Look... obviously, I don’t expect a dollar. I know that there are people starving somewhere. I see the campaigns asking for money to build water wells and save villages that are surviving on a dollar a decade. In fact, I know for a fact that there isn’t a douchier campaign on this or any other site. But I just want to vent here, really, and if anyone reads this and then doesn’t want me dead, or better yet gets a lesson out of it, the campaign will have succeeded.
I am a 40 year old guy from US, whose living situation is probably a fantasy for millions of people in this world, but life has seen fit to turn yours truly into one of the most miserable human beings alive. I don’t mean that my life is currently miserable; I mean that I am currently miserable, and much more so now than when I did actually have one of those objectively awful existences. Sure, this is partially because I am now, well, certifiably nuts, but I have an explanation for you, and also, I cannot change that. I’ve tried and I no longer want to. Let me explain?
A little background:
I was born in a third world-ish country, to a pretty well-off family. My life was great for a while and so was I. I was one of those kids who was going to do big things. I had a ton of friends, my crush liked me back, and I was great at sports, which is pretty much all there is to a happy childhood.
Then, one day, when I was 14, I woke up into nothing short of a fucking pandemonium, or that was how it happened in my mind; I closed my eyes and then I opened them in a different world. What everyone had assumed was some temporary local unrest turned into a full scale, brutal, bloody, two-decade-long war. Just like that, just that suddenly, the entire setting of my life turned into piles of rubble that smelled like decaying meat.
Cry me a river? I will. On that day, my life pretty much came to an end. In a way. I can honestly tell you that I have not been truly happy since. Believe it or not, yes, I am 40 and I still think about that pre-pandemonium time of my life almost every day; the atmosphere, the friends, the first love, and the way I used to be (at fourteen…). And when I don’t think about it, I have dreams of it to remind me to.
Back to the war. I got about a year of it, and boy, did I see some shit, but that’s not very relevant to the theme of this story so I will fast forward. I will just say that you don’t truly know what human evil is until you go through that flavor of hell as a civilian.
When I finally got out of there, I became a refugee, roaming from place to place without a pair of spare underwear, living in unfamiliar people’s basements, doing odd jobs. I went wherever the immediate circumstance (remember this word) put me and I waited (remember this word too). There were times when I had nothing to eat, and worse, there were times when I had nothing to do, which is complete bullcrap as far as any normal teenager is concerned. The main thing my mind was doing though is awfully missing the normal life, especially the people in it - everyone for different reasons – while realizing that some of them I would never see again. And I so waited, hoping to go back to a place and a time that I already knew no longer existed.
Well, that feeling has never really gone away. I still miss them, and to this day, that normal life that I missed back then is the only time of my life that I remember fondly, only that particular waiting has been replaced by wishing. That’s not to say that since then I have not had some events worth mentioning here. Moving on.
The next stage of my life is relevant too. The way circumstances lined up, eventually, I really had no choice but to move further away from what was left of home, to a nearby country (a genuinely shitty one and you’ll soon see why), where I found some of my old friends. I was an ethnic minority there, which got me locked up and/or my butt kicked on a weekly basis (conservative estimate) by the local cops. I am talking proper, hearty, marathon ass-beatings from dudes who knew how to use a nightstick.
I have to admit now that in some fucked up way, the insanity of it was sort of fun for a 16-17 year old with a hefty amount of dumb shit on his brain. Still though, even besides the obvious, after the war and all the refugeeing, I was a skinny and short and ugly teenager who dressed poor (in the uncool way), and who was reminded at every turn that he was not wanted there, so yeah, it was a bad time. As a kid, living in a place where you suspect everyone hates you, from your teachers to your classmates to your neighbors to the old lady who you’ve helped across the street to her goddamn dog, well, it is not a particularly positive experience. I no longer felt like someone who was going to do big things; those hopes had also turned into dreams. I saw no future there even then, except for crime, but I won’t elaborate on that. Point is I was really just sticking it out for the lack of a better option, waiting for a better time (notice a theme?). What made it worse than it might sound is the fact that I knew too well what a better time was like.
I will tell you right now what I was already realizing back then: whatever you read an enlightened rich celebrity tweet, I assure you that there isn’t a place or a situation that money cannot improve because money creates options. My family had lost everything in the war and we had a hell of a time adjusting to the change, the main thing of it being that aforementioned lack of options. So we waited.
About two years of that, and then, to my horror, my family got enough money together to send me to US. I had no say in that decision because I kept getting kicked out of school after school after school, and I was getting up to no good overall, to put it mildly.
When I got to my new environment (USA baby), I had already developed such a defensive, combative, downright weird attitude that I made no friends, not even anything resembling one. I almost got into a fight with a guy who called me “Dude” because I had assumed that it was a derogatory term. I was just an introverted weirdo you would see on campus and wonder what the hell his deal is. My deal was that I badly wanted to leave.
