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All Grown Down: Happy Birthday

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by Mike Skinner
When I was a younger man, I was dead certain that I was smarter than everyone around me. I was terse and abrasive and short with people that, in hindsight, were probably just trying to talk about their lives because that’s what we all do anyway. We talk about our lives. We talk about our perspectives. We talk about things that infect us with the feels. I would stand proudly atop the cafe tables and shout at strangers and knock over drinks and generally make a tremendous ass of myself while expounding upon the sweaty sermons of my pretense, but I was young so it was still kind of funny. I could still get away with it because it was marginally entertaining to my pals and some girls still thought it was intriguing. I can go back to previous years of journaling and the running theme is more often than not the same. It’s me talking about how ignorant everyone is and if they would just open their eyes to the realities of blah blah blah, Jesus Christ I’m annoyed by myself right now just thinking about it.
Not to say that my ideas were bad, per se. I still feel just as strongly about almost every major concept now as I did then. Everything from Religion to Globalization to the inherent value associated with properly designed sandwiches or whether or not one can make love stay, I still feel the same. The difference is that now, I know that my opinion does not matter. It doesn’t matter at all. It affects no one. It changes nothing, and that’s ok. The hardest lesson that I have learned thus far in this the middle of my life, is that I don’t matter. I used to say things like this all the time when I was young. I would say it for effect. I would say it because I appreciated the rise I would get from people that swore that they were important. I would vomit my recycled opinions about life, the universe, and everything and let my peers know that they were stupid and wrong and blind and shouldn’t be allowed to steal oxygen from the more enlightened amongst us. Looking back, I’m very surprised that I didn’t get beat up constantly. I definitely deserved it.
Now, things are different. I have spent the past ten years failing. I kept thinking that it would work itself out because it’s always worked itself out, or so I thought. Upon further review, it most certainly has not and the problem is me. I flashed through 15 years, banging my head against better judgement and now I’ve reached critical mass. I went into the second phase of adulthood with the same attitude that I had in the first, and it has been a fucking house fire. It has been a DEFCON 1 nuclear disaster.
About 8 years ago, I had my first panic attack. I had never experienced anything like that before. It was intense and weird and I kind of knew what was happening in real time. I made it back to my car and it went away and that was that. I acknowledged it and didn’t really think about it after that. Cut to 4 years later. I get invited to a friend’s surprise 30th birthday party by his wife. Her folks are loaded and the party was to be held at their country estate. Now, my friend and I had known each other well for years, even being roommates at one point but other than his wife, whom I had a passing friendship with, I knew that I was not going to know a single other person at this event. On top of that, it was 45 miles out of town so I couldn’t exactly just pop in to make an appearance. (In retrospect, I absolutely could have done that)
So, because I’m a grown up and I make good decisions, I thought that I should have a drink to relax before I made way. I mean, it’s 45 miles. I have time. I head to my local spot and I have a couple of draughts with the boys (mistake#1) and then I pick up a liter and a side pint of whiskey and get on the highway. I’m in good spirits and I’m enjoying a nice drive on a Saturday in October. I stop for gas and while I’m in the truck-stop bathroom, I realize that I’m a kind of drunk and I don’t really want to meet a bunch of rich strangers without having my head on straight. So, because I’m smart, I decide to grab a 5-Hour Energy.( mistake#2).15 minutes later, my hands start shaking. So, because I’m brilliant, I quickly drink all of the pint because this will obviously help me relax. I show up feeling jittery and confused and out of place, surrounded by strangers. The birthday boy arrives and everyone claps and it’s nice and I’m the only person who is there alone. It is at this point I make mistake #3. My friend and I and all of his buddies, of whom none I know, pile into a big truck and drive off into the country side so that they can give him his gift. His gift turned out to be literally the strongest marijuana that I have ever been privy to. I’m talking, floating paralyzed in cosmic pudding strong. Not for social consumption strong. Needs government regulation strong. If I had been on someone’s couch, it surely would have been fine. I was not on someones couch. With the drink and the smoke and the scientifically manufactured energy all tumbling around inside of me, the panic sets in. I excuse myself to the interior of the house and hide away in a guest bedroom. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Imagine how a person would look, hiding under a desk while their city was being raided by the Luftwaffe. That was me for the better part of an hour, and that was just to get to the point where I could pick my head up. Another hour on top of that, and now my buddy’s wife is looking for me out of concern. She finds me and I beg her to get me to my car. I’m stone sober at this point and I can still barely move. I know that if I can get to my car, I’ll be fine. She sneaks me out the back, while I vomit apologies all over her and gets me to my car. I close the door and everything immediately balances and I’m totally fine. I poured a roadie from the liter that never made it to the party and pulled onto the highway and headed home, completely relaxed and in total control. That was the last time either one of them invited me anywhere for any reason. If I look back, that was probably the beginning of the end.