4am

“Things are good!”

At 4am, knowing that it’s the 4am that you’ve been dragged back to from a sleep that can barely be called one, sheets that normally feel soft are scratchy, air that normally feels refreshing feels unpleasantly cold, and the soft light of the laptop’s screen and tap-tapping of fingers on keys are the only thing that keep a mind haunted by past and future mistakes at the same time from lashing out and losing everything. It’s the type of sleep that you’re dreading emerging from even before your head hits the pillow; the type of sleep that you never look forward to because you can’t decide whether the worst part is having to force yourself into it or force yourself from it — and of course, endure the sleep itself as a mediocre respite from a reality from which even the best of dreams are not an escape. As per usual, life is, for all intents and purposes, relatively good. Work is good. Friendships are waning, but you have the luxury of friends who put more time in than you do, which is important because if they didn’t, you probably wouldn’t care enough to keep them. But they care, or at least they appear to. And that’s what matters. The family is good, too — your cousin that is a year sober is coming to Thanksgiving this year; your grandfather is 90, and the group’s dysfunction, while high, is tolerable.

Yes, everything is good. Everything. Is. Good. The house is good. The room is good. The promotion you got on Thursday is good. The job you’re doing is *good*. The product you’re selling is good. The manager you’re moving to next month when you’re placed on the pilot team that the director of your office called “quite possibly the most important team in the history of the company” in a British accent that hasn’t faded even slightly (though he might disagree, and his opinion would hold objectively more weight than yours) since being here — realize this sentence is still talking about that other manager? — is good. She’s great, in fact — at least according to the people you’ve worked with who’ve also worked with her. But it’s sales, so everyone says that. Working in sales is an incredible reminder of why humanity can cooperate on the level that it can, and be as successful as it is — we are the only species that can create and share myths; we are the only species that can sell each other on fictions. What is sales, if not this? If not getting someone so bought into an idea, a future, that they are, like you, able to envision that future as clearly as they might envision themselves making breakfast in the morning? (Is there supposed to be a question mark there?) To be surrounded by people who are better at selling ideas than 99.9% of the population is to be given a 40 hour/week vacation from self-doubt and anxiety — which is strange, because those things typically manifest during the workweek for most people, and I’d argue that for those in sales, they manifest outside of it.

But yes, things are still good. The Quartz notification that just dropped into your inbox is good. The laptop you’re typing on is good. The clothes sitting in your closet are good, because they fit, and because they look like what someone your age would wear to places like work but then also to bars on Friday nights and maybe Saturdays if you make it past brunch, assuming you even make it to brunch. Things are definitely good. If they weren’t, you’d probably know. You’d be having mini anxiety attacks every few days about your inability to move past the basics in anything you’d ever tried. You’d be constantly questioning your relationships with friends and family and women and wondering what it meant for your career in sales that you’d never been the type of person who could command a room with anything other than people like your family who paid attention to you because if they didn’t they’d be effectively admitting that their own DNA probably didn’t provide any real value, either. (When I was a kid, I never really understood why parents defended their kids in situations where they were obviously in the wrong. It seems now that it was purely selfishness.) You’d probably also be wondering about the relationships you’d had — with people; substances; hobbies — and why you’d never had one that ever felt balanced — only ones in which they’d meant everything to you or nothing at all. You might be wondering about that conversation you had with your best friend from work where he effectively compared you to another sales rep you hate by pointing out your inability to hold someone accountable, and you know he’s right, and it bothers you because of that, but more than anything, bothers you because the reason you struggle to hold people accountable has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you, and your inability to hold yourself accountable to anything other than a beer or two on a Thursday night and a beer or ten on a Friday. But you’re not wondering any of those things. Things, after all, are good!

They are; they really are. The wood paneling in your apartment is good. The flooring was good when you moved in and still is, though it could use a cleaning by the Swiffer you bought a few weeks ago from Amazon that you haven’t used. Your roommates are good, especially your roommate of over a year, whose girlfriend of even longer just left him because she’s still in college and apparently he’s not quite good enough to overcome the allure of pure and utter freedom within a laughably constrained — intellectually; emotionally — institution in the middle of bumfuck nowhere OH-IO — but of course, he’s still good. (Fucking Ohio State fans. They are not good.) Your other roommate is also good, the one from Texas who is happier than you but also probably has a serious drinking problem and will eventually either address it or have it addressed — at this point, you honestly aren’t sure which will come first, and good arguments could be made for either. (“It’s only a problem after colle…okay, well…”)

The weather is good, too — it was hot earlier this week and now it isn’t, and you’ve gone back to button-down shirts instead of polos, which feels good and professional, but you kind of liked the polo-tucked-into-jeans look in the same way you used to like uniforms in primary and middle school, because they made you feel put together. You’re reminded again that things are good when you think back to the little things you’ve always been good at, like turning in homework on time and staying within the lines in the coloring book; like playing sports by the rules and self-enforcing not because you felt it was right but because you would torture yourself if you didn’t — just like you are now, for not calling out what you see happening around you, all the bullshit, and the anger, all the frustration with that state of the world that we’re all — or maybe, in fact, probably, it’s just you — trying to numb with depressants and stimulants, iPhones and solitude, and conversations with people who remember you as something you can tolerate, as opposed to conversations with people who know you now, and said they’d come to your birthday party that your roommates tried to throw but didn’t because you screwed up because you were indecisive, but realistically, it’s hard to tell what the actual reason was. (At this point, the indecisiveness thing is becoming a theme.) Things really are good, though.

Things are definitely good! And they definitely are for everyone else, too, because that’s what people say when you ask, and the most honest account someone can give you of their own mental state is the first thing they say when you ask them “how are you doing?” in passing at work without stopping as you’re on your way to get the drink you still haven’t decided on from the barista on the 4th floor of the office every morning, the barista who sees you coming and hovers his hand over the three different paper cups that he can choose because you never make it easy, and you never have, and you probably never will. You can try sometimes, like when you judge your worth off of your ability to answer multiple choice questions correctly, which was easier when those multiple choice questions were sitting on an SAT test waiting for you to either fill in the bubble that would either get you into the college or it wouldn’t, as opposed to multiple choice questions like “did you pay the electrical bill this month?” and “did you make it to work on time today?” which are multiple choice questions because they have multiple choices. And you miss the ones that had something on the line other than a dinged credit score, or the stupid and intolerable feeling of having screwed something up that you had every opportunity not to, and of course, you’re not struggling to pay any of the bills anyway; your salary isn’t great, after all, but it’s good, just like everything else.

Those SAT questions, answered correctly, were ovular gateways to a college where you’d eventually get addicted to at least one stimulant, one depressant, and one female who was both at the same time. Or they weren’t, and for some, they definitely weren’t, and you’d be left to go somewhere that your parents would preemptively defend in conversations with other parents at the coffee shop in the morning, because they know that were the tables turned, their own responses, spoken or unspoken, would probably warrant a defensive response, too. (“Oh, he’s at Boulder?” “He is, yep. In the honors program.” But of course they never mention which honors program.) But your parents didn’t have to defend you, because you were never the type of kid who did anything other than what you were supposed to — and in that situation, there’s nothing to defend — and of course, the ovular gateways opened up for you, and everything you thought would happen, happened, but of course it all seemed so much more fun before you were in it, and you wish you could take back almost all of it now, now that things are good, and you know what you want, and you’re happy on your job path, and your friendships are stable, and your health — mental and physical — is good, and you’re awake at 4am, typing it all out on a good computer, in a good bed whose sheets just happen to feel scratchy when they normally feel soft, in a good house whose air just happens to feel freezing cold when it normally feels refreshing.


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