Is That A Good Time? – Part Two
This is the second half of, “Is That A Good Time?” It is a self-examination written in the metaphor of a hurdle race. It is intended to relate and inspire. If this is your first visit to this blog, I highly recommend viewing the previous post first. Thank you.
The third hurdle – Saying goodbye.
This was the hardest step in the process. In fact, I think this is the hardest thing I have ever done.
The job that I got in the first hurdle had me feeling better physically and I was enjoying the little taste of success I had from the band I started in hurdle two. I wanted more, but there was a lingering feeling of doubt deep inside. The young man that I had been was still there, and he was an asshole. It was like having a freeloader roommate that you didn’t like and he followed you everywhere. The worst part was knowing that that asshole was me. The man I was becoming, no longer wanted to be the young man I had been. It was time to say goodbye to that life.
In part one of this post, when I said that I had quit my job to remodel my house, you may have been wondering how I could afford a house without a job. Well, although the mortgage was in my name, I wasn’t the one making the payments. SHE was. I told you I was an asshole.
I thought I loved her. I was in a dark place and she was the only part of my life that didn’t seem like more effort than it was worth. I was unhappy, but she was the best part of my life during that time. I realized later that what I really loved was just having someone there who didn’t judge me. Unfortunately, no judgment, meant no standard.
I had lived with my girlfriend for roughly five years, the last two in the house we bought together, the last one with me unemployed. We had bought the house with the intent of it being the first step toward our future. We were going to start buying cheap houses and flipping them. This was our first one and we knew it would take a while so we decided to live there while we did it. We were not successful in this endeavor. The failure only added to my depression.
In an attempt to pull myself out of my general unhappiness, I indulged in anything that could help me forget about my malaise, even for a short time. I ate too much, I drank too much, and regrettably, I cheated on my girlfriend several times.
She was nothing but sweet to me. She loved me. She supported me. She would have done anything for me. She did not deserve to have her trust betrayed. I didn’t want to hurt her, but my actions prove that I was more concerned about my own feelings than I was about hers. Is it any surprise that I didn’t want to be that guy anymore? She knew I had cheated, but she didn’t leave me. She was willing to work with me.
After gaining some perspective by clearing the first two hurdles, I realized that I now faced an extremely difficult situation. The only way to rid myself of the young man I used to be was to cut ties with that life. Looking at her would only remind me of how terribly I had treated her. With her in my life, I would never be free of the monster that I once was. I would never be happy, which meant she would never be happy.
There I was, about to break the heart of a woman who stood by me and literally supported me through the worst part of my life. No one deserved that heartache less than she did, but there was no other way. Conquering the darkness inside me meant hurting the one person who deserved it the least. I had hurt her several times before, but this was the first time I would be fully aware of what I was doing. Sometimes it takes monstrous actions to defeat a monster.
I took a deep breath and told her it was over. I left to let her pack her things.
Months later, we briefly considered getting back together, but it was just nostalgic longing – nothing real. We haven’t spoken since.
The last I heard, she got a promotion and moved to the other side of the country. I still believe that breaking her heart was the only thing I could do to give us both the best chance at happiness. At least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.
The fourth hurdle – Swallowed pride and circumstance.
Three hurdles down, I found myself alone in a partially remodeled house that I could no longer afford. Having just ripped the heart out of my biggest supporter, I was beginning to wonder if the monster I was becoming was any better than the one I used to be. Either way, there was no turning back now.
My timing couldn’t have been worse. I needed to unload this house quickly and the housing market had just collapsed. My self-reclamation project had hit a major snag.
The entire point of putting effort back into my life was to become self-reliant. Now, I had boxed myself into a corner that I couldn’t escape without some help. I didn’t want to believe it had come to this. It was hard to rationalize. Wouldn’t accepting help mean that I wasn’t self-reliant? I didn’t have a lot of options. After a few restless nights, I accepted that short-term help could set me up for long-term stability. This would only delay my goal, not derail it.
In reality, there was never any other option, but so much of this journey was about rationalizing and justifying my own decisions to myself.
With a lump in my throat, I picked up the phone, “Hey Dad.”
It was Mom and Dad to the rescue. When you’re nearly 30 years old and on a quest to finally get your life on track, that is a truly humbling experience.
A month later, with my parents’ help, we were able to finish enough of the remodel to get the house on the market. They paid for all the materials, and allowed me to move back in with them until I got back on my feet. I grew very sick of the taste of humble pie.
We eventually sold the house. We took a loss on it, but at least it was over. The last tie to my old life had been cut. I still owe my parents for their help. It is a debt I plan to repay as soon as possible. As of yet that has not been accomplished.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the ability to accept help was actually a strength and not a weakness. It’s hard for a man to swallow his pride, and somehow, the less he has to be proud of, the harder it is. I’m glad I learned this lesson before I let my situation get even worse.
The fifth hurdle – Applying the lessons.
With the first hurdle, I learned that there is a hidden value in effort. With the second, I learned that skills must be tested in order to draw strength from them. The third hurdle taught me that the right thing to do is often the hardest. The fourth taught me that I don’t have to do it alone. All of these were steps in leaving my past behind. The fifth hurdle was about moving my new life forward.
I was the thirty-year-old guy living in his parents’ basement. This is often the go to description for a loser. I was glad that I had learned humility. Despite my current situation, I was feeling good about my life – not about my past, but about my future.
I had just pulled myself out a perpetual tailspin and it was no easy task. I suddenly felt like I could accomplish more with my life than just working it away at a dead end job. I wanted to put effort into increasing my own value. I wanted to put my abilities to the test. I wanted to do something that I would have felt was too hard before. I wanted to learn from others.
I applied for admission to The University of Utah. I was accepted. Last December I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in communication. I am now a professional writer.
The Finish Line
The man I am now would not like the young man that I used to be, but I would not be this man had I not been that young man. The hurdles got me out of those dark times and made me who I am today. Now, nothing seems too hard. It’s just a matter of deciding which goal to pursue.
I don’t know exactly what it was that started me on my quest to improve my life. It may have been turning twenty-nine, recognizing that I was about to be thirty and realizing that I remembered when my uncles were in their thirties. In my brain thirty meant adult. It may have been watching The Shawshank Redemption and hearing Andy Defresne say, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Whatever it was, it was small enough to forget, but big enough to get me to take my first steps.
Something inside me pushed me out of the blocks and on to the first hurdle. All it took was a spark – like the one that comes out of a starter pistol. Is 8.42 seconds a good time? It’s not great, but at least I didn’t trip over any of the hurdles.
I deliberately left out the names in this story because I don’t know if the people being referenced would want their identities known.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I hope this will inspire you to overcome your own hurdles. I don’t anticipate the rest of the posts on this blog to be this heavy, but I wanted you to know a little about me, so you would know who wrote what you’re reading. If you like what you read, please follow my blog, and follow me on twitter, @john_dilley. Thanks again.