Winter is Coming

As far back as I can remember, my mood has always been seasonal. As the sun fades in the fall, it whisks away my cheerfulness. Every year, like clockwork. The world eventually freezes, and I cool with it, settling into my own emotional hibernation. The winter months are a black and white movie played in slow motion. Thankfully, as nature thaws in the spring, so does my mind. As bleak and draining as winters are, summers are euphoric.

Until this year. March rolled into April, April turned into May. Even as the sun shone brightly overhead, I stayed locked under a thick sheet of ice. A glitch maybe, a slight delay until deliverance? My curiosity eventually gave way to concern and ultimately panic. What the hell?? Why can’t I snap out of it? I scrambled for a remedy. I prioritized regular exercise and solid sleep... Nothing. I started therapy and gave meditation a spin… Nope. I leaned on music to regulate my mood, both to surrender to the rainiest days (thanks for trying, Allan Rayman) or to force feed myself some sunshine (bless your heart, Dua Lipa)… Nada.

I wished for nothing more than a reset button. If only I could revert my brain back to a previous state, one of joy and innocence. But I’d opened some kind of door in my mind and it simply wouldn’t shut. As if the emergency exit opened mid flight and the wind ripped the door off into the void, leaving behind an unsealable gaping hole, wrecking havoc in the cabin.

With winter approaching, I’m fearful. After all, I’ve never been through three straight winters. Still, I’m cautiously hopeful. I think I’m starting to put my finger on things. Stumbled on what an optimist might call a breakthrough…

Let me briefly summarize my first 25 years on this planet. In the process, I’m going to sound like a massive piece of shit. Humor me. As a kid, I start school and immediately skip first grade (I’ll skip another one before I finish high school). In my teens, I score in the 99th percentile on a bunch of standardized admissions tests. I play on the national basketball team for a couple years. I get into Harvard where I play on the varsity basketball team and graduate with honors in applied math. I follow up with a masters in data analytics and start my career as a Machine Learning engineer for a well funded AI startup. I’m on top of the world.

OK, the past two years now. I found a company, which amounts to eight absurdly stressful months and culminates in an epic failure. My relationship flops equally spectacularly when I get cheated on. There’s a stretch where I cycle through jobs, never staying in place more than a couple months. The one constant in my life is a joint. I light up at least once a day.

My current self-diagnosis is that my oversized ego, confronted with mediocrity, is showing cracks. I imagine egos never fade quietly, but mine is kicking and screaming like an infant, dragging me down with it. Quite the show, really. I’m hoping it’s only a question of time. Of understanding and embracing my identity, which while certainly unique, may not be heroic. A wise friend told me recently that it’s only by accepting your vulnerability that you can become indestructible. So I’m viewing this torment as an opportunity for growth. It may drag on a few more weeks, months, or more, who knows. I’m confident summer is around the corner somewhere. I can’t fucking wait.

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