In the Dark Brightly

​When I was a kid, the snowmachines would plow the roads in my neighborhood and leave the snow in a large pile in the middle of a cul-de-sac. The neighborhood boys would go out and mess with it and turn it into half a fortress and half a King of the Hill battleground.
The winters in Alaska are long and deep and often clear, and I was lucky in that my grandmother would often give me a little more time to spend outside after the street lights came on.
I’d find myself out on that snow hill alone a lot. In my snow pants and my snow jacket and my gloves and thick hat, I would lay down on top and stare up at the pearls that sat atop a clean black silk blanket. I must have been ten, twelve years old.
I didn’t think about love then, or at least not in the same way I do now. I didn’t think about death, or success, or what it meant to be happy. I was a troubled kid. I grew up in a healthy household but parental addiction and strife were always in the periphery and I was bullied a lot.  So a lot of who I am now was there then. Maybe even the purest, most enduring part: I just wanted to be. I wanted to… I don’t know, experience. Something. Anything of value. I was a kid staring into the cosmos, for a brief moment away from my loving but sometimes overbearing grandparents, away from my dad smelling like sweat and cheap beer, away from my mom asking me for cab money on my birthday. I didn’t know what happy was supposed to be, or sad, or normal. I was just a kid looking out into a deepness I couldn’t quantify and wanting to step out from where I was into somewhere autumn, somewhere with street musicians, somewhere paupers got to share a short conversation with princesses.
I read a lot then, as I’ve written about, in order to escape. And with a mind full of stories and an open sky above me, a quiet night holding me and with the straw colored glow haunting the snow around me… it was still. It was all so still. My wild mind could find a moment of peace to just hope for something different down the line. I didn’t know what I wanted then, and what I’ve actually wanted has changed over the years, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled. Something in the night sky, this unfathomable depth beyond the stars, spoke to me of fulfillment. That it would be there somewhere.
I’m much older now. I view the same sky with more critical eyes, and more tired ones, and eyes more prone to tearing up for no reason. But that stillness still steps beside me. That calm still takes the coat from my shoulders and the hat from my head. I see the same stars I ever did, and they still tell me that they’re waiting for me to join them out on the patio with a decent beer, but not a fancy one. That high-end, blue-collar shit.
Nearly two decades later, I’m still that kid on the hill. A little more bruised. A little more scared. As home as ever in the dark brightly.

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A New-ish Leaf.

It’s been quite a while since I updated my blog. I met someone I really wound up liking and only had a couple weeks to spend with her, so most of my time on those days was spent going to lunches, dinners, movies, comedy shows, and laying in bed with the sheets wrapped around us while we read. It was the best couple weeks I’ve had in a while.

She flew back home a while ago, and I’ve been trying to maintain a certain level of productivity, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts going through my head these days. Not bad ones, strangely, but busy ones. It’s a little tricky getting back into the routine I had before she arrived, but today’s the day! (he said, hoping against hope that Procrastination won’t rear its ugly head and devour him once more as the eagle does Prometheus’ liver).

Anyway. I’ve spent most of the last month sober, which is a massive change in lifestyle from most of the last three years. I went from drinking a half a bottle of whiskey or more on a nightly basis to maybe having a beer on my lunch every once in a while. For a long time, I drank to grieve. Then I drank because I was just angry and depressed and lonely. Then I drank because it was a health issue to just quit cold turkey. I’m over that hump now.

Over the last year, I had another horrific mental and emotional breakdown that cost me some close friendships with people that meant the world to me. It almost cost me my job. It put me in a very bad, unstable place. I’ve come a long way since, and for once I’ve taken action to hopefully keep my head above water. I saw a therapist (and plan on continuing again once the new year starts and insurance kicks in). I’ve got medication. I’ve dialed my drinking back significantly, in fact, almost completely. I’ve started writing again. I’ve been reading A LOT.

What’s weird is that, for the first time, I feel like the world is truly open to me again. It’s scary some days because with so many avenues of opportunity, I don’t know where to start. I saw a TED talk once about how the plentitude of choices can sometimes work as a detriment to the consumer. How when presented with too many options, someone can be deterred or frozen into inaction. I feel that same way sometimes now, but it’s also kind of exciting. I haven’t felt as determined to set out on a new path than I did six years ago when I first made the biggest change I had ever done.

