Losing Faith, or: Why I've Been Online Sporadically in Recent Months

Of course just typing that headline, I have the Eric Clapton song Running on Faith in my head...

Lately I've been running on faith
What else can a poor boy do?

I haven't been online as much recently and I've been blogging even less over the past few months for narcissistic reasons. Well, I can mockingly call it narcissistic now, but I was depressed for a time. I've been depressed before, and with some perspective, I can honestly say that it was not the worst case of depression I've ever experienced, but it was bad.

It was made worse because there were so many other things going on which made it worse. I applied to multiple graduate programs across the country and was rejected by every single one of them. At the time I described it as mildly soul-crushing, which seems about right. I was seeing someone for a short time, which ended. I feel as though workwise I'm stuck in place. My attempt to escape it, by going to graduate school, failed, because no one thought I was smart enough.

When I was applying, I couldn't help but feel that I should have applied years ago. Which begs the question of what to do when it's not going to happen. Of course the problem in this scenario is the falling mental dominoes: being rejected from all those schools leads to feeling stupid and worthless – and I don't think I'm a genius but there's something crushing about such a massive rejection – and that bleeds over into the rest of life. It's hard to pitch editors when in the back of your head you think it doesn't matter. It's hard to write something new when you can't stand to even open the file because you'll just ruin what little quality is there.

In some ways it's even worse than all that. I've become a big fan of the Longform podcast – Longform collects some of the great writing that gets published and on the podcast, they talk to some of the great writers doing this work like David Grann, Ted Conover,  Susan Orlean, Ta-Nehisi Coates. It can be depressing hearing about some of the great work people are doing and have done and had the opportunity to do when they were younger than I am now. But many also talk about the frustrations of the writing life and at a certain point just thinking they should go to law school and find a new line of work. What does it mean that I failed to get into graduate school? Is the only thing I'm qualified for is writing low paid articles or working a barista – and since I've been self-employed for years, they might not even get hired as one.

I think that one of the great secrets of the world is how fragile it all is. How the world runs on faith. Not blind faith, sure, but faith nonetheless. Everything from how we function in our daily lives to the larger systems at work. They all operate on faith. I kept functioning as best I could, but I had lost faith in myself. In the idea that I could ever be anything of value to anyone (including myself), do anything that I felt mattered, accomplish anything of value. I lost faith in myself. I lost faith in the future. I lost faith in life.

So once my depression started to pass, I started to think and assess and once I could lift my head up to see where I was, I started to plan. Of course making a plan is easy, but crawling my way back to normality, easy isn't necessarily bad – and it's a start.  There's a line in the movie My Dinner with Andre, where Wally remarks that when he was young he thought about art and music and literature and now he's whatever age and now all he thinks about is money. I feel that way sometimes. That everything I once cared about is lost and now I'm just in a day to day struggle to just make enough to get by. Once I could conceive that it's possible for the future to be more than the present, I could think about how to make that happen.

In one of her journal entries, Susan Sontag wrote:  "The fear of becoming old is born of the recognition that one is not living now the life that one wishes. It is equivalent in a sense of abusing the present."

So I'm not happy. I'm not even sure I'm content. But I'm okay – and that feels like something of an accomplishment. I have a lot to do. Odds are my days will be getting longer in the coming months. My monastic lifestyle will become more monastic and require more work. I don't think that's bad necessarily. A few people have been great help to me. That's been a good reminder. That I have resources and possibilities–and friends–even if I can't always see them.

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