college: Part two

I stopped taking my medication again.

I spent my entire summer at a print shop. I printed T-shirts, and was pretty good at it. Having a slight fear of authority in me still made me work hard, but the place was very lax and certainly did not follow most laws. Most of us were paid in cash, and the rest of us were paid half cash so that people could keep abusing government programs. A lot of time was spent operating these presses and drinking, smoking, and having fun. Many of my first experiences with what I should have been done and over with were had there. It was my third summer there but my first with my new, "open-minded" perspective on life. I knew nothing mattered, and I had learned by this point that my drunken state wasn't a mirroring of my mother's behaviors like I had feared, but rather a pretty jovial and entertaining one. I was dancing at bars, drinking whisky by the glass, and experiencing new states of consciousness I hadn't even dreamed of.

This was the self medication I didn't realize I was performing.

The pay was good, really good, and so I didn't really worry about the year to come. It was my second year out of my parents' home, and my room mates didn't live in the state during the summer. I had my whole home to myself, and I had no real commitment or responsibilities. This is about when I had formed a pretty dangerous drinking habit, in retrospect. I would come home with a six pack from the store attached to the print shop, and I would drink and play video games. I was working about 60-80 hours a week, and I almost never had enough time to do anything productive. That's how I justified it at least. There's a pattern of behavior that occurs to me at the time as logical but is almost certainly my depression.

My friends at the time were based near my hometown and involved my cousins at some points. They were about 2-4 years younger than me, so their experimentation was pretty much on par with the rest of society. I had spent most of my time off experiencing and distracting myself with them. It also helped shape my personality, for better or worse. They are all good people, and I'm still pretty close with a few. I even live with one. But I still had this new faction of memories that I didn't want to confront, and so I stayed distracted. Escapism became my new life. Drinking, smoking, and hardly any thinking. It was enough to make me feel like I had finally saved myself from that dark spot I saw the year prior, but (again) in retrospect it was just a person who was experiencing a maturation gap. 

My senior year started, and I had to decide what my final project, my BFA Thesis, was going to be about. We had half a month to come up with ideas, and I was pretty sure that I had my mind made up on something involving tattooing. I had decided not to be a professor, but rather, a tattoo artist. I wanted to make art that meant something to people while still being able to live however I wanted. I had worked at a hospital a bit the year before, and even at a Natural History Museum, but the environments were not what I thought I wanted. One was too corporate. The other felt too... normal? It felt like a lie to say that I was the type of person to pick a company to stay with for years and years, growing with them and considering it fulfilling life work. It wasn't that way. I had to dress certain ways and talk certain ways. The print shop at least let me dress literally any way I wanted and speak how I felt best represented my mentality at the time. I wore clothing riddled with holes and ink stains, and sometimes didn't even wear a shirt.

So tattooing became my half-assed life goal.

Tuition was raised a couple grand again, and I had to work a bit during the week to keep up with financial demands. I didn't mind, because my work week became 3 days and my schoolwork was mostly piled onto 2 days of the week. At least for that first semester. I was cocky again, spending 4 hours or a few classes on a project and still looking good. I thought I had been back on my game, now having such rigorous practice on my belt. I was still doing very well with all my projects, and conversations with my classmates became easy, because now I could express myself without that concern of judgement. I decided already that I was as great as I wanted to be and didn't care if people didn't like it. I was cocky, but not outwardly. Having that confidence while still being empathetic really made connecting with even strangers a breeze. The problems in the world started to seem to all be related to money. All the distress in the world seemed to be summed up to lack of empathy, an abundance of greed, and the ability for that greed to obliterate the need for empathy. It was the corporations that caused humans to cease to be seen as such, and everyone was really just a product of their life and environment; it was not anything in anyone's control. And so, I began to justify everyone's actions as me just not truly understanding their life.

Being nice is easy when nobody is responsible for the evils of the world.

I wasn't without my lulls though. I wouldn't drink on school nights, which meant I drank way less than I did in the summer, and so all of those thoughts that I had avoided with the poisons I'd consume came rushing back, more potent than before. Having a bit of age to them made them the perfect new poisons. I had spoken of my past, but it ceased to be confronted. One of those first two weeks of school I decided to nix the tattoo thesis and focus on something a bit more detrimental to my mental health: my childhood.