Six years ago, I was a wily-eyed 21-year old with dreams of an acting and writing career (the former is laughable in retrospect; I still hold out hopes for the latter). I was going to take the world by storm through sheer brazenness and bravado. My grandmother paced back and forth in the kitchen, fretting. Bless her heart, she was worried about all the little details, convinced that any number of things would kill me during my journey into a better life.

To be fair, she had every right to worry. I was setting out with two friends, one car between us, $2,000 of my own with no job lined up, no other known associates, no place to live and I was moving to a city I hadn’t been to since I was seven years old. It’s an absolute miracle I managed to make it as long as I did, and it absolutely involved a lot of drinking cheap wine and vodka and eating two weeks’ worth of food on $30 (thank God for the $1 store).

My grandfather just sat quietly as my grandmother paced, and when she moved into her bedroom he stood up, came over to me and gave me a tight hug. All he said to me was that he was proud of me. My uncle had talent as a musician but never pursued it, instead settling for a career (that, by his own admission, he did love). My aunt married early to a pilot, had three kids, got divorced and married another pilot. My dad was also a talented musician but a troubled life that involved hard women and harder drinking. My grandfather told me he was proud of my talent and proud of me for attempting to go out and make something of it where his kids did not.

I mean, six years, a few failed auditions and three novels that don’t sell later, I don’t know how great a plan that was on my part. I’m $30k in medical debt and never got out of the nomadic mindset. I sleep on an air mattress and could pack up and leave in 20 minutes or less (is that a bastardized line from Heat? You know it is). And there’s a certain kind of freedom and a certain kind of loneliness wrapped up in that. I do want to settle down some day. I want a family. I like being able to come home and have my own room to plop down in and escape from the world sometimes. I spent two years on couches, futons and floors and it wasn’t the greatest, you know? But I also like knowing that I can pick up and go.

Even though I haven’t.

Even though, really, I couldn’t.

See, here’s my problem: after a year of scraping by in Los Angeles, an unemployed stint in Seattle, scrabbling for my feet in Redmond, being on solid ground again in Anchorage only to hit rock bottom all over again three years ago, I hate feeling poor. I hate eating cheap shit. I finally found a job that pays me well and reliably, but for the past two years, I’ve been living check to check because it’s so much easier to live IN THE MOMENT. You know what I mean? I like going out and having $15-30 lunches and dinners, good food that other people cook to me. I like going out and having drinks with friends, and I don’t drive and I’m impatient, which means I spend a lot on cabs every time that happens. I blew money on single issues of comic books when I know it’s better and cheaper to wait half a year and pick up the trade paperback, and I know that it’s all going to go into storage anyway. Living check to check leaves no money for emergencies, no money to move, no money as a safety net. And it’s that last thing that really makes a huge difference in my life, because my grandparents are dead. My dad is newly out of prison and already blew my inheritance on legal fees and the abusive harpy wife that put him there. I have no idea what’s going on with my mom. My aunt and her husband are saddled with medical problems. My uncle would help me in a pinch, but he’s already helped me so much and it isn’t his place to help me at all. His parents ADOPTED me. I’m a nephew he didn’t ask for and one he has already done so, so much for. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

So if I pack up and leave on a whim again, I’m on my own. 100% and that’s fucking terrifying. Exhilarating, but terrifying. See, I could save more money. I could try to transfer down with my job (instead of working for a local credit union, I work for a nationwide company; instead of being there for five months, I’ve been here for over two years). I have friends down there now. Connections.

But I had no money. I have no safety net.

And yet.

And yet.

I can’t fucking live here anymore. Not on anything like a permanent basis. Sobriety has brought a sense of clarity that I smothered over the last few years. I’m stuck in a sea of comfort in Alaska. I’m stuck in this cyclical loop of going out to the same bars, eating at the same restaurants, staying home to avoid running into someone I slept with every day of the week, or someone who has heard a rumor, or a former friend, or friends of people I may have wronged or made an ass of myself to.

I like bigger cities. I like reliable weather and normal sun cycles. The seasonal depression wrecks me every year. I like being able to have a measure of anonymity when I go out. I miss the beach. The real fucking beach and the sounds of the ocean. I need to be somewhere I can make actual connections with other authors, with more readers, with publishers, with people who might know people. Anchorage is home, it will always be sort of home to me, but it’s hostile to my soul and it’s easy to grow complacent. I can’t be complacent. I have a heart that cries out for travel and for seeing new things and meeting strangers in passing and for collecting stories of myself and others.

