Episode 46 - I Am Going To Make it through this year…


(Music fades in)

            I don't know what I can say right now as some sort of set up to this episode. But I think this specific type of speechlessness is a surprisingly common thing. Even if we don't know it. You see, right now, I’m trying to do a seemingly impossible task. I’m trying to break down my very reality into pieces small enough to make it out of my mouth and into yours ears. Which really may not be possible. Yes you can take something as large as a car and disassemble it just to get all those pieces through a door to be reassembled in a really inconvenient place. If you wanted to do it badly enough. Or had enough of a reason to horribly inconvenience someone, but hey I don't know your life.

            I do know that this only possible because the car can be broken down into pieces small enough to be transported. That isn't always the case. Some things can't be taken apart in a way that allows for them to be reassembled later. Slabs of concrete come to mind. But for some reason the nebulous cloud of thought in my head tends to behave in much the same way. You'd think it wouldn't. Each thought feels like its own entity, but my life is seemingly characterized by my inability to easy dissect and distinguish between all of these supposedly separate entities.

            Hence why some of these episodes have more elaborate openings. I’m not just trying to reel you in. Truthfully, an episode on Fifty Shades of Grey might be better for that, just FYI. That’s a type of torment we all seem to love inflicting on other people. And hey, there’s a fifty-first shade. Just as a treat.

            What really happens is that when I’m scripting, I try to lay out all the extra pieces before we get started. I just don’t know how to do that here, though. Because these thoughts aren’t just thoughts in a giant web of cognition that can’t simply fit through the door that is my mouth. Here, there’s genuinely no good starting point.

(Music fades out)

            So, let’s get this out of the way. Hi. It’s M. Welcome to what may very well be a train wreck.

(Music fades in)

            Today, I want to talk about the Mountain Goats song “This Year” from their album The Sunset Tree. Well, tangentially. In this song, the narrator is essentially vowing to get through this year of trial and tribulation, scrapping together whatever scrapes of joy he can find in his present no matter how destructive. It is in hopes that things are going to improve for him, that (quote) “there will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year,” which is a reference to something that is sometime said to the Passover Seder citing hopes that the messiah will come and celebrations will be had in the Holy City to that end.

            But this is the sort of thing that gets said that every year, and it never seems to work out. You always hope things are going to be a lot better next year, that this time of suffering is at least going to be more bearable. You’d love paradise, but you know, it doesn’t have to be so drastic. Regardless, it has yet to come.

            Wow, quickest review ever right? Well, it’s never been just about the media in the title, so there’s that.

            Because I’m on the verge of having one of those years you have to push through. Actually I’ve been having them for a while. I’ve never really stopped having them apparently. Yeah, it’s been great.

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            Here’s the thing. I’ve been listening to The Mountain Goats a lot since the first season of the Night Vale Presents show called I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats. Not exclusively because basic Spotify doesn’t appreciate things like that. But it was that same recommendation shuffle that led me to this particular song because yeah, I wouldn’t have known where to start in the many, many Mountain Goats songs, so I guess it worked out. Particularly now this song has become the singular track in the soundtrack that is my life at the moment.

            And this is where things start to go awry, so let me backtrack hard and get it all sorted.

            I’ve mentioned before that my dad died when I was a teenager. Right fair enough. Even if this is your first episode of the show, you can still take that for what it superficially is worth: a factual statement that conveys the end of my father’s life at a time period when I was exceptionally vulnerable.

            Well guess what? His death anniversary is coming. Not going to go into specific, but yes, it is very soon. And it’s one I’ve been dreading for a while.

(Music fades out)

            Because this anniversary is kind of like a terrible equinox.  He’ll be gone for as long as I had him. Half of my life with him. And half without.

(Music fades in)

            And let me just say, that might feel more noteworthy than it actually is. I understand your skepticism. But to flush out my perspective, as a teenager, I processed my grief for him in a very bizarre way. It helped me get through the worst of it, so there’s that. But I somehow knew this death anniversary was coming in the future and immediately started to dread it. I don’t know for sure, but it was probably some sort of coping mechanism. It was a way of making the emotions I was feeling in the present seem more bearable. Because yeah, that was a terrible time in my life but this point in an undisclosed amount of years is going to be so much worse. So I found it in me to grit my teeth and bear it because there’s so much more suffering out there and a great deal of it was waiting for me.

