I Don’t Know Where I Belong or Where it All Goes From Here.

2017 is just about over. This entry will be my annual look back at the year that was as I ask myself the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Last year, it was easy for me to answer. I simply said “YES.” I actually did use all capital letters to emphasize it. I can’t say anything as certain as that this year, in fact, I’m not even sure if I am better off than I was a year ago. There’s just too many questions to have definitive answers.

Just under two weeks ago marked my 1 year anniversary at my job. In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I liked it, so far. Well, after one year, I still like it. I don’t know if I could say that I got off to a rocky start there, but it was a totally new environment for me and I had to learn something completely from the beginning. Over the year I’ve become one of the more trusted and relied upon associates in my department. And those words aren’t just coming from me, they’ve been said to me by higher ups. I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t do nearly as many 5k races as I had in previous years. In fact, I only did three in 2017. I made excuse after excuse as to why I didn’t run them. Sometimes there were schedule conflicts and other times I just said “I’m not ready.” I didn’t come to close to setting any new records for myself during the three races that I completed, and I actually ran my 2nd slowest ever during one of them. But, I did finish all three. I hope to do a few more races in 2018. And I’m going to do my best to erase the reasons/excuses that held me back in 2017.

One thing I am very proud of us is my (small) contribution to making one of those races happen. I am part of a committee in my town that does a lot of community organizing and events. Getting my town’s 5k race back from the dead was our crowning achievement. Many people in the group did A LOT more actual work than I did to get that race going, but I did have some contributions and as I said, I’m very proud of it.

Last year I wrote about how much better my social life was than one year earlier. I was in a relationship that I was very happy in. Sadly, that relationship did not last. But, there’s no regrets or ill will in any aspect of it. Sometimes those things just can’t be sustained. It happens. And as 2017 ends, I’m actually hopeful about my social life. I think there’s a chance for something. I’m not pushing the issue. I’m letting the cards fall where they may and I’ll see how it plays out.

I said that two of my biggest regrets in  2015 and 2016 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself, yet again in 2017. I didn’t come close with either. Maybe in 2018…
Maybe…

One aspect of my life that isn’t better than last year is my financial situation. I’m in a complete paycheck to paycheck cycle. I don’t know if there’s any way out of that at the moment, but I’ll keep going. It’s what I do. Of course, the political climate and situation in America also contributes to the fears I have about my finances. I don’t believe for one second that the direction we’re going will help me, or anyone in my situation.

Building on that, I do have hope for America’s future. I saw a lot of things happen in 2017 that give me the feeling that we will see a change. I think we will see a progressive movement that will help the greater good of society and not just a select few. That change has actually already started, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Much like 2016, I saw friendships develop and strengthen in 2017. Some people that were just acquaintances became very good friends of mine. I reconnected with some people that I hadn’t talked to for a little while. I even talked to someone (online) that I hadn’t heard from in close to 20 years.

My overall mental health isn’t too bad. I still have my reoccurring feelings of isolation, a lack of belonging, desperation, anxiety, shame, and overall depression. I’m pretty sure they’re always going to be there in some form or another. But, as weird as this may sound, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be depressed. There’s such awareness and so many support systems available now through social media that I think people have new ways to reach out. I know that I often browse various forums and will reply to posts about depression from people I don’t know. If nothing else, I want them to know that they’re not alone.

My blogs got some attention in 2017. As usual, some got more than others. One entry that I’m particularly proud of was the one I wrote about Brian Pillman. In my mind, I wrote that entry for me and the few members of the “Cannon Cult” that used to talk to Brian on AOL in the mid-90s. I thought a few others may read it, but I didn’t expect it to get such attention from Brian’s son. I also didn’t expect someone that was writing a book about Brian to read my entry and then (through a “Cannon Cult” member) reach out to me for stories. And believe me, I certainly didn’t expect to see my name in that book as a contributor after one of my stories was used. I’m so proud of that. It’s actually a bit surreal.

But now, with 2018 only a few hours away, one of the questions I’m asking myself is:
How does one truly start fresh in a new year when we just start our routines over?

I have 365 days to figure that one out. I have a lot of things to figure out in 2018. I have things I want to accomplish. I have places I want to go. I have things I want to do. Some of my goals are really simple. Some may not be as simple. But, like every single year, my resolution for the new year is just “to make it better.” I don’t know what exactly that means yet. But, as I said, I have 365 days to figure that out. With any luck, when I write my 2018 recap, I’ll be able to say that I hit goals and accomplished a lot. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

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A Roman Candle in the Wind

On October 5, 1997 I was at Madison Square Garden watching the New York Rangers in the in their first home game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. The game ended in a tie. When I got back to my house that night, my sister was waiting for me at the door. She asked if I had heard about Brian Pillman. I said “No, what did he do now?” She said “he’s dead.” I questioned what she was talking about before she repeated it and assured me that it wasn’t a play on words. I stood there totally stunned before I just sat on the floor for a few minutes trying to process what I was just told.

