hello, what have you been up to lately?

so here's what i don't get. when i was in elementary school, my mom pushed me to excel. when report cards went out, she'd come pick me up, and she'd smile and give me the thumbs up sign. if i received high honors - a perfect straight a report card - i'd put my thumbs up, too. if not, i'd shake my head in defeat. either way, on the ride home, we'd stop at baskin-robbins. i was like a dog. do good and i get a sundae. do bad, and i still get a sundae. only difference was, in the latter instance, the sundae came with a flavorful topping of failure. my dad never even asked about my grades. my mom would tell him i got all a's, and he would crack his tired joke: what, no a plus?

when i got to high school, shit wasn't so easy anymore. i put in the same minimal effort, but the results were worse. much, much worse. my mom stopped harassing me about grades. when my first dismal report card came back, they asked me what was wrong. why wasn't i doing well? i was clearly a genius because i had done so well in st. ignatius, so why didn't my smarts transfer over to jesuit high? i dunno, i told them. i'll try harder next time. but i didn't try harder. i didn't give a shit. i just wanted to not exist.

i don't know why they allowed me to get away with what i did. why they didn't say anything when i didn't try to join any sports or clubs or even try to make any real friends. why did the encouragement and support stop? there were no more sundaes as rewards, and i spent everyday after school sleeping. my dad would leave for his night shift as a janitor, and my mom wouldn't come home from the hospital until later. i was left to my own devices for a good three hours every night. i spent a lot of time watching tv and chatting on the internet. i hated my life, but i didn't try to do anything about it. i didn't think about my future because i really couldn't envision one. i figured one day i'd go off to college, and then i'd...i don't know. do something.

i graduated college and my parents were proud of me. it was if all the sundaes had finally paid off. and nevermind that rough patch in high school. when i graduated from college, i didn't have a chance to enjoy it at all. fear had immediately settled in, and it overpowered any remote feelings of excitement or accomplishment. i thought about how i had done something that my dad had never done. it was a weird feeling. i knew he was proud of me, but i couldn't understand why. college was so fucking easy.

both my parents have recently retired, and i don't think they know what to do with themselves. my dad gives me little reports of what their weekends consist of. sometimes, it's a drive to the bay, where they'll eat duck in oakland and take a walk at golden gate park in san francisco. sometimes, they'll go to the flea or farmer's market. every weekend, they go to church. sometimes, they'll go to my aunt's house to have dinner. they'll watch the oscars, dancing with the stars, some random hallmark movie, some television show my mom checked out from the library. it almost feels like they have given up. i doubt this is what they dreamed of when they thought about retirement. maybe they just thought that one day they'd stop working and then...i don't know. do something.

i'm aware that i've hit the rough patch again. this time, though, i'm going to be wide awake for it. maybe it was reading all those comments on reddit about how, if you are alone and hate your life, you should work on bettering yourself. you should try to make yourself more interesting. and so, i started volunteering again. i started going to the gym. i started reading a lot again. i bought a plane ticket to new york. i donate monthly to the scholarship fund at the law school. i invite my coworkers out for happy hour. i play basketball with the dudes. i do this because i want to have something to say the next time somebody asks me, so, what have you been up to lately?

i don't know how long this rough patch is going to last. all i know is, if i believe, something good's gonna happen. or not. i suppose it doesn't really matter. believing is the only part that matters.

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