Open letter to myself in February of 2009, part 2.
A continuation of Part 1.
Your life after this photo.
The optimistic worldview will hold for a few months. Drinking will barely be kept in check, where it’s been for years. Only stress will intensify as the world truly realizes that we elected a black man as President.
You remember this Eddie Murphy skit from childhood, about Jesse Jackson and the presidency? Eddie Murphy was prophetic. Only the real thing, with Barack Obama, is this skit minus the humor. When white men actually say, “He… fucking… won?”, it’s scary.
People you know will surprise you with their beliefs, too.
And… late fall, 2009, you derail. Hard.
“Okay stress, you win,” you will say.
The world of late 2009 through 2010 will be a blur. You will be knocked so far off center, you have no idea.
Actually, it’s going to take until summer 2011 — about seven months after quitting drinking — to start wrapping your head around the picture.
Late November, 2010.
A sweet gig shows up. Only it is on-site, 9 to 1, Monday through Friday, at least three months.
The full hourly rate, 20 hours a week.
And what a great idea for taking a break from the booze. Use this job as a chance to re-center.
Your last drink will be a glass of red wine on the Sunday night before that first Monday. The weekend plan was to chill on drinking since it this was a new client.
You didn’t chill.
On the bright side, it was kind of like a depressing and pathetic last hurrah.
The first morning at this job will be extra stressful because you know you stink of booze. Laying off makes even more sense.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are going to SUCK. Due to the fact that your body is physically dependent on alcohol and now experiencing withdrawal, those days will be a mix of freezing/burning up/starving/nauseous/dead tired/unable to sleep — you will eat about a half of a meal in the time before Wednesday night, when you drive to the hospital.
Good call, leaving when you did. After filling out the paperwork and sitting in the E.R. waiting room, your heart will begin to beat so hard that the guy a few places down on the plastic bench will stare at you because your body is shaking the bench. As much as you tense up to sit still, the bench still shakes.
Looking around, the southeast corner of the Waiting Room will seem like the most logical place for the void or portal or whatever that will open up. Somebody, maybe a dead relative, was going to step through that opening to come get you.
The stress that landed you in the E.R. will run through your head.
Fear. Companies cutting spending to please investors. People thanking God they had jobs. Ominous business leadership. Conversations with employees who lied about payment. This is the moment where all of this energy did you in.
That thought is clear as day as you sit here, years later, writing this.
You allowed those people to get the best of you. Full ownership for this situation was yours and is yours alone, years later.
(It’s why you shut down this energy, years later, before it gets near you.)
You did make that realization, sitting there: that you allowed them to do this.
Along with the void, there were visions of random faces, nobody you knew. Each person had a blank, yet panicked, look. The expression could be described as coming from knowing just enough to be scared, but not enough to see a solution. Like when people are facing a layoff.
After being stabilized in the E.R., they admit you to the main hospital. The sign above the bed will read “Seizure Risk”.
The next day, you’re going to watch the sun set over the Rocky Mountains from that sixth floor room, as the nurses finish the exit paperwork.
Watching your heart beat in real-time on the MRI, that will be one of many thoughts as you look at the sky and mountains.
After spending Thursday in the hospital, you’ll go back to the freelance gig on Friday. It will be awkward. The following Monday, they’ll say that the project is on hold.
So, you’ll run up a $15,000 medical bill AND lose a high-paying gig.
Which will be just fine.
(The gig was at one of those Interactive places where the staff had titles like “UX Ninja”, “UI God”, and “Interactive Strategy Queen”. 2009 me: you are meeting these types more and more, thinking that they seem overrated. Here’s the thing: nine-tenths of them are. Chin up, the rest of the business world will catch on.)
2009 me: looking at life and not seeing alcohol in the picture is beautiful.
Here’s where you’re going to land one day, years later. Every person is allotted an amount of booze for their lifetime. Some of us choose to get rid of our allotments quicker.
Fortunately, there are more good memories than bad from that era.
But… the bad memories suck. No way I can sugarcoat this.
You have more regrets than you, the guy in this picture, would ever admit.
One example: know what’s going to happen? The year 2003 is going to come back and hit you between the eyes.