There’s a good chance that many of you don’t know who Brian Pillman was. He was a Professional Wrestler. His death obviously had an impact on me. I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to such news and I wouldn’t be writing about it if it didn’t. But, it wasn’t just his death that had an impact on me, it was his life.

From the first time I saw in him 1989, I was a fan. He was a great performer and in many ways, ahead of his time. When he became a villain in 1992, I wasn’t sure he could pull it off, but did he ever. He was great in the role. Not long after that, he was placed into a tag team with “Stunning” Steve Austin. They were the “Hollywood Blondes.” The two had instant chemistry and remain one of my favorite teams to this day.

In 1995, Pillman started to act weird on TV. His character started to “snap” and it got to the point where you never knew what he was going to say or do. He managed to convince his then employer, WCW to let him go. The plan was for him to go to ECW for a while, become a bigger star while being “nuts” and then return. He ended up signing with WWE and became a bigger star that way. For various reasons, including a horrific car accident, his WWE career never took off like it was expected (or hoped). But, this entry isn’t about Brian Pillman’s career. You can go to Wikipedia to read all about that. This is about how Brian Pillman understood the power of Internet way before anyone else. This is about how Brian Pillman took a bunch of fans under his wing online in the days when it wasn’t easy to interact with fans. This is about the bond that was created with those fans and how what it means to me (and us) today.

In 1995, there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter. Interaction with celebrities online was basically unheard of. But, hidden in a sports themed area of America Online was the Grandstand. There was an area specifically dedicated to Professional Wrestling there. A few of us that had already become bored with the official WWE area on AOL would post our thoughts on the product in that area. Also in the Grandstand were folders dedicated to specific wrestlers. Brian Pillman was one of them. He showed up and posted in those folders more than any of the other wrestlers. While “in character” he would sometimes go to the WWE chat room and start trouble and often get his account suspended. His wife, Melanie, often had to plead her case to AOL to get the account reinstated since her name was the “master account” and Brian was just using a name on her account.

Brian was Professional Wrestling’s “Loose Cannon” and a few of us were his “Cannon Cult.” We were the ones he would sometimes ask to start trouble in a folder. Those folders would usually belong to another wrestler that he just wanted to mess with. He would usually pick up where we left off. All of this was in good fun, as we got to interact with one of our favorite personalities, and he got to help increase the awareness of his character and got more attention on himself, even in the days when most people didn’t know what the Internet was.

From time to time, Brian and Melanie would talk to us on AOL Instant Messenger and we became close. As close as possible on the Internet. Another wrestler that was on AOL at the time was “Diamond” Dallas Page. DDP and I would also talk online from time to time. I remember one day in late Summer of 1996 when DDP signed on and I asked him if he had heard from Brian recently. He said no, and that Brian hadn’t returned his calls for a while. I asked him for a deal, I said “if Brian signs on, I’ll tell him to call you. If you talk to him first, tell him his AOL friends miss him.” DDP agreed.

A few weeks later, one of the most controversial episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw ever happened. It’s known as “Pillman’s Got a Gun” and the premise was that Steve Austin was going to break into Brian’s house to injure him more than he recently had. Brian had a gun. Just watch the clip HERE.

I watched the show live that night and I went on AOL when the show was over. Not long after I signed on, Brian’s name showed up on my buddy list. I sent him a message letting him know how great I thought the episode was. We talked briefly and he said he had to go. I didn’t get to deliver the message.

Just a few minutes later, Melanie Pillman signed on. I chatted with her for a few minutes. She wanted to know if her hair looked good. I asked her where Steve Austin was and she told me that he and Brian were downstairs on the couch enjoying some beer. I loved that answer considering I had just seen Brian pull a gun on him. She said she had to get going, but before she did I told her that DDP said Brian hadn’t returned his calls. She said she would get on him about it. I emailed DDP about it. A few days later, he replied letting me know that Brian had called him.

I got to meet Dallas Page in 2013 and I told him that story. He laughed about and told me that he remembered that happening. I’m proud that I played a part in those two reconnecting.

