Adventureland!,  Depression is a Bitch

Let That Be Enough

Perpetual dissatisfaction marked my childhood. The neighborhoods I grew up in were too sterile, too full of cement and subdivisions. There was nothing left to explore; nothing that hadn’t already been tracked, catalogued and secured by adults. I could never properly explain this feeling to my mother.

“I want to live in nature!” I would whine. I would plot how I could possibly run away and take enough reading material and Oreos to last me to adulthood, in a My Side of the Mountain scenario.

Both my parents tried to explain how lucky I was. Everyone wanted to live in America, and everyone who already lived in America wanted to live in Los Angeles. The temperate weather and two-car-garages of my parents’ childhood was The American Dream, and by God, we were living it. I should be happy I wasn’t living in the U.S.S.R. or famine-ridden Ethiopia, the grownups would tell me.

I couldn’t make anyone understand. So I pretended driveways were hillsides, that the train tracks were the perimeter of the world, where I could look out over the edge and see infinity.

It wasn’t enough.

I spent my whole life trying to break out of it, but like most prisons, this one had a sturdy lock on the door.

– – –

There were so many circumstances keeping the door barred, that when I had opportunities for escape, I didn’t recognize them for what they were.

I was sick for a long time; did I ever tell you that? As a teenager I contracted a chronic virus that held on pretty tightly until young adulthood, and still visits now and again. When I was supposed to be taking risks, enjoying freshly imparted freedom and endless opportunities, I was napping and taking lots of pills. I tumbled into a dark depression made worse by religion. I believed it was my fault. It was my fault for being sick. It was my fault I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live. If I wanted something, shouldn’t I be able to make it happen? God wanted to bless me, everyone told me, and my lack of faith was making me sick.

It took years to undo that damage. It still pulsates beneath the skin, between the gallbladder and the liver, that intuition that I am causing my own misfortunes.

With age, you learn that shit just happens. Something no one ever told my generation is that bad things happen, and it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. Or maybe someone did tell us, and we couldn’t hear it over the sound of commercial breaks between cartoons.

– – –

It has been about a month since I’ve written anything more significant than comments on student essays. My new job is long on hours, short on paychecks, and draining of internal resources. Caring for something so much when it does so little for you may be good for the soul, but it is hard on everything else.

In fact, this year has been the hardest one since getting sober. My freelance career decidedly didn’t take off. I lived in unemployment hell, wasting time applying at coffee shops and book stores once the career agencies failed to turn up even menial secretarial work. A dear friend was diagnosed with brain cancer. We moved to a smaller house. My relationships suffered. Anxiety became a daily visitor. My life got stripped down to survivalist essentials.

I’ve had to ask myself some hard questions this year. If this is all there is, if this is as good as it gets, is it enough?

I don’t know. But I’m waiting to find out.


  • Shailaja

    I’m sorry you had a rough year and a rougher childhood, Nat. But I firmly believe in the axiom that what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. From the sound of it, so do you. If nothing else, I’m grateful to be alive on some days. Maybe it’s not the most ideal scenario, but what is? I hope that 2015 is an infinitely kinder year.
    Shailaja recently posted…Not a Bad PersonMy Profile

  • Danielle

    I love the way you describe Surburbia Natalie. I couldn’t seem to put it into words, but you did for me. I’m living in one now, but my heart belongs in nature, like you. Maybe time for a change of scenery for you 🙂 sometimes it holds a lot of answers. Love to have you up sometime.

  • Martin

    “Is it enough?” is a question I struggle with again and again. My reasons for doubt are somewhat different, though there is overlap: depression, anxiety, pain, numerous other symptoms, feeling inadequate because I can’t seem to meaningfully contribute to society due to these disabilities, disillusionment with a world so full of cruelty and oppression, and having very few friends, none of whom are local. The stress of so many fruitless medical appointments, side-effects from medication, financial problems, illness of those close to me (one of whom died in 2014, two of whom are in the process of dying, and others whom are clearly suffering), etc. makes a difficult situation even worse.

    I don’t know if I will ever feel better, much less when. I’m not sure I have a “life worth living,” as some past therapists have put it. I just know that any form of giving-up will inevitably create even more problems for me and those around me, so on I trudge.

    I hope your life does somehow become easier and happier.

  • Considerer

    You are SO right. No one ever tells kids that life’s just shitty and difficult and awful and that having expectations for good stuff only makes it worse…

    I kinda wish I hadn’t had to wait til my late 20’s to find that one out…

  • Asha

    Natalie, I hope 2015 brings with it new opportunities, new adventures, and many moments of soaring spirits for you. I also hope you find high points during your stocktake of 2014, that salvage the year for you a little. I have a few years like that in my own inventory… years that are best not recalled.

  • Bill Dameron

    I hope 2015 improves for you. It was a good year for me, actually every year has been pretty good since the lowest one about 8 years ago, but still I keep waiting for the shoe to drop. Why can’t we ever just be happy with what we have?
    Bill Dameron recently posted…First Person PossessiveMy Profile

  • Ericamos

    Seriously, 2014 can suck it! But here’s to a great 2015. I have a little decoration that hangs in my classroom, given to me my first year of teaching, that says, “Teaching is a Work of Heart.” And it really is. It takes a lot out of us, and doesn’t give us much back, monetarily. Just keep looking to those “ah-ha” moments where the reward is felt inside. The teaching life might be a simple life, and we might be stuck in small houses in the crowded South Bay for a lot longer than we want (possibly forever), but keep heart. Take small escapes to the mountains when things seem overwhelming. This might be it, but we can make it enough.

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