2013: The Year When My Low Self-Esteem Rose to An All-Time High

Earlier tonight, I was listening to this week’s episode of CMD+Space, in which host Myke Hurley was chatting with guest Glenn Fleishman about, among other things, the Kickstarter project for his digital periodical, The Magazine. I tweeted that not only did I back Glenn’s project as a show of support for indie journalism, but also because The Magazine is, to me, rooted deeply in my heart with lots of warm and fuzzy feelings.

I’ve written about these feelings before, but it occurred to me tonight that my feelings for The Magazine are in reality a microcosm of the feelings I’ve felt so often over these last twelve months. That is to say, I had one hell of a 2013 — arguably the best year of my life, all things considered.

In the aggregate, it was. But the year didn’t start out so hot.

* * *

While it’s hard to imagine now, in mid-January I wrote this, in part:

I won’t deny that I do have frequent fantasies about what it’d be like to rub myself off.

Can you believe it? I actually wrote that fucking sentence. Crazy, I know.

Soon after writing said sentence, I ended up spending 8 hours in the cuckoo’s nest before being released under the provision that I seek (further) professional help (i.e., a therapist and/or meds). At the time, I lamented my day in a real life Ken Kesey novel, but in retrospect that experience probably was the best thing that could have happened to me. Up until then, I was in a very dark place, emotionally, and I really didn’t care what fucking happened to me. I was haunted by many demons — many of them I’ve been battling for years — and I just got to a point where I wanted to give up. I didn’t care anymore; I was tired of the never-ending battles over my psyche.

Ironically, it was during this dark period when Glenn and I were putting together “Re-Enabled” for The Magazine. In fact, the piece would run only two weeks after my stint in the looney bin. Looking back, considering the state of my mental well-being at the time, I find it rather amazing that i was able to craft something that would go on to garner such huge acclaim.

Suffice it to say: if I ended it all then, I couldn’t be where I am now.

* * *

The success of “Re-Enabled” was truly spectacular — that it got Apple’s attention was way beyond my wildest dreams — but I was still troubled. In the wake of the essay’s publishing, I was still working for the school district, sort of. I was actually on an unpaid leave of absence, extremely unhappy with many things about my job. I would ruminate over work issues day and night. It became so stressful that it culminated in me having a meltdown at work, in front of co-workers and students, that pushed me into the toughest choice I think I’ve ever had to make.

I quit.

After eleven years of dedicated, exceptional service, I left my position at the school district. It wasn’t making me happy any longer, so I made the difficult choice to tender my resignation to the only employer I’ve ever known in my adult life. The job was my life, and suddenly it was over.

I, of course, left to pursue where my real passion (and talent) lie: writing. It was a huge risk, professionally and economically, because (a) I was unsure if I could make a mark and sustain it as a writer; and (b) going from gainfully employed making decent money to self-employed earning pay sporadically was, financially, kind of nuts. Fortunately for me, my background as a disabled person and my expertise in early childhood development and special education, coupled with my writing abilities, made for a winning combination that has worked out nicely overall.

As I stated, it’s at times hard for me to believe the person I’ve become over this last year, and all that I’ve accomplished. I’ve grown a lot, trust me. Family and friends are quick to remind me that my success is of my own doing, that I ultimately was the one to put in the work. I know that to be true, but it’s hard to think about given the gloom-and-doom context I shared earlier. In any case, I don’t believe it to be arrogant nor inaccurate to proclaim that my historically low self-esteem is currently at an all-time high. And it feels fucking amazing.

* * *

Just because this year, on the whole, has been a benner one for me doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been without its pitfalls. Indeed, not only did I spend an entire day in a psychiatric hospital, where I was surrounded by a guy who had the ultimate delusion of grandeur by proclaiming himself to be God and another who warned everyone of the impending zombie apocalypse, I also faced other daunting challenges. First, my uncle (with whom I live), has over the last year fought a chronic foot infection caused by his diabetes. He’s been in the hospital five times in the last year, including his current stay. It’s been a real bitch constantly worrying about him, accompanying him to umpteenth doctor appointments, and running errands for him, all the while still trying to take care of my own self. I hate to admit it, but there have been many days when my needs have been sacrificed for my uncle’s benefit. There’s more that goes into my uncle’s circumstances but which aren’t appropriate to mention here, but needless to say they also have played a role in testing my resolve this year.

By far the biggest downer of 2013 for me was the loss of my mom. As of this writing, it’s been approximately six weeks since she passed, so the wound is still very fresh. The grieving process is no doubt a grueling one, and I’ve had the misfortune of going through it three times now. Her birthday was earlier this week and with the holiday season in full effect, this is a difficult time for me, my family, and everyone who knew her. I feel as though there’s a gaping whole in my being, like I’m somehow incomplete. Going about my life, because the universe says I have to, feels so different without her. I still feel her presence, see her face, and hear her voice. Every time I think about calling her or anticipating a call from her, only to realize neither are going to happen, a little piece of my heart breaks. I still have her contact information in my iPhone because I can’t bear to delete it. She meant so much to my life, and it’s almost impossible to reconcile the fact she isn’t around anymore. What’s most interesting about these trying times is that, to date, I have not once shed a single tear over her loss. That seems weird sometimes, but it is what it is. Like I said, grieving is a bitch.

On the bright side, however, I do take comfort in the fact mom was incredibly proud of the accolades and opportunities that I’ve been privileged to have since diving head-first into my freelancing gig. She was overjoyed when I told her about Apple featuring “Re-Enabled” in Hot News, and she’s brag about it to anyone who’d listen every chance she got. Even in her last days, she was proud of all my current accomplishments, and I know she’d be proud of what I’ve done since her passing and what I’ll do in the future.

All I can say is I miss her every second of every day, she’s loved, and FUCK CANCER.

* * *

Despite of living in the shadow of death, let’s review everything good that’s happened to me this year:

That’s not all. I made a ton of new friends and contacts in big places, had the privilege of having my work be featured in a few high-profile places, was asked to beta-test a good number of iOS apps, and, I hope, earned a good reputation as the go-to guy for Accessibility on iOS. No one’s perfect, but I like to think that I work hard and am easy to get along and work with. I’ve learned so much about professional writing, editing, Apple, the self-employed life, and so much more. It’s been an awesome experience building my Internet presence and working with so many people in the Apple community whom I’ve long respected. People like Glenn, Marco Arment, Lex Friedman, Josh Centers, Jim Dalrymple, Federico Viticci, and so on.

To all of those guys — and to anyone else reading this — thank you so much. You’re a huge reason why 2013 was so freaking amazing for me.

* * *

It’s fun for me to look back at my Day One archives, and read about everything, good and bad, that’s happened in my life over the past year. Starting a journal was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in recent memory, and I’ve logged every bit of this journey into Day One. (I’ve written specifically about the app here, here, and here.)

As we inch ever closer to completing yet another full orbit around the sun, I excitedly look towards 2014 with great enthusiasm. There are a couple things on the docket for January, and I hope to ride into the new year with the same momentum that’s carried me this far. My wish is to successfully continue doing what I’m doing, and for even better things happen this year than last.