Brian’s WWE career never really took off, for various reasons. Mostly due to nagging injuries. But we didn’t know about his alleged issues with pain killers and other substances. Unfortunately, it all caught up to him on October 5th, 1997. He was found dead in his hotel room. The official cause of death was ruled as heart failure due to an undetected condition.

I have no doubt in my mind that if Brian Pillman was healthy and substance free that he would have been one of the biggest stars in Professional Wrestling during its boom period of 1997-2001. In many ways, much of what happened in the business since his death is due to doors he’s opened online and how seriously he took his character.

To me, his legacy is complex. His in ring work was great. His personality was ahead of it’s time. But, what he did in 1995 and 1996 on AOL is what’s most personal for me. He talked to fans before it was cool to do that. He treated us with respect. He also taught me very early on how much somebody can use the Internet to communicate. He showed me the importance of words and, when used carefully and intelligently, just how powerful they can be.

This post isn’t doing justice to Brian Pillman’s career and influence. I’m not trying to recap his highlights here. I know this entry may make me seem like a “Mark” or a “fanboy,” but so what? Access to someone you thought so highly of was not common in 1995 and I was thrilled to have such access.

He was a big part of what made a few of us lifelong friends. Yes, I still talk to some members of the “Cannon Cult” to this day. It’s something I’m very grateful for.

To some, his death is just another death in a long string of Professional Wrestling deaths. And I understand that. But, as I’ve tried to explain here, this one was personal. He had a profound impact on me and many others. I hope he knew that and I hope he understood that.

CLPTLESS, MFLCannon, IamTheJer, and EcMFW were all proud members of the “Cannon Cult” and 20 years later, we still are.

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Brian William Pillman aka “Flyin'” Brian aka “the Loose Cannon.”
May 22, 1962 – October 5, 1997

#CannonCult4Life

I Don’t Catch My Breath Until the End of the Day.

From reading my entries, you may have come to the conclusion that I do a lot of reflecting on my past. Well, you’re right, I do. And I usually do that even more so towards the end of the year and right before my birthday, which happens to be just about in the middle of the year. My year is broken up pretty evenly by that. This entry is another of those reflections and somewhat of a response to something I wrote a few ago when I was discussing what I felt to be the lack of progress in my life. I said I would write a follow up to it and with my birthday just days from now, it’s as good of a time as any to do it.

I feel very overwhelmed by life at times and very underwhelmed by results. Many things that I have enjoyed doing have become more a burden than a joy. I struggle with getting the motivation to do things that I know I should do. I think it’s a bigger issue than just being depressed. And I don’t know what the issue is.

I’ve written a few times about running races and how good those experiences were for me. Often I would be doing a practice run on a treadmill and think I couldn’t go any more, but I would will myself to do it. Nowadays, there’s so much doubt in my head about running that stopping a lot earlier than I originally planned is a relief for me. I don’t like that, but there’s a mental block that I haven’t been able to break through.

I felt that my social life was better over the last year than it had been in a very long time. I was in a relationship that really enjoyed being in. I felt it was easy for me. Many of the negative issues I had with previous relationships weren’t there. This one was just good. It was fun. I felt that it was good for me too. However, it wasn’t sustainable and it recently ended. Unlike other splits, I’ve had, there are no hard feelings here. For reasons on both of our ends, it just wasn’t able to be keep going as it was. Even without the animosity, there was definitely an emotional setback for me. I think my job was good for me there. It distracted me from the split, but I also think that distraction from emotions isn’t good sometimes. I think you need to feel the emotions you’re supposed to feel when you’re supposed to feel them and I don’t know if I did.

Much to the surprise of many of my co-workers, I genuinely like my job. It’s a desk job, but after working various forms of retail jobs for over 20 years, a desk job is beyond a pleasant change of  pace. In many ways, it’s actually ideal for me. I’m paid more per hour than I have been in many years. I work 40 hours per week. I’m still not able to make progress. The bills and expenses keep adding up. They keep coming. If I make more, the expenses increase. It’s a vicious cycle. This topic will most definitely be revisited at some point, but maybe not in this entry.

Getting back to what I said about being overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. I’m still searching for that elusive balance. I want to just be whelmed. And honestly, I don’t even know if that’s an actual word, and if it is, if it fits this context. But, if overwhelmed and underwhelmed are things, why isn’t whelmed. Anyway, I digress…

I want the results of my life to match the effort I put in. But wait a minute, I just said that I’m having trouble finding motivation to do things. There’s likely a correlation there that I haven’t really put together yet. Unfortunately, the effort and the malaise aren’t in the same areas of my life. I work hard and get nowhere. I lose motivation to do things, but I still work hard. I do what I need to do, but I often wonder if it’s enough.

