In Perspective: My Best Friend’s Death

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been anxious and depressed. I have received a tentative job offer from a company, and any day now, I am hoping to get the firm offer. The deadline to submit everything was last Friday, November 28. It’s only been a day and a half, I keep reminding myself to no avail.

What would I do if I didn’t get this job? It seems like a shoe-in; what if it slips through my fingers like the previous offer from the university? They did my background check after they gave me the offer, only to rescind it the next day. I was crushed.

I get obsessed so easily whether it’s women, job offers, material goods, aikido, et cetera. I develop the worst tunnel vision.

Without much faith, I have been begging God to give me patience and to wait on Him. I’m having loads of trouble doing that, though.

I quickly forgot about these problems, however, when I learned yesterday that my best friend from high school had passed away.

I have never had another friend like David; I don’t expect that I will. We were kindred spirits. Somehow we connected on the first day of high school despite having come from different middle schools. We were both anti-social and awkward without realizing it. We knew each other better than anyone because we were just like each other.

It was the hardest thing in the world for us to make friends with others. We were so shy and afraid of interacting with people that it’s a wonder how the two of us even met. I guess it was our destiny. I don’t recall how we actually met; I just remember having metals class with him, and, before I knew it, we were best friends. Neither of us had a circle of friends, so we made our own circle of two. We didn’t let anybody in, and no one wanted in.

Maybe it was like having an identical twin brother. I don’t know what that’s actually like, but I have read that identical twins are best friends for life. Maybe David’s and my friendship — no, our bond — was like that.

We weren’t complete unless we were together. We confided in each other — even stuff that our parents never knew about.

One time when he had built up the nerve to skip school and spend the day in the woods, I was lost and even envious. Just going one school day without him had me wandering around the halls, dazed and depressed.

Only one time did we fight; I mean literally fight. David was fuming because I decided to hang out with his neighbor, a dorky kid our age who liked the same 80s hair metal (before it was called “80s hair metal”) bands but didn’t have the same connection to David or to me.

In our confrontation later that day, we came to blows; we were both crazed with anger. Amazingly, that was the only time we were ever at odds with each other. It was the strangest thing.

Being a mama’s boy, I attended college close enough in order to keep living with my family. David told me a few times in passing that he was considering the military. I didn’t believe him. I mean, he couldn’t leave! I was attending college near my house, and our life was the same as it was in high school — just the way we wanted it.

But David ended up joining the army. His departure date loomed in our minds, overtaking us like a shadowy demon.

In college, I was recruited to join a Christian cult (but that’s a different story), and David was in the army, stationed far away. We kept in touch, but life took us down different avenues. Eventually we lost contact.

Around the year 2000, I was desperate to locate my best friend. David’s dad was transferred around the country a lot, so I had no idea where to start looking. Google produced no results. Several times I almost hired a private investigator.

I refused to give up. David was more shy and anti-social than I (and that’s saying a lot), so I figured he didn’t want to be found. Nevertheless, I continued scouring the Internet. Then my online searches for him became intermittent; about once a year, I did searches, always coming up with nothing.

I was becoming convinced that he was in the witness protection program or something.

Well, yesterday I did my annual Google search for David, and the fifth result was his obituary. On the website, David’s mother had listed her phone number hoping that I would see it and contact her.

It took me over a year to find the obituary and phone number, but I did indeed find them.

Last night, for the first time in over 21 years, I was speaking to his mother. Same voice and everything. That alone made me cry; I wasn’t ready for it. Hearing the pain in her voice brought everything together, and it finally hit me that my best friend of all time was dead.

After finding out about David and talking to his mother all evening, I am sobered and humbled. I had been stressing out over a measly job offer while David’s mother has been going through hell, perpetually grieving over both of her sons who were taken from her way too soon. (David’s older brother passed away when I was in college.)

I miss you, buddy. I will always miss you.

~t


8 Things Your College Professor Won’t Tell You

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As a college instructor, I have developed a vast network of other instructors and professors from community colleges and universities; also, I love reading those Reader’s Digest lists such as “10 Things Your (insert profession here) Won’t Tell You.”

So, I decided recently to take an anonymous poll (Thank goodness for SurveyMonkey!) of my friends and trusted colleagues in order to create my own “10 8 Things” list. I wanted the juiciest, most scandalous tidbits, and they delivered — so much so that I didn’t feel comfortable posting some.

