Mike Jung

Ten Years

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2014 at 10:53 pm

My teens and twenties were not eventful or active in terms of life experience, a fact that has often pushed me into a place of regret, and sometimes into a place of genuine despair. There’s nothing I can do to change that; those years remain mostly empty, and will always remain so. It’s a difficult thing to live with, but all I can do is try to move forward. Thankfully I’ve managed to do so. The past ten years, in fact, can honestly be described as the most engaged, meaningful, complex, and fully lived years of my entire life. Miranda Hoffman and I got married on October 9, 2004, after much deliberation and anxiety, which is probably unsurprising to those of you who know us. It hasn’t been an easy time; there are ways in which these ten years of marriage have been far harder than the years of depression and isolation that preceded them, in fact. They’ve been harder in better ways, however, if that makes any sense.

We’ve had our ups and downs as a couple; we’ve suffered our share of personal and professional setbacks; and we continue to stagger through the unending minefield of childrearing, not always with the most stoicism or grace. But we’ve also had our share of triumphs, our moments of discovery, and bursts of emotional growth that I probably wouldn’t ever have experienced on my own, simply because I lack the capacity to drive myself to the kinds of extremes that are sometimes necessary for such growth.

We’ve worked hard to build a life together, sometimes at the cost of more effort than we thought bearable, but we’re still standing, still moving forward, still living. It’s been ten years of highly intense, endlessly challenging, fully-realized life. Those years of emptiness can’t be erased, but neither can these past ten years of profound fullness, and if the fates are willing, we have more years ahead of us, with experiences and emotions that can’t be foretold. Happy anniversary to my wife Miranda, whose impact on the quality of my life simply can’t be overstated.

45

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2014 at 5:02 am

Birthday parties were a mystery to me for a very long time. I was rarely invited to them, so in a way I was simply low on experience, but I have a degree of incomprehension with regard to social dynamics in general, and I think that was the bigger issue. Who plans these parties? Are birthday parties always surprise parties? Isn’t that complicated? If someone doesn’t plan one for you, do you plan one yourself? Wait, really, people just throw birthday parties for themselves? How do you convince people to actually go? What if no one shows up? Will anyone notice if I just hide in this closet for the rest of my life? No one will, right?

I experience a constant torrent of anxiety about parties in general, which also doesn’t help. So for me, birthdays have never had a default celebratory setting – in fact, I’ve spent many of them alone, often with feelings of sadness or bitterness. That kind of emotionally difficult birthday experience is behind me, although I won’t bet against it reasserting itself in the future, but even now my birthdays are still more about reflection and self-assessment than merrymaking.

Thankfully, that process of reflection is very different today than it’s been in years gone by. I still possess a calamitous variety of personal frailties; I still spend the wee hours fighting off the same merciless churn of psychic turmoil that’s always plagued my nights; I still feel like a wobbly, bent-spoked wheel of a human being. But I no longer feel isolated, friendless, and without purpose. I no longer feel like my dreams are foolish and beyond my grasp. My birthday is no longer an occasion to internally debate the validity of my existence. It hasn’t been for quite a while, in fact. I’m 45 years old today, and I’m probably as fully engaged with the intricacies of life as I’m capable of. It’s complicated and hard, but eh, I think it’s the way to go.

Trust

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

I’ve struggled with the experience of friendship throughout my life. I don’t understand all of the reasons for it – lately I’ve been considering the possibility of undiagnosed neurological conditions – but whatever the reasons might be, finding a circle of friends who I love, trust, and feel a true sense of belonging with has always been difficult and painful for me.

I’ve had something like that experience a couple of times, but it’s been much more common for me to try and force that feeling of belonging when in the company of the wrong people – not bad people, but people with whom it was probably impossible for me to truly connect in the ways I need to. And so I’ve spent time as a hanger-on with groups of friends that didn’t always treat me well; I’ve attempted to push my way into groups that kept their doors closed to me; and I’ve attempted to deceive myself into thinking that my feelings of belonging in some groups were stronger and more meaningful than they actually were.

I suppose it’s possible I’m doing that now; my ability to perceive and gauge those dynamics is a sputtery and broken thing, which of course has contributed to my lifelong social troubles. I don’t believe I’ll ever be free of that specific difficulty. However, I have circles of friendship within the world of children’s literature that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and I don’t believe my trust and faith in those circles are misplaced.

I don’t know if that’s because I have a better understanding of where to place my trust, or because I’ve finally found the right community of people for me. Probably both, right? I think I truly am starting to live as a social being in a way I’ve always wanted to. These still relatively new friends who I love and trust so much? I think I can let myself feel that way about them. I think that might be okay.

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