Where exactly am I supposed to be? Where exactly should I be? Are they the same? Am I there now? Who gets to decide these things?
Those questions are somewhat rhetorical and not rhetorical at the same time.
As I typed that last part, I was reminded of the first entry I did on this site. I guess not much as changed after all.

I’m sure anyone that reads this will think that I just need to change things in my life. Well, what are they? I said I was going to plan things out more to make sure I get things done, but I don’t even know how much time I have to do things. HOWEVER…
I’m going to plan things. Over the next few weeks and months, I’m going to do all I can to get myself into better physical shape. I will do my best to break through whatever mental barriers I have in front of me. Maybe this alone will be a big catalyst for me. Who knows?

I said earlier that I think it’s important to feel what you’re supposed to feel when you’re supposed to feel it. Sometimes that’s actually difficult and that leads to more stress. Last month, I touched on what it’s like for me to know a depression is coming on. Not being able to properly express myself at times can lead to that stress. It’s not good, and I have to work on that as well.

I write one entry per month right now. Maybe I won’t limit myself to just one. I have ideas for entries, so maybe I’ll just go with it when an idea comes to me. Although, I don’t want these entries to be less meaningful and thought out. I do my best to be constructive and to vent my frustrations in a somewhat positive manner. I have baggage to unpack and the more I unpack, the better off I should be.

I want to attempt to keep this particular entry as short as possible and not have it go into too many topics, so I’ll wrap it up now. I started my 40s very content. A few things have changed since one year ago and I’m not as sure about my direction. Malaise or not, depression or not, stress or not, I’m not done yet. I have absolutely no idea what 41 and on will bring me. I don’t know where it will bring me. I just know I need to get there.

One Year From Now, Will I Be Strong? Will I Stand Up for What I’ve Become?

At the end of every year I write a blog trying to sum up my year. I weigh the good and the bad and try to answer the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” I’ll say that on a personal level, the answer is absolutely YES. I am better off than I was one year ago. It’s actually simple to answer this year. Although, there were some hiccups along the way.

I was working multiple jobs throughout most of 2016. I was getting by. I was making enough money that I could pay my bills, put gas in my car, have enough food, and occasionally have fun. To some degree, savings happened as well. That’s all a good thing, other than the fact that I needed multiple jobs to do it. However, just a few weeks ago I started a new office job with the highest hourly salary I’ve had in over 5 years. So far, I really like it. And as a result of getting that job, I’ve left the others. I’m now down to one job. I’m not yet able to clearly see the impact the new job will have on my finances. I’ve only received one paycheck, and it not a full pay cycle. In a month or so, I’ll be able to see how it all plays out there. But, I think I’ll be fine. I’ve learned to survive on minimal money, so we’ll see how I do with the new pay scale.

I ran a few 5k races in 2016. My results were mixed. I am not disappointed with the results, but I’m not completely satisfied either. I know that I did the best I could in each race that I ran, but I still think I could have done better. That makes sense to me. I joked that my slower results happened because I turned 40. But the truth of the matter is that my age didn’t have anything to do with it, my weight did. I was between 15 and 20 pounds heavier than I was when I did those same races in 2015. Unfortunately, I’ve gained more weight since then. I now see my extra weight as a challenge for 2017. I’m going to come up with a specific workout plan with various goals that I need to meet. I’m also going to attempt to eat a little bit better. My weight should get better with those things falling into place.

2016 also saw me get more involved in things with my town. A group that I’m a part of will being helping out with of a lot community events in 2017. One particular aspect that I’m excited about with this group is that it’ll allow me to not only run in my town’s 5k, but I’ll be part of the group that will be running it. By that I mean, we’ll be organizing it. And of course, I’ll be participating in it again. I’ve done this one 4 times before and have had my best ever race times 3 out of 4 times. Of course, one of those races was my first ever race, so it was (obviously) my fastest ever. This race should be happening towards the end of August. I see every athletic endeavor I do up until then as practice.

I had almost completely given up on my social life when 2016 began. More specifically, I had almost no hope of being in a relationship again. I had tried dating sites in 2015 and umm…well… some of those stories could be another blog entry. But anyway, I met someone during 2016 and what started out with some text messages back and forth turned into an actual relationship and became some of the happiest months I’ve had in years. I couldn’t ask for more from her.

I said that two of my biggest regrets of 2015 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself. I didn’t come close with either. Working only one job now may help me hit a book reading goal in 2017. Black Crow…
we’ll see about that one. It doesn’t come up often in the workouts I do, but my efforts are not pretty.

