Sunday, March 2, 2014

Where I've Been

The last time I posted here was in the summer of 2010. Nearly four years ago. My first thought is a very predictable, "Wow!"

Life seems to pass much faster than it did when I was young. I think it's because somewhere along the way, we realize there is an end game to all of this. I came to the realization that there is a limit to how much time we have, which has somehow embedded itself into my psyche at this point.

Yet, despite the fact that some people probably find the sober realization of mortality to be frightening or alarming, it has had the opposite effect on me lately. I am finding that my awareness of the limited time that we have in life has been forcing me to deal with, and ultimately overcome, fear. Instead of thinking something like, "I need to be careful and be thankful for what I already have," my actual thoughts are more like, "If ever there were a time that I need to 'go for it' and take chances, that time is now." Now more than ever, in fact.

But before I move forward with that thought, I want to go back to 2010 and fill in the gap between then and now, 2014.

At the time of my last few postings in 2010, the economy (and therefore hiring) was stagnant, still recovering from the financial meltdown of 2008, and was staying at its lowest point since the Great Recession started. I continued searching and applying for jobs in NYC throughout that entire year, and continued through the end of 2011.

The outcome of all that time and effort? Nada. A big, fat goose egg.

It was a reality that was both frustrating and discouraging. The truth is, I felt inconsolably melancholy. I hit rock bottom, actually; which eventually is what brought me to the crossroads between what I had been doing, and what I was going to do going forward. I was as low and depressed as I had ever been. So, I took a break from everything for a while and spent more time reflecting on my life, my state mind, and my general attitude.

I decided I couldn't go on the way that I had been for the last two years, or else I'd completely lose all heart. Either that, or have some kind of epic meltdown.

There were no other options but to change course, really. I wasn't about to live the rest of my life stuck in a cycle of misery and disappointment. By nature, I am a lover of life, love, and laughter. I needed to get that back. But I had no idea how to find my way back to the healthy, hopeful state of mind that I desired to be in; I just knew I wanted to be there. I needed to be there.

I languished for a while, devoid of ideas on how to get back a genuine zest for life. I began to think that it was an impossible task. Then one day something completely unanticipated happened.

A friend of mine, who is a musician, has the largest collection of music that I've ever seen. I went out on a few outings with him at the time, enjoying steak, libations, and several interesting conversations. He is also very good at fixing computer problems. So, one day I had him fix a few issues I was having with my laptop computer. He ended up fixing the problem, but more importantly, he basically decided to download his entire music collection to my iTunes music collection. Quite an awesome thing for him to do, right?

So, now that I had a ginormous music collection, I began listening to music more often. Mostly my favorites. But on one of those nights, I decided to spend the evening listening to a group that I had heard about endlessly for most of my life, but had never listened to much.

The Beatles.

I had never really learned to appreciate their music before my buddy decided to download everything they had ever recorded for me; but there I was, after a few hours, with that look on my face. The kind of look you might have had as a kid the moment you discovered soul-stirring music that awakened your consciousness to the uniquely powerful stimulus of music for the first time. If you've been a music lover since you were young, you know the look. As a kid, there's nothing quite like hearing newly discovered, great music that makes you feel inspired and alive.

I don't remember exactly which song it was that had initially snapped me out of my melancholic malaise. Maybe it was Ringo's light-hearted, whimsical singing on With a Little Help From My Friends. That was definitely one of them, for sure. I remember hearing that song and immediately pepping up quite a bit. I'm pretty sure I played it twenty times in a row. It felt good. Even though I was alone in the room, the song somehow made me feel like I was in a room full of friends who were sympathetic to my plight; friends who were all in the same boat and could relate to how I felt in that moment and knew what I needed to hear.

One thing that eventually occurred to me from listening to all those songs by The Beatles, was that if you just read the lyrics without actually hearing them perform the songs, many of the songs could have seemed really depressing. Yet, when the very same lyrics were sung along with the music they created to go along with them, the band was somehow able to make even the most unpropitious lyrics sound quite merry.

It was the first I could remember an occasion where I found that downtrodden or broken-hearted lyrics could actually sound joyful, as long as they were coming from Paul's, John's, George's, or Ringo's vocal chords. It was like magic. No, it was magic. It's as if there's a subliminal message, however unintentional, that somehow said, "Hey guys, look what I can do. I'm going to play a trick on you by cheering you up with a catchy song that has some pretty damn sad lyrics. You're welcome."

I mean, think about it. Better yet, go listen for yourself. Songs like Don't Bother Me, Hard Days Night, I Should Have Known Better, I'll Cry Instead, I'm a Loser, Help!, Ticket to Ride, Eleanor Rigby, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, It's Only Love, and on and on. They all leave you happier somehow, yet the boys are singing about things that probably shouldn't leave you feeling that way.

To this day, whenever I hear the words, "She's got a ticket to ride, and she don't care," I pleasantly sing and hum along; as if we should all be happy that the girl who inspired the song probably had one of the Fab Four wrapped around her finger at the time, and couldn't care any less about that fact.

But I digress.

The point is that, to some extent, I credit The Beatles' music for lifting me up from the abyss and bringing my mind to a much happier and hopeful place back then.

I eventually found myself in such a good mental state that I decided to get back to living in the moment and enjoying everything that South Florida has to offer. I have the beach, good restaurants, wine cafes, music venues, art galleries and much more, all nearby. I live in the 'Downtown' area of Fort Lauderdale, one mile from the beach and near the culturally rich parts of the city. In fact, it's the only non-suburban part of the city that's actually very walkable. Everything I need is within walking distance. Everything. Including the beach.

So immersed myself in all things local. I began working out at the gym five days a week. I eventually lost thirty pounds. I fostered new friendships and nurtured old ones. I went out more, became more social. I took out school loans and went back to college. I went back to traveling, reading, going out on dates, eating out, going to wine tastings, and even went shopping for new form-fitting wardrobe.

I lived this way for the better part of two years, and have felt like I've found my way, once again. This is not to say that life has been perfect and without it challenges and disappointments, but to quote Sinatra, "That's life."

And so, I've come full circle with this post, back to writing about where I am now. Which is to say:

"If ever there were a time that I need to 'go for it' and take chances, that time is now."