            Side note: that’s not how you should deal with grief. That’s just what a slightly dysfunctional teenage mind came up with. And despite all the counselling and mental health improvements, the weight of this coming moment is still getting to me. Particularly because this is going to be a big year for me.

            Not that the other ones haven’t been. It’s seldom either/or, I’d like to remind you. Yeah, the last few ones have been chalked full of big steps—high school, college, graduate school, first apartment, first decent job, first kitty cat. But in the scrambling of this beginning phase in life, certain things go unnoticed because you are spending so much of your mental energy just trying to get by. And admittedly his absence was one of them.

            It only ever really struck me after the fact. And then I had time to grieve after blessedly the most extreme of my emotions had already passed.

            But now, I’m more stable. I’m looking for my second apartment just as cluelessly as I did the first. I put in for a new position at my job which is kind of like a promotion, but because it’s in a different department with a different structure, it’s super hard to say exactly what’s going on, but it’s an opportunity I really want to take. And then there’s this podcasting thing which has come to mean a lot to me that I feel like I finally understand how to do, being a person who always learned from doing.

            Oh and the podcats are growing into little menaces. By the way, do cats have a teenager stage? We’re in the teenager stage.

Looks, things have finally settled down for me. Finally, I’ll say again. So here comes the next wave of life, which will include actually coping with my grief.

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            I know this year is going to be a rough one for me. It’s not just that I’m going to be pushing myself to do more than I have been, not in a destructive way but in a genuine, “I need to grow type of way.” But also there is still going to be this nagging grief and the constant what if game that I play with myself about what my dad would have thought about my life right now and the choices I’m making therein.

            It’s hard to know that, especially as I toe the line with a potential new relationship. You know those starting moments that feel the most intense because of the uncertainty involved. And it doesn’t help that this starting to look like a lifelong kind of one relationship. Not that you can ever know about that the first time you meet someone. I mean to say that I think I’m zeroing in on the personality type that I will likely the best match with and spend my life with. One that I didn’t think really existed but clearly does.

            Not sure what he would say.

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            That’s one part of my life that hasn’t been too forgiving. But at the same time, I hope I didn’t give the impression that everything else was or that the past few years haven’t been a reckoning of their own. Because they have. It’s just not his loss that has bled me dry in those moments. It’s been the questions therein that leave me unsure and somewhat unable to function in that moments. Maybe you know that fear, the one called, “Am I a stunning disappointment?” Generally the consensus amongst the chorus of my insecurities in my head is that I don’t want to know the answer to that. Which might be an improvement.

            But that’s a conversation for a therapist. Probably. So I’ll save it for that context. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the feeling that I’m going through life with one less and very important resource than everyone else because—objectively true or not—Dad died when I still had this belief that he was a wise and benevolent old man who knew everything important. Not everything, okay. Just everything important. Think Karate Kid mentor type figure if you need a visual of some kind. And just to further solidify my point. I did not come up with that; a friend of mine did.

            Not having him around has been hard. Maybe his absence didn’t make my life harder. But I feel like it did because I feel like never knew where to find the answer for things. Even as a millennial who lives in the age of Google sometimes I feel like I don’t know what’s going on and wish he was here for me to ask.

            I remember when the gas lighters went out on my stove except I didn’t know gas stoves had lighters…. That was like my first week in a city in a new region where these things were the norm. We didn’t have them in the part of Arizona where I grew up. So when the stove didn’t turn on I thought I was just stupid. And then when I did figure out what was happening, I didn’t know if I was supposed to change them myself or ask the landlord.

            Does that seem stupid? Yeah, I’m not pretending it wasn’t. But you know who I could have asked? Dad. Except he was dead.

            And then there was the actual pain that I only had because he had died. And all of that was supposed to get better in time, wasn’t it? I was going to grow more into myself and more confident, in time understanding that because my father loved me he would come to terms with every single one of my choices. I was supposed to eventually figure out the whole “life” thing. And to be fair, I did figure out the stove. But then the air-conditioning unit needed to come out of the window, and my emails were getting ignored.


