A Prison of Nihilism

In the past year and a half, my life has changed for the better.

In the past year and a half, my life has changed for the worse.

My life has changed for the better. Let me start with an arrogant description of my job and what I do before I get to the stupid whiny crap. I work at an e-commerce startup, only 3 years old, less than 30 people, two bathrooms and I started a year and three months ago at the lowest level putting products in boxes to send to customers. Thanks to initiatives I have been actively spearheading and involved with, we are a lean operative machine which sent 32,485 units out of our warehouse last week. A drop in the ocean to a company like Amazon, but seeing as we’ve been operating at 17–18,000 units out, that’s fucking phenomenal.

Last September, I was promoted to packing supervisor, where I wrote the first set of operating standards for the team below me, and those have stayed on since. I wrote a set of operating parameters and standards for my own position which allowed me to take my first ever paid vacation during the new year, without mishap in my department. Because of that, I was promoted again in January to my current position of business analyst, where I work directly with the operations and warehouse manager on how we’re performing, what we could be doing better, and what positive changes are we seeing in the warehouse.

My day is never straightforward. Some days I’m actively searching for new things to work on or address; other days my lunch is taken in the late afternoon because I have things to give to people or to finish working on, or to take care of. Some days I’m human resources, report builder, data entry, and programmer. When I started I knew scratchings of excel formulas; now I build power queries of olympian data shaping, and my SQL gets better as I use it. This week, as soon as the electrician is done, we’re testing out a $30,000 shrink wrap machine I proposed back in February. Next year we may use RFID or Google Glass in the warehouse, or have a robot bring us our products before we pack them. As we grow larger the improvements have more of an impact and we become more effective at handling them. My job is to identify where and how that can happen and I’m damn good at it.

My life has changed for the better in that after being a full-time employee, the employee benefits I receive, the livable wage, my income has doubled. For someone with only a high school degree in this day and age, that feels nearly impossible, and I’m lucky to have found a place to work where my talents and potential are valued. Where I can hold a discussion with our owners with a different point of view and I’m not told to fuck off but am actively listened to. Where I don’t dread coming into work in the morning because even though it’s not an easy job, the people I work with do their jobs well, and we work well together. Some days it feels like I’m part of the crew of the Enterprise.

Because of my job, I type this from an apartment which has my name on the lease, while my girlfriend sleeps in another room and I don’t wake her up by my clattering on the keys. Things I considered luxurious foods when I lived on my own in Omaha, NE, sit in a fridge, which is next to a slow cooker; I own a slowcooker. Today we had friends over; between my home life growing up, and not having available space since I moved out, I have never been able to have friends over in my life. It’s scary how blessed I am when I sit down and start thinking about it. I have a good job, a good apartment, a good girlfriend. My life has changed for the better. Everything else is just whiny angst of 24-year-old white straight male with first world problems, right?

And yet…

And yet…

My life has changed for the worse.

It’s 2:18 in the morning and I can’t sleep.

I’ve never been a good sleeper. I remember staying up late so excited for kindergarten. Through high school, I regularly slept only four or five hours a day, which upon hearing sent my Dean of Students into a tirade when I told him. I worked overnights for well over a year at Burger King. I used to listen to audio drama to fall asleep (music costing money and podcasting being free), take melatonin, or try to work out so I would be tired so I’d fall asleep.

But on the days those weren’t working, I told myself stories.

Escapism is one of the refuges of those whose home life isn’t ideal. It’s great for losing one’s self in when you live in a small room with no friends nearby, nothing to do, no money, and free time. Nowadays it’s easier to find content that others made and lose awareness of self in that world. There’s a reason I can still tell you that the Corellian System has planetary repulsors which were used to create their orbits artificially, even though it’s been years since I read that trilogy of Star Wars books my uncle gave me when I was eleven. This reality blows? Find another one. One where it’s possible that you might have secret abilities you don’t know of yet, and someone will take you out of the reality you are in.

With my escapism I turned to stories and tales, then to breaking down those tales, examining them, finding what worked, what I liked, what makes a good character, what makes good dialogue, what makes a good scene. I turned my obsession with consuming content into a study of how to create content.

I was never great by any means, but I could write, and I had a drive and an urge to do so. I had tales to tell and stories that would pop into my brain, demanding that I was the one to tell them and like the vessel of the Loa, they would guide my fingers.

And I can’t do anymore.

I lie awake at night, the wheels in my head turning, but there’s a broken cog in the machine. One of the cylinders isn’t firing. The firewood isn’t catching.

My ability to write is broken.

Instead, all I am left with is my nihilism. I know for a fact that my writing is read or enjoyed by no one. I have no audience, I have been shown how replaceable and forgettable my contributions were. Telling stories to a blank wall is not worth anything.

Whatever shriveled up optimism is left in me says it’s because my reality has changed. It’s worth living in. My needs are fulfilled and I no longer need to turn to writing in order to feel accomplished and that I contribute anything of worth.

The evil mocking bastard in my head merely points to the gash in my soul left by someone I considered a friend and mentor. They told me that I had made my bed and needed to lie in it; that they spent more time working on my project than I did. The silence I’ve heard since it died nine months ago for being three hours late confirms what I had long suspected; no one cared about my show and it had no audience. In hindsight, it feels as if the knife was the sword of Damocles, and my friend was always going to snap the tenuous thread sooner or later.

Optimism argues that my friend was merely frustrated by what seemed to be a lot of work with little payoff.

Nihilism whispers the simple truth. That, not even my friend, who served as my editor, could be bothered to pay attention to my show.

And then it started to affect other aspects of my life. I once was active on social media; now every time I start a status, nihilism asks me if that’s worth wasting my time on, and I delete the status. Even now, nihilism asks if this is worth posting. After all, who the fuck cares what I feel or what I think. How dare I even inconvenience these electrons.

Last December, I was hurt deeply. I was replaced unceremoniously as the writer for a show I’d served three years on, then the other project I was burning up writing and directing for the past year was canceled three days later. Five days later the best I could have with this person was a phone call. It was the worst conversation of my life.

And it broke me, and at the end of the conversation, the person had the audacity to say they loved and cared about me, and nine months later I haven’t heard from them; not a tweet, not an e-mail, not a text. We once chatted for hours a day, my information hasn’t changed. They know where to find me.

And I just feel like I was used and that ten years of dedication and service to a hobby meant nothing and I wasted my time. And my spaghetti-ass brain reminds me that it is a sin to waste the audience’s time. So clearly, until I can come up with something worthy of an audience it isn’t worth sharing.

I’m sorry I wasted our time. I’ll step back into the prison of nihilism I designed, there’s a nice bed I made to lie in.

Maybe I’ll come back when I can write again. For the better.

I guess this is a flare of sorts, trying to see if anyone’s out there. Maybe someone will read this, and it won’t just be useless stream of conscious drivel I wasted too much time writing. Maybe it’s okay to step outside the cage.

Nihilism says not likely, but I have to give optimism a chance, right?

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