I proposed a graphic novel about child abuse. It would be about me, but I made it sound like it had nothing to do with me, at least at first. I would spend the next few months making connections with local children services and abuse shelters, raking in data that was absolutely horrifying. I wasn't alone in my experiences, and it was speculated that, just as I had for so many years, far more people were never going to have the realization of their past. As you have read, I already knew that every event and environment helped shaped the person. I began to feel horrible for these people who haven't even began the journey to heal their mental wounds. It became that much more important that I finish this book; that I show people that it's okay to hurt, that they aren't alone, and that there are other ways of helping victims than the broken systems we have in place today.

My whole family on my mother's side ignored the horrific events that took place at our house. They all knew, though, and would have us sleep over as often as they could while simultaneously defending her actions in court, mostly with fabrications of reality. My sisters and I lived with her until we were of age to testify against her. Only then did my father get custody. I was very familiar with the failures of labeling children as numbers and of courts to really truly understand the situations. I also gained a lot of insight into other's stories, many far more devastating than my own. I wanted them to know that they too are not alone, and that they can escape the poisonous mindsets that they suffer from.

I stopped drinking even more, and began to work on the project. After my time with both of the significant others I was left pretty much friendless, but still maintained a civil relation with a few people. I didn't really worry about them though, because I had something to be passionate about. I spent hundreds of hours creating the story, altering the artwork, and trying to ensure my message was conveyed properly. A whole school year went by, and I had my book printed, and I bound them myself. I even printed the covers myself at work. Then something unfortunate happened after I had uploaded the story in text onto my website. This was about a month into advertising it, and about 2 days before I presented my work.

It was late, and I had been alone drinking at home. My room mates were gone, left for the rest of the summer having had presented days prior. I received an email on my phone, which was directed from my old website's forwarding service. It was a girl who had read my story, and felt inspired about it. She was an expecting mother, and had been so worried about having a child in the horrible environment she was surrounded with. It was the only environment she could provide for this child, but deep in her heart she felt it to be wrong.

In my story I had a few very clear and concise points about parenting trends, and one that was the central theme of the book more than all: if you cannot nurture a child in a positive environment you should not have a child. I went on to explain the shortcomings of public education of sexual reproduction and protections, as well as the sexual pressures experienced in youth. One of my conclusions was that Clayton shouldn't have been born, which was a mirrored mentality I had and still have of myself. I should not have existed. My mother should not have had children. She was Catholic and didn't believe abortion to be ethical, and I was and still am pro choice, but I felt she made the wrong one.

The woman went on to describe how I encouraged her to get an abortion and to spare this child a horrible life she knew it would have. Sober, I would have read the situation differently. I was drunk and alone though, which were both my decisions, and I was in a mental state that was not ready for such a harsh realization. My story had worked; I had spared misery. This child could have grown to be someone of influence, but statistically it would just be another dysfunctional and misunderstood human. We are too often blind to the effects of a childhood environment on a person. We decide that stories we hear of robberies and murders are "just bad people," but there is no such thing as just a bad person. We create these people, socially and economically. Our physiology only allows for so much resilience before we cannot resist the negative drives in our life. These people think it's okay to rob and murder, that there is nothing wrong with them. They think that this is just the hand life has given them, and it breaks my heart to know nothing has changed in this respect. Focused in the limited way that I was on the negatives, I decided I didn't want to influence anymore lives. I barely remember it, but I burnt every book and deleted every file, making sure that I had nothing left in my backups either. I had purged myself of this story.

The next morning was the first hangover of my life. Having scattered memory, I started to piece together what happened. In my deleted messages folder, I found the email from the unnamed girl. She probably doesn't even think about me or my story anymore, but I do think of her. I think of how I was afraid of the change I had worked so hard to find, and I think of how alcohol has effected my life despite my seemingly best efforts to stop it. I made all of these decisions and had to deal with the consequences. I to this day have not finished my degree, nor have I felt any passion or drive to be a creative. I work for a corporation now, still off my medication, and have had some realizations in the past month that have caused winds of change to stir up some of my life.

I'm very aware now that my decisions are mostly influenced by my  imbalances. It is not a weakness, it's a disability. I need to let my pride go and get back onto my medication and take hold of my life again. It took some inspiration from someone who hasn't been fooled by my facade to help me realize that. I guess all that's left is to do it.