I emptied my office this evening.
After seven months of dithering along, building infrastructure while steadfastly avoiding client-seeking, I decided enough was enough. Although I’m not shutting down Gillikin Consulting — far from it! — I divested myself of a commercial rent payment that was not-at-all offset by business revenue. It makes no sense to maintain a 1,000-square-foot office when I’m not being productive and earning business income.
The funny thing is that I’m not at all melancholic about it, given the amount of hope and promise I felt when I first leased the space. And the story behind my lack of emotion is probably worth sharing, if for no other reason than because I’ve discussed pieces of it in the last few weeks with Jen and with Edmund. (Frankie, this is your cue to skip to the next post.)
It helps to tell the moral of the story before delving into the details: I believe, with a sense of certitude that’s fairly strong, that I recently hit a milestone that marks the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life. Before I get to that event, though, let’s begin with a rough sketch of the Life of Jason.
Act I: Childhood. This period ran from birth until I turned 16. The most noteworthy characteristics were a rural upbringing (no neighborhood and thus less opportunity for youthful fraternization) and a family life marked by a strong mother. I also enjoyed a special status, being the eldest child of the eldest child and a boy to boot, on the maternal side of my family. Although I loved my childhood and still wouldn’t change anything, the isolation, sense of privilege, and inadequate early socialization that mark this time would come back for tragic sequels.
Act II: Independence. Ages 16-20. Wheels and a job meant I had a high degree of freedom, and a lack of close parental oversight translated to a lot of opportunity to grow in unstructured fashion. My later high-school years were not so unpleasant; I had some friends, and I had fun, but I didn’t learn some critical skills (like money management) and I was able to get through West Catholic with a reasonable GPA with precious little effort. I opted to go to Western Michigan University for no other reason than because my friends Aaron and Jenni were going there, and I was awarded a three-year advance-designee Army ROTC scholarship to pay for it — and while at WMU, I became something of a radical atheist and conservative attack dog. However, two problems loomed. The first was my first foray into obesity, which began as the result of a horribly bad date when I was 16; she was 32, and she preyed on me to the point of fondling me in a movie theater, but when she cried about it later, the only lesson I learned was that it was somehow my fault, and I responded by making myself fat and therefore “ugly” so as to avoid any future romantic possibilities. The second problem was my unconscious belief that I was above the rules, since I never really was held accountable for poor performance or bad behavior during my high-school years.
Intermission: Quarter-Life Crisis. Ages 21-22. Can you say “implosion?” The mistakes of the prior few years, coupled with a horrific level of arrogance, had to come to a head at some point — and that they did, in spectacular fashion. In one year, I failed out of Western, nearly went bankrupt, incurred a fair amount of legal trouble, lost two jobs (one, involuntarily) and capped it off by deciding to “start afresh” by just picking up and driving to California without warning or disclosure to friends and family. This period ended on the beaches of San Francisco; having driven West with so much confidence that I could just hit life’s reset button, I realized that I actually did have obligations, and had to attend to them as best as I could.
Act III: Stasis. Ages 22-27. I started this period by recovering from my earlier meltdown. I returned to Catholicism, and I re-enrolled at WMU, and I took care of my legal and financial obligations as best as I could. This period featured me doing the same thing for five years: Working, and going to school, in relative social isolation. And every year, my waistline got just a little bigger. At 26, I moved to Kentwood and earned my B.A., but other than that, there really aren’t any milestones to speak of. Just wasted time.
Act IV: Transformation. Ages 28-31. This Act has four scenes. The first was the “Time of Conflict.” It began in the summer of 2004, when I first started to really become bothered by the abnormal behaviors associated with my eating habits, and culminated in December, after a rocky tenure as editor of the Western Herald. Three major things happened in a space of six weeks, at the end of 2004: I left the Herald and my grad program, my brother and his wife had a baby, and I nearly choked to death on a glutton’s breakfast; each of these events was the end-game of a long-running series of conflicts (internal and external). Scene 2, the “Time of Change,” ran for most of 2005, until my grandfather’s death in September; it featured me learning how to not be busy all the time, and — after figuring out that I was fat because of that one bad date at 16 — I lost a total of 110 pounds with relative ease. Scene 3, the “Time of Consolidation,” ran from September 2005 until October 2007. I kept the weight off, and did some exploratory dating for the first time, but I mostly maintained the gains of early 2005. Scene 4, the “Time of Turbulence,” ran from October 2007 through September 2008; it started with a sense of emptiness that prompted the strategic goal setting (Project 810) that ultimately led to the chaotic thrill-ride known as Jason’s Big Gay Summer [see the stickied post “Summer of ’08” for details].
Which leaves me beginning Act V, which began — coincidentally — around my 32nd birthday. I had gone into the summer of ’08 with a strong inferiority complex, much of it related to my utter lack of a social life, dating history, and sexual experiences. A lot happened over the summer, and by mid-September, after reflection on what the ordeal with Matt really meant, I was hit by the realization that my lack of self-confidence, rooted in a dearth of experience, was utterly upended. I came to internalize what I was had learned intellectually — that I am a good person, and compared to most, I’m level-headed, intelligent, and emotionally well-balanced. In short, I could be proud of who I am, and hold my head high above the waves as I tread the water in the dating/socializing pool. My final key learning was that I can no longer split my energies among multiple objectives, doing many things poorly instead of a few things well [see the post “Dry Powder” for a longer reflection on this important point].
I am consciously aware that the emotional dissonances within have been silenced; the issues I have, from a personal-growth perspective, have all been addressed, with no sources of angst or psychological unhappiness remaining. I am now a restored to a sense of internal tranquility and good health (with the slight exception of feeling incomplete for lack of a significant other), with my life motivated by achievable strategic goals, and a newfound understanding that the tactics for achieving those goals must result in an advance, not a flanking maneuver.
After Matt, and after fully processing the events of the summer, I felt that the door on a period in my life — Act IV, a time of prolonged recovery from the bad choices of my youth — had come to an end. My attitude and outlook and sense of responsibility has shifted a considerable degree, and it’s unquestionably for the better. I’ve finally become an adult in the fullest sense of the term.
So. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.