Recovery Mode

It’s spring, or somehow in Alberta we skipped it and went straight to summer weather. Sadly, it’s still allergy season. I can barely breathe, and I’m always mere moments away from sneezing. Plus constantly scratching my new mosquito bites.

A couple weeks back, I quit Facebook, and it feels great. I don’t miss it at all. I never have that worry or fear of missing out, even if I am missing out on something. If there are important events, people will find a way to tell me. I’ll take all that energy back so I can hide away from the world and mind my own business.

Went to Edmonton for a friend's birthday, then went to see Gareth Emery. It was an amazing show, and I was with amazing friends. And yet, there was this moment where I felt my heart weighing me down heavily. Whenever this happened in the past, it was because of a specific event or painful memory, so I would process all the emotions and thoughts surrounding that memory, letting it all out while I danced like a maniac. This time, it was a generalized pain. Nothing popped out at me, no deeply hidden experience from my past. Just a heavy weight in my chest. A slightly younger version of me would have embraced it and dove in head first and ripped the wound open, but instead, the 30 year old me just let it be. Didn’t get too invested and didn’t run away either. The moment passed, and then I kept dancing like normal. This followed several days of going out late with friends. These feelings only seem to burn and pound in my chest only when I'm in the safest place I can be — the dance floor. It was a grounding moment to remind me where I am in my progress.

Recently, I applied for a new job, but I realized in the interview that I didn’t really want it. I made a calculated step to test the waters, to see how I would feel if I tried to take on more work, and the experiment provided a very clear answer. It’s hard for my ego and identity to accept, but I have it really good right now. I make enough money to pay the mortgage every month, and all things considered, I probably have the best part time job I could ask for. I have good friends at work, I have my availability and schedule just the way I like it, and I have enough time off to perform my main job as a house spouse. I’m so used to being a workaholic that it’s been a hard transition for me to be comfortable in my current situation. Normally it takes me six months to settle in to a new role, but it’s taken me about a year for this one. In preparing for the interview, I reflected on my time at the company so far, and it slowly dawned on me just how great of a chasm I crossed in getting here. After about 10 years of corporate office work, it’s been a big transition to retail. It was a big change having to punch in and out on time for work. Even while I was working in engineering, compared to some of my coworkers, I only had to report exception time, meaning I only had to file my hours when I was either on vacation or working on a specific project. Otherwise it was always assumed that I was at work on time, doing what I was supposed to do. As well, I’m so accustomed to working with the same 10 or so dudes, but this job is all about customer-facing work, and every day is a new mix of coworkers too. I have a ton of variety in my day, which I enjoy and prefer, but my mind has been solidified in the Dilbert routine for the last decade. As a result, in this past year I’ve grown personally and professionally at a rate I never have before, and I love it. I’m working on parts of myself I never knew needed work, and I’m even finding skills I never knew I had. After a year, I’m only just now getting settled into this job, so I shouldn’t be so quick to rush off and start new adventures just because of my pride. I should sit down and be humble.

Is there anything left for me to do now that I’m trying to stay out of trouble? Of course there is. There’s plenty.

This year I’ve embraced my responsibilities at home as a house spouse, and now that’s starting to pick up. As Carrie gets busier with her private practice, there’s more for me to do around the house, especially as we try to get out with the nice weather to see friends. I’m cooking more and experimenting with new recipes and cuisines. Supercook is a life saver right now, filtering recipes by what ingredients I already have instead of me starting with a recipe and going out to buy more ingredients. It’s spring cleaning time, so with the added daylight, there are tons of things we need to do to prepare for the summer, like flipping the closet or changing filters or killing bugs (eek!). Just finished up the last bit of car repairs for a long while (I hope), which has cost us a pretty penny. We just went through a small bout of financial emergencies for a couple months, but things are levelling off finally. We’re changing a lot. Not buying so many things on a whim anymore, making lots of little decisions that hurt in the moment but give us more oxygen in the future. Tightening the belt during the week and responsibly letting loose on the weekends.