Nobody bothered me in US, but everything felt so foreign to me, it was like being alone on an alien planet. When home is already something you’ve missed for so long, there is nothing worse than being in a place that resembles it so little. On top of that, I didn’t understand what anyone was saying, I didn’t know what a nickel, a dime, and a quarter were, even American shower faucets confused the hell out of me. I knew how weird I was and I wanted to be back in a place where I wasn’t, even if I was hated there. But hard-gained money was being spent, sacrifices were being made for my sake, so I was stuck doing what I felt obligated to do, and waiting to be done with it so I could go back.
But I’m dragging this out again now with the random unimportant details. To speed this up, that was basically my college experience until eventually I graduated (barely), and realized that I could not, in good conscience, waste the money spent on my education by going back to resume getting my ass kicked same as before, only now with a diploma. I decided that I owed my family to try to stay in US for a chance do those elusive big things, and so I applied for asylum, which was denied.
For the next 12 years, I was as an illegal alien, roaming from place to place, doing odd jobs and living in unfamiliar people’s basements. That’s 12 years of waiting again, out of a sense of obligation. This time, it was an obligation to justify the sacrifices made to get me to US, even though it was the last thing I’d ever wanted.
To speed this up even further, during this round of waiting, I became utterly hopeless and severely depressed. I was so goddamn sick of always being stuck, of being nothing, of having nothing, of letting something/someone else make my decision for me for so many years, and of making myself do things that I did not want to do. In the meanwhile, I got royally screwed over by my friends, the immigration appeals got complicated and uncertain, and I lost my father after being unable to see him for close to ten years. That last one was heavy.
For twelve fucking years, I was in a terribly depressing limbo, with no clear future, no money, and no feasible way to justify anything to anyone, including myself. Somewhere along the way, I made some very dangerous acquaintances who helped me start a serious drug habit, which in turn helped me develop a debilitating panic disorder, as in a legitimate clinical panic disorder where every waking second was a nightmare. This wasn’t just anxiety; I became certifiably mentally disabled. If you’ve ever had a real panic attack, imagine having the peak of it 24/7 for several years. Google will tell you that it’s impossible and I will tell you that it happened to me.
For four terrible, hellish years, my days were spent in the Nevada desert, in a single room on a heavily blood-stained mattress (don’t ask) that was covered in kitty litter, trying to breathe and waiting to fall asleep. I was convinced that I had become a vegetable, and I started seriously contemplating suicide. It is pretty much a miracle that I didn’t act on it, I just could not do that to my family.
Some sort of a magical Popeye spinach got me out of there. I got my panic disorder somewhat under control (mostly) at some point, I quit the drugs, found an ok-paying gig and proposed to a girl that I had met maybe ten times. As you might be guessing, circumstance played a role even in that decision. Yes, as much as my state of mind allowed, I liked her. No, I did not marry her for immigration reasons, but I cannot honestly say that I would not have waited without that factor present (in my defense, I was 100% honest about everything). To put it bluntly, she was just all I had back then, and she was willing.
Now I will whine about my life today:
It’s been a number of years and, surprise, the marriage has been rough (let’s go with that word), and for the most part, joyless. I know what century this is, but the reality is that there is still a low probability of a woman respecting a man who depends on her too much. It has certainly been true for us and I’ve always felt it.
I get it, I am old school too (or in my case, stuck in the past), so I never wanted that sort of a relationship. I had never expected to marry anyone until I got on my feet, but at that time, it just seemed improbable. And in my further defense, before I finally received my green card (and then citizenship), I’d tried every legal way to make whatever money I could (and I paid taxes), but I had failed to become a provider, and that’s still a tough spot for a man to be in.
Everyone is different, so I will not try to give you advice, but just know that if it is going to be a problem for you, it will be a problem sooner than you think, and it will be bigger than you imagine. There will be a lingering whiff of it in every situation; there will be constant hints, meaningful (in a negative way) gestures, attitudes, and various little inconsiderations. Sounds small, but like any negativity in marriage, it adds up and it festers and there isn’t a damn thing you can do because who the hell are you? And you know what else? It’s not just the wife. A situation like that brings out the worst in a man too. He gets defensive, frustrated, unpleasant, especially if he is a man already decently roughened by the real evil bitch (life. get it?).
So my marriage has very very quickly become… guess what word I’m going to use… waiting for the circumstances to improve, which would hopefully trigger a positive change in the dynamic of our relationship. But in marriage, hope has an expiration date, so inevitably it all turned into just waiting.
I wanted to leave several times (and I do mean leave the country and leave everything behind), actually wanted to, but this is perhaps a good time to mention that we have an autistic son. Circumstance made leaving more and more difficult while time made it less and less bearable, and yet again, even in marriage, I’ve become stuck.