2003 was when drinking turned from partying to self-medication. This insight hasn’t occurred to you yet. It will, sitting in a park, years later.
That was one terrible year, my friend. You’ll think about the choices you made, after you sober up. You, the guy in this picture, doesn’t think about that year much.
As you look back at that year, booze-free, you’re going to regret that you didn’t lean on your family enough. They love you and are there for you.
Some insights about the world in 2003 will hit you. Insights similar to the one about Standard & Poor’s downgrading our country’s credit rating in 2011. These will meld with the visions in the Waiting Room.
The resulting conclusions will guide your worldview and (attempts at) activism.
Know one reason why your professional world got so bizarre in 2003?
That was the year that the U.S. cut taxes on capital gains. Your company, being publicly-traded, was one of many that got taken over by investors who lusted after this cheap money.
Companies like yours became near-term focused because that’s what pleased Wall Street. Management made decisions based on squeezing dollars now, versus thinking strategically long-term.
See, rich people grow chubs for stock money since this type of money results in lower taxes. Tax money helps single mothers and brown-skinned men.
Your corporate stress that year? Some Wall Streeter who jerks off to pictures of himself was looking to pay as little as absolutely possible in taxes.
Plain and simple.
So 2003 marked the beginning of this change in the economic climate. Income inequality is a term you don’t know yet. The professional ugliness that began in 2003 mirrored many workers’ situations. As companies put investors before customers, companies also ramped up the fear mongering.
The Great American Business Engine is dead, dude.
Whiteboys killed it, carved it up, then sold off pieces to the highest bidder. Think Gordon Gekko and Blue Star Airlines.
Besides 2003 memories, other flashbacks will hit. You’ll develop a theory about the flood of negativity. All those blackouts: those brain cells went into some kind of warp, then spun out of it years later. That’s why that stuff hits you the way it does.
Here’s something you don’t know, 2009 me. If you try to drown your sorrows in booze, they don’t drown. They hang out and wait for your ass to sober up. Only now, time has moved forward and you have to deal with things on your own.
Not drinking is awesome, dude. And it sucks.
It is a liberator, though. It makes it easy to cut toxic social ties. Nothing like the vision of death to provide a fresh perspective on melodrama.
Random thought — know what’s weird?
I remember one thing you were thinking, in 2009: we were beginning to meet the Archie Bunkers of our generation. White guys around our age and a little older, bitching that their wives were fat, their kids took all the money, they didn’t understand the twentysomethings who worked for them, blacks and Hispanics and single moms took their taxes, yada yada. You didn’t know these guys well, because you made it a point not to know them. But they seemed to know people you knew, and at some random party or bar you got introduced to them.
Guys that were Ronald Reagan’s wet dream, the prototypical American white male youth of the 80’s, now coming apart at their privileged seams.
Your insight then was, you’re single, alcoholic, and broke. But you’re not those guys.
You aren’t really meeting the Archie Bunkers of your generation these days. The non-booze version of you has zero tolerance for this type of energy.
You aren’t nearly as social as you once were. This is good and bad.
Your friend Lindsey, over coffee in 2014, will phrase a nice thought to you about solitude versus isolation.
Yeah, you’re single. Sober you has issues. Drinking you believed that quitting drinking would be the cure-all. Nope. But I wouldn’t go back, if that’s what you’re thinking, 2009 Me.
Sometimes, the urge to booze shows up. And gets dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
One day in the future, Dad is going to ask if the proverbial glass is half-empty or half-full. Your answer is going to be: your glass is half-full, and these days you understand the importance of avoiding glass-half-empty folks.
In the second decade of the new millennium, 2009 me, there are a lot of those people. But once the need for drinking buddies goes away, guess what? Somehow… one also magically meets less glass-half-empty folks.
Could be a connection here. Yathink?
2009 me, the stress of the Great Recession hasn’t really hit you yet. This stress will only continue as white America begins to truly react to the election.
Know why Obama threatens them so? He is their archetype for the 21st-century male leader — only his father was African and his name is “Barack Hussein Obama.”
Remove the racial aspect, and our president is everything they want in male leadership. His demeanor, the way he carries himself, his ability to interact — the GOP so wishes that a right-wing white dude like him existed. Admitting this fact scares them.
