Another Year Gone

If you could live your life over again, what would you change?

Yeah, I know. The epitome of tired old questions. But I ask for a reason. My birthday is in a couple of weeks, and I’m not happy about it. I haven’t been happy about my birthday for almost a decade. It’s not so much that I’m growing older, though I’m not happy about that either. It’s that when I look back on my life all I see is gray. To be sure, there are bright spots but the gray consumes all. When I look the other way, toward my future, I see the same. Bleak.

Me, I would make several huge changes.

When I was 12 (or even earlier), I’d have figured out some way to convince my parents that there was something wrong with me, that I was emotionally unstable. I would have badgered them to take me to a psychiatrist, instead of retreating because I figured they didn’t care about me. Then again, when I was growing up, black folk didn’t go to mental health providers unless they were going to the loony bin. Psychiatry and such was for white people. Black people worked out their problems in private. Don’t air dirty laundry.

I’d have stayed with my music studies. Become a professional musician. Years ago, I caught up with some of my friends from high school. One is a bluesman in South Carolina who performs with his wife. They travel the globe doing their thing. Another is a chanteuse. She lives in Paris. She’s friends with the greats, like Al Jarreau. Well, he’s dead but you get what I mean. Another is a jazz trumpeter. He knew (and knows) all the greats, too. While Miles Davis was alive, he was his protegé. Not that I think I would have become famous or anything like that. I’d just be doing something I’d truly loved. And yeah, before you say something, I’m jealous of them, with their music-filled lives. When we were young, they believed in themselves enough to pursue their dreams. I didn’t.

I SURE AS HELL WOULD NOT HAVE GONE TO LAW SCHOOL. I absolutely detested it. I can honestly say those were the worst 3 years of my life. I was in New Orleans, which helped. It also helped I was drunk, stoned, or both most the time. I read my assignments, but I didn’t study. The only time I was in the library was when I was actually working (I was a professor’s research assistant). I always showed up for class, though. Not because it was any great thing, but my mother, an educator, beat it into her kids that no matter what, you always went to school on school days. I remember when I was in 7th grade, there was a citywide teachers’ strike that lasted three weeks. Every damned day my mother made us go to school, even though it was announced on the morning news schools were going to be closed. “You never know when the strike will end,” she’d say, “so you need to be there.” Never mind the fact the school buses weren’t running and to get there and back, I was on my own. I’d arrive at school only to turn around and go home. If I was lucky, I’d hitch a ride from a friend whose parent had driven them to school. I usually wasn’t so lucky.

Anyway, it’s a wonder I didn’t flunk out of law school. I guess I still had enough intact brain cells to make it through. I was fairly lucky after entering the workforce. I only spent 2 or so years in private practice. Hated that shit. Until 2015, I worked for trade organizations doing legislative work. Now I’ve got a day job where I write about stuff, not drafting legislation, lobbying and crap like that.

This bipolar shit… Being in a near constant state of depression, the only thing that makes my existence anything approaching worthwhile is writing. Fiction, that is. Not what I write for my day job. Of course, there are some who’d say that’s fiction, too. Writing my stories allows me to disappear into my imagination and for those few hours, I’m free from the mundane world and all its tribulations. Be nice if I could live there 24/7.

So I get like this every year around my birthday, thinking about what could have been if I’d made different life choices. Would I have been any happier? All things being equal, I don’t know. If I’d chosen music as a career, life might have been better. But of course, I can’t know that.

Can’t promise, but I’ll do my best not to whine about my bullshit life again.


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