Divorced people will scoff at that. They will insist that being stuck is only a hesitance to act. Well, let me make my case…
First of all, the kid. If you are divorced with kids, imagine being divorced with kids who cannot understand why you are not around and who need you to be more than most.
Second, all the money that I make, to the last nickel, dime, and quarter go to cover our monthly expenses and the fees of the apartment that we live in, which she owns (she does not work). I know it’s weird to say that the apartment I live in is owned by my wife (doesn’t it mean that we own it?) but trust me, it isn’t mine in any sense of the word. In many ways, and for a long time, we are strangers living under the same roof, kept under it by… circumstance. More than a few of our fights have ended with the voicing of the fact that I could not afford to pay for this apartment and a separate one for myself, so we have to stick it out so here we are. Stuck.
Why doesn’t she get a job? The son. He needs full-time hands-on care. Trust me, he just does.
Why doesn’t she sell the apartment? Because renting would be more expensive and that money will run out. It’s the only asset she has and it is an emergency asset for the son, who has health issues (he’s had several surgeries already).
And to be clear, we don’t despise each other. We can coexist until the circumstance allows another option.
So let me tell you how I spend my days trying to remedy this circumstance:
Before I start this, let me just preface it by saying that I do realize that a lot of people do not have what I have. I have a home, a job, a family, and I even have the resources to stay in a top tier shape (just being honest). I will talk more about this at the end but I will just mention now, as someone who has lived in the street and starved before, and had gone without a buck in his pocket for pretty much most of his life, I have never been this depressed.
I’ve mentioned that I had a job, I think. Actually, I have four. No, this doesn’t mean that I clock in and out four times a day at four different locations. It’s just four different things that I am doing for money (or for promise of money) that are currently stressing me into that sweet sweet inevitable heart attack.
Let me quickly tell you about the way I spend my days:
My main job is at a dying company that has been steadily losing its employees, and guess who has been picking up a lion’s share of their responsibilities each and every time? At this job alone, I am mostly doing the work of three people (ok 3.5 people) but that’s why I get paid a tiny bit more than I realistically would at another job. Still not nearly enough but more. This pays the bills and provides insurance.
Now understand, that any job has some downtime but mine has close to zero. I actually sit and work every minute of the 8.5 hours I’m there. And every tiny bit of downtime I do get, including the lunch break, I spend doing my other work.
One could call this other work a business, technically, but its existence depends too much on another business to really be considered one in my eyes. It is also fully reliant on shipments from China so you can guess what’s happened there in the past two years. I make almost nothing from it these days but that almost nothing I cannot do without.
My boss is not reading this so I am completely honest when I say that I work so intensely every day that I am ready to collapse when the clock hits 5:30. My eyes are barely open and I walk home like I just ran a marathon… and I will only say this because this is anonymous… almost every day I walk home with tears in my eyes because of where I am in life, because I cannot take it any longer but I have to. Its either dark or I wear a hat so it's cool.
When I get home, I immediately hit the gym. Now I know what you’re thinking. ‘He has the time to hit the gym and he is sitting here complaining.’ True, but even the gym gives me nothing but misery. I am so exhausted when I return from work, the last thing I want to do is lift weights. I only really do it because I feel like I have to, for health reasons, and to reset mentally for round 2.
Round 2 is finishing the physical portion of that “business” work (counting, packing, etc), and then jumping straight into stock research and a stock trading course that I’ve been taking (before this course, it was coding, then it was learning the ways of that half-assed business I’ve mentioned, which had seemed to be a quicker payoff than coding and that was desperately needed at the time). This stocks thing is hundreds of hours long, so I’ve been spending 2-3 hours a night studying with no finish line in sight (that rhymed). That puts me at around 11PM. That’s when I can spend time editing my book.
You are like, “Really? Editing your book is your fourth job?” I’m with you but while I enjoy the writing, I really do, at this time, it is a rather desperate and in turn stressful activity. To be dumb for a moment, I will admit that my secret dream existence is to be a fiction writer and I fantasize about making money that way, lots of it. I wish (not hope) that it would turn out that way but of course I know that it never will. I just don’t have the time to hone the craft even if I had the talent. Hell, English isn’t even my first language so just imagine the prose... I couldn’t even come up with a joke example here because that would require knowing what a laughably bad example is. So what I’m doing here really is putting in a lot of work (and it is a lot of work) into something that I desperately NEED to succeed that I also know will not. Make sense? That’s ok.
To summarize, on a regular work day, and on most weekends, I have just about zero (as in literally) downtime, not counting the session of exhausted weight lifting and the writing/editing, which is as stressful to me right now as everything else. I'll tell you I love movies and video games, and I don't remember the last one I've watched/played of either. Every second of every day, I work like my life depends on it or I think about work (planning, preparing, listening to educational youtubes, etc) and that would be fine if I were 20 or even 30 but I’ve started when most people in my world (note ‘IN MY WORLD’) are finishing. It would be fine too it weren’t for the fact that I see no sign and no solid rational hope that any of these things I’m doing will actually pull me out of this circumstance. At the end of the day, they are just something to give me hope, obscure hints of opportunities. Distractions from the realization that I will never break out. That makes me depressed (duh) and so I want to work more but there just aren’t more hours in the day and I do have a kid.
