And I have to admit, that scares me.
First, let me put my life into perspective. I’m a generally happy guy. I have a good sense of humor, and I love to laugh. And when I’m not happy, I’m miserable. But that hasn’t been the case very often. In fact, I can easily say I have been legitimately happy through 75% of my life.
I’m 41 years old and obviously I have no memory of the first few years of my existence, but from everything I have seen and heard, I was happy. I do know that, from my earliest memories (1981?), I was happy. I was happy all through elementary school, junior high and high school. I’m not saying every day was perfect but the good days outnumbered the bad 100 to one.
I was also happy in college, in fact, that was one of the happiest periods of my life. And after college, for the next eight-plus years, I was happy. And I mean happy, fulfilled, loving life and truly enjoying myself.
That changed in the spring of 2005. And then it kind of snowballed and I was unhappy pretty consistently for the next 12 years, some years were worse than others (for instance, 2010 was a great year overall, with the exception of the last six weeks, while 2011 and 2012 were just miserable).
I started to feel some happiness begin to run through my veins in 2018. And like an addict needing a fix, I knew I needed a lot more of that and a lot less of the unhappiness I had dealt with the previous decade-plus.
So I started to take a look at my life, where I was then, where I had been in the past and realized exactly what I needed to make myself happy.
GETTING OUT OF PRESTON COUNTY
The most important thing was to get out of Preston County.
Preston has a reputation, and I dare say, it was earned. Moving to Fairview was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Preston County is the cesspool of the state of West Virginia. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone in Preston County is gutter trash (though I would say about 90% are), there are some great people there. But the human garbage outnumbers the good folks by a huge margin. And it seems to be getting worse as time goes on.
There’s also a feeling of impending misery at all times. When I’m in Preston County, I can’t sleep, I can’t focus, it’s just like I’m waiting for something bad to happen. When I get to Fairview, I have a habit of falling asleep in my recliner because I am so relaxed and my worries seem to melt away.
I’m about an hour away from Preston County now, and that’s a nice buffer. I come back occasionally to visit with mom and dad and check my mail that hasn’t gotten the address change processed yet, and it still has that same old Preston County feel, as soon as I get there, I start to feel miserable again.
And now, I wonder if I wouldn’t be even happier getting even further away. I’ve fantasized about leaving for Illinois or, especially, Arizona a lot over the years. I never had any intention of staying in this state all my life. I think just getting out of West Virginia in general would do a lot for me going forward.
I had to take a real close look at my life and realize something that was told to me a year ago by my friend April, who told me how easy it is to get comfortable being single. The sad thing is, I should have already known that from my own life experiences. I have lived on each side of that situation.
The happiest I have ever been in my life were times that I was not involved with anyone, from my earliest period of recollection through the end of college. Now, I do have to admit that one of my longer relationships took place within that time frame, with my girlfriend from 1994 to 1996, but we had a very good rapport while we were together and when it ended, I think we were both really glad it was over, as I just get tired of someone after a certain length of time.
From the end of that relationship, I was single until the very early summer of 2005, and boy, did my quality of life go down when my love life was on the rise. As I look back at the mid-to-late 2000’s, the only good thing I can say about them is that the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.
That’s literally the only good thing I can say came out of that era.
Then, 2010 to 2017 was even worse. That was, without question, the unhappiest, most miserable era of my life. The only redeeming happening from that period was my son, everything else was suicide-worthy.
And what do those two periods of time have in common? I wasn’t single.
For the first time since 2005, I’m doing for no one but myself. And I love it. I do what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want. I don’t argue with anyone over anything. It’s all about me, and it’s going to stay that way. With the exception of my son, whom I would have done anything in the world for and who came first, regardless of circumstance, this will never change again.
I don’t have to answer to anyone. If I want to get up at 3 AM and play MLB The Show on my PS4, I do. I don’t have to go spend the night anywhere that I don’t want to. I can go eat anywhere I want. I don’t have to negotiate about where to go or what to do with anyone. “Being selfish” is a big plus after you realize how important “being single” is. And while people may seem like they’re being selfish in relationships, ultimately there has to be some level of give and take, whether it’s 50/50 or 95/5, no one is having it their way 100% of the time.
This brings me to the second part of this piece, why being happy scares me…
After 12 years of unrelenting despair, 2018 felt like a breath of fresh air, but I still did things I shouldn’t have done. I got involved in situations that I should have known in advance were better to be avoided. And that’s what scares me, could I still have the potential inside of me to screw my life up again?
My mind says “no,” but if you went back 25 years ago and asked if I would possibly screw my life up as bad as I did the past dozen years, I would have said “no” to that as well. And even though I knew how happy I was in 1999 and 2002 and 2004, I still made decisions back then that could have completely ruined my life, rather than just making it unbearably unhappy. And it’s not like I was in one bad relationship from 2005 to 2017, I was in four of them.
How could anyone be so stupid as to continually putting themselves into bad situations like that is beyond me. And each one got worse, making the previous one seem not as bad, until it hit rock bottom. So, clearly, I had no sense of timing or the ability to distinguish trash from treasure.
Not that there were any treasures to distinguish, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that I still made those stupid decisions.
So, here I am, single, selfish and out of Preston County. What could possibly go wrong? On the surface, nothing. One thing I have now that I did not have 12 years ago is the experience of being so unhappy that I don’t want to live, as I did on numerous occasions in the 2010’s. I am hopeful that experience will steer me away from any future issues, because I should be a little smarter now than I was a decade or two ago. As the old saying goes, live and learn.
I have so much I want to do in 2019. I want to watch ALL of my baseball movies, I want to play MLB The Show and watch every White Sox game (again) this year and I want to watch every episode of every Star Trek series and I want to smoke cigars and I think I have set my life up to do just what I want.
So long as I don’t do anything stupid to screw it up.
… and that’s what scares me.