I began writing the text of this entry a month and a half before I left The Park, which was mid-February of 2015. Since then life has seemed to get much busier. Packing, moving, unpacking, going to interviews, life, etc. The entry started like this (though I’ve continued to review and edit it):
Here, I sit. On the balcony of my third floor apartment at The Park at Walnut Creek. I look out over the parking spaces and see acres of field. Acres of field where I’ve seen cows graze, the overgrowth of grass and weeds, a worker tilling and aerating, then planting, more regrowth, and cows grazing – Numerous times over. So many commercial flights in and out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA, Airport Code: AUS) above. Planes I may have flown on at one time or another. Farther out, I see the Samsung Semiconductor factory of northeast Austin. A company I supported at one time, in one way or the other. Here, I sit.
Here, I sit. Thinking of the past. Thinking of what was, what has been, what had happened. I don’t only look back. I consider the present, the here and now. I continue. I think of the future, what may happen, what will happen. What I have no idea may happen. Here, I sit.
“The Park” (or “Walnut Creek”) – not to be confused with the restaurant The Park – as I often refer to it, has been good to me in many ways. It has also been a place of much frustration, introspection, negativity, and stress. Overall, a lot of good has come from it. I often wonder if I am leaving The Park too soon, or if I should have left it sooner.
Ever since I was a young child, I always felt there was more to life, to the universe. I have always felt that the theory of multiple universes or parallel universes was more fact than fiction. Chalk it up to watching science fiction television shows, like Star Trek, in my youth with my father and the rest of my family, if you will. Even the Power Rangers would travel into space at times. Apparently, since then, there has been a whole rash of new Power Ranger series that go beyond that original series that I grew up watching.
Here, I sit. A month and half away from leaving The Park, a month and a half away from moving to the Broadmoor Apartments on Metric Boulevard. I signed the lease at The Park on May 14, 2014. I remember the day fairly vividly. I had informed my manager, Eugenia “Gina,” a few days ahead of time regarding the move and again on May 14th, stating that I may have to take a long lunch as I would be driving to the leasing office to sign the lease and obtain the keys. She saw no problem with this. I miss being able to see and chat with her and the friends that I had developed over the year while working on that particular Samsung team. I signed the lease with the intention of living at The Park for two (2) or three (3) years, if not longer. I could not (and still cannot) see into the future, but assumed I wouldn’t uproot myself for quite some time.
It was my place. Alone. Away from everyone. Far enough away that I could visit family or family could visit me. Far enough away that I could easily fall into and out of my own mind. The idea, initially, was to live small. Have a nicely put together place, a bit of clutter – but everything mine, everything from my childhood, adolescence, and my adulthood. An attempt to throw it all together in one place and see what happened, see what stuck. Here, I sit.
I moved my boxes in, I hired movers to lug my sectional couch, and I purchased an ottoman, a new bed set, and a television console. I looked into new kitchenware and appliances – most of which purchased either at IKEA or JC Penney. It took my dog, Argos, a few weeks to get use to the new location – a less-than-seven hundred (700) square foot apartment was quite the downgrade from a house spanning over 2,200 square feet with a backyard.
I had promised my dog a decent sized house and a backyard years ago while I was in Tennessee. Even then he had a two-story townhouse spanning a thousand (1,000) square feet to run around in. I delivered, then took it away almost as quickly as it materialized. I felt bad for him then and I feel bad for him now.
I continue to make promises, with every intention to deliver, but don’t know when I might be able to fulfill those promises.
We, Argos and I, developed a routine early. I’d wake up an hour or two early and take him out. We’d walk to the pet park, which was really just a plot of grass situated between a circling of buildings and a private drive. Some days we’d walk the perimeter of the apartment complex. I would then shower and prepare for work. On occasion, I would come home from work during my lunch break for a quick walk with him, though those quick walks became fewer and fewer as my responsibilities at the office became more and more. I would drive straight home after work to take him out again. I would change and consider whether or not to go out.