White men are looking at the shifting population demographics and the fact that whites will no longer be the majority in a few decades.
This fact fills them with a fear that is warping their minds.
2009 FOX News? Dude, you need to watch 2015 FOX News.
The 44th President of The United States awakened something ugly in these men.
Like, Aryan 2.0 ugly.
It’s not fair to use the term “nazi” with these fellas. Yet the xenophobic, tribalistic element of their ugliness can’t be ignored. It needs to be put on the table so we, as American citizens, can discuss it.
We need to add some ‘Merican history, for context. As years went by, the WASPs begrudgingly let Irish, Polish, Jewish, Italian, Russian, Eastern European, and Greek guys into their club, to keep numbers strong. Those fresh additions to Club Whiteboy were honored to carry the torch, forgetting that their own ancestors were once pissed on by WASPs.
Maybe the club was opening itself to ethnic groups like Asians and Hispanics by the time Obama took office. But if it was, the election of our 44th president has prompted a large group of guys on the inside to start shutting out these Americans, too.
As you learn about living without alcohol, the club will come to mind. Being a white guy, you were allowed to stand in its conditional line when you were younger. Many other Americans weren’t welcome. This fact was obvious before, you weren’t naive. But after a few years with a black man as president, you’ll understand (as much as a white guy can) how unwelcoming that club was. The Red, White and Blue was the White, White and White.
2009 me: you think that America was evolving forward and this progress would only continue. One day, the club would allow two final “groups” to join: women and black men.
The slow pace was pathetic, the club didn’t deserve a bit of respect, but at least there was forward progress, right? Wrong.
Here’s the thing: not only is the club less welcoming than previously thought, in 2015 many of those fellas inside would burn it to the ground rather than open its doors to others.
The agenda of Aryan 2.0 is simple: take all the money before the population demographics completely shift.
The idea of “minority status” scares some whites, deep to their core.
But you believe in the future.
However you look at the world now, you don’t feel a demoralization that others feel.
Is it from looking at death? Maybe.
Your world isn’t as chaotic now, the stress level isn’t as high. That part, 2009 Chris, is nice. You aren’t the busiest freelance copywriter, but you’re not the slowest, either. Whatevs.
Another thing: in mid-2011 you are going to land a multi-month gig that will turn into a long-term client. Good people, not a “ninja” in the bunch. Between health insurance and freelance income, the hospital bill gets paid. Sending that four-figure check to the people who saved your life will feel amazing.
You, 2009 me, were afraid to run your mouth on the Internet. I do that freely now. Yeah, I’m one of the millions voicing their opinions, go me. But I do sign every post, either with “Chris Maley” or “Fearkiller” for the book series, with real contact information. I won’t be one of those anonymous commenters. But for 2015, the goal is to do more running of the mouth while not behind a computer screen.
The first book’s subject matter, that brand of fear, you’re feeling it in 2009. It sucks but hang in there, you’re getting lots of great material. Later, with a clearer head, it will turn into a different feeling as pieces of the puzzle come together. That fear in 2009? A few fellas made billions off of that.
On an optimistic note, in 2015 those same fellas are walking on eggshells.
People are talking. The rich took way too much money to be inconspicuous.
When you’re not angry about it, that’s the funny part, in 2015.
They look like morons as the rich try to justify all that they took. Instead of coming across as captains of industry, most of them appear sheepish, like thirteen-year-olds who got caught jerking off.
That’s a positive insight about the change from 2009.
Those walks through Wash Park to take your mind off the empty e-mail inbox, that feeling of optimism you felt is still there in the years ahead.
Back then, you felt like the only person who possessed this feeling. You will meet others who have it, as well as discover the feeling in people you already knew.
Those people will be the pleasant surprises who counterbalance the people like Doc and his theory about the toddler Osama bin Laden telling Barack, Sr. to “impregnate a white woman.”
Vision: Doc. Maybe late 2009.
At one of the first Tea Party rallies, back when it was called the Teabag Party.
Doc would have had a teabag or two dangling from his forehead.
Yeah, Doc would have been that guy.
Chris Maley is the writer of Fearkiller (Volume 1) and Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2). He lives in Denver, Colorado.