            And then there’s the pain which flares up with big life events. And after all this time, it’s still here. Very here. And you’ve probably heard of those five stages of grief, right? Well, occasionally, I seemingly jump backwards into one. Usually anger. Sometimes depression. Never denial. Not anymore. After all, this has become a fact of my life. If not reality, something that occasionally comes up in conversation, even at really bad times. It’s almost like flaw in my teeth be it a chip or a gap I haven’t been able to get fixed yet. Everyone sees it. I try to hide it, but eventually, I slip up.

            However, there is no fixing this. And sure, ideally, children outlive their parents because the alternative is fairly horrible, but it’s not supposed to happen when the child is young. Which can make me feel like a walking tragedy. Oddity. Emotional pornography. Like this is who I am. This one thing that happened to me. And that also suck.

            I’ve been fortunately that when this happens, when it comes out at a workplace or amongst people I’m hanging out with, I’m usually on the cusp of leaving for the next stage of my life or the next great adventure. How convenient because that’s the only coping mechanism I have learned for when my pain is intertwined with the very fact of my existence. And that becomes the entirety of my identity in someone else’s eyes. And that sucks, but I’ve always assumed the only way I could change that perception in someone else’s mind was to not be there to be perceived.

            Which is yet another promise next year always seemed to offer. Next year meant life changes, moving onto new phases and new places, sometimes to a different job at a different company. At that point, I will get a chance to start over and maybe—MAYBE—achieve some sort of divine promise or find some sort of promise land. It never happened. But you know, I tried. I made it through that year and went onto the next, hoping everything would be perfect. And then it wasn’t.

            And now I’m at this point where I’ve hit this dreaded milestone. And from here on out, with every year, it’s going to be relatively worse on that front. Because next year it will be one year more without him than what I had with him. Then it’s two years more without him than I with him. Then three. Then four. Etc, etc.

            So things might get worse. Things might start to feel more and more unfair. Like I’m being deprived of more. But things were also supposed to get better. And nothing’s been as anyone has told me to expect. I am greatly confused.

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            Because that’s the paradox of time passing that this song encompasses so well. Go listen to it first just so that I just said and what I’m about to say makes sense. (Pause) Seriously. It’s a song. And a good one. This is not a huge ask on my part. And/or you can just trust me and take me at my word. (Pause) Go on.

            (Pause) Well at this point, you’ve made your choices. Anyway, the song is incredibly upbeat in tempo, and the main line “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me” is almost like a promise or a vow of victory. I am going to overcome the current challenges no matter what for the sake of a better tomorrow, but that doesn’t change the consequences of the present or the odds that the next set of things aren’t going to be horrible in their own special way when you get there.

            And that might just be my superimposing of my experiences over the song. Really, this song is about the teenage rebellion and pushback that comes just before outright escape. Tastes of freedom are taken then punished violently but still serve to remind the narrator what it is they are dreaming of.

            In many ways that makes my situation all the worse, doesn’t it? Because I’m just running. I don’t know where it is I’m going or why. Or really what I’m going to find there.

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            Admittedly, I haven’t thought too much about that. What I have been thinking about is that final declaration that regardless of the stakes, I’m going to push through and make it to the other side because next year is going to come regardless as long as I am here to see. I’m not actually running towards anything. I’m letting it come to me.

You see, time is indifferent to us, for better or worse. Often for worse. As I know all too well. But if you can endure the torments of the present, tomorrow will eventually come. And it might bring you something more bearable. At the very least, there is comfort in difference.

            Another layer to this optimistic lamentation, though, is that helplessness. Tomorrow will eventually come, but I can’t force it along or move back when I need it. This whole timeline I’d spent years obsessing about is going to stop meaning so much to me at some part. The law of marginal utility must have a mirror in misery, after all.

            But it has to get more bearable. As I learn how to better handle the pains I’ve been carrying, hopefully in a way that doesn’t break my back. And honestly, the fact that I have a dead dad is going to seem less noteworthy—even in a pity-type way—the older I get.

