One of my first lessons with the concept of movement, as peculiar as it may sound, was with a video game. Pokémon Yellow, to be exact. This was the landmark first Pokémon game to make landfall on the Game Boy, and the concept was a simple one: Embark on a quest capturing, training, and battling with creatures called Pokémon, with the ultimate goal of conquering the best trainers in the land and laying claim to the title of champion. The controls were as basic as you could get: A + pad with four compass directions was all that was needed. If there was a wall, your character would pause. Anything else, and your character would move.
Pokémon as a whole has come a tremendously far distance from the pixelated graphics of the early 90s to the bright, cinematic colors of the 21st century. And not unlike the series itself, like the concept of movement, I have also progressed further down the great road of life.
For starters, my movement has manifested itself in a literal sense: I have moved to Chicago! Around this time last year, I began the traditional post-college “what’s next?” thought process, as I hadn’t given it much thought beforehand. I almost immediately arrived at the conclusion that Michigan was not where I wanted to stay. I love my hometown, and Kalamazoo gave me six years of tears of triumphs, but I personally don’t feel like this is where I’m truly meant to be. My professional growth opportunities are not extensive, to say the least, and my personal relationships in the arena of love and dating have been…nonexistent. While I succeeded in making a few gay guy friends, they almost universally did not prove to be concrete (most commonly due to the underlying fact that most of them were not too invested in the concept of being friends with me and making the effort to do so, despite my intentions and efforts), and as the months and years go on, so too does my life, and it would be nice to experience what it’s like to genuinely be in love with someone. I’ve been on the receiving end of affection a few times in my life. I recently found a birthday card mailed to me in 2015 which was a hard item to come across; the message inside was incredibly sweet, but the author has since found a boyfriend last year in June and has made no effort to reach out to me in I don’t know how long. My attempts to initiate conversation also largely went ignored, and aside from that, the bigger issue I also run into is attempting to maintain friendships with guys after they start dating someone. For reasons unknown to me, they mostly fall off the radar completely. The conversations are shorter. Their attention is put elsewhere. I know the reasoning behind it, but it’s still a frustrating thing to not even be put on the backburner as a friend, but to instead be shoved off of it into oblivion altogether. It’s a mixture of hope that their relationship goes well, and a sadness knowing that our own conversations and friendship will eventually fade into the sunset.
This is all the more reason for me to make a move like this now, to shake up my life a little bit. I sure as hell am not getting younger, and have missed out on opportunities virtually every person my age has experienced. I’ve had incredible trips to places I used to read about in books. I’ve had plenty of high and low points professionally and personally. But the category of a social life, of having friends who genuinely put forth effort to include you in plans and physically see you, whose friendships manifest themselves in a flurry of social media interactions and face-to-face meetups for movies, drinks, clubbing, is something that has almost completely eluded me, and I damn well won’t solve the issue by staying in Michigan, and by not putting in the effort to change it myself. Nobody is going to make me happy but me, and for the time being, I am my own best friend, support system, you name it, and that’s what I have to embrace for the foreseeable future. How foreseeable remains to be, well, seen.
The implication of movement can have a definition of a few various things. There are many good moments of movement I have been through, but on the other side of the coin, so too have the bad moments been there as well. In leaving my world of Michigan behind, there is also the wonderful friendship I had with two people I met through my on-campus job. Over the past few years, our friendship hit very many high notes. As with any relationship, friend or otherwise, there were also more challenging moments we had to navigate. But navigate we did, up to recent times. I am supremely grateful to have had the chance to share living quarters with them for nine months to round out my final year at Western, as grateful as I am for our friendship as a whole, but the strain of living not solely with roommates, but with very good friends, was a hay maze I did not have a working GPS for, and numerous times it reared its ugly head, resulting in more troublesome moments for us to work through. If time travel existed, there are many things said and, especially, done that I would redo in a heartbeat for the better. Part of life, however, is living with the consequences of your actions, both good and bad, and due to my actions particularly in the first few months of the year, an environment that I had so eagerly embraced last August became, for me, an anxiety-ridden struggle, out of fear of creating any further issues. My internal struggle hit a peak in mid-March, as I opted to spend as little time as possible at home for the span of a few days, a decision I made purely on my own and was not fully comfortable with, but something my anxiety drove me to believe was a necessary measure to avoid further stress for all three of us. My emotions were so awful, I briefly revisited some suicidal thoughts…which is a very dark place to say the least. When the semester came to a close, I transferred back to my mom’s house to put an end to any further potential mishaps altogether.
