You Are Destiny

Discarded and Rediscovered

It's been a while since I talked about me, I know.

Humans tend to anthropomorphize certain aspects of themselves in order to give greater weight and clarity as they attempt to convey their emotions. We picture our moods as individuals, their features often contorted so extensively to show what we, their owners, cannot. They have a liberty of expression that we deny ourselves because we deem it to theatrical, and then we build art and industry around that very ideal.

It is in this manner that I have come to you to talk about hate.

It is with some personal pride that many do not consider me a hateful person. It is certainly not a matter of fate that I have come to be like this. I have spent a long time separating myself from that particular component of my personality. Hate was once a tall thing in me. Surely, you know some relative of the one I know. Their skin, regardless of its color, glows with the kind of heat that fills your scorned cheeks. It is pulled tight over bone and sinew in the way that yours is pulled over the knuckes of your clenching fist. There is no joy in their expression. Often, there is visible lack of focus but at times, it is just the opposite, the miles of future action already laid out in their eyes. But hate is ever-present. You may be reviewing it now, like running your fingers over a superstitious trinket in your pocket, impossible to discard. Don't fool yourself: To become without hate is truly an insurmountable obstacle.

And for good reason: It's too useful a tool.

Hate is the result of an ethical consideration that we have made at some point in our lives. We have found a certain potential reality undesirable and any gravity towards that reality becomes just that: undesirable. So we take measures to counteract it. We lightly tap the shoulder of that powerful entity, we whisper instruction, and we watch the degree by which they are able to change the world.

Now, mind you, hate alone is not powerful, despite what you've been told. Hate needs other things to enact change. Often it is paired with fear or ignorance, each serving to blind it to anything that might stop it. Its destruction becomes infectious, magnifying the damage, jumping from person to person, engulfing communities, nations, species. Fear and Ignorance and Hate, in this manner, become Harbingers of Cataclysm.

Editor's Note, weeks later: I can't remember where I was going with this and frankly, I'm too tired to try and reclaim it. The essence was that I was attempting to reach out to the emotions that I were collectively referring to as 'hate' in this entry and applying it to productive means, like a hate of inefficiency or misunderstanding, etc. The experiment was not successful, for a variety of reasons. I didn't take anything productive from it, but this journal wouldn't exist if I just pretended like things didn't happen because I was ashamed of them.

As a personal update, things are still in a state of high flux. I started on a new set of medication last week: Vyvanse and Dexedrine. They've been productive in their way, but there's definitely been a large falloff in how I feel it's affecting me positively. It is not, at least noticeably, affecting me negatively yet, so I intend to continue with it. I'm still taking Remeron for anti-anxiety and while it's effective, I don't like how severely it knocks me out, so I may switch.

Not like there aren't things to be anxious about. I'm still constantly mulling about climate change and overfishing and power distribution, etc. Very real problems that I feel like I can't do anything about, partly because I chose a different educational path and partly because even if I discover and recommend changes, it's to a world that doesn't understand and likely wouldn't care. It's a terrible feeling.

Some friends of mine had a child three months ago. I met him on Friday. My best friend in high school has a twelve year old boy now. I can't stop envisioning the world I'm leaving them by not doing more to stop what I know is likely to happen.
You Are Destiny

Our Universe, Questionable in its Size

In this moment, all that exists is me and the scratch.

To an observer, it is a white male in his late twenties, seated in a Muni train with headphones on. His eyes are unfocused. His expression is just a little more than blank. On his face, there is a sadness that grips him from very far away. Not just in distance, but also in time.

To me, there is the scratch and beyond that, nothing.

When you are derealized, the universe around you becomes a lie of variable plausibility. If it is not so bad, the chair you are in, the room you occupy, your house perhaps: All these can usually maintain their validity in your mind. If you can touch them, say, certainly they must be real. As things get worse though, as they sometimes do, the lie closes in. It envelops neighborhoods, districts. Objects of enormous size as it makes its way closer to you. Eventually, you'll watch it pervade the walls of your room, erasing everything behind it. The persistence of your environment vanishes. The thought of opening a door gives the feeling that you would then stare out into the void on the other side. The cold, unfeeling edge of the universe, brought conveniently, right to your door. A fall into the infinite dark at your doorstep.

