A six-year story of failure, resilience, drinking, woe, and bouncing back

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These posts are always a bitch to write because they can become incredibly self-indulgent, so I’m trying to walk that tight rope whenever I sit down to do them. I wrote a post when I had been in Texas for one year, which would be about today in 2015. I was still married — and still had the job I moved here for initially — when I wrote that. Then, maybe one of the better, longer “life” things I’ve written is at this point in 2018, when I had been here four years. By then I was divorced, freelancing, and dating the woman who I got engaged to a bit ago. So if you click on those two posts, it kinda book-ends and frames the general experience of living in Texas for the past six years. I’m just going to do a couple of quick call-outs here instead of going on a long tangent about life lessons, which no one should truly care about coming from me.

The Hofbrau story

Hofbrau is a Texas (maybe some other places) chain. Steaks and whatnot. The first apartment I lived in when I moved, it was along the Trinity River and next to one bar (Woodshed), which was subsequently down the street from Hofbrau. Now, at six years in, I’ve probably been to Woodshed like 1,000+ times. I have (well, had, I just deleted some people in my phone) 14 people in my phone where the entry includes the word “Woodshed.” I’m a mess. But I got to Texas back in ’14 on a Sunday night, and it was only 7pm but for some reason Woodshed was either closing or the bar was too full, or something that I now forget, so my ex-wife and I went to Hofbrau. In the intervening six years, I’ve probably been to Hofbrau 10 times and, again, Woodshed about 1,000 times. So it’s interesting how that first night went. PS Hofbrau is now closed at that location, a victim of COVID.

So my ex-wife and I had just driven down from Minneapolis, where I was on an ill-fated graduate school deal that I still regret, and we had stopped to watch the World Cup Final (Germany/Argentina). So now we’re sitting in this bar, eating/drinking, and it’s like, well, here’s the beginning of a new chapter. I had lived in Texas 2003–2005, but in Houston, and I literally had no context for Fort Worth. The only time I had ever spent there was 11–12 days prior to this moment, when we were down there looking at apartments.

So I’m in this Hofbrau, and I send a group text to her family — yes, I sent the group text to her family, which you can read between the lines on if you want — and oddly, the first person to respond is Amanda, her brother’s wife. Chick literally never responded to texts. So she responds, and there are a few other responses, and then I send out a couple of other texts about “Well, we live in Texas now!” and it’s a Sunday night, most of my friends are east coast so you’re talking about 1 hour up, so there’s a few responses but nothing major.

Still, it’s funny to look back because all those people who did respond? I don’t really talk to any of them anymore. And six years is a long time, sure, but it’s also not a long time — a kid born today is barely in first grade six years from now — so it can feel weird.

Now, you gotta think for a second (if you care, which you don’t have to whatsoever) about the context of this moment. I was 33. She was 32, I think. Minneapolis was tough financially and we got in a bunch of fights; years later, after getting divorced, people would ask me “When did you know it was over?” There was a fight in April 2014 in Minneapolis, so a few months before we moved to Texas, when it should have been over, but it wasn’t.

So here we were at this steak place in Texas, on the verge of this new chapter, and also we’re in that “kid” age and I was making good money at this new job, so we’re sitting there thinking about what’s to come and getting periodic texts from different friend sets.

None of that obviously came.

Now this ain’t no “rags to riches” story, either

You go on social media enough and you see all this bullshit of people who ate rats in alleys and now they make $60M a year and buy their course because you can do it too.

That’s not really life.

Some people have amazing successes and moments, but most of us just kinda struggle, plod along, get some wins, have some friends, have some good relationships, make some money, get laid, find some relevance, plod along some more, fail, succeed, fail again, and that’s pretty much life.

Now, I would be the first to tell you that I am not a conventionally successful person. I make OK money, but I have periods of not making much. I get angry too fast; I can drink too much. I’m a super nice and empathetic person, but when people cut me, I am super petty about it. I don’t own anything (maybe my dog?) and don’t have kids. I’m not a “10x” business guy. A lot of times if I work with you and there’s no strategy and just task work, I’ll eventually stop answering your calls. I have friends that are doctors and lawyers and executives and whatnot, with three kids and the 4/3 house with the fence and the Golden Retriever, and honestly I spent most of my 37th year (I am now 39) drinking at bars by myself and starting conversations with people about various topics on overhead TVs.

So no, I am not some raging success. Do I think I am a good person, broadly? Yes. Do I think I care? Yes, maybe too much sometimes. Am I a complete mess on many levels? Absolutely and a day.

So this isn’t some story about how I failed at marriage and became Jeff Bezos (who also failed at marriage). This is just a story about life and how it goes.

Resilience

I’ve written about this a couple of times. I used to frame the post-divorce period around “community,” because I joined this gym, met some new people there, did some activities, talked to guys at bars (see above), etc. I still very much believe in “community” — here’s the primary article I often link when discussing it — but I’m bigger these days on resilience.

When my ex-wife and I broke up, we probably had two core friends: one guy and one girl. It kinda broke that I “got” the guy and she “got” the girl. So now I had one core friend and some sidebar acquaintances. I was 36. And look, in the interest of being real with whoever is still reading this, I’m also staring down a future where I wouldn’t mind getting laid, finding a new relationship, etc.

Those first couple of weeks solo, which are detailed here a little bit, were weird. My ex and I had a bad relationship near the end, but we still had a kind of social cadence around some weeknights and weekends. I had to reinvent that entire concept with, oftentimes, brand-new people. I became friends with two dudes in my building and we watched a lot of 2017 NBA Playoffs at bars. It was weird, but comforting. I tried to get into new groups and stuff. I was actually going to two therapists at the time (long story).

I’d walk my dog a lot and realize “Oh shit, I don’t have many friends here.” I considered leaving a couple of times. A few things stopped me: cost of living, no clear idea where to go (I was freelance and not working for one company), and most places where I had clusters of friends, they all had young kids. What was I gonna do, be the creepy uncle that dad gets to see periodically? While tripling my cost of living? It didn’t seem wise.

So look, again, I am not a successful person and I’m not here to paint that narrative. But I do think I doubled down on resilience and trying to find connection and community where I could. In the process, did I do stupid shit and piss my jeans periodically? You can absolutely take that to the bank. It wasn’t easy, and I cried six or seven times really badly. In October of that year, a good friend of mine died. It was just a hard pocket of time.

So is there a lesson?

Sure, insofar as one wants to learn a lesson from me.

Basically, stuff is going to suck for you at some point. People will die. People will move on from you as a friend, because of geo or divorce or them having kids or some stupid argument. Your parents may get older and sick. Trump may be crazy. Your kid may be a terror for a year.

Stuff is going to suck. Life is not Instagram.

But you are a strong person and you are going to bounce back from that and find a way through, even if the way through isn’t always clear and seems to change and redefine itself every few weeks.

You are a strong person and you can do big, brave things, even through tears and pissed-on jeans. That’s kind of what I have learned across six years.

Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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