The 27 Club: To Be Or Not To Be
I spent the first conscious, ambulatory moments of my 27th birthday this morning cleaning up cat puke.
My cat, Egg, had previously been living in my parents' spacious Indiana suburban home because the apartment I had been living in all of this past fall, which was essentially student housing secured through an academic program I was enrolled in, didn’t allow animals.
We flew back to LA together about a week ago and he has had a noticeably harder time adjusting to his new surroundings than I. In truth, he has been pretty depressed. He’s spent most of the last week hiding under my bed covers, only daring to venture out, though quite cautiously, with the cover of evening darkness. Most mornings I have woken up to his food bowl still containing remnants of the previous day’s breakfast (he usually is fed twice daily).
Thankfully, there has been a markedly positive improvement in his temperament as of the last two days. He has been more active, more affectionate, and seemingly more concerned with his general well-being. Having lived with him for years at this point, I know that sometimes, he does have a tendency to get over-excited about food, causing him to scarf it down much too quickly, resulting in his regurgitation of most of it. Poor little glutton.
Previous to this morning, I had never been so happy to clean up puke. I had, in all truthfulness, begun to really worry about the guy. I know all too well how hopeless and despairing depressive episodes can be. But the sight of his puke meant that he was actually excited about eating again. He was ready to start living his life with purpose.
Ever since I was around 20 years old, it would be conceivable to estimate that more than half of the evenings between then and now have consisted of me drinking alcohol. And most of the time, I most certainly overdid it. I’ve spent my entire adult life more concerned with finding meaning and pleasure in life (expression and addiction) than figuring out how to sustain it (money and health). This led me to racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student debt first getting a psychology degree with a theatre minor - never bothering to entertain the idea of how that would manifest in a career, only that I knew I needed to know more about both - and then a film degree - same deal, for the most part.
I know what makes me feel like life is worth living and I go after it, which is stupid as fuck. I have less than $100 in my checking account, absolutely no savings to speak of, and have just been racking up credit card debt out of necessity all while working part time as a paid intern (in the film industry, though, so that’s progress) for a monthly stipend that barely exceeds half of my monthly rent.
I’m too much of a coward to sell drugs and too averse to marketing myself to sell videos of myself jacking off on onlyfans (though, I actually did try this for a week before giving up). So instead, I’ve mostly just chosen to do my best to not worry about it because eventually I’ll be dead so who fucking cares. Might as well have a little bit of fun.
And I really have had quite a fun fucking time, in all fairness. But mostly it’s just been thinly veiled self-destruction because I haven’t valued myself or my life enough to give a shit what happens to me because, in the eyes of capitalism, I AM nothing.
I think when the pandemic hit is when things really started to take a turn for the worst, though. I finally literally had nothing better to do except try to drink myself to death (and hey the fact that Nicolas Cage - a fellow Capricorn - played a character - also named Ben! - in an oscar winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas was all the rationalization my dissociative mind needed). I couldn’t be useful if I tried and I didn’t care enough about anything else to do something productive.
Although, that’s not entirely true. I’ve tried several times to go to therapy to figure out why the fuck I was doing these things to myself, but it never seemed to help at all, so like most things that have a potential to improve my life, I gave up on them before they had a chance to do so. I also made a fuck ton of art in the last few years, beginning even before the pandemic. Though, I didn’t actually start allowing myself to call it art until fairly recently for fear of sounding like some self-important douchebag. And hey, maybe when I finally die, someone with money will discover all of the shit I’ve made, arbitrarily decide it’s worth a damn, spin some bullshit narrative onto it, and I’d be the next Vivian Maier and then, through my death, my life will finally, FINALLY have an ounce of meaning.
Anyway, once the near year hit a couple weeks back and I had to face the truth that I was coming back to LA and had to really actually get my fucking shit together, I started to realize that everything I was doing becasue it seemed like fun had really really really stopped being fun quite a while ago and I was making myself absolutely miserable for no goddam reason.
I started to actually take stock of my life and think about where things were going for me. I thought about how I was about to be 27 and after thinking about how there were enough famous musicians that died at 27 for it to be considered a club, that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to be a part of. But then I got over that bullshit and decided that I really DIDN’T want to die this year because if I did, so what? Everyone in the club is only remembered because up until that point, they actually did something with their lives and created things that last and touched millions of people. And then I thought about how for every famous person who died at 27, there are probably thousands of others with more talent that died much younger that never had the luck or privilege or money or connections to be considered by the masses while they still lived. And that’s just how it is. And I have to be okay with that.
(Meme creds: no fucking clue. I found it on the internet. If you made this & are somehow seeing this, reach out & we can remedy it. But also.... does it matter?)
Shortly after I turned 23, I tried to kill myself by getting very drunk, swallowing all the antidepressents I had left, smoking a bowl, putting on No Need To Argue by The Cranberries, and waiting for all this bullshit to end. I ended up freaking myself out, calling a friend, and woke up to my veins being pumped with saline and being veritably force-fed charcoal. Looking back on my life since then, I actually have achieved many incredible accomplishments that have demonstrably improved my life and made it worth hanging on and trying to keep having some fun. So when, as I mentioned, I realized that everything that was originally meant to make life enjoyable and bearable was only making me feel like complete and utter shit 24/7, I decided to try to convince myself that I didn’t want to die. That I wanted to see this shit through, for better or worse. Commit to the bit and all that.
So two nights before Egg and I flew back to this Godless wasteland that is LA, I decided to quit alcohol, weed, and cigarette cold turkey. Just like that. I needed to sober up and start trying to be happy for once. And it’s been working out, so far.
I’ve gone the longest period of time without those substances since at least the beginning of the pandemic. I’m getting a lot of sleep. I’ve been taking walks with my ‘Birds of California’ field guide and trying to identify them. I’ve been reading Bell Hooks, for god’s sake.
But then last night rolled around and I thought about that goddam club again. How good it must feel to belong to something, am I right?! I thought about this tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing… and realized I haven’t even seen Joel Cohen’s Macbeth yet and surely I can stick around long enough to get around to it. And then I regressed a bit and thought about Hamlet and this quintessence of dust and the existential dread of it all.
So I put on a movie I had been meaning to get around to for years: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. The movie that’s apparently not as good as the play it is adapted from about the two least important characters in Hamlet and their doomed existences on the fringes of the main spectacle. How very fucking fitting.
It was alright.
As always, and as I hope I have made apparent, I have no fucking clue where I am going with any of this. But I’m glad I’m still here and I’m glad I get to keep making things and I’m so motherfucking glad I get to clean up my cat’s puke.
Not Quite The End.