And when it gets very bad indeed, it will take you as well. Your arms will appear spindly in your vision. Laughably false, tugged about on strings by a puppetmaster somewhere above you. The illusion will press itself right up against the surface of your eyes, and in that moment, only the very essence of you will remain. The world around you will become as if the screen of an enormous television. A false environment, of no greater worth than the backdrop of any sitcom or nighttime procedural drama. And broken down just as easily.

And so for me, in this moment, the only thing that I have managed to spare, as the illusion rushed up and dissolved the permanence of everything around me, was the scratch.

Staring at this aluminum bar that makes up the handrail of this Muni train, there is a mar in the surface. It is less than a millimeter deep, I'd be surprised if it were a few microns, but it is there. And what's more, without fundamentally changing the structure of the bar, it will always be there. Until the muni is dismantled, until the bar is damaged beyond utility and replaced, until it is tossed in a pile of its own kind, until it is melted down in the crucible of a mill or of the unstably expanding corona of our star.

And staring at it, the only real thing left in the world to me in this moment, through it I achieve what is the best I can hope for right now: a numb state. I've become so tired thinking about the cruelly interrupted existences of those I know and love in the recent past that I constantly feel tears welling up in me. The struggle for quickly dwindling resources. The aging and eventual death of the universe itself. A massive, incomprehensible system, cold and alone, coming to its end, dragging our very understanding of the passage of time with it.

I've lost so much sleep. My body feels so horrifically taxed that I've begun to become irrationally afflicted by fever and chill. My work feels incomplete and worthless and I feel like a burden on anyone I spend more than a few minutes with each day.

This numb state is all I can ask for. Detached from my body, broken and unable to consider nothing but this minuscule gouge of metal. What choice to I have; I'll take what I can get. For this one precious moment, the illusion has robbed me of everything and with it inadvertently taken pain and fear. What little left there is to call me, I remain.

In this moment, all that exists is me and the scratch.
You Are Destiny

Broken Thread

I started on an entry here and for the first time in maybe years, I felt too embarrassed about the content to proceed.

The short of it is that I do not have throat cancer. The lump in my neck is a psychosomatic disorder brought on by too much anxiety. The cure for it is, no shit, knowing about it. You know it isn't cancer, you calm down and in a few months, it goes away.

The long of it is that while knowing that and starting to work on the anxiety has helped with the lump, I still have a very large problem:

I still feel imminently terminal.

Even now, I've been stuck at this sentence for twenty minutes. What do you want me to say? Feeling like you're going to die soon, even if irrationally motivated, affects you on such a fundamental level, I find it difficult knowing where to begin. I have a hard time convincing myself that new information is worth holding onto, so I suffer at work. I get anxious playing video games because they feel like too much a waste of time. Making long term goals feel like a joke, so any semblance of my ambition has vanished. My ability to get restful sleep is utterly destroyed and I have to supplement it with drugs to make sure I even get 5 hours sustained.

My memory loss is worse as well. Not as bad as the accident, where my short term memory was disabled for weeks, but the number of times that I have 'woken up' somewhere has risen back into life impairing levels. I feel like can't hold on to information from even a week ago and that the room's worth of temporal space that I occupy grows smaller by the hour.

And yet, I'm aware that even this is all in my head. The chances of my having anything legitimately terminal are, as put my doctor 'laughably rare' but I'm constantly driving myself crazy looking into the various endgames of the symptoms that I experience. New ones seem to appear at random, with no sign as to whether or not they too are triggered by anxiety. The right side of my throat has been burning in a new and terrifying way for the past week. The area under my ribcage seems to feel more swollen by the day. How much of this am I generating? How much is legitimately dangerous?

It occurred to me as I was slipping my shirt back on after the barium xray I had on my throat that, now that they've done the exam and found nothing, which was likely, I've now placed myself in greater danger having questioned it. The reason X-rays are able to work at all is because their wavelength passes through cells, sometimes damaging them in ways that do, in fact, increase your risk for cancer. The statistics of that increase are still argued and even then, physicians insist that it's less than .01%, but it's certainly more than not getting the test.

