Clearer (Pt. 1)

“Why do we [read other people’s blogs], sir? So we can learn [about the sordid details of their lives.]”

– Alfred, to Batman (probably)

Recently, I have been getting quite a few messages from recruiters trying to get me to work for their company. Some of them have actually been personalized and mention my website – a nice touch! Although I am reasonably certain they don’t read my blog, I just want to say to any potential new readers who are recruiters: welcome! I am not currently looking for a new position or company, but I would be happy to keep receiving emails from you! Have a great day!

Anyway, I’m writing this because it’s been a while since I’ve written anything and I want to at least keep a loose commitment to write once in a while, if I feel like it. Often what happens is I write something and then just not publish it because it doesn’t feel “right.” I’m going to try not to do that this time (but you’ll never know if I do, unless I actually succeed.)

It’s May, which means it’s the three-year anniversary of some pretty monumental changes for me. So what am I going to talk about? I’ll just talk about myself.

In July 2016, I moved to Seattle and in with Miranda, my girlfriend of, at the time, a year and a half. This seemed like a kind-of big step at the time, but in retrospect, it was a very big leap. We didn’t have jobs lined up, although I had some interviews and I was relentlessly1 searching for more. We found an apartment on Craigslist to sublease from some University of Washington students. We drew up a budget for the worst case scenario of not finding jobs and determined that we could survive (for a short time) on minimum wage while continue to job search. Finally, since we were moving in together, we talked about our expectations for that, too. We were set.

During this time things were… okay. The winter before I graduated I felt constantly short of breath, which I took to be a symptom of “senior year” anxiety. After I graduated we took a celebratory trip to Madrid, and during the flights my already-elevated anxious mind shot up to the next level. This continued to escalate until Amazon emailed me to schedule an interview, and at 10am on a normal week day in my Duluth apartment, I sunk into a breathless panic on the floor in my room.

I want to be clear here that this was not normal for me. I never thought that mental health was just a lack of fortitude or a character flaw, but I never really had any experience with what these things looked like either. Frankly, I thought of myself as a pretty strong, well-adjusted person – if a bit “nervous” at times.

A few days before we left for Seattle, I saw a doctor in Duluth about what to do about panic attacks and flight anxiety. Everyone I saw was nice to me, and the doctor prescribed some medicine for flights and panic attacks. This was my first experience with a prescription drug that was not prescribed for pain or infection, and I was scared. On paper, I was “pro-mental health destigmatization” and perfectly willing to listen to the expert advice of the doctor I saw. However, again, having no actual experience in this area, I still didn’t really believe that that was what I was experiencing.

This is Mitchell in Mitchell, South Dakota. A match made in heaven.

Everything changed that summer in Seattle. To be clear, it was a lot of fun – I was in a new place, with someone I love, living out the dream I’d had for all of my adult life. On the other, it was intensely frustrating and scary. The threat of going broke2 or getting evicted3 loomed over our heads, and my general irritability had increased. One time, towards the end of the summer, I knocked over a drink and it spilled all over the carpet. I got so angry I wanted to hit something. Why? I don’t know. I hadn’t had an overly stressful day. But in that moment I felt completely out of control – like a completely different person – and I was ashamed.

Almost exactly halfway through the summer, I got a job offer from Amazon that required me to – strangely – move away from Seattle. It also raised a lot of feelings, like: is this what I want? Do I really want to move away from Seattle after just getting here? Am I in the right place in my life? Am I with the right person to do all of this with?

Those were actual questions that raced through my head as I considered the offer. Next I had to pick from a short list of cities to start my career. At the top: New York City.

All of the questions I had for myself would have to wait, because we were moving again.

I’ll talk about that next week.

  1. Well… kind of.
  2. It’s true that, given our status as recent grads with student loans, we were pretty deep in the hole financially at the time. However, I’ll check my privilege here and say that given my access to a great support system of friends and family back home I was never in real danger. I am very fortunate and many people aren’t that lucky.
  3. We were actually, through no fault of our own, pretty close to eviction at one point. But that’s a story for another time.

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