I am proud to say I know my fair share of reprobates: pot dealers, degenerate gamblers, even a white collar criminal. I know a bail bond guy who does twice as many drugs as his clients.
I also know boring people: a Delta airline pilot, a power plant engineer, an art restorer at the Getty.
Both sets of people seem more or less proud of their lives and who they’ve become. The degenerate gambler is all too happy to bartend two nights a week and get down with the sports book the other five. The pilot jet sets around the country and holds the rank of major in the Air Force Reserves. Each of them has his stories, the details of life that resonate enough to be repeated to friends. They celebrate experience.
The are living.
They are alive.
Yet in some ways I feel as if I’ve woke from the dead. I’ve only just begun to live. I kiss for luck and I’m on my way. Thank you, Karen Carpenter. The difference between me and the people I know is simple and profound. They’ve enjoyed the journey and engaged with life. Chronic depression and thoughts of suicide have exempted me from that experience.
My years of mental illness has retarded my development in many ways, as if I am only half a man. This is not a protracted whine but a statement of fact, a premise to set up my point.
I am not my experiences. I am not happy to look back and wax the old days (which complicates things because I write memoir). I am my potential. I am my future. The lamenting of crimes both real and imagined gets me nowhere, I’ve learned.
I am not my experience. I am the engine of change.