Years ago, my psychologist asked what I thought my life would be like if I didn’t suffer from social anxiety.
The question was a chance to picture a world where I was free to do what I wanted, be who I wanted, and live relatively free of limits. It was a question that was set to tap into the inner optimist. The problem was the question filled me with fear.
Why? Why would thinking about a life without this severe limitation make me uneasy? It is because my entire life was defined by the very limitation. To lose it would be to unsettle everything and set it into uncertainty. I didn’t see a freedom being gained, I saw a definition being lost. I found an unhealthy comfort in social anxiety but I knew it. Whatever existed in the world beyond those limitations was strange and to be feared.
Over the years since I have worked on myself in fits of stops and starts. Through this journey, I have, hopefully, been trekking closer to the person I want to be. Who is that person? I don’t know, but I hope I recognize him when I see him.
In November of 2016, I got a job at the NBA office in Secaucus. My official title was Assistant Video Coordinator. My duty was to transcode files and review files sent up from Turner. Basically, I just watched basketball, talked shit with coworkers, and waited for something to go wrong (they often did).
One way things went wrong was at home. My marriage was on the ropes, but it wasn’t any different than it ever was. We coexisted, but we worked together to manage raising a child. It wasn’t romantic, by any means, but we were a team. The job at the NBA was a night job. It was also an hour away. We went from being together every day to seeing each other for an hour at night, and a half hour in the morning. We merely passed Cameron back and forth like a baton.
I went to the NBA thinking it was the next step in my career in video. What it was instead, was the first step to a huge change in my life. But change, even necessary change, has been the bane of my existence. Sometimes the idea of changing will cause anxiety that will freeze me in paralysis. With the paralysis comes a feeling of helplessness comes… you guessed it… depression.
I spent the next nine months trying to half-heartedly save the marriage. In truth, there was nothing to save. Milk doesn’t salvage stale cereal, but I thought there’d be hope. I went back to therapy and began to change how I was. I would go in on Thursday afternoons and feel like I was making monumental changes only for any adjustment to be seen as minute. There was a wide gulf between us and my reach wasn’t long enough.
If I was honest, I didn’t want to be married any longer. I said as much to my therapist once, I said it to my ex once, I spoke on frustrations of the situation to friends at other times. Yet, I found myself clinging on and attempting to resist the inevitable.
Why did I do that? I was afraid of change. I wasn’t happy. The relationship was cold, but I didn’t want to move on. I held on not tightly, not convincingly, but I refused to let go.
Out of all the people who were married in my family, only my brother Rich, my Aunt Janis, and my sister Polly never divorced. So it wasn’t foreign, but I didn’t want to fail the same way. So I held on as she looked for a house. I held on hoping that things would miraculously get better even as we made a pact that we’d separate were things not to get better.
In October of 2017, we both moved. She moved ten minutes away in the same town. I moved 45 minutes down I-295. Even with almost an hour of distance, I held on. I held on to hope that one day we’d all be under one roof again. That we would be the family we weren’t the first go round.
By this time I was no longer working at the NBA. Instead, I reversed course and took on a teacher’s assistant job in a high school. Which became something that fulfilled me and gave me the direction I thought I was getting when I began working in Secaucus.
Almost a year later, and I’ve had time to grown in my skin and to reflect. I’ve given myself space, and I’ve finally let go. Not only did I let go, but I fought off the urge to shove someone else in the opening my life.
I’ve worked too much and struggled a lot, but the change wasn’t scary. Not once I let it settle in. Instead, the change let me realize what I wanted and who I wanted to be. What I wanted to get back.
I no longer look at divorce as a failure. To quote Dan Savage: “every relationship ends except for the one that doesn’t.”
When I wake up in the morning I don’t see the person I want to be. I don’t come home to see a place that I strive to live in forever. What I see are things that I’m happy with now, things that I live with now but ultimately things I don’t have to be stuck with for the rest of my life. Why?
I don’t know, maybe change isn’t so bad after all.