Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sleepless in Chicago

Another sleepless night in Uptown Chicago.

I fell asleep around 8 P.M. after watching back-to-back shows on the History Channel about the sordid history of cocaine in America and the many properties of fungi respectively. I know, interesting stuff. The mini-documentary on cocaine didn't shed any new light. Cocaine is awesome so people continue to use it and drug cartels continue to kill hundreds of people annually in battles over who will control the white gold while the government funnels tens of billions of dollars in tax payer money into a War on Drugs that has been by all accounts a complete and total failure in every way except for its ability to waste tens of billions of dollars in tax payer money.

The trajectory of fungi is a little more promising. Aside from the potential hazards of fungi in the form of mold in homes and in the form of nasty biological inconveniences such as athlete's foot, the overall relationship between fungi and nature has been a mutually rewarding one. They help to decompose old foliage in forests creating nutrient rich soil. They are used as cultures to age great shit like cheese, change hops and barley into beer and wine, and to create soy bean based products like Quorn that people in Indonesia and the U.K. absolutely love and swear tastes just like chicken. Scientists are finding ways to synthesize the millions upon millions of varieties of fungi into life saving medicines and environmentally safe pesticides for crops. Scientist are even using fungi to synthesize diesel fuels in hopes of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil in the coming years. Best of all, if you eat the right type of fungi you could have your fucking mind blown (or you could have a bad trip and jump off a balcony at Soldier Field but I digress).

Ah, the exciting life of an insomniac.

I'm pretty sure that my recent spat of insomnia is due in part to the hiatus that I've been taking from my usual nighttime sleep aids - marijuana and Old Style beer. The rest of it is due to the immense amount of shit that I have on my mind. The relationship that I have with my co-workers is irreparably damaged due in small part to their immaturity and lack of professionalism and in large part to my bi-polar expectations - wanting to be exempted from their mostly inane conversations while simultaneously having the desire to be kept in the loop. At 26, I am at a crossroads in my career. There are opportunities for advancement but I question my preparedness to make a commitment to a profession that I can't honestly see myself doing for the remainder of my adult life. I'm not even sure if I know what I want to do with the rest of my life but I need more money to pay for my fabulous private Catholic university education so that's causing a wee bit of professional cognitive dissonance.

I'm absolutely in love with someone, so much so that I almost suffocated the relationship with my insecurity. It was so hard going through this past weekend without a text message from her (what am I, a 14 year old girl?) but I know that it's for the best. She has way more shit to deal with in her personal life than I could ever intentionally conjure up in mine. Hell, I just got hair on my dick. I think she's had pubic hair for quite a while longer than me. Due in part to her tender yet forceful scolding of my behavior, I've learned that I need to learn patience and trust. It's true that distance makes the heart grow fonder and so does the imminent potential of a great loss. She "likes" everything that I post on Facebook and, in this new age of social media, that means something but I'm not sure what. She likes everyone else's stuff on Facebook too so the texts that I receive from her assure me that her affects towards me are more personal.

I hope that we don't have to have another talk at Starbucks because I wrote this. I don't want to lose her and I HATE Starbucks.

I'm coming to the hard realization that I'm not just living this life for myself anymore. I don't think I ever was living simply for myself but I certainly deluded myself into thinking as much. With a little help from a very special person, I realized that, whether it's convenient for me or not, I have a responsibility to my little sister Candice and her son - my nephew Jaiden. We both grew up without our fathers and that has made an indelible impact on both of our lives. I was fortunate enough to have several influential male role models late in adolescence but I'm still working to synthesize their lessons into the machinations, mannerisms, and mentality of what it means to be a man. I have the opportunity to give Jaiden what neither I nor my sister ever had - a strong, black male influence from start to finish. Who knows how different our lives would've been if my father, Aaron Ruff, and Candice's father Carl Brown had stayed with our mom (not at the same time of course; that would be polygamy). We can only speculate now but we don't have to deal in hypothetical when it comes to Jaiden. We have the here and now. As my dear friend and the woman that I love said to me at that fateful Starbucks meeting, "in the end, no one will say that DeAngelo was so great at making money, they'll say that you DeAngelo was there for his family and that he was a good friend." Receiving a life lesson is impactful but nothing is more impactful than receiving a life lesson in the 3rd person.

I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if I'll ever get to hold the woman that I love in my arms again or if we'll ever kiss the way that we did that first time in the middle of a packed parking lot. I don't know if I will ever earn the respect of my co-workers again. I don't know if I'll get the promotion that I need so badly and, if I do, if I'll be satisfied or be any good at the job. Hell, I don't know if I'll ever get a full night of sleep again. What I do know is that I need to be a better person. I need to be better, not just for myself, but for the untold number of people that have a vested interest in me and who I have a vested interest in - little Jaiden and my baby sister Candice being at the head of that list.

It's easy to go through life with the myopic assumption that professional success and making money is the end all and be all to existence. That's not living life. In fact, that's a fate worse than physical death. Life is lived not in the middle lane but on the periphery. Life is being kind to your fellow humans, not because they deserve it, but by virtue of your shared humanity and mortality. Life is sharing quality time with your friends and family if you're fortunate enough to have both in this world.

I may not agree with Albert Einstein who said that a life not lived for others is not a life worth living but life can hardly be characterized as such without others to share it with. I'm so glad that I found this out before it was too late.

Youth isn't always wasted on the young.

Sweet dreams Chicago.

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