I spent a lot of time staring into the mirror in that bathroom, feeling stupid. I still do.
You Are Destiny

(no subject)

As a result of getting no more than 45 minutes sleep at a time and getting up 7-10 times a night for the past six nights, my doctor kindly prescribed me about a week and a half's worth of Ambien until we can meet again and discuss the anxiety that I'm currently suffering from. I took the dose at 11:30 and, true to its word, at least it kept me out until 5:16, where I once again awoke in a complete panic, heart racing and assured that I was in mortal danger. The remaining time until now have been the same failed attempts. 5:32, 6:03, 6:45... Over and over, dropping into repetitively disturbing dreams only to be shaken out again a half hour later.

I feel rested only enough to bring me back up to baseline. I'm still terrified and obsessed with each worst case scenario my brain can generate. Every joke or reference to death on the internet makes my heart jump and my eyes water.

I'm only getting a barium swallow x-ray on Wednesday, but I want to go in asking for every test they have. Pull liters of blood, keep me in an MRI for days, map every cubic centimeter of me. Tell me I'm as healthy as my friends and family and these people on the internet say I should be.

Tell me this isn't the beginning of the end.
You Are Destiny

Never finished, only abandoned.

For the past month, I've had a small lump on the left of my throat that's made swallowing and breathing painful and difficult at various times. 'Lump' is quite the loaded word when it refers to something unexpectedly sticking out of your neck, so I've tried to remain calm at the implication of what it could be. Of course, the C word comes to mind. How could it not, given that we just lost an incredible musical talent to it this very week. It's all I can focus on.

And that's kind of sad, really.

I've been thinking that the first world had an odd relationship with cancer as a whole. It's one of the few things that consistently reminds of our temporary status here, of how easily we can be unseated from this self-deluded seat of power atop the world. And that shit really sticks in our craw. We've conquered almost every other major disease, sometimes to the embarrassing point of making it do our dirty work, like using modified versions of HIV to inject our own custom code into cells. Cancer, however, remains the stubborn exception.

The American relationship with Cancer actually feels somewhat arrogant to me now, I guess. Of course Cancer was the first thing I jumped to when I felt the lump in my neck, what else could it be? What else could kill an affluent white male of the first world?

If nothing else, it's a reminder of what's been left undone for me over the past two years: A teetering mountain of possibility, rotting as the seconds pass, their magic evaporating in the unrelenting afternoon sun.
You Are Destiny

It's like we're doing it for real again. And again. And again.

When I was probably 14, my trumpet instructor, a hilariously theatrical and overtly masculine man named Bill who I did not take anywhere as seriously as I should have, told me a story he probably shouldn't have:

"So Jim and I are getting up on stage and getting ready to play a gig, right? And Jim plays stand-up bass, you know, those huge violin looking things you see in the back of jazz bands, and I look over at his case and he's got three bottles of beer lined up one next to another, just sitting in the case. And this surprised me. For a couple of reasons, actually. For one, despite bein' fuckin' huge, those bass cases don't have that much room in them. Two, you don't put beer bottles in bass cases. They're all felt on the inside and the condensation fucks up the lining. But Jim wouldn't have known that. And he wouldn't have known that for the third reason those bottles surprised me. Jim didn't drink beer. Jim smoked weed. And I mean Jim smoked weed. Jim smoked weed professionally and by professionally, I mean he got bass gigs so that he could get money so that he could buy weed to smoke during bass gigs. You get me? Jim's not waiting for you folks to legalize it, because that means there's going to be less weed for Jim.

So I turn to Jim and I ask what the beer is about and he says: 'You remember that show we had in Davis last friday? Well, I got really super fuckin' baked right at the end and I was still high as shit when we got finished packing up and I figured, well look it's just a short drive across the bridge to get back home and so I got in the car and I started driving over the bridge. And driving over the bridge. And fuckin' driving over that bridge. Like all of a sudden the fuckin' Yolo causeway is ninety miles long or some shit. I was driving over that bridge for like 3 fuckin' hours and by the end of it, I'm back at home in my apartment lying in bed gripping my bedsheets like it's a steering wheel because I was still driving over that goddamn bridge. So it's just beer at gigs from now on.'

Now, I'm not telling you this story because weed is bad or anything. I'm just saying don't put drinks in your trumpet case. It fucks up the lining."


