somewhere else

No matter what I’m doing, I often find myself wishing I was somewhere else. I’ve been this way since I was a young kid. When I was at school, I would stare out the window and wish I was in the forest. When I lived in the woods, I wished I could live in town. When I lived in town, I wished I was back out of town again.

When I’m around people, I usually wish I was alone. Sometimes when I’m alone, I wish I could share the moment with someone. When I’m stuck at work, I wish I was driving somewhere, but sometimes when I’m driving I wish I could sit still. Sometimes when I’m away from home, I miss my people and wish I could be with them. But sometimes when I’m home, I wish I was by myself again. At first being a long-haul trucker satisfied my need for seeing new places, but it soon became just a difficult job that kept me away from home too much.

When I’m working (and no one is looking over my shoulder), I might open Google Maps for something, and then my mind starts drifting and I start looking for places I want to explore by myself: hiking in nature, seeing new cities, finding waterfalls, and planning road trips. When I’m done working, sometimes I go on a random drive just to see something new, but it’s getting harder to find new and interesting things within a couple of hours from home.

I don’t get bored easily, but I need something new all the time. I drift through museums faster than most people, looking at each painting or artifact just enough to enjoy it, but not long enough that I get bored with it. I can spend an hour where other people might spend all day. I’m still enjoying myself, but my enjoyment of the moment ends very quickly. I used to enjoy my work, but now it’s just a job, and sometimes it sucks the life out of me.

My life is not normal, but it’s not bad like it used to be. Even so, Sometimes I want to run away from it all – abandon my problems, hide somewhere off the beaten path, scratch out a living in isolation, and be alone in my misery. Unfortunately when you’re running away from yourself, you can’t run far. Maybe what I’m asking for is a final escape from myself, but there are too many places I haven’t visited yet for me to give in and finally end it all.

Maybe what I want is freedom – to come and go as I please, to see new things when I feel like it, and go back to my comfortable chair when I am done. I guess that’s what retirement is for, but I don’t see myself having a long time to enjoy freedom from having to work. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be very fortunate if I even make it to retirement age.

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big time

I hated growing up in my old hometown. People who lived in my town were either senior citizens or people whose families had lived there for multiple generations. It was relatively poor, unless you lived on the ridge above town or overlooking the lake. The downtown was dead (except for one good record store), and you had to go to a nearby city to do any serious shopping. The weather was blazing hot and dry all summer, and the vegetation looked dead or in serious distress every year. High school graduates, who were becoming more rare every year, had to leave town to go to college or find good jobs, and most of them never came back. There were few options for kids to do something other than fight or get into trouble or kill themselves and others while they were drunk driving. Crime was high, suicides were high, and homelessness was becoming a serious problem. There were so many drug addicts, and this was before methamphetamines took over. It wasn’t a fun place to live.

I wanted out, partly because I hated it there and partly because of bad memories of my childhood forever associated with the town. My first escape was to college in Nevada, but for various reasons, I had to return to town. I was angry about it, and I knew I had to leave again. In the meantime my adopted mom died, which broke the last link I had keeping me there. My girlfriend hated the town too, so we made a plan to get out. We got married, sold my childhood house, and moved elsewhere in California; I finished college before we moved out of state for several years. We returned to California for a while, then left again, moving to Ohio where we have been since 2005.

I’ve always liked the song “Big Time” by Peter Gabriel. Some of the lyrics:

The place where I come from is a small town
They think so small, they use small words
But not me, I’m smarter than that, I worked it out
I’ll be stretching my mouth to let those big words come right out
I’ve had enough, I’m getting out
to the city, the big big city

I remember being in my bed as a teen listening to this and thinking about leaving my hometown and the small-town life there. I think my wife and I have been pretty successful after leaving. We visited her extended family a few times many years ago, but I couldn’t wait to leave again because of the memories of living there. Now her family there has all moved away, so I have no reason to ever go back.

panic! at the home office

So Friday afternoon I may have had a little panic attack. Apparently I posted something here and then trashed it immediately. Then I started drinking.

I was trying to email a request form to someone for a project, but I didn’t know just what to say. But I got stuck thinking about it, and it never got sent. Then the 10 am department meeting happened, and the department manager started demanding more output than we have been producing lately. Just what I needed to hear. After the meeting, I froze up again.

I took a long lunch, thinking I would take a break and calm down, then get back to work. The getting back to work never happened, and instead of producing more, suddenly I’m producing less. Thinking about this made me start freaking out, and I gave up around 2 pm. I literally got into bed and covered up hoping I could calm down, but it just got worse. I briefly thought about calling my psychiatrist, but I don’t think I could have made it through the phone call, and I didn’t want to get sent to the hospital involuntarily.

So when my shift ended at 3:30, I poured a glass full of scotch whiskey and started drinking with the intent of knocking myself out as quickly as possible. After an hour I was successful, and I slept until about 8 pm.


I fear the manic episode from January has permanently damaged something in my already defective brain. I can’t organize tasks, I can’t follow through, I can’t regulate my mood, I can’t control the anxiety. I can’t stop thinking that I will no longer be able to do my job, and that I will have to find something less stressful for much less pay and worse benefits.

Before the manic episode I was relatively unhappy at work but I was able to cope with the stress and managed to produce work in a timely manner. Now I am completely unable to deal with my mental state. I have no coping skills; I have nothing in the toolbox that I can use to improve my situation. My fight-or-flight instinct has been engaged, but I have nothing to fight with. The urge to flee is overwhelming.

The only thing that helps me relax is when I am doing something new, like yesterday when I drove new roads for a few hours and walked at a park for over an hour. But there are only so many roads within a reasonable distance, and I can’t do that every day. Eventually I have to come back home to my life, and start thinking about everything again.

I will call my doctor on Monday when I am relatively calm and explain the situation, and see if he can recommend something.

escape

This town doesn’t need a name, it’s just a place on the road to somewhere else. It’s not a destination, it’s a part of the map that people avoid. This place is a starting point for some people, a purgatory for others, and a finish line for too many. Youthful dreams and old memories die here, and the cemeteries are filled with restless spirits who could never get away. Those who stay are forever scarred by the desolation of this town, a place where hope withers in the parched landscape. Those who do escape have a dark spot on their memory burned away by the searing summer sun.

And yet … something calls me back to the place it all began. Someday I will visit again, and part of me will die a little more.