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The Real Reason I'm in a Bad Place, No Matter My Circumstances

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Here, have a beer and let’s talk about how powerful the brain is.

I’m in a bad place. Not in a “I need you to worry about me and ask me if I’m OK” type of bad place, but more of a “this little light of mine … forgot how to shine” type of bad place. It’s really only a bad place in my own head, because of my own head. On the outside, it’s probably hard to see what is so bad about where I’m at in life — I live in a great city, and I have an incredibly talented wife who trumps me in the looks department and rivals every bit of intellect I have. I have friends, lots of friends. I play golf often, I go out and drink beer often, I have food when I’m hungry, and all the things your mom told you to be grateful for because there are kids in Africa.

Yes, I have a lot of good things in my life. I have good things that go so far beyond material things sometimes I forget I have material things. A spider web of a support system I can’t see the end of, friends so genuine they make me question if I’m worth their time because I could never be as good of a friend as them, role models I can only dream of imitating one day, family and family that is not actually family, but is closer than my actual family. But, friends, let me tell you: My brain is a dark, scary, maze of a place that can be extremely difficult to get out of sometimes.

Can you relate to that?

This piece is not easy for me to write. I have a hard time talking about myself and my brain. I’m all about vulnerability and verbally processing things that are hard to sift through, but not for myself. I tell other people to do it because it’s good for you, but I have a hard time doing it because I don’t think anybody will care what I have to say. Oftentimes, I don’t think anybody will understand what I’m saying, or I won’t be able to find words to make it make sense, so I avoid it by asking other people very good questions or laughing it off with deflective sarcasm. My wife gets the brunt of the consequences of the deflections, and I think she finally got fed up with it. Recently, she has started asking me very good questions. Questions that are hard to answer for two reasons. One, I don’t want to. And two, I haven’t actually thought about it. I just get wrapped up in my feels, which is disgusting.

Now, I’m at a point I have started processing the bad place I know I’ve been in for quite some time, and I think it’s my brain attacking itself. I doubt this will be wrapped with a bow and come to a conclusion at the end. These are my (somewhat) organized thoughts on a page, and I haven’t finished thinking.

If I’m being honest with myself, it has been years. Two for sure, but maybe more. Two years of my “mental” being in a place most accurately described by asking, “who, what, where, why and how the fuck?” What the fuck is happening? What the fuck am I doing? Where the fuck am I going? Why the fuck… ? How the fuck… ? It feels like a whole bunch of giant question marks at the end of almost every decision I make. Day-in, day-out, there seems to be nothing but question marks.

Here is what I have been aware of: I justify it as being circumstantial. It’s because of my job (mostly), or it’s because of where I live, or it’s because of this, or it’s because of that. What I think I am learning is I am blaming my circumstances for anxieties I’m avoiding. Recently, I have been humbled into using my brain to process who, what, where, why and how the fuck. Life has just reared all the way back, wound up and kicked me right in the cojones, and I think I’m in the midst of a breakthrough because of it.

It’s because of my job.

Back in 2017, when I was finishing my undergrad, I never really gave any thought into what comes next. I already had a full-time job I enjoyed, for the most part, and knew I was going to keep that when I graduated. I was having a great time dating my now-wife and knew I was going to marry her. I was living with two of my best friends and had to search very hard to find a complaint about it. I never really thought about what happens when things change. Then, to my surprise, in April of 2018, just over three months after I graduated, I decided I was not going to keep said job past September.

I wanted to be the next Don Draper and take on the advertising world. In Albuquerque, New Mexico. A very small market. With only an undergraduate degree in strategic communication. Fantasy? Yes, but I tried to do just that. I got an internship with a highly decorated firm and started working toward my dream of being the brains behind a widely known ad campaign. I was thrilled. I put my tie on, poured my coffee and was out the door to make it two minutes late on my first day. I pulled in the parking lot right as my boss was getting out of his truck. I tried to beat him to the door so I could say I was there before him, but failed. By the end of my first week I was so bored I could cry. I think the only thing I did for seven weeks was help plan my wedding and find a different job.

So, I did just that.

I got a job in production (tract) home building. I was thrilled. A real job with a real salary and real benefits. Something that mattered to me. I took off like a race car, learning quicker than any other superintendent and becoming an assistant project manager within months. Like, three months. After six months, I was so fed up with it I wanted to quit every day. It was awful. The pressure from corporate was intense and unnecessary, the demands from the homeowners were laughably out of touch with reality and the expectations of the subcontractors were wildly hard to grasp. I got most fed up with my perception nobody really listened to me.