Here are the results:

 

1. Bribes are more effective than you might think.

One professor told me, “I had a female student who never showed up to class or did the homework. Toward the end of the semester, she decided to visit friends in San Diego. I was so ready to fail her… until she came back and presented me with a souvenir: a combination snow globe and letter opener. It was pretty cool. Because of that, I ended up passing her with a C.”

2. We will pass you to get rid of you.

Some students are just pains in the butt. “If a student is constantly challenging her grades throughout the semester or taking up office hours every week to ask for extra credit, I pass them even if they deserve a D. I don’t want to risk the chance of having the same student the following semester,” mentioned one history instructor.

3.  Male professors give special attention to females.

About 80% of male professors who responded said that they favor female students to male students (duh). One instructor stated, “If a male student asks me if he can make up an online quiz, I will refer him to the rules in the syllabus [that say ‘no’]. If a female student asks me the same question, I will more than likely say yes.”

So, young ladies, turn on that charm the next time you need something. You’ll likely get what you want.

4. We can and will find loopholes to make your lives miserable.

Just like (allegedly) a cop can find an obscure infraction if he wants to give you a ticket, professors can find ways to penalize students they, um… just plain ol’ don’t like. Ms. R in Oklahoma wrote, “When there’s a student who rubs me the wrong way, I create homework assignments that I know he won’t complete. Little by little, these small scores add up to where he ends up failing the course.”

Quite a few instructors, including this one, give five-point pop quizzes at the very beginning of class to penalize habitually tardy students. Because we can.

5. Online classes are easy because we generally don’t care.

Many professors teach extra-service courses online to supplement their modest income. Thus, the online course becomes low priority in addition to their regular course loads. One colleague had this to say: “I teach online at a different college. I assign two research papers and one exam, none of which I actually grade. I give out A’s and B’s randomly.”

Another professor teaches online every summer for extra cash. This past July, he “graded” (i.e. skimmed through) the assignments while sitting at an outdoor café in Italy.

Oh, and the real reason online instructors don’t immediately reply to your emails? “We just don’t give a d**n.”

6. If you offend our views, we will ‘not like you.’

Students: Don’t openly voice your religious or political views in class. Yes, it’s a free country, but the professor is the dictator in his/her own class. “One time a minority student told all of us [in class] that she hated anyone who was dumb enough to vote for [George W.] Bush,” said one professor in Texas. He applied #4 above and gave the young woman a D for the course.

Reason? The professor was a closet Republican.

Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion; you might end up on the professor’s naughty list, though.

7. We know if you’re a good student or just a kiss-up.

We college and university instructors/professors are not stupid. We can tell the difference between a hard-working overachiever and a teacher’s-pet-over-complementing-manipulator.

If you’re the latter, we might even play along.

You just might be in for a surprise when final grades are posted.

8. We don’t like grading any more than you like studying.

Most of the time, our departments force us to include final projects and term papers in our syllabi so that all of the course sections are in sync. Therefore, we have to devote lots of time to grading students’ work (imagine that).

A psychology instructor in California said that a student will earn a failing grade on a term paper only if he/she turns nothing in. “I count the number of papers turned in and the number of students I have, then go from there.”

Another professor: “I usually give students full credit if they merely attempt the final project in English literature. This includes pages of meaningless fluff. Actually, I don’t even know it’s fluff half the time because I don’t read the whole things.”

 

Happy Finals!

~t


Picture-Perfect Catholic Couples

I’m sitting here in front of the computer feeling dejected. How did this happen? Probably being confined to bed rest for the past four days hasn’t helped.

But what about the nice family dinner we had tonight? There we go. It’s balanced out now.

No, wait. the picture-perfect Catholic families who I unfriended on Facebook. It’s their fault, attending every parish function in their Sunday finest; praying the Rosary out loud on the living room floor every. Single. Night.

Happily.

Unified.

Yuck.

What I wouldn’t give to have a Catholic wife. One that wouldn’t dismiss images of the crucifix with the wave of a hand: I just don’t understand that, she utters, passing my bloody and pathetic God on the cross. How gross. They should ban those things.

The kids were “christened” in a Shinto shrine. They cannot go through catechism classes at my parish because it’s “too weird.”

Picture-perfect Catholic families: Count your blessings.

Picture-perfect single Catholics: Don’t you dare marry anyone other than a faithful Catholic.

Lukewarm pew-warmers who show up for cultural reasons: Get your heads out of your rectal cavities and get with the program. There’s more. Lots more.