As much I personally enjoyed 2016, I almost feel guilty about enjoying it. There’s been so much suffering, so much anger, and so much discontent. There’s been so many high profile celebrity deaths in 2016. And before anybody makes any snide remarks about how that isn’t important, I’ll say that I think nobody can tell anyone else how to feel about anything. Some of those deaths genuinely shook me. Some of my earliest childhood memories were of things related to Star Wars and Willy Wonka. The deaths of Carrie Fisher and Gene Wilder have left a void. Carrie Fisher had become a legitimate hero of mine due to her incredibly honest and open approach to her battles with depression and other issues. I really feel that there will be a blog entry about her in the near future.

I’ve had a lot of friendships develop and strengthen in 2016. I’ve had people that were only acquaintances become friends. My blogs got some attention from people. Some read some of my entries about depression and reached out. I’ll never forget the people that said something about them. One particular person read an entry I wrote and when he and I were at the same place later that day, he just said “I read what you wrote today. I hope you’re doing okay.” A simple gesture like that goes a long way. The word “appreciation” doesn’t do it justice.

As 2016 comes to an end, we look forward to 2017. And judging by what’s about to happen to the United States on a political scale, I say look forward only because it’s what’s ahead of us. I actually dread what’s about to happen here. I fear for the rights and safety of some of my friends. I fear for the overall United part of the United States. I fear for the economy. I have lots of fears. However, I also have hope. I have hope that smart, sane, idealistic people will start to rise through the ranks and secure our future, if anything is left. And yes, you can include me in that group. The involvement in town affairs that I spoke of earlier may just be the beginning for me.

Last year I wrote about how my impending 40th birthday was looming “over me almost like a really large black cloud.” I certainly didn’t imagine how good 40 has been to me so far. And just like every year, my resolution for the new is year is “to make it better.” In 2017, that means many things. I want to get myself into better shape. I want the good things that happened to me in 2016 to continue and to get even better. I just want to make things better. I’m still here. I’m still standing. I’m still improving. I’m even smiling. I actually like how things are in my life. I like what I’ve become and the path I appear to be on. I’m not delusional, I know that things can happen to change my course. I know my depression could act up. I know my anxiety could act up. But, I feel more equipped to handle it. I feel that I have a good support system in place. I feel that I can get through whatever happens.

2016 is just about gone. There’s some aspects of it that make me glad to see it go, but there’s a lot I’m grateful for. I want the latter to continue in 2017.

For Every Dream That is Left Behind Me, I Take A Bow.

I always get very reflective during this time of year. Well, more than usual, that is. My birthday is July 3rd, and that means it’s time for me to look back on a year of life and think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. However, this year is a little bit different. I’m turning 40 on this year’s July 3rd. Yes, my countdown to 40 years of age is now at just 3 days to go (as of when this is being published).

A few days ago, I looked back at a copy of the blog I wrote for my 30th birthday. I had a different, less serious writing style then. From reading that particular entry, I can’t get a good gauge of what I was feeling at that time, but I think that was the point of what I wrote and how I wrote it then. A lot has changed for me over the past 10 years, but then again, a lot has remained the same. I don’t know if the part that hasn’t changed is good or bad.

One thing is for certain, I have a much better perspective of what’s important in life. The past 10 years have seen me deal with significant loss, emotional lows, financial turmoil, loss of jobs, and relationship issues. I’ve documented basically all of them in my entries here, and there’s links there if you want to read more.
The past 10 years have also given me some emotional highs, (a bit more) financial freedom than I’m used to, new jobs, and new relationships. It all goes back to the balance I’ve spoken of a few times. But, it’s also about my perspective on things.

It’s very easy for me to look at where I am at 40 and think I’m not “where I’m supposed to be.” I never thought at this age I would still be living in the same house that I grew up in. I never thought I wouldn’t be married. I never thought I would be struggling paycheck to paycheck as I have. But, that’s where I am. And while it does get to me sometimes that I’m not further along, I also know that I could have it A LOT worse. Trust me, there’s some struggles and strife being in this house, and that’s a topic for a few entries, but at a later time. I do have enough perspective to know that it’s not all bad.

I started my 30s with an overbearing amount of credit card debt. I eliminated that over 3 years ago. Not having that burden weighing me down is an incredible feeling. However, as I’ve stated, I am struggling financially. I am currently a full time employee at a company that won’t exist much longer, while also working part time jobs on the side, just to survive. I have a bit of uncertainty with my current employment situation. I felt much more secure there 10 years ago. I was paid better and had job security, but all of my money was going towards my debt. Now, I’m paid less, have no job security, but no debt. Balance?