Some days, I would get lost in a train of thought I wasn’t good enough at the job, so nobody respected me. Other days, I would tell myself I was better than the job and would find success somewhere else. Most days, I felt so defeated by 10 a.m. that I would just give up and sit on the couch of a model home, believing nobody would know I was gone because they don’t respect me anyway. Maybe the worst part about it was every day I woke up and told myself it was going to be a good day. That I was going to make it a good day. Thinking I could change my thought process which would change the reality, only to feel beat up by lunchtime. “Round 12 in the ring with Mike Tyson” type of beat up. I made it another six months and then quit without another job.

My wife and I wanted to move away from Albuquerque, so I started slinging out resumes in Denver and Dallas, to see which stuck. Boom. I got a job in custom home building in Denver. I was thrilled. Custom homes without the pressure of timelines and corporate budgets. A high-end product so the subcontractors will care more. I was hired by somebody who didn’t know me, which means they have to think I’m good at this. This is going to be great, right?


After six months, I hated it. It felt no different than tract homes and it seemed like nobody cared as much as I cared. I was struggling with subcontractors not listening to me, thinking they didn’t respect me. Homeowners would call the project manager instead of me, so I told myself I wasn’t good enough. I started believing I didn’t know enough about it and was learning too slowly. It didn’t help that for four of those six months I was actually on a machine doing work I went to college specifically to avoid. I mean, am I that bad at managing projects that you have to stick me on an excavator? I would wake up every day and say, “Well shit. Here we go again,” and end every day by saying, “What the fuck is happening?” I was sat down by my bosses and encouraged to quit. So, I did.

Without a plan, in the middle of a global health crisis, in a city where I’m not networked, toward the climax of arguably the most heated presidential race in America’s existence. All because some days I wasn’t good enough and some days I was too good.

Now, I’m working a temp job, at a wild game butcher shop. I’m a sausage stuffer four days a week, and meat packer three days a week. Talk about work I went to college specifically to avoid.

What I think I am realizing is when I avoid working through anxieties, I make my circumstances 100% of my reality. I tend to get to a place where I think I’m better. Then, I check myself and fall, quickly, to the other side of the spectrum and believe I am not good enough. I have spent years in a cycle of blaming other things for making me feel like my life sucks, getting to a place of arrogance, getting called out, then cowering to a place of worthlessness.

I am yet to find the “something in the middle,” where I don’t have to love my circumstances to love myself. I don’t know what it’s like to be in between too good and not good enough. I don’t take outside forces for what they are: forces. Designed to force me into a place I am not OK. I haven’t found the place where I am OK but my [blank] is not.

I don’t think I am good enough for the superintendent job title, but I think I’m better than tract homes. I think I’m better than living in a “garden level” apartment, but I haven’t done enough to prove otherwise. I think I am too good for a $15/hour job but maybe I’m only worth $10/hour. Now, I am standing in a cooler, alone with these thoughts of being better, then of not being enough. There are hundreds of pounds of meat that need to be stuffed into sausage form. I’m working for an hourly wage, so I don’t lose my garden level home.

What. The. Fuck. Happened?

I think I have spent so long believing these things, my brain has tricked me into a bad place. A place where I am always grumpy. I’m like a grumpy old white dude who has been calloused for so many years that nobody wants to talk to me. A get-off-my-lawn, Clint Eastwood type personality nobody likes to be around. A type of personality I don’t like to be around. I have told myself over and over, and over, and over, and over, and over it’s because of something else, and because of that something else, I don’t want to be around myself. Then, I change that something else and am gutted when I fall into the same cycle. I change the circumstance, then find a deeper, darker place of my brain. I let that affect everything  around me because it seems like a place I can’t get out of. I have found places so dark this little light of mine can’t shine, and I’ve been there for so long I’m scared it forgot how to.

Right now, I’m not OK. I’m not OK because I haven’t been able to avoid the same thoughts when my circumstances change. But, now I’m thinking, as well as feeling, and I think that’s a good place to start.

Raise your glass — cheers to thinking and not avoiding anxieties.

A version of this article was originally published on Here, Have a Beer.

Unsplash image by Stefan Stefancik

Originally published: April 1, 2021
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