The Turning Back

Not sure where to begin, so just beginning.

I seem to recall reading a book about people who were comparatively indifferent to normal stimuli. For these people, good was no better than bad. Or maybe good was better, maybe they knew this on a cognitive level, but the difference felt so slight that no effort to achieve good ever seemed worth it. I thought I read an anecdote about such a person being slow to run from a burning building. They didn’t feel that running was so much better than staying put.

(I thought I read this in Peter Kramer’s Listening to Prozac, and that book does have a section on anhedonia, but nothing that quite matches this.)

When I read about such people, I didn’t think, “That’s me,” not exactly. But I could relate to them.

When I took a high school drawing class, we went outside to look for things to sketch. A lot of people were drawing trees and flowers, but I was drawing a crumpled Coke cup lying in the gutter. When I found out my perspective was different from other people’s, I was proud. Or glad, anyway. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. Why should I?

The one time I skipped high school, it was to drive to a library to finish a jazz arrangement I was working on. I was proud of how I spent my time that day. But I was also content to spend many another day playing computer games, some of which were immersive but ultimately sterile time-sinks such as Civilization II.

I did all these things without making distinctions. Why make distinctions? One thing was as good as another to me. Whatever could hold my attention, that was the thing I wanted to pursue.

I spent four and a half years getting a degree in creative writing, but then I spent the next eight and a half years drifting through a series of random jobs, all the while not writing. Why? Fair question. But at the time, apparently my question was, why not?

I then spent two and a half years studying to get a job in software development, but after I got the job, I found myself collapsing under the weight of things I thought I had buried, lowering my head to the floor, and developing a drinking problem that turned into a daily habit.

I’ve done all of these things. I’ve gone where the breeze blew me and called it my choice. And in the end, the destination was so painful that I had to reverse my course and turn back.

This is my turning back.