I had infrequent conversations with one of them over the span of much of the summer, mostly about rent to our landlord. At that point in May, I had been paying the energy bill solo since November for reasons unknown, and would keep her updated when the latest bill arrived. Not long after a message for the final bill, I happened to click on her profile and noticed she had unfriended me. All forms of social media had been delinked. I was caught a bit off-guard, as it came without warning, but I took it as a sign that she wanted no further communication with me, and I respected her wishes. The line went dead until mid-August, when I made a post about how I felt lonely after having a particularly bad day at work, emotion fueled by not only that, but my lackluster luck with men. Not long after this post went public, I received a text from her: “After this message I am permanently deleting you from my social media, phone, and life. I am sick and tired of seeing your constant self-pity party on social media when you are th-.” The remainder of what I can only guess was a message I did not want to read was cut off after that. Aside from the social media part having already happened a month prior to the text, it was unexpected to say the least, but something that did not alter my mood in any form. I was in the middle of a show on Netflix and went right back to what I was doing. I contemplated sending a reply, much less reading the text, but fighting fire with fire was a tactic that, in this case, I knew would only escalate things. The only two bullet points worth noting here is that everyone is free to post what they decide to post on the internet, while accepting any potential risks and ensuring what they are doing is lawful. I have no control over how people feel reading what I put out to the world, nor would I ever be interested in such a skill, because people are and should also free to read and engage with material that they like and enjoy, again permitting the legality of such material. If you don’t like what you read, there is no one to be put at blame but you. I have long used this blog especially as an emotional processor, as a virtual companion interested in knowing every facet and fabric that makes up my day, my mind, and my emotional well-being. My intention is never to paint people in a bad light, but rather, to process how I feel, sort of a mental cleansing technique. In this case, I bear absolutely zero ill-will toward either of them. Living with friends is a tricky road to navigate, something I should’ve been more prepared for, and there were multiple missteps from me that could have been prevented. I sincerely hope their lives are thriving in Kalamazoo and maybe someday we can patch things up down the road. The only real thorn in the whole situation is the $600 worth of energy bills that were supposed to be evenly split that I paid for, but money comes and goes. There is bigger fish to fry.
Employment-wise, I remain under pen and paper to CVS as a supervisor. While it has been a significantly less pressure-filled job than working for Macy’s and Sears, it is not something I can currently maintain financially if I aim to realistically survive as a Chicago citizen. I have been job hunting for the past several weeks, with minimal luck. I did encounter a canvassing job that I snagged an offer for before even leaving the office, and after my first day, I unfortunately had to bow out. Virtually every home in Chicago has a small flight of ten or so steps, and with winter approaching and my ankle (still) not at 100% functionality, the last thing I want to do is risk taking a bad fall. Despite the prospect of making some good money, it just wouldn’t be worth it, and to that length, there made no sense in wasting any of their time in further training for me, at least for the time being.
By far, however, my biggest struggle is unsurprisingly my loneliness. By no stretch did I expect an immediate change from living in Michigan. Making friends and meeting people takes effort, well unless you happen to be highly attractive, in which case the struggle is typically lessened by several degrees. Yet, almost a month in, and I have only two social interactions to speak of that do not belong to those I make on the Internet. Adding to this is the fact that, for the first time in my life, I am 100% living alone. It is a change I openly embrace, to be sure. Living with my mom and her girlfriend over the summer was nice, but due to my mom’s girlfriend’s bipolar depression, she would frequently target me for a series of verbal smackdowns, and it wasn’t anything pretty. It gave me a very real taste of being in an abusive relationship, of having someone almost constantly tell me I’m an asshole, I’m arrogant, the list goes on, and she would grasp at almost anything she could to convert it into a weapon against me. My mom for her part, not wanting to get caught in the verbal crossfire, would play the role of neutral observer, occasionally making comments to go along with her girlfriend’s tirade but (thankfully) later telling me that it was just an act to appease her and avoid even worse altercations. For the most part, these emotional endurance tests would take place on Sundays, a day traditionally designed for rest and relaxation (which would often develop into anything but relaxing). After signing my lease and officially confirming my moving plans, she stepped up her abusing game to an almost daily tirade of what a shitty person I am, going on and on about past mistakes, trying to rile me up, and so forth. I began secluding myself in my room on a more frequent basis, to the displeasure of my mom (to which I could only shrug). The attacks reached a new level when I came home from work one night to find a note written on my bed: “Your mother informed me that you stole my paycheck #000 for $416. She confessed this to me with the knowledge that I was recording her statement. I have decided to file charges.” The exact check number is both unknown to me and irrelevant at this point, the exact amount was a rough estimate in that neighborhood, and charges were never actually filed. I actually simply tossed it aside and planned on calling it a night (they were in their bedroom at the time), up until 15 minutes later when she pounded on my door, brought me out to the kitchen, and began another emotional slugfest, going into the story about how my mom had gotten drunk, supposedly went into my room, “found a paycheck” in my backpack, and gave it to her. The story later changed to her opening my mom’s purse and finding the check laying on top. I repeatedly denied having anything to do with the check, for the simple fact that I had nothing to do with it. She hounded me for a good half hour and then released me to lick my wounds, which was followed five minutes later by calling me into their bedroom to find my mom had woken up and unexpectedly launched into a slightly-buzzed emotional outburst about wanting to adopt my sister’s daughter. Her girlfriend’s mood switched like a light, and the two of us exchanged words of support with my mom, occasionally laughing, and the conversation ended much more pleasantly than the previous one had.
