Saying Goodbye to a Hard Year

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Dear Reader,

I know it’s been awhile. It’s been hard to find the motivation. The words. The ideas.

In fact, I haven’t written anything in… months. Feels longer. But hey does time even exist anymore? It’s hard to say sometimes. It’s 2021? I’ll take your word for it.

While 2020 will certainly be written about in the history books, like many great historical events, it has not been a pleasure to live through. So many things have been put in hold. So many lives have been lost or permanently altered.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have found 2020 to be extremely difficult, creatively-speaking (and really in all ways). What is there to say about New Haven right now? Hey, have you tried that new bar? No, you haven’t. Nobody has because we aren’t allowed to have bars anymore.

Look at these people just… sitting around, breathing air.

I suppose I could do a “best places to get takeout” blog. That would be a thing right?

But I’m not exactly in need of finding new and interesting ways to gain more pandemic weight. That’s some Married People Shit, right there. I still gotta trick someone into loving me.

Yet like many people, my motivation is… tricky. So much of my energy is spent just holding on. And that is truly the story of 2020. A year of holding on. Of doing whatever it takes to survive. However we can.

For some, though, it has been time to move on.

Goodbye to Some New Haven Treasures

Indeed, not every New Haven Institution has survived the pandemic.

Beloved restaurant and beer restaurant Beer Collective closed its doors in July. Vietnamese bahn mi spot Duc’s Place also shut down in July. In October, Lenny and Joe’s New Haven location was closed. Miya’s served its last meal at the end of 2020.

There’s probably like ten others I didn’t even hear about.

Beer Collective
Photo courtesy New Haven Independent

Less beloved places like Brother Jimmy’s also closed, which begs the question: Where are we supposed to watch bro’s get in fist fights for seemingly no reason every Friday night?

Not to mention the countless New Haven lives lost to the pandemic, as well as the continued plagues of gun violence, pedestrian fatalities, and cancer.

Struggling to Survive

Yet most of us continue on, trying to make sense of this strange new world. Attempting to find new ways to survive and thrive. Just kidding. What kind of lunatic is thriving right now. Delete that person from your life.

For restaurants and bars, that might mean moving to a takeout model. Or make even more difficult choices, as Trinity and Three Sheets have done — closing entirely for the holiday season. Sometimes it’s cheaper to just turn off the lights for a little while. Slow down.

Breathe.

Trinity Bar
We’ll be right here ready to eat your giant fish n’ chips when you’re back, Trinity.

Therein has been the fate of Between Two Rocks. Dormant, but not dead. Quietly breathing. I managed to release…. one podcast. And like, two articles.

Not my most prolific year.

Yet we must learn to forgive ourselves. It’s okay to feel demotivated. It’s okay to watch Netflix all day. You’re a hero, okay?

I tried to update the blog. You probably noticed. It looks more… modern? Fancier? Less broken, I hope?

Yep, that’s right. I did that.

By purchasing a new WordPress theme. Am I a computer genius? Some say so.

Claymation Programmer
Me, purchasing a new WordPress Theme

The Best Laid Plans

Early in 2020, I had a plan formulating in my mind. I was going to spend about a month in New York City, trying the comedy thing. A sort of demo. After all, New York is the epicenter of American Comedy, and my job was remote, so why not try? After all, I was almost 40, try it now before it’s too late.

New York City. Not sure if you’ve heard of it.

(It’s probably already too late.)

I even agreed to rent a room from a friend. The future had an idea. A dream, maybe. Or at least a sort of aspiration.

Then coronavirus hit. New York City went into lockdown. Comedy? There is no comedy.

Sure, you can find a few open mics run by random bars who I absolutely do not trust to follow any kind of safety guidelines, standing near semi-masked comics who drink Dubra-brand vodka on Wednesday evenings. I haven’t always valued my life all that much, but I refuse to go out that way.

The Depths of Depression

For many of us, our struggles with mental health have reached terrible new heights. Loneliness, anxiety, depression. Even in a good year my mental health can be very difficult to manage. And this has not been a good year.

Depression

Trigger Warning: I am going to describe some things I felt this year that, if you are sensitive, you might want to skip down to the next heading.

In November, I turned 40 years old. This is not how I imagined a milestone birthday. Alone, in my house.

I drew a bath. I sat in the warm water, and reflected upon everything that had changed. And everything that had not.

In that moment, alone, in the tepid water, I considered taking my own life.

It would be so easy. Who knows how long it would take to find me. All my troubles, my struggles, finally over.

The thoughts were fleeting, but they were there. In spite of everything I’d done. Everything I had changed about my life, and all the ways I had grown and changed and become a person surrounded with love and affection.

I wanted it to be over. I just wanted to stop struggling to feel a tiny shred of joy. It felt so unfair.

I knew something had to change. I knew I could not go on this way.

Coming Out

I told my therapist I wanted to try a medication. I knew I could no longer rely on my own routines and habits to carry on. I needed help.

I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist whom my therapist recommended. I discussed past medications I’d taken (Lexapro, Wellbutrin). I discussed my past struggles with depression. I got my prescription. I started taking Cymbalta.

Picture of pills
Mmm… happiness
Tom Varco, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

People said I might notice changes right away, but I did not. But about a month later, I noticed it. My mood had begun to lift. Something had changed. I couldn’t explain it. I just felt… lighter. I was able to sleep again without fear from my own thoughts.

The relief… it is palpable.

It feels so silly. Just some minor chemical changes in my neurons firing is the difference between life and death. Despair and hope. It doesn’t feel fair. Yet we are all at the mercy of our own minds.

What Is To Come

While 2020 may be gone, the coronavirus is still here. Several vaccines have been approved by the FDA, but rollouts will certainly be difficult. We are not through the storm, though we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Myself? I hope my own darkest moments are behind me. I hope I never have to walk down that path again.

It’s probably too much to ask. But for today, I feel okay. And I am thankful for that.

Hazy Crazy Sunrise
Jessie Eastland [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

And as I begin to wade out of the darkness, it is my hope, that I can begin to write again. To create more podcasts. To write more hilarious, sad vegetarian entries in my @sad_vegetarian_bachelor Instagram account. Maybe write sketches. Maybe learn piano. I don’t know.

In April, I will have lived in New Haven for ten years. And the city has changed me. It has connected me to so many people. People who have helped me hold on when nothing else could. A community I feel connected to, and care about.

Like-minded souls wandering through the darkness.

I hope I can keep bringing you this blog, and maybe, you know… a few more jokes, a few less terrifying revelations.

But I appreciate you, Dear Reader. You have given me something I can never repay. Without your ear, I have no voice. And my voice gives me meaning. These words give me purpose.

And, uh, sorry to be so grandiose. I usually try to be a bit more irreverent. But here we are.

Happy New Year.

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