Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Truth

"I sure did live in this world.”
“Really? What have you got to show for it?”
“Show? To Who? Girl, I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say, I got me.”
“Lonely, ain’t it?”
“Yes. But the lonely is mine."     
--Sula, by Toni Morrison

The above quotation appeared on my high school yearbook page. While my peers were quoting Dave Matthews Band songs, I went with this somewhat melancholy-yet-triumphant piece of text that resonated tremendously with me at age eighteen. Because for much of high school, I did feel like all I had was my mind and what went on in it -- it was all I could count on. Friends, even good friends, can be petty and suddenly decide to not be your friends anymore. Parents, I learned at age 13, can leave you. All you ever really can count on is you. This notion comforted me
rather than saddened me -- in fact, it's only as I've gotten older that the less cheery part of the sentiment (namely, the lonely way we all go through life) has hit home.

Disclaimer: Shit's about to get real on the Vagnino Monologues. Usually I use this blog to showcase my funny side, but right now I'm going to use it as medium of honesty, mass-communicated. One of the reasons I haven't been blogging much since moving to Chicago is that I have been very, very depressed. It's been a rocky few months, to say the least. And one of the harder aspects has been feeling like I have this happy/witty persona that I have to put out into the world -- the Katie on my Facebook page and Twitter feed is successful and always doing cool things with friends. She has 1,150 friends! How could she be lonely and depressed?

Something no one tells you about getting older: your ability to make friends and connect with people diminishes. Not because your social skills deteriorate, but because the opportunities to meet new people decrease dramatically. And you get pickier -- as you know yourself better and better, you understand intuitively with whom you would like to spend your time. And then there's the fact that your friends find life partners and start having families, and while they don't love you any less, they have less time for you. You don't have a confined social space (like a college campus) to ensure that you run into people all the time. You may or may not like the people you work with, and even if you get along with them fine at work, you may or may not have anything in common with them outside of work.  

Which is all to say that when you move to a new city where you know only a couple of people, like I did in August, and the people you know have significant others that they live with/spend the majority of their time with, life can get lonely fast.

I think my loneliness would be more manageable if my career(s) were taking off. But unfortunately, my teaching job here the past few months has been borderline intolerable. Just an all-around wretched experience, from the lack of institutional support, to the pay, to the students themselves, who were among the most disrespectful, unpleasant, and unmotivated that I've ever encountered. I love teaching...but these past few months, not so much.

And writing?  Well, I'm not writing. I've been too depressed, too consumed with grading essays written by students too lazy to even use spellcheck. Too busy working at my restaurant job to compensate for my ridiculous teaching salary. The idea of writing a poem, of having enough emotional and creative energy to generate something, is completely foreign to me. Which contributes to the cloud of depression I've been living under -- I'm a failure of a teacher AND a poet.  Good thing I paid 60K for a degree that qualifies me to teach assholes and not have time for my own writing.     

I felt it was necessary to come clean in a relatively public online space about all this in order to move forward. To own my lonely, so to speak. Having my mind and what goes on in it is all well and good until that mind becomes chemically depressed. Then it's just as unreliable as an unsupportive friend or family member. I've put out the feelers for finding a therapist here, because I don't know that I work through all of this on my own.    

So that's where I'm coming from. (I do want to say that I have met and connected with a few folks here and I mean them no offense -- I don't think my social life here is devoid of potential, it just has taken a little longer to come into focus. So if you're a new friend of mine here reading this and thinking "wtf, I thought we were friends," we are!  I just wish there were more of you).

Apologies for the downer post, but especially in light of recent events, being upfront about mental health stuff seems more important than ever.


Anonymous said...

I hear you and I'm sorry. I have been there and I've heard similar situations to yours described by family and friends in our age group and older. I guess I just wanted to give you a virtual hug and say... move to Philly! I have a ready-made friend group that's artsy and weird in all the right ways, social and welcoming and would love you, and we get together a lot. Just add Katie. love, Eleanor

Anonymous said...

Hey, Eleanor again. I thought you might find this page amusing, and perfect for Christmas: