How To Have A Nervous Breakdown
We join our hero in the heart of the cubicle jungle. He is “freaking the fuck out”:
My heart is beating out of my chest.
My mind refuses to stop thinking.
Time seems to slow to a crawl.
I throw in my headphones as quickly as I can. This is my M.O. When the world gets a little too overwhelming, I seek serenity through the magical medium of popular music. Ke$ha just gets me. But the world has different plans for me today as I cycle through my “Now That’s What I Call Weird” playlist.
Steve Aoki asks me “Are you living your life or just waiting to die?”
Avicci shares his thoughts on self-discovery when he proclaims, “all this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.”
I process the fact that electronic dance music is reinforcing my new found beliefs that human beings were meant to live for so much more than this 9-to-5 drudgery we all submit ourselves too. I cannot run away from myself any longer. I need to start a blog.
So what happened? Three events actually. And you will notice that they all share a common motif: Death.
Death of promising youth
The day is October 26, 2014. A headline flashes across my screen: Oscar Taveras dies in car crash at age 22. That cannot be right. I just watched Oscar hit a homerun in the NLCS against the Giants two weeks ago. This homerun sparked a discussion amongst the announcers about Oscar’s potential. They spoke in sweeping generalities and vague anecdotes that have been plugged in for every young professional athlete since the dawn of time.
“The kid works hard”
“I had a chance to catch up with the coach and he told me that this kid is a raw talent, but with a little work, he is going to be something special”
“The sky is the limit on this kid.”
Unfortunately, the news is true. Oscar Taveras has passed away. Within the hour, Oscar had been dropped in my fantasy baseball league and replaced with a different promising young outfielder. This waiver wire transaction reminds me of how brutally efficient society is at replacing us when we join the ranks of the departed. When the baseball season begins again, Oscar’s life will be celebrated and remembered.The whole event will be seemingly scripted out as it is for all professional athletes: We have a brief moment of silence. We run through a single play in a ceremonial man down formation. And then we put someone else in. And continue on with life. So it goes.
This tragedy forces me to rethink how I am living my life. If I died, they would just replace me and that would be it. No ceremonial empty cubicle. No moment of silence. Maybe a few tears. Provided those tears didn’t interfere with the bottom-line. We have a business to run. What do you think this is? Grieve on your own time. They would hire an intern to go through my hard drive. The PowerPoints and Excel documents on that hard drive represent my tangible contributions to the world. People can look at those when I am gone and say “Man he was good at producing succinct takeaway bars.”
Questions flash through my mind at incendiary speeds. Is this really what I want to be doing? Does anyone want to do this? When does baseball season come back on? Are we human? Or are we dancer?
Oscar Taveras reminded me: Life is impermanent. And as Steve Jobs once said “Life is short so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” This isn’t the life I ordered…
I begin to calm up so I start to go through my normal routine to calm down.
- Blast questionably heterosexual music
- Watch amusing YouTube videos
Feelings eradicated. Success!
Death of permanence
I pick my phone up and read the text message my friend just sent me.
Stuart Scott. My favorite SportsCenter anchor. The guy who delivered me sports news for my entire life. The guy who just gave me some life changing advice in his ESPYs speech had passed away after a long battle with cancer.
I start to tear up a bit as if I am watching the end of the hit film “Click” starring Adam Sandler. What’s wrong with me? I never even met this guy. But there is something about this experience that I cannot get over. I am not naïve, but a part of me really thought that Stuart would give me news about sports for the rest of my life. Now he was gone.
Life changes quickly. And it has a funny way of reminding you of that all the time. Life does not last forever. Stuart in his speech urged all of us to live life to the fullest and remind the ones you love that you love them while you still have the time. Reminding us that even if he lost his life to cancer, he beat cancer by why he lived, how he lived and in the manner in which he lived his life every day. You need to act on your dreams while you still have the chance to act at all.
Uh oh. Those fears of the unknown are coming back up like late night Taco Bell. I have to act quickly to defend against this mental indigestion. I queue up Taylor Swift’s hit new album 1989 as my choice of metaphorical Pepto-Bismol. She takes me back to a simpler time when all I had to worry about was whatever train wreck of a relationship I was in. I begin to sing along in a blissful, whimsical fashion. My thoughts on the impermanence of life have been successfully shaken off once again. That was a close one.
Death by meeting
Here we sit. In another meeting. I cannot seem to shake the fact that every one in this meeting has begun to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me. The topics being discussed are so meaningless to my survival that my brain has evolutionarily evolved to drown them out and begin to worry about things that are much more important to my survival. Like Ken Griffey Jr baseball. I was so good at that game. What ever happened to that video game empire? I mean honestly, Griffey was a marketing department’s wet dream. A sweet swinging lefty with a likeable personality and no connection to performance enhancing drugs. I idolized that guy growing up. I wish he was on the Yankees. Why did he join the Reds? Probably the worst decision ever made by…
“Kevin, could you forward the widget report to Mowgli?”
I snap in to adult mode. Look at the silhouettes in the video conference and with the utmost confidence say to the screen
“Absolutely. How do you spell his last name?”
In one awful cacophony the group belts out the spelling and the conversation returns to the pressing topic at hand.
“It takes about three quarter turns of the wrist to tighten that screw?”
Holy fuck. What am I doing with my life? Is this really all that life has to offer me? Where does it go from here? Is that guys name really Mowgli? Like the main character from the Jungle Book? That is so fucking cool. Note to self: Add Mowgli to list of potential names for my children.
The meeting ends. I shuffle back to my desk, sit down and enter my normal routine. But my attempts are futile. It is on this date that I realize that I can no longer run from these feelings. No amount of trashy music can mask the fact that I am dissuaded with what life is serving up right now. I officially need to tell everyone about all of my feelings.
So we rejoin our hero in the present day. He is sitting in a library crafting a blog post about how life has reminded him about life. It is at this point that we have to ask about the headline:
How do you have a nervous breakdown?
Well. If I ever want to have a nervous breakdown, all I have to do is think about how I am knowingly wasting time punching a time card to satisfy society’s expectations of what I am “supposed to do” even though I am reminded on a constant basis about how I have less time on this Earth than I think. No permutation of Top 40 songs and/ or videos of cats can successfully cover up the pit in my stomach that arises when I ponder this topic. And that is what brings us here.
This recent slew of events has allowed me to take a step back and analyze myself. I realize that some part of me believes there is something noble about trudging through each day and counting the time until I can leave without being reprimanded. A part of me submits to this dogma that we are required to do this as some sort of dubious rite of passage in to adulthood.
But this part of me is on life support and a different me is beginning to emerge.
This other part of me believes that humans are not meant to sit indoors for eight hours a day, trading the most valuable resource they have (time) for a concept that exists only through bookkeeping (money). This part of me believes that the 9-to-5 lifestyle almost every working professional exposes him or herself to is what is killing us as a species, both mentally and physically. This part of me believes that there is more to being a human than gaining the mutual respect of other humans in regards to your “career path”.
This latter part of me has been hidden behind a diplomacy dyke. A structure that was erected in order to facilitate my participation in this society. Fortunately, these three events have broken the levees and the world is about to be inundated by the true me.
So what now?
Great question. For now, I plan to use this blog to put my thoughts in to words. It will allow me to wonder aloud if there is more to life. Maybe it will change the trajectory of my life. Maybe it will help me figure out what my “passions” are. Maybe it won’t change anything. But at the very least, it will allow me to leave a mark on the world that is more than just a nifty Excel workbook.
Welcome to Full Of KRapp.