Even before the accident, I thought about this story a lot. One, because it's great, frankly. I laughed at the image of Jim driving his bedsheets over that bridge for years. Two, I always wondered how an experience like that would feel, not being able to trust your newly battered senses. It's less entertaining than you might think. I can empathize why Jim switched to beer.


I had a moment like this coming home from work on Friday, in fact. The Caltrain between San Francisco and Redwood city only takes about 45 minutes, but at some point my eyes rose from reading a friend's novel on my Kindle, lost focus and some critical element of my brain clicked off. Hours and hours spun by between the carefully scheduled stops and honestly, for one of the first times, I didn't panic. Despite an immense weight pinning me to the seat, my heart kept a steady pace. My ocular shutterspeed dropped, street lamps drew long contrails against my vision and cars etched rails of light in the way that we all think they might if they were accelerating off into the future.

And the same feeling occurred to me as when this all started. What if I'm still there? What if I'm back on that couch, reciting the names I didn't want to leave behind? What if I'm still in my tiny apartment in Berkeley, my fever spiking and my memory not able to push back more than five minutes? What if I'm still on that train, having reached the end of the line, the conductors staring at my unfocused eyes, wondering who they have to call to have me shipped off to some hospital or asylum? And for the first time, I just couldn't be bothered to care? What if I am? Trapped in my own mind while my body rots, what difference does it make? Has this experience made me any less a prisoner of flesh? Am I not more free, now given a mental playground where everything is working out as well as it has been these last four years? What if it all catches up to me and I wake up twenty, thirty, forty years on, my real parents long dead and pushed into bankruptcy trying to keep their idiot son alive? Would that have been any less plausible otherwise?

I overcame the condition with just enough time to get off at my stop, the adrenaline of hearing the name of it called out over the PA enough to jump start my eternal clock, but I know part of me is still on that train, still in that apartment, tears rolling down my cheeks and soaking into that couch. And those parts of me will be there forever. But they would have been anyway. And that's quickly starting to become okay.

Besides, I'm not telling you this story because weed is bad or anything. I'm just saying listen to the theatrical people around you because the stories they tell will make for great inspiration later.
You Are Destiny

Ascent

This morning, I watched the sun rise.

This is significant to me because, despite it being one of the most regular occurrences the human race is privy to, I continue to find it one of the most beautiful sights I've had the privilege to enjoy. I vividly remember watching one in high school the night after an especially persistant rain. The house I grew up in sits in a dip in the road and I had to go out in the middle of the night to clear leaves from the drainage ditch so that the lawn, and potentially the house itself, didn't flood. The next morning, in sluggish transit to an early morning class, I watched as the light of the sun triumphantly stabbed through the last few clouds that had dominated its territory for days, splaying crepuscular rays about my entire field of vision. The purples and oranges, the clouds twisting about the beams of light as if in vaporous death throes, the sting of cold and moisture in the air vanishing from my skin. I felt like I stood in place and let it burn into my memory for a half and hour.

I was late to class.



This is also significant since, despite getting up pre-dawn each day, I never see it happen. It's always snuck up while I've fallen asleep on the train or while I'm engrossed in the set of articles that have been provided to me for the morning's perusal. By the time it occurs to me to look, it's already several degrees above the horizon, having somehow transformed itself from magnificent cosmic rotational display into that annoying beam of light that's navigated itself right into my fucking eye, jesus christ, that's bright.

Lastly, it's significant because I used to watch it happen almost every single day. Working the night shift fifty miles from where I lived, driving an hour each morning meant that, close to the end of my commute, I watched the sun drag itself up over the hills 5 days a week, becoming less beautiful and important to me each time. It slowly began to embody how useless I felt in my work, how alone I felt for the 10 hours I sat in an empty disheveled office complex or trudged around an equally empty and disheveled datacenter. That massive disc became a bead on an abacus, its path on a curved rail rather than a straight one, but the message still the same.

And then one day, it changed back. As if taking a damp rag to a dusty table, all of that was wiped away and I watched the sun reclaim its position as one of hope and promise. A beacon for what's ahead.

Five minutes and thirty two seconds before that moment, I finished writing this entry.

