Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Curse Of The Eights

I was born in 1948, and it seems like all of the years ending in eight that followed were just terrible. Call it the Curse of the Eights.

1958 was a bad one. I did an accelerated year in school that left me almost two years younger than the other children in my class. That was a curse at least until the end of high school. My parents bought a house. It was in the same town, same neighborhood, really, but even slight geographic shifts affect children that age. New social patterns, new friends added to the old ones. My parents, speaking of whom, had a big difference of opinion in 1958 that ruined their relationship irrevocably. My mother, who had always been unpredictable, kicked it up a notch and became "mercurial." My father, for his part, stopped coming home from work. He moved into a sales position at his engineering company, and he was on the road almost all the time. We saw him maybe once a week after that. Altogether, it was way too much for me to properly integrate. I don’t think that I’ve ever gotten over it.

1968 was a terrible year for the entire world. I won’t run down all of the horrors that were in the news, we all remember them. Personally, in February I was given an early “Honorable” discharge by the Navy. Not a big deal, I just wasn’t the military type and they gently asked me to leave. I spent many months on unemployment, being generally depressed and depressed in particular by current events. My relationships suffered. It was horrible.

1978? The real crisis had taken place two years earlier, in 1976. But in 1976 I turned twenty-eight-years-old, so that’s an eight, isn’t it? 1n 1976 I had had some kind of massive identity crisis. I had been fired from most of the jobs that I’d had up until that point. I had not made any success of schooling since 1957. My wife was pressuring me to have another child, and I was resisting. I was under-educated and under-employed. I wanted to start making a better living, but I didn’t know how. I knew that things needed to change, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to go about it. By 1978 I was just formulating a new perspective, I was learning to be more positive. I was still in a fog, though. It was another few years before I really came out of it.

1988? In 1987 I almost died from a burst appendix. That drove home the fact that I still hadn’t figured out how to make a living. I had finished university in the meantime, and I had turned myself into a very good student, finally.  But I still had done nothing to build on that success. Somehow I decided to go to law school, and I started that enterprise in 1988. Law school was a good experience for me, I kind of enjoyed it and I did fine. Passed the California bar exam on the first try, too. The law was like a Venus Fly Trap for me. It was very pleasant at first, but it becomes fatal when the bug reaches a certain point. Sowing the seeds of future unhappiness does not make for a good year. So I’m going with terrible, based on the tensions that were inevitably created.

1998 was the worst. The law was not a good fit for me. I found it all so stressful that I could hardly stand doing the things that needed to be done every day. I had been drinking too much for a few years, and in 1998 I scaled that back dramatically. Without self-medicating, the stress seemed even worse. Without putting too fine a point on it, I was becoming a danger to myself. I survived the year, but only barely. It was horrible.

2008 was the year that my wife informed me that she couldn’t live with me anymore. So there’s that. It was bad news to me. I spent the rest of the year nervously waiting for her to change her mind. I had been asked to leave the home the previous year, “temporarily.”  I was living in Bangkok by then, in a cheap, small rented condo that was essentially a ruin. I didn't know anyone in Bangkok, so I was alone all the time. I had only a lap-top for company, without wi-fi. My kitchen consisted of a folding table with two plastic chairs (ever the optimist!) and an ice chest (milk for the Corn Flakes). It was terrible.

So now I’m kind of dreading 2018, only two years away. I’m post-divorce by now, settled into a new life in Thailand. My situation is generally good. My health is good. Patterns can be broken.  I’m optimistic. 

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