Most often, I decided to stay in with him. We’d watch a movie, maybe warm up ramen (which he would end up eating if I fell asleep early and didn’t finish) or order a pizza from Papa John’s or Pizza Hut – Domino’s didn’t deliver to my apartment. I was always more concerned about his food than my own. Does he have enough for tomorrow? Should I go out and get more now? Maybe I’ll go on my way home from work tomorrow? On my lunch maybe? When money got tight, there would be days when I would overlook my own meal for his.
I would spend most weekends with my family in Leander, TX – a suburb of Austin. It was an easy way to get laundry done without having to run back and forth to the on-site laundry facility at the apartment or a laundromat down the road, but also allowed me to have a reason to visit them, aside from just wanting to be there with them. I’d rather my reason be a selfish one, like “I need to do laundry,” than to be an overly sentimental one, like “I want to spend time with my family.” Besides, what else was I going to do around the apartment? Fall further into introspection? Who needs that? We all know what comes from that.
It took a few months before I was ready to start going out on my own in the city again. Even then, I spent most nights alone, regardless of where I went. I would stop by Halcyon, one of my old favorite spots. Usually sitting alone for an hour or two before throwing in the towel. A few nights standing and half watching whatever sports game was playing at Little Woodrow’s up north – I started going to the locations a few years prior because of the name “Woodrow” and its familiarity, but now the northern location wasn’t too far from The Park.
Netflix and Hulu quickly became one of my best friends. I wished so much to simply be a person who lived for only a couple of hours on a television screen and so many would love for my two-hour impersonation of someone amazing, or at the very least relatable in some way. Of course at the same time, I assumed, that so long as all the bills are paid at the end of the month, then I’m probably doing okay for now. Any expansion of my expenses would need to be met with an equal expansion in my income. For the time being, I was content just doing the minimum until things slowed down even further, sort of calmed down.
It didn’t take long for that to calmness to be ruined by high tides and waves. Who wants calmness and easy living anyway? We strive for drama – drama to some level. We need something to constantly be happening or we get bored. I don’t know that I believe that for a second, but it seems to hold some water. The routine is just that – Routine. I started to wonder if that is the true death of man – Routine. Constantly doing the same thing. Not that it’s boring, necessarily, but there is no surprise. There is no sporadic event. Wake up, walk dog, daily hygiene, work, come home, watch television, go to sleep, repeat.
So, I started sleeping on my couch instead.
I started passing out on my couch, instead.
I recognized this downward spiral I had begun to take, like a private airplane with engine failure. Mayday! Mayday! Smoke from the engine. Falling, nose first. The problem with this, is no one is close enough to help. If they were, they wouldn’t want to help. You’d take them down with you. You do take them down with you. I recognized this. I knew I nor would anyone would be able to help, ultimately. The best idea seemed to be to cut any ties that may pull others down the same spiral.
Even in defeat, I think we still want someone with us.
A hand to take hold of during our long fall to the bottom.
There used to be a painting hanging in Halcyon, a coffee shop in Austin on 4th and Lavaca – I’ve written about it on more than one occasion, either here or in other online or off-line journals. It was an adaptation of the now-well-known “The Falling Man” photograph. It was eerie. It reminded you of so much – the attacks on September 11th, the patriotism that followed, the civil liberties that citizens gave up to feel “safe,” but also a solace in what was to come. Part of me wishes I had purchased it. Part of me is glad I didn’t.
If it’s to hold our hand, to share our experience – I don’t know. We want a friend. Just one person who will be with us at the end. Obviously we care about them. We care about their feelings, but I think humans are incredibly selfish. And, by birth, I am a human. I recognize it, I try to push away basic instinct, but in the end, I’m human. It’s almost nearly a fact that people look out for themselves first. As much as we may try to put others before ourselves, like a soldier at war. We mistakenly become heroes. Survival. I wonder if it’s the same with the opposite – death. Suicide is most definitely not a selfish act – In fact, most who even consider suicide aren’t even thinking of themselves. But, I digress.
