some ignorant country bumpkin, and the people in the world of horses and tractors and rednecks saw me pretentious and snobbish. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that it probably didn’t involve a degree in historical musicology. So, again, I dropped out of school. I had kept running out of money, and those student loan totals were increasing at an alarming rate.
Perhaps this was the first decent financial choice I ever made? I decided to be a long haul trucker. I figured I could figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up while making some scratch and seeing the country. Instead, I got teammate after teammate who absolutely terrified me. Ever have to literally put your life into the hands of someone you met ten minutes ago? I had to about seventeen times over. In all that time, I had three honest-to-goodness teammates. Well, two teammates and a trainee. The company would assign teammates based on who happened to be nearby at the time, and it was miserable. I loved rolling solo, though. It had my heart.
I gave that up because my father had surgery and didn’t have anyone else to look after him and my grandmother while he heals up. Good or bad, that’s a decision I don’t regret. Let nobody say that I ever left my family when I was truly needed.
So here I’ve found myself. 313 pounds, $95,000 in student loan debt, a degree I can’t do anything with, no job, no money, and practically nothing to show for my twenty-nine years on Earth. This is what I think about when the dark bits of life come at me. What legacy would I leave behind if I went tomorrow? A few funny stories, a questionable browser history, and a trail of failures.
But tomorrow is another day, I reckon.