What I’ve Learned From Sucking At Life For 29 Days


Southern California experiences this thing called “June Gloom” every year during the month of – surprise – June. It’s characterized by cloudy weather and overcast skies. Chicago’s weather this June has resembled “June Gloom.” Notwithstanding that the summer technically starts on June 21st, summer time Chi has sort of felt like, cloudy time Chi. My weather report doesn’t end here though. My life for the last 29 days has sort of felt pretty cloudy too – with a 50% chance of rain, and the sun refusing to shine even when the forecast said it might.

To be completely fair, the 29 days did not entirely suck. I got to see a Blackhawks Stanley Cup playoffs game. Indeed the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and the city came to life. I saw a friend who I hadn’t seen in four years. I was interviewed about being a writer on a South African radio show. Two friends who also happen to be my favourite couple got married. I met up with some college friends to celebrate the upcoming marriage of one friend. And all in all,  there were no major calamities in life, really. In many ways, the days were quite ordinary.

But have you ever felt that nothing specific is wrong but somehow when you put your days together, the whole feels less than the sum of its parts? And the whole should always be greater. But it wasn’t.

The month didn’t start off like this. Like most disappointments, I began with grand ol’ plans. I would finally wrap up some academic work, I had work projects and goals that I thought would finally see the light of day, I would take advantage of the city’s spectacular summer offerings, and I would be ready for my half marathon in July. But delays on all fronts with all projects, an unproductive busy-ness – where you’re always seemingly working but not accomplishing much – a hamstring sprain, and a few run-ins with blasts from the past that fill you with doubt. All of a sudden you find yourself wishing you could run and hide from your life on a daily basis.

It’s sort of a spiral really. At least it is for me. I have said it quite a few times but I seem to be one of those people whose life is either entirely put together or entirely falling apart; the in-between is rarely my portion. But I know that shit really hits the fan when I’m bad at school or work obligations. See, I know that my work in any capacity doesn’t define me. I know this; I internalize it. But work, to me, in all its forms, is something that I think of as being generally within my control. It’s sort of like working out – running in particular – and eating. Sure I may not control all these things entirely. But if I have sometimes been bad at other things – like dating or relationships or friendships or just being a good citizen of the earth in general – I refuse to let it enter “my work.” So when I feel like I suck at work, for better or for worse, I feel like I suck as a person.

When it rains of course, it pours. An awkward encounter or two with one of those somebody’s you used to know, as Gotye would put it, led to me feeling like absolute shit for some reason. Couple that with eating out more and eating badly, drinking more “because its summer,” cooking less, and not being able to run or work out, and then surrounded by a disorganized apartment that reflected where my mind was at currently – in too many places all at once but nowhere in particular; I was in a rut.

I’ve been in ruts before. And they’ve lasted longer than 29 days. The kind of ruts where you wonder if you’re experiencing depression. For me, those ruts turned out to be melancholy sometimes. Other times, they were just struggles I had to face and lessons I had to learn. Life always goes on in the end, doesn’t it? And that’s perhaps what I re-learned during this latest rut. Life was happening, with or without me. At first this may seem somber but with the right perspective, it lightens a certain burdensome view of the world you might have.

Another lesson I learned is that you have to confront what you’re feeling – the deep, dark corners of what you feel. Most of the time, we sweep these things into a tiny corner, we lock the door, and we throw the key away. We try to forget. But then when you least expect it, life will remind you that you never dealt with those things. And unless you do, they will haunt you. So accept the discomfort of those dark corners; accept the person you are when you’re in them. Acceptance comes before letting go, and not a second sooner.

A few more practical things I learned is that I am simply one of those people who has to do their dishes every day, usually the moment after I’m done cooking or while I’m cooking, or those dishes won’t be done for the rest of the week. I also need to learn to just stop digging when I’m in a rut. I need to think of it as quick sand – the more you struggle to get out, the quicker you sink. In fact I know what really helped me get out of this was just stopping. Stopping to go for a walk, to clean my apartment, to buy the freshest produce, to appreciate my life – for a half a day in the midst of it all. That’s when I got it together and got out of my head.

I think I also learned that it’s okay to look for an ending; it’s okay to seek closure. I’ve often seen it as something that is entirely overrated. And I guess part of me still thinks it is. But maybe sometimes life gives you closure, and sometimes you have to create it for yourself.

I often talk about the harsh realities of life with my coworker and friend Mink. We both pay attention to them quite a bit. Indeed this was a rut, but it pales in comparison to other experiences that I have overcome. What I’ve learned from many experiences however, is that in the end, I’m simply not a person who lets life happen to them; I’m a fighter. And no matter how long it takes, I’ll always get up. Always.

The sacrifices that have been made for me to be where I am today is something I take seriously. My life is simply not just my own; I am in debt to those who have helped me get here. And it’s the kind of debt that can only be repaid by living a worthy life. So I simply have little patience for anyone – myself included – that cannot face life for what it is – beautiful and ugly; breathtaking and exhausting.

Or as I put it to Mink earlier today about something we were discussing, “I guess I’m just a bitch cause I have a hard time with people who don’t know how to face the hardness of life. Not everyone even gets a choice.” Mink’s response was, “It doesn’t make you a bitch, it makes you grounded.”

After 29 days of sucking at life, I hope I’ll always stay grounded.