The Park saw my brother, my sister-in-law, my sister, and my parents. Toward the end of my stint there, it would come to know Nicole. It saw me at my worst and my best. It saw piles of trash as well as sparkling cleanliness. Its walls held me up as I would stumble into bed some nights. The electricity always worked – except for those two power outlets that were later fixed. The water was always hot. The drains were always clogged. Wait. That’s on the list of deltas. Regardless. It was consistent. I could bet on it. I knew it was always there and every day I purchased a bottle of Drano (yes, I know it’s bad for your pipes), I would think about Kurt Vonnegut.
It was a rollercoaster, The Park. Not so much the place itself, but the memories I have of the last year. I’m glad to say goodbye to it, but I’m also a bit sad to see it go. Not sad about the bad times, the destructive times, but what those times carried with them. Growth, overgrowth of grass and weeds. There is something about solemnness that makes you want more for yourself and others. At times, I wish everything could’ve slowed down. I wish I would have been able to overcome some things before other things happened. I can only blame myself.
In January of 2015, my company wanted me to move to Pennsylvania to implement a training department at its new location just outside of Philadelphia in Langhorne. I searched and found an apartment within the Philadelphia metropolitan area – I couldn’t see myself living there without a Philly zip code (Much like those moving to the Austin area). I can’t deny that it would have been a great career move within the company. A great career move for me.
I was a sentence away from driving the 1,700 miles from The Park to a new apartment in Northeast Philadelphia. The office I worked at in Pennsylvania was, approximately, another 20 miles away from the possible apartment. I worked so hard for that offer, to be recognized.
When I continued to think about the offer, the position… among other things…
Ultimately, I’d be stuck. Stuck in Pennsylvania. Stuck with that company. Within a year or two I would have hit my potential earnings ceiling and I’d be alone. I always wanted to move to the northeast, but I would be moving there in the wrong way. The northeast always seemed to be the place where I could always seek growth, personally and professionally. This would be neither. It would have tarnished the wondrous northeast. But, as always, that’s a different story, a different entry.
I started packing up my apartment, I was ready to leave The Park behind. I wasn’t ready to leave my family or Nicole. I sat and thought about it for what felt like years. I knew if I left and moved to Pennsylvania I’d find myself in a worse position – personally and financially. Once I had decided to stay, I still wanted to leave The Park. I had grown disgusted by the sight of the place.
I tried rearranging how it was set up a bit. I alleviated some of the stress, but it was still the same apartment. It was still only about 696 square feet. A “living room,” a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, a front door, and a patio.
Now, I could sit here and break down every month I lived at The Park, how it made me feel, what happened. But all you really need to know is that it was a place to put my stuff for a few months. It was like that line in Garden State,
“You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone….one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”
It was a shoddy attempt at being a bachelor, at being alone. It was a cushion for me to hit rock bottom. Even when I tried to hit rock bottom, people stayed around to cushion that fall. And, I thank them or doing that. I apologize that they had to be there with me, but I recognize it and appreciate them hanging on and helping me get back up.
They stuck around even after that.
In January of 2015, nearly a year after I had moved to The Park, my company asked me to leave it and move to Pennsylvania. I truly considered this. It was the best offer I had ever been given by an employer. They believed in me and my ability. They believed I could manage something on my own, nearly two thousand (2,000) miles away from my direct manager. They believed I had the capability to train a frontline support group of approximately 300+ employees across numerous lines of business.
And, I passed.
I packed the last of my belongings and moved about 5 miles west, closer into northeast Austin. I moved in with my fiancée.
Without knowing what opportunities I might have available to me, I stayed.
Every once in a while, I would wonder if this was the right decision. I would wonder how the Matthew in the other parallel universe was doing. Was moving a better decision in that universe?
Ultimately, I think I made the right decision.