Long story short, I’ve decided to cut back my expenses, to budget money from my check and – for the first time in years – set money aside in my savings account. I need to survive one more winter and maintain some discipline and hopefully by next spring… by next summer at the latest, I’ll have solidified a plan to take another leap. And even though I’ll have a little bit of a safety net again, maybe this time I’ll focus on not missing the fucking bar I’m jumping for.

Oh, and hopefully I’ll have a couple more books out by then, too.

I’ve always wanted to be someone my grandparents could be proud of. But I want more than that. I want to be good at what I love to do. I want my friends to be proud of me as well. I want to be able to experience life more fully. I’d love to fall in love with someone else some day, but I also want, more than anything, to find love in the creases, cracks, shadows and backdrops of the world.

Back and Ahead

I was strapped for ideas on what to write. The last week has been, erm, interesting. I had a particularly eye-opening but emotionally intense therapy session and I’ve been dealing with some financial stuff due to some poor decisions I made. All in all, it’s left me more or less where I’m used to being: right back at the beginning.

I needed something to write about. Something to keep my mind off of things. I reached out to someone that means a lot to me and she suggest I write a letter to myself five years ago, and myself five years in the future. So. Sorry. This blog is going to be a bit self-indulgent.

Five years ago.

Jered. You sad, silly bastard. This is a pretty dark time for you, I know. You’re not in a good place emotionally, nor professionally, but that’s okay. Baby, you’re going to bounce back, I promise you. You’re going to fall in love again; she wasn’t kind to your feelings and you didn’t know how to handle your own feelings again. You will find other women who leave an amazing impact on your life, and it’s going to…

Well, it’s going to end bad, too. Every time. You’re kind of shitty in relationships, to be honest, and you keep picking women who aren’t fair to your emotions, either. It’s a bad mix. You’re bad at it. Be patient, kid, and have more faith in yourself and know when someone’s using you. You won’t,  of course, but you should.

Still, this woman will stick with you for years, deep in your heart. She has affected you. But she isn’t the first and she won’t be the last, and you should write about that love and that hurt, because someone somewhere will resonate with it, and if nothing else, there will be a record of what you lived, loved and experienced.

You’re going to recover from this. Not only that, but when you’re at your lowest, feeling your worst, when you’re loneliest and feeling the most shitty, you’re going to write your first book. Yeah! It’s going to be long as hell, and it’s not going to sell for shit, but you’re going to write the shit out of it. Men and women from 18-60 will read and enjoy it. You’re going to write two more and finish the trilogy. You’ll have written a trilogy of epic novels that are enjoyed and talked about. You did that. You made that.

Life is fucking hard, kid. But I’m writing this from the future, yeah? Which means we have survived. We’ve lived through it. The hurt, the heartbreak, losing our adopted parents, losing our loved ones…we never lost our friends. We never lost ourself, though the best parts may have been tucked back away for a while. You have endured so much and you’ll endure a shitload more. You’ve got this. You have this. Write about it.

Five years from now.

I thought I’d be married by my age. I thought I’d have maybe a kid by now, have my shit together and a job that actually feels rewarding. I don’t. I don’t know who I am exactly now, but I hope you have a better grip on that.

I don’t want you to be lonely, man. I hope you’ve found a way to manage your mental instabilities so that your emotions don’t dictate the way you act so much. If you’ve found someone who can love and work with you despite that, then great, but I hope sometime between now and when you are, you put yourself first for once and get help and help yourself be better.

Don’t be discouraged by writing. However small the audience might be, you’re providing an escape for people. You’re leaving the world a better place behind. I worked my ass off for this, future me. You better not take it for granted.

I want to be you, older Jered. I want to breathe this air and fall in love and be heartbroken and have momentous sex and write more books. I want to be a guy who feels everything, but is better able to manage those feelings. Can you be proud of your reflection, future me? You better be. Because present me is struggling and angry and hurt and if future me doesn’t get somewhere better, present me is going to kick his fucking ass.

Sincerely,
Yours Truly,
Much Love,

-K. Jered Mayer

P.S. Just tell her you fucking like her and see where her head’s at, you asshole. This goes for both of you.