Don’t end up like Topaz: carrying a full-grown paralyzed woman on my back while trying to survive The Hunger Games. (You’re comparing your wife to a paralyzed deadweight? That’s not very Catholic.)

Shut up and go back inside your glass house.

Oh, back to my introduction.

What about the Xanax I took to make me feel alive like living? That went straight out the window as soon as you caught hell for giving the kids an after-dinner snack. I hate it when she stares me down.

I put up with seven years of people staring me down in that giant Pachinko hall they call Tokyo.

Husbands, don’t yell at your wife and kids to hurry up in the morning as you’re all getting ready for church. Wives, don’t nag at your husbands for taking too long to get ready for church in the morning.

Just be thankful that you share the same faith. The same religion.

And count your lucky stars that you’re not trying to live out that God-awful “Coexist” bumper sticker.

~t


How Silver Linings Playbook Affected a Blogger with Mental Illness Who Didn’t Quite Know What He Was About to View

The Weinstein Company

And if you say to me tomorrow, oh what fun it all would be.
Then what’s to stop us, pretty baby. But what is and what should never be.
–Led Zeppelin

 

Lately I don’t want to write unless there’s something totally pressing on my mind.

Like now.

I started watching the first 30 minutes or so of Silver Lining Playbook. I haven’t looked into it, but it seems like it’s billed as a nice romantic comedy. Well, the first 30 minutes was enough to trigger all sorts of feelings in me. (The movie was released in 2012, so that shows how “hip” I am regarding pop culture.)

The main character, Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), is bipolar, and his father (played by Robert DeNiro, a nice surprise since I only knew Cooper was in the movie) has issues to a certain extent such as OCD and anger.

I had to stop watching after the scene where Pat was having flashbacks of assaulting his wife’s lover while the soundtrack played “What Is and What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin. Ironically,  Zeppelin happens to be my favorite band of all-time, and their songs and mystique have weaved themselves throughout my life since I was in middle school.

I’m not criticizing this movie (I’ve only seen the first 30 minutes); on the contrary, this post is just a half-hearted rant about wanting to see a basic romantic comedy between two people who suffer from various mental issues — and instead being subjected to scenes from my own darkest days in a theater from hell.

I’ll probably continue watching the movie now that I know what to expect — and deal with the triggers as they come. How wise is that, though? I don’t know.

Wow, I started watching during my lunch break, then I had class, and now I’m back at the desk, and it’s still with me — or maybe it’s because I’m still writing this post. However, this movie definitely hits home because Pat is so much like me — heck, the story is so much like mine.

(By the way, at the beginning of the movie, Pat is at the psychiatric hospital wearing a hooded sweatshirt with strings. Those strings would be the first things to come off when one is admitted to such a facility, along with shoe laces.)

I don’t like to write reviews. I don’t consider myself qualified to inform people about such things as movies. Books, maybe.

So consider this an anti-review.

Whatever that means.

~t

 


A Terrible Day for Two of Us

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“Why are you here? Just go. Change to another class.”

“He won’t even let us go to the bathroom.”

“Your writing is boring. It puts me to sleep.”

“If you leave early again, I’ll call the police.”

“You have no chance in here. I will fail you.”

I couldn’t believe these false accusations against me. I sat in the HR director’s office with the dean and associate dean; this wasn’t happening. I was just in this office a year ago for some other BS!

“Your students don’t want you back in the class,” the associate dean told me.

I sat there dumbfounded, my backpack and school bag beside me on the floor in the spacious office. The associate dean bum-rushed me as soon as I walked in the door this morning. “We have a meeting with the dean and the HR director in ten minutes. It’s bad. Bring your bags and all your stuff. Leave your gradebook.”

That could only mean one thing: I would not be going back to my office. I would not be coming back to my job. Why? What had I done?

Like the paranoid fool I am, I began frantically thinking about anything illegal that I had done. I hadn’t picked a fight with anyone. I hadn’t molested any students. What did I do that was so bad??

The dean and her associate walked me to the HR building; we walked in single file. I was last. The long walk. I had just watched a documentary the other day about life on death row.

The dean decided to have mercy on me. The next logical step was for me to get a week’s leave without pay — a method that the college uses to get rid of people since termination paperwork is too time consuming. However, she suggested that I receive yet another written warning instead.

