Mike Jung

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.

Brothers

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm
I spent the weekend with my brother and his family, which (as always) got me thinking about our different life trajectories. Both of my brothers and I are pursuing creative lives to some extent; my older brother, who was the most creatively disciplined of us all in our youth, has yet to break into any of the creative profession fields; my younger brother, who initially didn’t seem to have any plan at all, is a wealthy Hollywood screenwriter, and is clearly the most accomplished of the three of us, at least when applying the traditional measures of success; and then there’s me, the early prodigy who stumbled, fell, nearly stayed down, and ended up becoming the late bloomer.

I try not to play the comparison game, which of course is nearly impossible, given the fact that I’ve had these two brothers for nearly 45 years now. The old psychological dynamics and triggers are hard to escape without severing the connection entirely. Still, I may finally have grown and matured enough to feel more securely anchored in my own life, my own pace, my own experience. My life is far from perfect, but then that was going to be true no matter how events unfolded. I haven’t scaled the mountaintop in some of the ways my younger brother has, but I managed to scrabble and claw my way out of the crevasses I’ve occupied in the past.

My life trajectory seems to point up, at long last. I may not measure up to the standing and benchmarks of other people in the world, but my many “failure to launch” years finally seem to be over, and no matter how complicated it is to have those thoughts and feelings agitated (as they inevitably are in the presence of my brothers), I’m moving forward now. It’s a relief to be able to maintain an active awareness of that, rather than watch it sink miserably into a big old cesspool of anxiety and regret.

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