A 28-year-old nerd who loves writing, history and just learning as much as possible Works part-time as an SAT-Prep Teacher at Huntington
My last day at Subway was New Year’s Eve of 2018. My first and only job of 7+ years. A job that I had a very strong love/hate relationship with, a job that paid for my college tuition, a job that introduced me to a ton of people including my beloved best friend. And a job that stressed me out to no end, and helped me learn a lot of difficult life lessons as I took my first steps into adulthood. I had every intention to enter 2019 with those years under my belt and my head held high. After all, it was my last semester of college, and thanks to the patience I endured, I took my time and was on the track of getting my Bachelors in English with no crippling debt treading on my coattails. And with all my focus going towards the moments until Graduation, I held on tight to my dreams of working in a publishing house, or more practically, the New York Public Library, so I could pursue my love of literature and writing, as I steadily worked on my own writing skills with the hope of being a published writer someday. On the other side of things, being a Jehovah’s Witness, I had other separate goals and opportunities through that as well, that with college out of the way, I could give my full and pursue simultaneously. Then if I felt inclined, maybe grad school, further job opportunities, eventually marriage and the list goes on. College, the activity that defined me for the first half of my twenties was coming to an end and I was stoked to see what the new chapter in my life would bring…
Hell. It would bring Hell.
Like almost literally every millennial, I was familiar with Anxiety. High School was when I first started to experience it, but I wasn’t familiar with the concept of it. But as I got older, and began to learn mental illness as I trekked across the campus yards and the sandwich stations at work, my little friend steadily grew more and more with each frustrating customer, every daunting final project, and every emotional adventure as I tried to figure out how love worked. Despite all of that, I managed to survive with the tears and battle scars as I look back and was proud that through it all, I made it. Little did I know that things were going to take an unexpected turn.
Mistakes from my past blindsided me like a bullet train and sent me on a guilt spiral. As that was happening, I struggled with romantic feelings I thought I buried, that Anxiety dug up and shoved in my face for its amusement. Former co-workers, living their lives and starting families one after the other, with those that my White Knight complex claimed did little to earn the rewards I tore myself apart of obtain. My overconfidence in my internship opportunities, fell to pieces after months of silence, in the meantime, pushing me to pursue the Library after several weeks. But both lead to silence and eventual, numerous disappointing e-mails from the latter. Boredom settled in. Anxiety danced along to the tune of my sadness. And seeds of depression took root in my brain.
I spent so much time and money on this degree, I refuse to wind up back where I started!
What’s the point of writing these stories if I don’t have an audience to show it to?
I’m clearly qualified for this job, so why did they reject me? What am I doing wrong?
…I honestly forgot what it feels like to be happy…
All the while, I was taking Japanese Classes once a week. I always wanted to learn Japanese and figured it would be a great talent to pick up. It was a fun hobby to pursue during summer vacation pre-senior year of college, and I stuck with it through the year and continued on as long as funds allowed me, up to the end of 2019. What was at first an avenue to fulfill a childhood dream of being bilingual, turned into an excuse to get me out of the house post-graduation. It took my mind off of grueling job searches involving jobs that demanded much more than a bachelor’s degree, as well as the haunting idea that I was making my family just as anxious about my wellbeing. And in all honesty, it worked. Until I couldn’t afford to take a chance given my dwindling funds. I only made it through 6 out of the 12 levels offered so far. But when that ended, I found myself at the mercy of job hunting full-time. Each passing day meant another day family members tried to convince me to get something even if it's not in my field. Even if it was a retail job. It was only going to be a temporary option. My response?
Subway was only supposed to be six months. Instead, it was seven years. If I end up in a new job then it's going to be something I retire from.
And the reason? Because of the highs and lows, I was comfortable with that job. Despite how in the last year I grew to dread every workday I was forced to work until closing while I craved a day shift, the fact that it gave me the flexibility to push me through College kept me staying. And when I left Subway, I told myself that I “graduated” from fast food/retail work, and I wasn’t looking back. I let my stubbornness persist, confident that I was going to strike gold, through Hubpages, through publishing my first novel, a paid internship at Penguin Random House, through NYPL with a part-time job that would allow me to pursue anything I wanted.
But when none of that happened, the weed-stricken tree called Depression caught me as I fell.
My writing slowed and stopped. My initial optimism dwindled. Uninspired, bored and forever frustrated with the repetitive day-by-day disappointments, I had bright moments of happiness, but they were just moments. Because I knew that once they faded I was back in darkness. More job opportunities opened as I lowered my expectations, setting aside my pride slightly, and considering alternatives, just for those to fall through the cracks as well. The idea of my degree being thousands of dollars spent for nothing grew. Ideas that my creative writing training was useless because I lacked experience outside the classroom, grew. Ideas that despite everything I worked for, that employers would overlook years of volunteer and outreach experience as a Jehovah’s Witness, and creative writing and research skills as an English student, because I made sandwiches for nearly a decade, grew as well. And the moment I called this insanity out for what it was, I was told that that’s how life works and that it was perfectly fair.
It’s fair that employers take months to tell you that your application was turned down.
It’s fair for companies to demand experience and multilingualism for entry level jobs, ones whose only requirement (according to postings) is a bachelor’s degree.
It’s fair to have someone who feels like they have a shot to finally catch up to everyone around him, only to then run right into a wall with no way to seemingly get around it.
It’s fair for no one to tell you how to play this stupid game and have you struggle as you try and figure out why you keep losing. And criticize you when you point out how screwed up it is.
These are called life lessons apparently.
Days, weeks and months of:
Hoping, “Today will be the day” when waiting from a response from someone.
Trying (and failing) to stay optimistic.
Avoiding expressing that I’m slowly crumbling under the weight of everything.
Venting to my best friend, because I’m too ashamed to talk to my family.
Feeling that I’m hopeless, helpless, and a failure for being too ambitious, or not ambitious enough.
Trying to figure out if my teenage dream of being a writer is a pipe dream.
Wondering if college was a true waste of time.
Screaming, because somehow all of this is fair.
Praying, for peace of mind, during my low points.
Somehow, nine months post-graduation, I’m still sane. Drained of joy, filled with anxiety and melancholy, but sane nonetheless. Moments of happiness, recharging me until I dip back into the darkness. Using temporary distractions to escape the internal torment. Accepting my reality for what it is.
That said, I couldn’t help but be reminded of something in my current writing project. A series I started back in 2015 inspired by my love of transforming superheroes love of card games as a child. One of the main themes is “making the most of the hand you’re dealt.” No matter what trials and tribulations life throws your way, find a way to make it work in your favor. For years, and specifically this series, I’ve taken my various life lessons and incorporate them into my characters, fostering a personal attachment to each of them. And at the end of the day, instead of worrying about their personal trials, the idea of making the most of the situation, including relying on each other rather than burdening their issues onto themselves, would yield positive results more often than not.
So I’m going to take my own advice.
I accept that my anxiety and mild depression isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I accept that I’m going to have good days, and bad days. I’m going to have moments of happiness, and moments of despair. I’m going to treasure the good and endure the bad. Despite everything, I’m going to do what I can, as much as I can, with what I got. And I'll reach out to every helping hand offering to pull me through.
Whatever it takes, I’m going to make the most of the hand that life dealt me, and rewrite my narrative so I can remember the happiness that I lost.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Nolan Johnson