Four years. Two lives. One realization.

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I originally posted this on July 14, 2018.

I pulled into Fort Worth, Texas on July 14, 2014. To the best of my math understanding, that’s four years ago tomorrow. I’ve lived in the same general one-block radius for that entire time, and I still live there. So it’s been four years in the same hood, but aside from that, everything else is pretty much different.

I moved down here for a specific job. That was the whole impetus/reason I even ended up here. (Here’s the full arc.) At the intersection point of “The job wasn’t really a fit” and “I could have done better,” I lost that gig in November 2015.

I moved down here with a specific partner. Same intersection point — “The relationship wasn’t really a fit” and “I could have done better.” Lost that in early 2017.

So it’s been four years, but two wholly distinct lives. (Three, really, if you count the period after getting laid off.) And there’s been more than one realization — there’s been hundreds — but this post is more about speaking to one.

Let’s do a quick minute on what divorce is and means

We have a skewed narrative around this, so I just want to try and be as honest as I can.

By the time you reach a point where divorce is even a legitimate consideration, your relationship is incredibly broken. Can it be fixed? Yes. Many people in human history have pulled it back from the brink. Me and my ex probably did the a few times too. It’s possible. But by the time that’s out there, you’re broken.

But look, divorce is not a failure. In a conventional sense, yes, you failed. You attempted something and it didn’t work, and I think that’s the dictionary definition of failure, so sure, on face let’s say it’s a failure.

But the way we structure the middle section of our lives is confusing. If you’re from a certain background, the idea is that you find this one person — out of 4B possible partners relative to your sexual preference — and then you build this life of meaningful jobs, nice houses, children, dogs, good friends, good food, amazing Instagram feeds, and all that.

The thing is, this shit doesn’t work for everyone. Not everyone can follow that linear path. Not everyone is ready to be an adult when other people are. People struggle with different things. Relationships are fucking hard.

Is this rocket science? No. Is it pandering? Hopefully not.

I’ll tell you as best I can what divorce is: you go through a lot of stuff with someone, and you have ideas on what that meant and what the future might hold, and then one day it’s just not there, it’s not a reality. It’s gone. You had friends through this person and they were some of your best friends, closest people, and bam, one day, it’s just gone, it’s not there, but they’re still tangibly there, you see them online, you see their lives from afar, but you can’t touch those lives, you can’t be what you once were to them because the base connection has changed. You might be better off for not being in that relationship, and the other might be better off too, but the world you inhabited changes, and the ground shifts under your feet, and in that moment you need to start thinking about who you actually are. Even if you knew it was coming, and to be honest everyone I’ve ever met in that situation knew it was coming, it’s still a moment and then another moment and then ultimately a series of moments that you need to take a deep breath and get moving on.

Am I out here to tell you it’s hard? No shit it’s hard. This was probably 18 months ago at this point, but I can still remember coming back to the apartment we lived in and opening it and realizing 1/2 of the stuff was gone. I can think about that moment differently now, sure — but any shift is hard, change is hard in general, but when you seismically adjust who your people are and who orbits around you, yes, it’s different, it’s difficult, but it’s also an aspect of life. We don’t get to skip The Second Act; The Second Act is where everything happens.

That dream story

Apologies if you’ve heard this, because I’ve put it in 2–3 other posts along the way.

When I was getting separated/divorced, I had the same dream probably five or six times in 20–25 days.

Here’s the layout of the dream:

My dog is currently (not in the dream, in current real life) about 2–3. That breed lives to be about 10. So let’s say my dog is alive for another 8 years.

This dream probably happens about 6–7 years from now.

In the dream I’m walking this older version of my dog, and my ex rolls up with her new person/husband/whatever … and a baby.

Now at the time this was all happening, I’m 35–36, I don’t have kids, most of my friends do, every time I log onto Facebook that’s all I see, etc.

I also had just read this New Yorker article about how you’re biologically meaningless if you hit 40 and don’t have a kid.

So I got all this life shit going on and I keep having this dream. It was a fucked up time, you know?

I told a few people and didn’t get much back in the way of guidance aside from “WHOA, OK.”

(People are pretty limited at giving good advice in tougher times.)

Finally one of my friends says this to me:

“Well that moment could theoretically happen. It’s not a reach at all. So who are YOU going to be in that moment?”

That one line — “Who are YOU going to be in that moment?” — changed a ton of thinking for me.

Stuff I think about

I just finished this Sebastian Junger book called Tribe — here’s a good interview with him on “whether civilization is good for us” — and in it he talks a lot about community, suffering, loneliness, all that.

One big theme, for example: in the 1700s, whites would be captured by Indians. When they got to a place where they could be returned, many didn’t want to go. Indian communities are community-driven and close-knit. Early white communities, precursors to modernity, are not. We’re social animals and crave community. But we don’t set stuff up that way. Instead we spend time on our phones, in our cars, in cubicles, doing errands in walled-in areas, etc. Community is what humans crave/seek, but it’s not how we design our world.

There is a confusion about this too: we think that following someone online is “being part of their community,” but that’s marketing speak. It’s fun to see other people’s platforms, sure, but is it real connection? It’s not. We crave that which is pushed furthest away by modernity.

I write about this shit literally all the time: increasing isolation, increasing loneliness, increasing nervousness, etc. I’m not doing it to scare people. I’m just trying to be realistic about how things are for a lot of people (and especially men).

So look, the good thing about trauma is this — it led me to that “one realization.”

The one realization

Put community above all.

Money? Awesome. Can’t take it with you, though.

Titles? Sweet ass sweet, baby. No one cares if you’re a VP when you’re in hospice, though.

Bagged a lot of girls/guys? Nice. That’s not so relevant after 26, if it ever was.

Saw the world? Amazing, and the experiences mean a lot. But it’s not the same as seeing it with people that also mattered.

Build community. Find people. Find a tribe. Do all that.

That’s what matters, and that’s what you remember and long for and crave and want to take with you when you know it’s slipping away.

The other realization I had in this whole period — the other big one — is that five-year plans are mostly jokes, because you know what I was doing four years ago today? Moving to Ft. Worth with another job and another person, and here I am today, trying to be strong as fuck, trying to find my place in the universe still, trying to connect with new groups of people, and I never would have seen any of that coming four years ago tomorrow. Not even one iota of it. If you had asked me, I’d be a home owner, a father, still probably in that job I moved for …

nothing really goes according to the script …

… what you can control is a much smaller list than what you can’t …

… and in the end, what seems to matter is people and connections and community and tribe and finding your spot.

I don’t know a lot and I fuck up a ton. Hourly in many cases. But this is just an attempt to try and explain what a bunch of life experiences have shown me. I hope maybe one or two lines resonated.

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