            Maybe, time doesn’t heal all wounds. But it doesn’t do nothing either. It brings in a new set of tools and immediately starts working on you. For that alone, it’s worth getting through this year. Even if it seems to almost kill us. Or actively tries.



(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            Awkward episode length is awkward. And terrible joke is clearly worse than terrible. Look, I know I haven’t been hitting the thirty mark, but this is definitely going to be too short. So I need to jam in some sort of bonus to try and get close to my goal length, right?

            Fair enough, but it should still be in line with this theme of (quote) “word vomit of a dysfunctional mind.” And I guess it would be good if the subject was a song from The Mountain Goats. Luckily I have one. From the All Hail West Texas album that season 1 of I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats follows. And that is “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” a song about triumphant over not just those who didn’t believe in you but also those the norms that restricted them and kept them from even considering you dreams as valid.

            It’s about a couple teenagers who make a band with a supposedly questionable name until one kid is sent away to a place where they could more efficiently and constantly crush his dreams. It’s not specified if it’s like a reform school or an institution. The adult are trying is probably convenient for them. But there’s a spirit that never dies, so—as the song goes—“don’t expect them to thank or forgive you.”

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            In so far as things happen for a reason or are timed out in a specific way, I am happy that I’ve spent the last couple of years of my life in relative nothingness: a nothingness that you know nothing about because choices. Well, you do know about the terrible office jobs when I was hardly creating anything despite the fact that I would love to be a professional “person who makes things other people enjoy.” A dream that got slightly ridiculed a bit by people who chose to work in a high school just to relieve their glory days in a way that lets them pretend their situation isn’t so pathetic. (Pause). Fifty two… That’s fifty two shades.

            Look, even if they had nothing going for them, I was pressured to go into law and be a top tier attorney by people who worked in my high school. And I definitely could have done it. I didn’t want to, so I made a different choice. Instead, I’m working what they would call a lowly office job and taking the time to make things that maybe people like. Maybe, but I’m trying to do a lot, so I’ll get there. Odds are in my favor.

            Maybe I’ll get to the relative status of “the best ever death metal band out of Denton,” whatever that means to you. But you know what that isn’t? Taking away the joy of people in their teenager years and crushing their dreams for the future because I don’t want to face my own inadequacies.

            I know I’m not perfect. I know my life isn’t perfect. I’m content with what I do and the simple fact that there’s something vaguely akin to a trajectory there. Just think about how my first few episodes went. It’s almost night and day. But yeah, there’s more to it than that.

            But I couldn’t always say that. I used to be so insecure, comparing myself to the pictures I saw of my friends on Facebook pretending they have perfect. Even though I kind of knew it was pretending but also not really. It’s largely because I made a kind of stupid choice or cluster of small stupid choices my senior year in college, and I’m still not quite sure what the implications of that will be. Because someone did with university what I was describing happening with high schools. But that’s not the point.

            The point is, well, that poetic justice that might not actually be satisfying. Yes the authorities figured who mistreated me in high school are somewhat stuck in their ruts, and that’s kind of sad and pathetic. Their achievements will never be their own and they won’t find the fulfillment that comes from straying out of their comfort zone. Which yes is worth pitying them. But it doesn’t justify them lashing out at the wards in their care because they aren’t shackled by the same restraints and notions they were. It doesn’t excuse anything they said or did to me. And in some ways, getting the final laugh isn’t enough. It isn’t enough just to do what they never could or what they told me I never would.

            But at the same time, I know what their reaction would be to know that whatever grand narrative of my life is told at whatever occasion it’s going to exclude them. I know the outrage that would seize them to know that they won’t even be a passing thought in my head at any moment of triumphant or success for me.  

            “The best ever death metal band out of Denton will in time both outpace and outlive you.” And that’s going to both you. Not that it says much about you. But it’s still unbelievably irritating. Ha.

(Music fades out and new music fades in)

            This has been a production of Miscellany Media Studios. Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, check out our other shows. You can find information on all of our productions at our website: miscellanymedia.online. Or check out our Twitter @miscellanymedia for real time updates.