Acta Non Verba
TRIGGER WARNING: This material may be emotionally challenging for those who have experienced mental health emergencies and/or have contemplated or attempted suicide. The last thing I would ever want to do is cause any of you discomfort. I am comfortable posting about my experiences here and have done so periodically over the years but am mindful that such content can be hard to consume for others and hope that you will avoid it if it might distress you in any way.
A year ago I packed what few belongings I had in my car and set out on another long-haul road trip. It's something I'd done many times before. I've logged tens of thousands of miles on the road, sometimes relocating for work and sometimes just for fun but this trip was different. I wasn't leaving in pursuit of another great adventure or for a job in another state. I didn't have an ultimate destination in mind. I didn't know how long I would be gone. The truth is, I didn't know if I would be coming back at all. After a terrible run of bad luck and professional failures, and with little hope of turning things around I hit the road to clear my head, to create space for introspection, to make a decision about whether or not I wanted to live anymore and, if not, how I would decide to end my life.
Since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit us in March of 2020, life hadn't been super fun for me. Jobs weren't plentiful, certainly not close to home. I was taught that being an adult means doing whatever you have to do to stay employed and pay the bills so I took a series of jobs that I really shouldn't have taken; managing races with bad candidates in far-away locales and others with varying red flags that, under normal circumstances, would preclude my taking them on but I was determined to do the responsible thing. I wanted to keep working, even if it would be hard but it was so much harder than I could have anticipated. I held six jobs between April of 2020 and October of 2021. Two of them were short-term. I was fired from three more and resigned from another. The Pandemic brought with it big, nuanced challenges to our working environments and already toxic situations were amplified by a factor of 10. I certainly wasn't blameless for breakdowns and failures but it's hard to not feel like I had gotten the short end of the stick over and over and over again. By the end of October I was out of money, couldn't pay my rent, and had absolutely no prospects for employment on the horizon. Something had to give.
Having thought about this trip for a little while, I spent a few weeks at my parents' home to make plans and make what money I could making DoorDash deliveries which would become a big part of my strategy in terms of funding my travels. I would move from city to city, earning just enough to keep myself fed, gas in my car, and maybe (just maybe) have a shot at paying my car payment. I would spend my days trying to create some travel content and my nights thinking about what my endgame was going to be. I left home shortly after Thanksgiving. I remember saying goodbye to my father, tears welling up in my eyes, truly not knowing if I would ever see him again but doing my best to not betray the true nature of my departure. I could see in his face that he knew, at least partly. It was perhaps the most hopeless and worthless I'd ever felt in my life.
I headed south, first to Virginia where I spent a day at Manassas National Battlefield Park. I am a self-described Civil War buff and had visited many battlefields in previous years from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Vicksburg in Mississippi. Manassas is great because two major battles took place here, both being of great significance and coming with compelling stories. I took some pictures I was quite proud of. From there I visited a good friend, Ben, in Washington, D.C. Ben is a very mindful person and a deep thinker. We've had countless long conversations about our life experiences and what exactly it is we're supposed to be working toward while we're on this tiny rock revolving around the Sun. I always feel like a better, more focused person after my talks with him.
I took the scenic route through West Virginia, a state that I have a great deal of affection for on my way to Kentucky which I hadn't spent much time exploring before. In 2020 I had done some site-seeing in Pike County along the Tug Fork where the infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud took place (a minor obsession of mine) but I wanted to see more of the state so I made my way to Lexington. My first night there, I was rear ended by a large pickup truck which shattered my rear bumper. The kid who hit me turned out to be a mechanic who really preferred for his insurance premiums to stay where they were so I agreed to trust him and let him repair the damage at his cost but that meant I would be stuck in Lexington for a week or more so I made deliveries every day, tried local restaurants, and organized day trips in the surrounding area including Frankfurt, state parks, and various bourbon distilleries. I slept at a rest stop north of the city most nights. One night, I was awoken by tornado sirens. You might remember the series of tornadoes that devastated parts of Arkansas and much of Eastern Kentucky at that time. It was hairy for a bit but I was spared the brunt of the storms. After a couple of delays and a great deal of anxiety, my bumper was repaired and repainted and I was once again fully mobile.
I headed south again and visited a few attractions, most notably Abraham Lincoln's birthplace and Mammoth Cave National Park which were both very cool. I saw the terrible damage wrought by the tornadoes in Bowling Green, whole streets of razed houses which made me quite sad. I soon found myself in familiar territory in Nashville, Tennessee. I had lived here for about a month for work previously and consider it a sort of second home. I made deliveries in the wealthy neigborhoods near Brentwood and spent my nights in small local venues, listening to some of the best live music available in the United States. Of course, I was eating some of the most delicious food one can imagine. I spent many of my mornings looking for jobs and keeping up with Europeia at a Panera near where I made most of my deliveries and slept at a truck stop about 25 minutes west of the city where gas was much cheaper. It was in that Pilot/FlyingJ parking lot that I spent Christmas Day, missing home, family and friends. I was interviewing for jobs at this point but was still unsure about what my path was going to be.
It was then when I decided to head toward Chattanooga, a city where I worked one of those terrible jobs not so long ago. I had, by this time, added greatly to my travel itinerary. Queued up were dozens of stops in Georgia and Florida. I had even begun planning a trail west, back to the scenes of some of my greatest adventures in the desert. But Chattanooga was where my journey ended. I decided to reconnect with the candidate who I managed when I was there earlier in the year. He was happy to sit down and talk, and talk we did. For hours. We talked about our experiences together, what we were working on now, and what the future might hold for both of us. That conversation was the first time I felt like someone truly believed in me that I could remember. And somehow, that was enough. In all likelihood, I was already headed in that direction but it had a profound impact on me. I decided I wanted to live and immediately set out on the 17 hour journey home. Once there, I breathed a sigh of relief and somehow felt physically lighter. My problems hadn't gone away. I was still broke. I still had nothing. I still didn't know exactly what was next but I knew I had the will to make the most of it, come what may.
In the coming months I took a good-paying job in Florida. It was awful but I made it through. It was during this time that I ran for another term as President of Europeia, a term I'm very proud of but had its ups and downs, especially toward the end. That's a story for another day but, rest assured, it will be told in some form or fashion when I'm ready. I don't have any grand purpose for sharing any of this or for sharing it here, specifically. The truth is I haven't felt much of a pull toward Euro until very recently. I have a lot of feelings about things that have been said about me by a couple people here in recent months, both in public and in private. I want to address those but I'm not sure how I want to do that yet. My intention is to reconnect with old friends, take on some work that appeals to me, and keep my head down. We'll see how it goes.
Anyway, thanks for reading. Long periods of struggle can be exceedingly isolating. I know that more than most. If you're ever feeling hopeless or alone or desperate, know that I love you and I will be here for you, even if we weren't previously close. This community has, at times, made me feel angry, betrayed, and unappreciated but it's also produced some of my happiest moments and most treasured friendships which I suppose I can't ever truly walk away from (even though I've tried). There's always light at the end of the tunnel. We just sometimes need help limping along toward it. I hope I can be a resource should you need one. Thanks again, for taking the time to read.