Again, regarding me complaining despite having so much, I know. I get it. There are homeless people sleeping in the street hungry. But I’ve been there, and yet, my heart has never been as heavy as it is now. I’m going to elaborate below.
The whining part:
When I hit 40, the number scared the hell out of me. The realization of how much of my life had been wasted away doing time, flipped some sort of a switch that made every second of my further existence torturously urgent.
Yes, doing time. I feel like I’ve never been free. That day when I woke up in that different world, I really woke up into my life’s prison. Ever since then, I’ve been waiting for someone else or something else to dictate where I should be and what I should do, but at the same time, I must admit (and this is the absolute worst part of it all) that whenever there were bent bars in the fence, I walked past them instead of doing my best to squeeze through.
There weren’t many of those moments, admittedly, but there were times when I should have done something, resisted, spoken up. Unfortunately, I have never been able to rationalize myself out of the idea that submitting to my ever present sense of obligation is the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, it can be, and in many ways it should be the thing to do, but not to this extent. How will it affect someone else? Will I be letting them down? Will I be making a problem out of myself for others? These have been my main concerns in life and they’ve made me do a lot more waiting that I’ve probably really had to, and I’m so so so so so so very tired of it.
Get rich or die trying, someone has said and I’m stealing it. Any way you twist it, the only way for me to be free once again for the first time since I was 14 is... get ready for the shittiness... money. That’s it. Otherwise, I will stay and die locked up.
I realize that therapy is a thing. Reflection, meditation, prayer can work for almost any man. Almost. For me it can’t. It’s been too long and too harsh. I have not been molded into what I am today. I’ve been hammered into this shape, irreversibly dented into it with chunks missing. I have actually tried therapy and you know what I discovered there? I discovered that it’s been too long and too harsh.
To actually attain happiness again, there is no other way, and yes I am connecting my happiness to money which rich people will tell you not to do. To me, at this point, I am saying it, there is no other way to ever be happy. There probably is, hypothetically speaking, but for me there isn’t. You couldn’t tell Mike Tyson not to knock people out back in the day. You remember how fucked up he was? Tell him back in the day, “You can win by keeping your distance, keeping your guard up for twelve rounds like Floyd Mayweather.” Back in the day, he would knock you the fuck out for saying it. I am no Tyson but the way life has fucked me up, I too see no other way to win but one. At this point, I cannot stop giving a shit and go live my free life in the woods. I cannot ignore my debts. I cannot forget everything that happened. Believe me, trying to forget has been my life’s main struggle. Finally, I cannot ever leave my son.
If you’ve been reading this far, you’ve noticed that my biggest problem has always been the lack of options and options is money, especially now. See below.
So… say, tomorrow I check my lottery numbers and I hit the jackpot. What then?
But that’s trivial details. The main thing... The most important thing… The thing this is all about… I become free. In my mind and in my life. All debts paid, all musts satisfied, all splinters removed, just my own decisions for once, choosing my own direction for the rest of my life, my place, my surroundings, my people, choosing, owning, having a say, getting involved in things that matter outside of my circle of misery. And every remaining second, I would read and write but never because I would have to.
Every second that passes terrifies me with the fact that it may never happen.
You know, I’ve been through some lows in my life and I’ve never felt as low as I do now. There is such a thing as an opportunity cost of happiness and today mine is at its peak. It really is true that conditions are not a good indication of one’s level of misery. It’s all experiences. It’s what you know, what life will make you know and lose, and how it might let you gain what it does give you.
I’ve had a good life for 14 years, and then nothing but obligations and waiting that required me to put myself on hold. If tomorrow the miracle happened, what I would really be able to do was create a culmination of it all in one epic resolution that is my own. And it would all feel like it had a purpose. It would be me closing my eyes again and opening them outside of the prison, thinking that it resulted in me being able to be truly happy with things that most claim are not happiness. That’s the only end I dream of now.
The dark reality is of course that there are no miracles. Every day that I open my eyes, they will blur with tears of helplessness and that’s a future I am not looking forward to.
I have already said that most of it is in no small part due to the fact that I am fucked in the head but I am what I am and that’s all that I am.
Finally, I want to say again that yes, this is all not a water well in a starving village. “I want to be rich to be happy?” What idiot does not feel this way? But I promised honesty, didn’t I? I am not going to even edit this. Take it or leave it.
BTW, drop a cent and if my book is ever ready, you get a copy. I promise you, it will suck.
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