In some ways, I’ve given up on the dream of finding that one job that is THE ONE for me, if that makes sense. I am more concerned about being comfortable enough at a job, while not being complacent. I am concerned about that job providing enough for me to live comfortably, and hopefully with health benefits. My priorities have definitely switched. But, don’t get me wrong, if I were in a position to make a little less to do something that I absolutely loved doing, I probably would.

Getting back to what I said about my writing style from 10 years ago, it was definitely different. I would say what I had to say, but it was mostly incredibly vague. I wasn’t able to really express myself. In some cases, I wasn’t really allowed to. And, I was definitely not comfortable enough to do so. I had so much built up inside of me, but it never came out. It just stayed there until it faded into nothingness. This itself is a possible future topic.

One thing I am definitely aware of from when I turned 30 was where my health and weight was. I gained a lot of weight at this time 10 years ago. I had gone up to 230 pounds and was just basically not really active. It was during that summer that I first joined a gym, changed some of my eating habits, and hoped to get healthier. Here I am 10 years later, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I workout daily, I run a few times per week, and I’ve participated in twenty 5k races (as of this writing). I don’t see that changing.

The simple fact that I have pride in some of my accomplishments over the last few years is a big change from where I was 10 years ago. Hell, it’s a change from where I was 5 years ago. The fact that I can write these entries as openly as I do is a big thing for me. I would never have been able to do this a few years ago. But, I realize how important it is for me to have an outlet. There were things in my way. Some were just mental blocks, some were bigger than that. Some of those obstacles are not here anymore and it’s good to be able to express myself. To be completely honest, sometimes I even surprise myself in these entries with my ability to open up.

A few years ago, a friend read a particular blog entry I made and he told me he wanted to sit down and talk to me about some things from it. He’s a few years older than I am, and told me how much his life started to improve at age 40. Here, I am just days away from that milestone and even with a big bit of uncertainty about some aspects of my life, I’m starting to believe him a bit. I’ve noticed recently in situations where my defaults would kick in, they haven’t. My fears have not kicked in. My confidence is higher than I’m used to. But, even with all of that said, and even with all of the losses I’ve had in the past 10 (and even 40) years, I’m more optimistic than I’ve been on a long time. So maybe my friend was right. I’ll let you know in a few years.

How Long Will it Take Until There Will Be Room Again For Hope?

At the end of every year I ask myself if I’m better off than I was one year ago. Looking back at older blog entries I’ve seen that the answer has varied. But, if my biggest regrets of 2015 are failing to read one book per month and still not being able to successfully do the Black Crow pose in DDP Yoga, I think it’s safe to say that yes, I’m better off at the end of 2015 than I was one year ago.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest sources of constant frustration for me has been my financial situation. I have been living paycheck to paycheck for so long. It’s more like surviving paycheck to paycheck. There’s been little to no money left before the next paycheck would arrive. I kept trying to get a second or a better paying job. I would fill out application after application and I would rarely ever hear back from anyone. Then, I started getting replies. I went on some interviews. The first time I had only one interview. The second time I had more than one. I didn’t get hired those times, but simply because I kept going further in the process I had a little bit more confidence. Then something happened, I got hired.

The hiring at this job wasn’t necessarily the good thing I had hoped though. After going through an interview with two assistant managers at the location and seeing them impressed with my resume and what they thought I could accomplish, they set up an interview with the big manager. He also said he was impressed with my resume, but figured I needed a new challenge and assigned me to work in a department that had nothing to do with anything I had applied for. It was an area I didn’t know much about and the pay was commission based. I reluctantly accepted the position, but after just over one month of it, I knew it wasn’t for me at all. Working the two jobs was draining me of all of my energy. Due to the hours I was working and the little amount of time I had between jobs, I was not sleeping much. I had no time to do anything I needed to do at my house. And instead of being depressed that I had no money or food, I was depressed because I had no time to get any good food or to do anything besides work. To make a somewhat longer story than it needed to be shorter, I left that job. But, this story doesn’t end there. I ended up getting another second job that was much better for my schedule. I still have time to do what I need to do and I actually enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living comfortably now. I’m just living a lot less uncomfortably.

If you didn’t know the whole story, you would say my social life isn’t any better than it was one year ago. But, I think it is. I reconnected with some old friends, I strengthened many friendships, and I made a few new friends as well. Sure, I’ve remained single throughout the year and I still have feelings of loneliness, but I also have a feeling of hope that I haven’t had in a very long time. Much like the job situation, I think I’m getting closer with each effort to change that. Each bit of discouragement here is discouraging me less, if that makes sense.