Plus, I got pulled from the class. I would now be doing lowly tutoring work with the educated rejects in the writing center who languished away for minimum wage. At least I could keep my other two classes: the ones I actually liked. The one I got pulled from was an ESL class full of rich, spoiled international students lucky enough to make it to a U.S. college. A lot of them had powerful fathers who knew how to pull strings for their kids back home.

I got back to my office. My colleague and good friend, Rebecca, a Spanish professor, was sobbing in the next office as she packed all her books and knick-knacks in boxes. “So today is your last day?” I said.

“Yep.” She fell apart again. I had never seen her pretty blue eyes so red, puffy, and full of tears. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for such a loving soul as Rebecca.

The new dean and her associate don’t like Rebecca for reasons unknown. We don’t know why because Rebecca is one of the most respected, sincere, hardworking faculty members at the college. The new deans are essentially putting her out to pasture at some rinky-dink satellite campus ten miles away.

Rebecca is a good, faithful Methodist. Even though our Christian traditions vary somewhat, we always found common ground on the essentials of the faith.

She was only given one week’s notice about being “shipped down the river.” I wanted desperately to give her some sort of memento. Not a Starbucks mug or anything ordinary and cheesy. All I could think of was my Divine Mercy prayer card that I kept in my wallet.

I didn’t want to see her open my petty gift in the envelope that I made with a piece of printer paper stapled along both sides.

She told me later that it was the most thoughtful gift that she had received in her short time at the college. In my note that I included with the card, I tried to encourage her with Romans 8:28 which says:

God works for the good of those who love Him.

Rebecca probably had no idea what the Divine Mercy chaplet was. It didn’t matter. On the front, underneath the picture of Christ, are these five words:

Jesus, I trust in you.

“At least I’m not the only one having a terrible day,” Rebecca joked between sobs after I told her about my third written warning in two years.

She initiated a hug right before leaving her office for good. I was nervous because Rebecca is very attractive. Anyway, we hugged, and I’m glad we did because she’s my friend and I’ll miss her greatly.

~t


Here I Go Again On My Own

Here I go again on my own,

going down the only road I’ve ever known.

Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.

                                     –Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again”

I am a member of the Knights of Columbus, and we had our monthly council meeting last night. The officer installation for the 2014-15 fraternal year took place in June, so our July meeting was the first time that our new officers took their positions (I continued as an officer).

This means that our new grand knight (chairman) assumed his role as leader of our council. The only reason he “got the job” was because no one else wanted it; too much responsibility and pressure. (In a lot of cases, grand knights are retired guys because they have the most time to devote).

Well, we officers and regular members knew it was a bad idea because… um… let’s just say he wasn’t the right type to lead a K of C council. Problems started right off the bat: He never bothered to learn the ins and outs of the office of grand knight; he shouted and berated guys who had the floor during meetings; it was “his way or the highway;” etc.

Needless to say, this caused an enormous amount of tension in the air every month, not to mention the fact that members have stopped volunteering for fundraisers and various other projects due to an apparent drop in morale.

At the July meeting, I merely sat there and observed the circus around me, ashamed at what the council had become. Last month, I went off on the grand knight and had to be calmed down by another officer. At that point, whenever I would think about or see K of C guys, I would get panic attacks and start to hyperventilate.

Last night, at the September meeting, all hell broke loose.

I won’t go into the details, but there was a controversial proposal from the floor which created a battle line immediately. Shouting ensued. Words with venom dripped from a portion of these godly men’s mouths.

After the meeting, I was confronted by some of my “friends” about my stance on the particular issue. It led to harsh words and defensive body language all around. I left in a huff, shaking and gasping for air, ready to physically assault someone.

It was as if I were drunk: I don’t recall everything that transpired during my raging panic attack. I loudly cursed at a friend and officer in the lobby of the parish community center. I stormed to my car, not looking back as my friend chased me down. I didn’t acknowledge him until I got to my car.

My complete meltdown was taking place. I could not stand up. Leaning on my car, shaking, you would have thought English was not my first language: I was having trouble forming words and uttering sentences.

I remember breaking down in front of my friend, confessing all of my mental issues. I was a blubbering mess. I kept repeating the refrain, “I don’t want to go to prison.”

I was on the verge of seriously hurting someone.

I would love to tell you that my friend hugged me, told me everything would be okay, and that I went on my merry way.

That’s far from what happened next.

One of the new members and officers, an arrogant, loud-mouthed stocky Latino guy strutted over to me in the dark parking lot. His actions and expressive speaking style reminded me of a pissed-off prison inmate.