It’s been six years since I started working on my posture, and I’m finally starting to see some progress. All those years of school and office work turned my back into a crescent moon, but now I’m catching my bad posture more frequently at the source. I remember to pull my shoulder blades down and together, arching my spine in the right direction. I’m doing a lot more stretching and strengthening of various muscle groups so that my baseline posture is closer to the ideal position. I’ve also been getting monthly massages for almost the entire past six years, which helps to reset most of my muscles because stretching on my own can’t cover everything. It’s an interesting project that’s stuck with me through all this time, even as I went through the Struggle and my New Three Years Resolution. Even when I hit rock bottom and during my time unemployed, I was still trying to work on my posture. Existing is such a painful experience for me sometimes. While I was writing about the worst emotional pain I had ever experienced, I was trying to sit up straight in my office chair, correctly aligning my elbows and forearms with my desk at a 90 degree angle. Feels good to finally see some improvement.

With the passing of my birthday, it’s also really nice to know that I have love. Abandoning my family of origin and creating my own family of choice has been a long and painful process, but I now have people who I can count on to show up for me when I need it. After recently visiting some in Vancouver and Edmonton, it’s reassuring to actually feel the love after years of cultivating a mass of relationships. I made a lot of those new friends after meeting them through mutual friends, and I’m still able to make new friends even now, with all the challenges of adult relationships. There was a time when I felt stuck with the same miserable people in my life, which was a very depressing fate to encounter. However, by sharing my experience openly with others after moving away from home, I learned from my peers just how dysfunctional and bizarre my childhood experience really was. I worked a lot on myself, and consequently, I started attracting different people. I have a full roster of people who stick by me, and Carrie still seems to like me despite all of my strong odours and weak puns. I am loved.

Even though I sorta just finished my New Three Years Resolution, I have to put myself on ice again for a few more years. I'm not back to a position of strength. It vaguely seems like I still have a few years left yet before I stop feeling so vulnerable. What's the rush? I have nowhere to be, no one to impress, nothing to prove. I've already shown up to the critical battles, and now's the time to eat and sleep. Doing nothing each day is the best, whenever I can get around to it. I'm an old man now, at the ripe old age of 30. I've been through some shit, a sentiment which Kendrick captured in the song "Mortal Man" with an interview he staged with Tupac. He puts it like so:

In this country, a black man only have like 5 years we can exhibit maximum strength, and that’s right now while you a teenager, while you still strong, while you still wanna lift weights, while you still wanna shoot back. 'Cause once you turn 30 it’s like they take the heart and soul out of a man, out of a black man in this country, and you don’t wanna fight no more. And if you don’t believe me, you can look around. You don’t see no loud mouth 30-year-old motherfuckers.

Tupac Shakur

Obviously there are huge differences between the African-American experience and my own, but that passage hit me hard. Everyone has the potential to do the impossible. On one end of the spectrum, some kids can launch startups in their teens and make millions, and on the other end, they quit school to find work and feed their families. I don’t feel bad for myself as though I never had that potential. I tried to start businesses numerous times, unsuccessfully. I juggled far too many activities at once while I was in school, and once I graduated, I worked extra hard at my jobs so I could feel better about myself. As a result, I don’t have that same energy anymore for getting ahead, to leapfrog the competition. I don’t have the energy to go back to school, or spend my spare time developing my skills using free online courses. Even though I heard about Bitcoin a long time ago, I didn’t have the risk tolerance to make the leap and invest even if I wanted to. I feel like I spent my best years trying to survive, and this is where I ended up, which is great by all measures. Still, it's a struggle for me because I always pictured having more by now, but the problem with those expectations is that I never calculated the impact that years of abuse would have on my trajectory. I'll always have this rebellious spirit, thinking for myself and standing up for what I believe in, but I don't have the rocket fuel anymore. I know life isn’t over yet, that there’s still hope for me, as all the recent graduation announcements for people in their 50’s to their 90’s have shown on Twitter. It isn’t the end for me yet, but now is not the time for getting ahead. Now is the time to stay put.

All I wanna do now is stay out of trouble, get by, and have fun with my friends. Who knows how long I need to recover? That's Future Jon's problem. On today’s to-do list is popping some anti-histamine pills and going outside to enjoy the sun and mosquitoes.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le