Last month I wrote about the races I ran in 2015 and how proud of my accomplishments I am. I ended 2014 not being able to complete a 5k in under 29 minutes. I ran 9 races in 2015 and only one was above 29, with a few of them being under 28 minutes, and my fastest being only 7.8 seconds away from 27 minutes. I have a pretty clear goal for 5k races in 2016.

In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I couldn’t get my weight under 200 pounds. I had been so close, but I was never able to make it there. I spent much of 2015 in the 195 range. In 2016 I want to stay (or get back) there and possibly get a little bit lower as well. I spent much of my life believing I couldn’t be in better shape, now I know I can. I also know I can be even better than I am. The mental “programming” I’ve spoken of in other entries is being changed little by little. Although, I’ve also learned (and quickly) that my metabolism is not great anymore and as soon as I slow down the workouts, my weight can go up quickly. I’ll be getting back to basics and working towards what I want to achieve.

While speaking of my programming. I did have my share of struggles with depression and anxiety during the year, but it wasn’t as bad as previous years had been. If nothing else, as I get older, I do get a little wiser and I am able to handle and manage my issues slightly better. I know I’ll continue to deal with this, and I’m sure I’ll have emotional setbacks. But, I’ll get through them.

One thing that was definitely a highlight for me in 2015 was the bond I developed with my nephew. It took a little while, but I’ve become one of his favorite people. I have trouble putting into words the feeling I get when I see him smile because he’s happy to see me. And of course, he has a little sister now as well, so yes, I have a niece now too. The overwhelming joy those two bring me is amazing. It’s things like this that motivate me.

As of today, December 31, 2015, there are only 186 days until my 40th birthday. That milestone looms over me almost like a really large black cloud. I felt I hadn’t done enough by the time I hit 30 years old. Now it’s almost 10 years later and I still feel that way. The difference now is that I feel I’m on the right track. I still don’t really know what the destination is, but I’m pretty sure that I’m heading there. Along the way,  I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to have setback. I’m going to be disappointed. I’m going battle my depression. I also know that I can get stronger from all of that. I NEED to get stronger from all of that. I may not accomplish everything I want to, or need to, get done in 2016, but if I can look back in one year and again say I’m better off than I was, then I’m doing something right and I need to keep doing it

If You See Me at the Bottom, Please Bring Me My Running Shoes.

As much as running the five 5k races I took part in during 2014 was good for me, I never hit one of my goals, and that was to be under 29 minutes. I came close. My fastest time was 29:12.9. But one thing I learned during those races is that is 12.9 seconds can be a long time.

Early in 2015 I decided I was going to run more races. The first one I signed up for took place on April 18th. It was a new race for me, and I knew it would be a bit challenging. It had a lot of inclines and a few hills. And just a few days before the race, I started taking antibiotics for a mild sinus infection. It was a also a bit chilly that morning, but I was dressed for it. What I remember the most about this race was how when I made the final turn and headed toward the finish line, it seemed so far away. It was probably 3 or 4 blocks away, but it seemed like miles. I finished this race in 29:36.2. I was still over 29 minutes, but I was also faster than the last one I did in 2014 and I was satisfied knowing I was right about where I had been after not running for a race for 5 months.

About one month later, I did my second 5k of the year. I always drive the path in my car a few days before the race to get a feel for the path if I had not run the race before. This one seemed like it could be challenging for me. The morning of the race was hot and humid. It was not a nice day for a run. I didn’t get off to a good start. I felt like I didn’t have much in me. When I got to the 1st mile marker I looked to see the time and noticed they didn’t have a clock there. They also didn’t have one at the 2nd mile marker. So, I really had no idea how I was doing. When I got near the 3rd mile, I really didn’t have confidence in how I did. But when I saw the time at the finish, I was shocked. I completed this race in 28:46.4. I was under 29 minutes. To be honest, I really didn’t believe it. I thought something was wrong, so the joy I should have felt for setting a new record for myself wasn’t there.

A few weeks later was my next race. This one was also one with a lot of inclines and hills. Luckily for me, for every incline there was an equal decline. I felt a little more confident in myself than I did previously in the year. I crossed the finish line at 28:48.51. Only about 2 seconds slower than my previous race. Normally I would be bothered by being slower by such a small margin, but instead I felt that my record time had now been validated. I was definitely an under 29 minute finisher.

