Four years in one gulp

Looking back and moving forward.

Four years in one gulp
Section of Lungfish's Artificial Horizon cover

I don't think about it much anymore, but that's because I feel it all the time. Four years ago today, I was going in for surgery, unsure of what would happen on the other side. Now, if I was a smart person who cared about "content," I'd have written a post like this three years ago. Or perhaps, if I was even smarter, I'd have waited one more year to write about this. Fifth anniversaries feel a lot more consequential than fourth anniversaries. But I don't care about any of that.

Part of the reason I didn't do this sooner is because the timing just felt so incredibly off. In 2020, writing some introspective piece about the nature of death and life and yadda yadda when people were dying constantly would have felt, and this is me being incredibly generous here, utterly self-absorbed and deluded. As you may have noticed, things haven't improved in the time since then, so I started to feel like there was no real point in revisiting that specific period of my life. But I guess, now, I want to.

Like so many things I've written over the past 20 years, I have an incredibly hard time going back to those pieces. This is true of almost all of the first-person essays I've written. It's a form that can be incredibly thoughtful and moving, but it also runs the risk of being so self-interested that all you can do is make the jerk-off motion and roll your eyes while you read it. But here I am, doing exactly that, again.

A thing I've said to people a lot over the years when they ask about my whole deal is that it felt a lot like those first few months of the pandemic. There was a lot of fear, unease, and uncertainty. Even more than all of that, though, was that sense that you just couldn't do anything. That feeling of being trapped, with zero options or possibility for things to change, the complete lack of autonomy, that's what it felt like when I was sick. I'm not deranged enough to say that I'm glad we all went through that so I could more easily relate this story to people, but it is nice to have some shorthand instead of having to explain those abstractions to people while they stare at me and politely nod.

When I say that I don't think about that time in my life much, I'm not being facetious, but that's because I think the reminders of it have just become baked into my life in ways I couldn't have anticipated. To pick the most glaringly obvious one, the scar on my neck is still more prominent than they said it would be by this point in time. That's fine with me, I've learned to treat it like any of the other changes I've willingly put into my skin over the years, but it is kind of funny to catch a glimpse of it sometimes. It's like, "Oh yeah, that whole thing."

A few months back, a friend asked me if I felt like I was living on borrowed time. I said yes, but that's not exactly right. If I was a bit sharper in that moment, I could have thrown out that it feels more like hitting the bonus level on a pinball machine. Now, I've never been particularly good at pinball, so I've always expected that when that third ball goes down the chute, that's it; It's over. I tried, failed, and I'm all out of quarters. But sometimes, just as I think I'm done, the machines start whirring and whizzing, and then, whoosh, there's another ball. That's really what I feel like at this point in my life. I thought I'd reached the end, and I'd made peace with it. Maybe it wasn't the most impressive run, I didn't set any high scores, but I tried my best and was content with the outcome. But now here I am. I've launched that shiny, metal ball and I'm playing it out. Logically, I know it's going to find its way down that same path the others did, but that's none of my concern. I'm taking in all the lights and sounds, really experiencing them in a way I hadn't that first time through. I never thought I'd see them again, but now they're here. I'm just doing my best not to let them go to waste.

To get incredibly meta for a second, a thing that's very funny about having my tumor era documented heavily here is that I think I'm always losing subscribers to this newsletter who joined only to follow that saga. I get it, that type of writing is incredibly different from my musings on music and running interviews with people I admire who work in that space. I was acutely aware of this when I started publishing newsletters that weren't about my health, and I think, even three years later, I still feel some need to serve that audience even though, in doing so, I think I'd feel incredibly gross about it.

I've had people tell me over the years that I should focus more on that type of "content" and I know that, probably, writing those kinds of blogs, I'd be a lot more successful than I am now. But that's also now what I want to do with my life. It'd feel mighty ghoulish to spend my time talking to folks going through illnesses and insurance debts all for the sake of building a larger subscriber base. It'd feel exploitive and opportunistic, and though I'm sure I could have found something revelatory by doing that, I'm ultimately glad I didn't. That said, if you are someone experiencing those issues and ever need someone to talk to, I'd be more than happy to listen.

So, thank you for being here. However you came to Former Clarity, your patronage is greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoy this. Whatever it ends up being.