The following day after returning from work, the carnage continued, this time with my mom playing her role of artifical interrogator to, again, escape any worse consequences. My answer of “I don’t know what happened to the paycheck” was repeated a good twenty or so times, dodging accusations that if I’m denying any involvement, that must mean I’m framing my own mother for stealing it, words I never spoke nor believed. Suffice it to say I have never been under threat to have law enforcement called on me for a crime I did not commit until that day, and hopefully to your no great surprise, I have no immediate plans to return to my mom’s house ANYWHERE in the near future. Getting out of that situation was one of the biggest blessings of my life, and as much as I love my mom (who sided with me and knew I had no involvement with the check), I cannot be in a toxic environment where someone unexpectedly does shit like that. No thank you.
All that said, yeah, some solidarity is a welcome change in my life, but only to an extent. Most of my days consist of going to work, or laying in bed, or occasionally walking around downtown. I truly love being a Chicago resident, and am thrilled at the prospective opportunities in front of me. But few other times in my life have I had to be this strong emotionally as I’ve had to be the past few weeks, consistently aiming to remind myself that it can and will get better, that things will change. But despite my efforts to make those changes happen, I have made…well, not a whole lot of change happen. My interactions on Grindr and Tinder have had minimal success. My attempts to connect with Chicago gays on Twitter have 99% resulted in no replies. None of these things are things I say to garner sympathy, but emotionally, I am stuck in a very frustrating stage in my life as far as my social aspects go, and not being able to have any immediate fix or any sign of relief on the horizon is a very hard concept for me to deal with. Granted, I am accustomed to being alone. The past several years have molded me into being a very independent person, and having to rely on myself for things is almost as second-nature as breathing. But for one rare moment, maybe two, it would be nice to not have to be so emotionally strong, to have someone in my life who can fully support me, as a friend or even as a boyfriend if I’m so lucky.
My 27th birthday occurred this past Sunday, and for Saturday night I decided to take myself out to pizza and follow it up with a night at Sidetrack (one of the biggest LGBT clubs in the state). By pure miracle, a mutual of mine who I’ve been wanting to meet for a while happened to be free, and met me at the bar not long after I arrived, along with a friend of his. What had initially promised to be a relatively average evening very swiftly evolved into a very fun night that I desperately needed. He and I had a very good conversation as well, culminating with him telling me, “You got me.” I cannot think of anything to bring me a greater level of comfort than a degree of reassurance words like that bring, and although no physical presents mainfested themselves this year from anyone, it was certainly a nice gift to receive.
The one gift I did receive Sunday morning, however, was stress, when I awoke to find out that my phone service had been shut off. I made it to work (yep, a whole 8 hours on my birthday, yay), and later messaged my company, T-Mobile, on my break using a free wifi pass from a local Xfinity hotspot. The person I talked to through the app told me my phone was marked as lost a few days ago, which thankfully it wasn’t. I reached out to my mom (as she’s the primary account holder) to contact them to remove the block, to which she gave no reply. I decided to go to the nearest store to see if they could tell me anything further, and come to find out, my line had been suspended. With. No. Warning. Happy birthday to me.
My mom and I talked on the phone a few days prior and I told her I’d be able to send a payment in a few weeks, which she sounded okay with, but I have no doubt in my mind her girlfriend went on a signature tirade against me and was a strong contributing factor in having my line shut off, which I can understand under the circumstances as I’ve been attempting to adjust financially, but giving me zero warning in advance is fucked up. Oh yeah, I should’ve had my own account ages ago, for sure, and this was definitely that push I needed. For one, I have no Internet at my apartment. If anyone needs to contact me if I lose service, good luck Charlie. Many would say a phone is a luxury. For anyone with a full-time job, it is essential to be in contact with your boss if needed. If (god forbid) I miss a shift and have no way to contact the store, my job could be in jeopardy.
Thankfully I now not only have my own account set up, but I have a new SIM card and phone number, adding more to the official-ness of the Chicago transition. I don’t have many contacts in my phone that I’m in regular contact with. At the moment in fact, that number is just three, excluding my mom (who I understandably haven’t talked to since Thursday and, especially, since Sunday). A Twitter friend I had by the name of Bryan would periodically text me every few months or so, and as much as I wish I could be friends with him, he’s unfortunately made it very clear that despite our past interactions, he wants absolutely nothing to do with me. Last I recall, he’s still on Twitter under the name @pissyandpassive. Whether he knows of my new handle or not is a mystery to me. Will I ever hear from him again? It’s unlikely at this point. But case in point, there wasn’t a whole lot anchoring me to my old number to begin with. It’s all part of that brand-new start feeling.
So at the moment, that’s where I’m at. Significantly in need of friends, but certainly in a better physical environment than what I’ve been through the last few years. My other goal is finally getting to see an orthopedic specialist and get my ankle back on track. I pray to whatever gods that exist that I continue to hold out hope that things will get better, that I will make friends, that I will have people in my life with a genuine interest in hanging out with me. Time will tell which side will yield first. In the meantime, there will be more solo trips to Boystown. There will be more dinner dates with me, myself, and I. And there will likely be more messages sent out to strangers on social media i the hope that strangers can become friends. But it’s a two-way street.
I hope I can find people willing to cross that street for me and walk down it together. The fight goes on.