“You know, I don’t appreciate the way you talked to me in there. You don’t know nothing about me. I’m a man. You disrespected me.”

(Mind you, we are two practicing Catholics and officers in the K of C, so this will definitely amuse you anti-Catholics out there.)

Lots of talk. Lots of swagger. Chest puffed out. Intimidating?

Not in the least.

I’m 6’5″ tall, 220 pounds, and skilled in aikido which I practiced in Japan. This guy was expecting me to either cower before him or run away.

Instead, I got in his face (Well, his face was in my chest).

Accusations, threats, and macho shouting progressed until my friend stepped between us.

Latino’s smart-ass taunts got me more worked up; I was already a basket case, pushed to the brink of insanity.

To make a long story short, he eventually walked away to his truck and left as I kept yelling, trying to provoke him into come back and taking a swing at me.

***********************************

What did I learn from this?

That I have a lot of soul-searching to do. That both the Latino guy and I need to repent. That I wasn’t being like Jesus.

That my illness had struck again and I’ll have to leave the council out of shame. That I’ll have to find another parish to attend. That I’ll have to start over yet again.

I have since officially resigned from my officer position, sent a heart-felt apology to the Latino guy, and sent myself into permanent exile from this K of C council and parish. Possibly an indefinite exile from the Church and religion for a while.

I never, ever imagined this happening. This K of C council was full of my brothers in the faith. I looked forward to every meeting, every function, every volunteer opportunity. Because it was a brotherhood.

But it happened.

Here I go again.

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


Everything is Meaningless

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I’m sitting here in my home office surrounded by a Catholic calendar, a crucifix, and various prayer cards featuring great saints through the ages. Knights of Columbus plaques line my walls.

My two beautiful, healthy sons are asleep in their bunkbeds. My loving wife has just gone to bed.

But I don’t feel anything.

I am empty, confused, angry, suicidal, dejected.

You can have all the Bibles, crosses, religious stuff, and everything else: the “NOTW” stickers that I see on the backs of so many cars, et cetera, but it is all meaningless.

Just like the wise teacher states again and again in Ecclesiastes.

Today I had to go outside to the far edge of my campus where I work because I had to get out of the building. I was on the verge of killing a student who had pissed me off with his smart-ass tendencies. (Sorry for the potty mouth — but it’s a big, bad world.)

I had to get away. There is a nature park on the grounds of my college campus. I sat there on a large rock and cursed at God the whole time. Cursed at him for the hand that I was dealt in life.

It takes EVERY OUNCE of my strenth and sanity EVERY DAY to “keep my head above water” in regard to my mental illness. Most other people hover above the water, floating around, singing and humming, enjoying life, enjoying work, enjoying being alive.

Not me. I curse God for giving me this depression/suicidal ideation/insecurity/anxiety/bipolar tendencies.

If you’re a nice church-going individual, I don’t expect you to be reading this far. Just take heart, you say. Have faith.

Ha.

If only it were that simple.

Last month, one of my favorite comedians of all time, Robin Williams, committed suicide due to depression. The nation mourned and paid tribute. Countless articles about depression and suicidal thoughts appeared on all sorts of blogs and news sites such as CNN, Huff Post, and Yahoo.

That’s all fine and great. But what about now? After the storm has blown over, people will just go back to forgetting about us. The articles will be fewer and fewer.

But know this: If you’re in the same boat as I am, I will never forget you. If you are reading this, whether you’re Catholic, atheist, whatever, I am with you in the crappy hand that life dealt to you before you were even born. I am at the poker table with you, crying and blubbering over the worthless hands of 2s and 3s that we’re holding.

Suicide hasn’t appealed to me as strongly in the past two years as it did today. A nice flowing river runs directly behind the nature park at school. I’ve read that drowning is an excruciating death. How bad could it be, though? Inhale a few breaths of water, keep my head underwater, and voila: freedom.

You’re a Catholic blogger, Topaz. Be more positive, some of you have told me.

It’s a cold, hard, motherf****r of a world, and right now, I’m being crapped on by laughing vultures.

same ol’, same ol’.

Hey, normal Christian/Catholic person out there, be glad that you’re “normal” (I’m not supposed to use the world “normal” because it’s relative. But I couldn’t give a s%@& right now.).

If you have time, pray for the poor bastards like us who have to talk ourselves out of suicide and dark depression before our feet even hit the floor after waking up every morning.

Remember us.

I’m out.

~t

(random photo by Topaz)


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