Three years later, that's the last sunrise I can remember before this morning. There may have been others, but honestly, it's difficult for them to compete. This was the moment I attribute to the true start of my career, the end of a long depression brought on both my work and by struggles with my memory, rejoining the rest of society in the daylight. Literally stepping out of the dark.

I still worry about all the things I mentioned in the entry, of course. Probably more now than I did then. This past week has been one of the most trying in recent memory and while the present crises seem to have been resolved, when asked if all is well, our oft-shaken 8-ball still insists: "Don't count on it".

Nevertheless, it is important for me to remember the distance between the last sunrise and this one. An immense amount of ground has been covered and accomplishments I never expected to be able to claim my own stand proudly in my arsenal. It is with a mix of humility and persistant self-deprecation that I generally ignore these things. And, for my own sake, that should change. At least a little bit.

So for today, the sun now proudly ascending skyscrapers, approaching its seat of power, I will accept what it has to offer. I will allow its wealth to pour into me and I will acknowledge that it has risen.
You Are Destiny

Clutch.

Time is moving in pulses now, lurching forward out of control, sharp jerks that tug the memories of the recent past out of my hands. I get headaches. Nauseated. All I want to do is sleep and all I do work.

My grandfather is dying much more quickly now, barely surviving a manslaughter attempt by vastly incompetent nursing home staff. Before his last visit to the hospital, he spoke frequently about continuing to drive, going to dances, etc. The script has changed. After more than a decade of cancer, I prepared myself for this moment a long time ago. For years, I was far more prepared for my grandfather's death than my grandfather was. Until this week, of course.

I miss you.
You Are Destiny

It Will Never Cease.

The past few months have been something of a challenge for my skills as a self-justifier. I've moved somewhere new and had to justify that I feel comfortable and that I belong there. I've changed jobs and had to justify that I'm upholding some sort of moral guideline working for a parent company that I find reprehensible.

Tonight is different though. Tonight, when I got home from work, from an almost 2 hour commute, I fell asleep from exhaustion. I woke up three hours later, put on pajamas, talked briefly with Inna. I took my Scott Pilgrim comics off the bookshelf and picked up where I left off probably more than a year prior. It was unreasonably quiet; it still is, as if the ambient sound is drawn in by the gravity of this moment of self-consideration.

And then I got my computer out and in the face of all of that frankly compelling evidence, I begin trying to justify why I believe I'm an adult.

To a man, and when I say a man, I mean most men, and when I say most men, I mean me, he himself is not the measure of all things, as the axiom says. It is true that he measures all things against himself, but it doesn't end there. He still must measure himself. And when he does so, and by he, I mean I, he does it against his father. To a man, the measure of all things is against his father. And when my father was my age, he was already married and had been for several years. When my father was my age, I was walking.

The things my father wanted are not the things I want though. The world is different now, though it remains a struggle to separate ourselves from the accomplishments that have essentially always defined us as a civilized race. So great a struggle it begins to worry me that it borders on delusional. I feel like there's a dangerous chance that I'm pulling a Don Quixote on this, blindly rushing at the windmill that is my eventual marriage or future child. That, until these things are done, to my peers I'll just be a glorified teenager in shiny armor demanding that I'm a grown-up.

Intentionally left incomplete.
You Are Destiny

Not the song you were thinking of, was it?

I fit very nicely on the couch that I'm on right now. It's black, made of some rough knit fabric with plump pillows that I have propped up under my legs. The couch isn't mine, but it lives in the house that I live in, so that makes us some sort of odd kin. I have fallen asleep on this couch many times now and honestly, I haven't lived here very long.

My new roommate is in the kitchen, washing the dishes. I suppose if I wanted to be exact, I should clarify that he lived here first. Technically, I'm the new roommate. I don't feel new though. I feel like this is a place I've been waiting to get to for a very long time. I don't mean lying on this couch, in this apartment on the side of the hill, listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and peering over the balcony rails. I mean where I am now. All of me. Right now.

Mother earth will swallow you

Lay your body down...


It never stays too far out of my thoughts, of course. It waits there at the end of my calculable foresight, as it always has, even before I could see it. Even now, it's a matter of faith that it's there. My vision isn't sharp enough to see how far away. If it's smiling or dissatisfied.

But for today, I can stare back at it from a very comfortable couch and wait for it. Today, it can wait for me.