Only 13 days later, on June 20th, I competed in my 4th race of the year. This would be the last one that was new for me. It was described as a “fast and flat” course and from my practice drive, it seemed to be. I knew I was doing well from the start. I felt good. But I had no idea just how well I was really doing until near the end. I use the same playlist of songs for every race I’ve ever run and I’ve crossed the finish line to Lacuna Coil’s “Daylight Dancer” every single time. When I got to the 3rd mile, “Daylight Dancer” was just starting. I’m usually well into the song at this point in the race. When I saw the time at the finish line, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. My finish time was 27:51.86. I set a new record for myself by almost a full minute. I was now under 28 minutes!

After that race I didn’t play on doing any more over the summer. But after finishing so well, I was afraid I would lose momentum. But, I did end up taking the summer off from actual races. That’s not to say I didn’t put in my fair share of practice, but I didn’t do anything official.

My next race was on September 5th. It was my hometown’s race and it would be the 4th time I was competing in it. Being that I had done this race before, my minimum expectation for it was to at the very least, be quicker than I had been in it previously. I had some other goals for the race, which on race day actually changed to include being quicker than a specific person I saw running it as well. Much like the 6/20 race almost 3 months earlier, “Daylight Dancer” started as I was approaching the 3 mile mark. When I was close enough to see the time at the finish line, I gave it everything I had and crossed the line at 27:50.6. By 1.2 seconds I had set another new record for myself and not only that, I beat last year’s time by about 95 seconds. I accomplished every goal I set out to accomplish in this race. Yes, every goal. I did end up having a quicker race than the person I mentioned.

The rest of the races I competed in for the year were also all repeats for me. The next one I did was 3 weeks later and I finished in 28:01.8. I didn’t set a new record, but I did it in about 75 quicker than the year before. No complaints at all.

For my race on October 10th, I was very determined to redeem myself after a setback on this course from the year before. When I did the race in 2014, it was raining, there was a stretch of unpaved road in which I was not comfortable running, and at one point my shoelace came untied. I finished the race 4 seconds away from a record. As I said, I was determined to redeem myself. However, since I had beaten that time in six races since then, I didn’t know what redemption was at this point. I got off to a very quick start. I believe my first mile was my quickest to date. I knew I was doing very well. Somewhere around the 2.5 mile mark, I checked the GPS on my phone to see my progress. I didn’t clip the phone on well enough and I dropped it. I had to stop and pick it up. A few minutes later, “Daylight Dancer” started playing and the finish line was in sight. I saw the time and started thinking that the phone mishap would cost me a chance at a record and my quest for redemption would be ruined. However, I made it across the finish line at 27:49.9. 7/10 of a second quicker than my previous record. My redemption had been achieved.

Two weeks later I did another fast and flat course. This was the one that I had set my record on last year. I did it in 29:12.9. As was the case with the previous repeat races, my minimum goal was to beat last year’s time. By the time race day had arrived, I really felt like doing the race was a chore. I didn’t really feel up to actually doing it. But, I did it. And I got off to a good start. I felt strong throughout, despite it being a bit chillier than I like when I run. Somewhere around the 2.5 mile mark, I started to think I was really doing well, but I didn’t quite know how well yet. When I got the 3rd mile marker, “Daylight Dancer” was not on yet. Garbage’s “Push It” was still playing, and it was just ending when I crossed the finish line. I crossed at 27:07.8. Again, I set a new record by almost 50 seconds. I really couldn’t believe how well I did. And on top of it, I did the race over 2 full minutes quicker than the year before. That’s some improvement!

The final race I did this year was also the final race I did last year. In 2014, I finished it in 29:40.4. It was my slowest finish of the year out of five races, but if I wanted to put a positive spin on it, I was my 5th best finish, out of the seven races I had done up to that point. Much like last year, I had trouble breaking out of the pack at the beginning. This races starts on a narrow road and has a lot of kids in it. They tend to stay bunched up. Regardless of those factors, and the cold weather, I felt pretty good. I did hear the beginning of “Daylight Dancer” this time, so I knew a record setting race wasn’t happening. I finished at 27:57.7. Like last year, it was my 5th quickest finish of the year, but this time it was 5th of 9 races. And like last year, this course ended up being my 5th quickest finish yet.

As I stated in my blog entry about my races from last year, my issues with depression are well documented. Sometimes, I find it hard to be motivated enough to get anything done. But these races are good for me. I set goals and I accomplish them. Sometimes, I surprise myself with how well I do. That’s why I do this. And that’s why I’ll do it again in 2016. I ended last year wanting to be under 29 minutes. I was 12.9 seconds away. I ended 2015 just 7.8 seconds away from 27 minutes. It looks like my goal for 2016 is clear.

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The racing shoes have taken a beating and are being retired from actual competition. The number in the middle was my ID for my record shattering race in October.