The past six weeks have comprised my worst time at Georgia. We all have factors that make us happier. For me, I can identify five: sunny weather, agency (resources and power to do interesting work), community, love, and honor. In the happiest months of my life, I had all five. During my good times, I’ve almost always had at least three. In the worst times, I’ve held myself together with integrity. Through high school, that kept me alive. I could tell myself I was the least beautiful boy in the world and worthless, but honorable men don’t kill themselves. I place very high value on laws and rules to maintain that concept, that feeling.
Now, well, one out of five might be a stretch. Things aren’t good, though I can’t describe all reasons publicly. I’ve been heading down into depression. It’s affecting my work; I’m making minor mistakes in a field that does not tolerate procedural error. I have to find a way to work more. I managed to cut off self-hatred by counting my hours. During the worst weeks, I still managed to complete 30 to 35 hours of actual work. In a corporate job, that would generally suffice, tossing in meetings and chit-chat. As a graduate student I really need at least 15 more and would prefer to crank out 60s. Spring break week ends tomorrow; I will have about 25 hours of work from Monday to Sunday, and I believe I should have ground out more.
The lack of positive aspects affects my mood. This year, like once before, the major psychological manifestation is fear of death. I’m frequently afraid to fall asleep. Maybe five times this calendar year I’ve gotten 7 consecutive hours. Over the past three weeks, most days have had tears. At least there are no end thoughts.
I had another point to this quick note. I have a story. Thursday night, driving back from the airport, I was sad and hungry. I had visited the Miami area for a couple days, then flew to NYC for a wonderful Wednesday in the city. If you want to peruse a few pictures, Facebook holds them. But then, like all vacations, the return arrived. After an airplane delay, I was hungry, so I pulled into Arby’s about 9:15 PM. I was making Thursday an abstinence-from-meat day. Yes, I know it’s Fridays in Lent. For the past five years, I’ve extended meat abstinence to all Fridays, except as a guest. For the past couple years, I’ve added a second day to develop discipline and better health. When traveling, abstinence often means pizza, which I had for lunch. For small evening meals, Arby’s offers fries and mozzarella sticks. Since I don’t like drive thru windows, I walked in and placed an order and gave my name.
While I waited, an old man entered. He dressed more formally than my jeans and long sleeve Henley. His long sleeve green dress shirt was tucked into khakis, and he wore a gold watch. He slowly walked up and ordered a small combo. The monitors listed his name as Dave. We both stood and waited quietly, me near the registers and Dave farther back. I wondered about Dave’s story, because old men are rarely guests at 9:15 PM. Was he a widower? Had he been always alone? Was he afraid of his last day? Did he have advice for me?
Dave got his meal first, and sat on one side. I wondered if I could go sit by him, and ask my questions, and maybe get help. Maybe he wanted to talk to someone and I would help him. But … I couldn’t go through with the plan. I instead sat on the other side of the seating area. And I cried in my mozzarella sticks. Maybe next time, if I’m blessed with another day.