Tag Archives: millennials

Reading my teenage blog: “If I Had One Wish (Prom 2004)”

In the midst of the pandemic, proms are being cancelled left, right, and centre. Thinking of all the high school seniors who are missing out on their senior proms had me thinking about my own. I feel bad for these kids, because for many of them prom was something they have been looking forward to for a long time, perhaps years.

Prom is one of those things that, before about 10 or 20 years ago, was virtually unheard of in the UK, another imported American tradition many people (especially over the age of 40) sneer at, like Trick-or-Treat and blonde idiots with bad haircuts in charge of governments.

In America, though, prom is a big deal. While the advent of the “promposal” and attending viral videos is a distinctly Gen Z phenomenon, even for a middle-aged Millennial like me, prom was accompanied by much anticipation and excitement. It’s a rite-of-passage, the last chaste high school event but also the first adult date. Restaurant reservations are made. Limousines are hired. After-parties are planned (though most adults would cringe at this notion, my experience was there was always somewhere to booze after prom). It is hyped, most notably in films like American Pie, as the most magical night of adolescence, the climax (in the case of American Pie, literally) of four years of high school.

As a young gay man in 2004, prom was more a chore than anything. I actually remember not wanting to go to my senior prom because the whole thing seemed tedious, at best. My then-boyfriend, who lived on the other side of the state and was about 5 years older than me at the time, had no desire to go – for the obvious reasons of age, but also because 2004 was still a time when a boy taking another boy to the prom was controversial and often generated national headlines. I had a friend (whom in retrospect was no friend at all) who called me selfish for even entertaining the idea considering the controversy it would generate. Going stag to my own senior prom seemed pointless, especially as I’d done the whole prom thing twice before (sophomore year as the date of a senior; junior year in my own right). I knew what to expect and honestly didn’t want to be arsed about it.

But, I went, because I was convinced by friends, family, and society that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t. Considering how rarely I think of high school, and how in the grand scheme of my life those years feel more like a footnote or a prologue than anything, I doubt I would have. As it turns out, though–and as you’ll see in the entry below–my senior prom turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of my life, though not for the right reasons.

So here we go, an entry from my teenage blog from the day after my senior prom. As always, I have not read this before pasting it into this blog and will react as I read.


25 April 2004

My senior prom was last night, and it proved to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I did the typical prom stuff – pictures, dinner, dance, and party afterwards – and of course, being Skylar Ashton Gates, added a flare of drama to each of them. However, by the time I had left the dance floor and was heading home to change, I couldn’t help but to smile. “It’s the most perfect night,” I told Kalpana as I was leaving. Later on that night, as I was being rolled in for x-rays, I would admit that I may have spoken a bit too soon.

A couple things to begin with. This blog came after I’d deleted my original blog (which the first few essays in this series came from) and started on another website. In doing so, I began writing under a pen name – Skylar Gates, the “Skylar” bit which survives to this day. That’s right, reader – Skylar isn’t my legal name, though for the past 16 years most people have called me Skylar. “Kalpana” is also a psuedonym for a friend of mine, as I began using fake names for everyone in 2003 in order to protect their privacy and to avoid another “scandal” like the one that erupted when my original teenage blog was discovered by students and school administration early in my senior year. Turns out being the early 00s version of Redneck Gossip Girl had consequences. That’s another story though.

Prom 2004

The phone rang at about 8:30 yesterday morning, and I reluctantly rolled over to pick it up.

I now think of 8:30 AM as “sleeping in,” so, fuck you 18-year-old Skylar.

“What?” I asked.
“Morning, sunshine!” Safie said brightly.
“What are you doing up so early?”
“Why are you still in bed? It’s prom day!”
“Ugh, I forgot about that,” I laughed.
“Are you still going with me and Kalpana to get our hair and nails done?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I’m going with you tonight though.”
“Okay,” she said. “Meet us at school at about 5:00 for pictures.”
“Will do,” I yawned, and hung up.

So, this was also the time I put dialogue in my blog. Most of the conversations were as close to verbatim as I could remember them, and “morning, sunshine!” is definitely something ‘Safie’ would say. In fact, ‘Safie’ follows me on Twitter and may well recognise herself in this.

I slept until about 1:00, when I got up and played online for a couple of hours, just talking to people and surfing [REDACTED]. After that I took a nap until 4:00, when I got up and fixed my hair and all that jazz. I wanted to wear my hair up, but I couldn’t get it to stand right, so finally I just put it down in a “fuck it” type deal. It actually didn’t look too bad. Even people who hate my hair down were saying it looked good. =)

“I slept until about 1:00.” Seriously, fuck you teenage Skylar.

Hair. You can see from the picture accompanying this blog that there is very little I could do with hair that short. I have always preferred my hair longer, even though a lot of people have told me through the years that they prefer me with shorter hair, or a pompadour – none more so than my grandfather, who to this day still says at least twice a week that he wants to cut my hair. He disapproves of men having long hair. (He also disapproves of men wearing shorts, or at least he did when I was in high school.) My hair right now is not quite shoulder-length, but I want it to get there.

One thing I distinctly remember about high school, though, is fighting against rigid gender norms – fighting with myself as much as anyone. I wanted my hair long, and I would have loved to have gotten my hair done and my nails done, too. However, gender was strictly enforced in my family and in my town. My father and grandfather both have very different recollections of my childhood than I do. A couple years back my father insisted I would have been allowed to cheerlead as a child if I wanted. I guess I’ll never know because I never asked, but only because my father made it very clear in things he said about the one boy cheerleader there was, about me sleeping with stuffed animals, about my general timidity and lack of interest in “boy things” that it would not be allowed. This isn’t meant to insult my father – like I said, he remembers this differently and surely would have his own explanation – but to simply convey my experiences.

In high school I had started to rebel against this, but only just. I remember wanting to wear makeup as far back as high school, but I dare not ask. I picked my battles. Sometimes I did get my hair coloured, though never as elaborately as I would have liked. It was also never as long as I would have liked. Being gay was rebellious enough, I calculated; best not push things.

There were other things, too. One of the first things I did when I moved to college, though, was buy some concealer. I still remember my friend Laura sitting in my freshman dorm room teaching me how to apply makeup. It was liberating.  

I redacted the name of the website I blogged on, just to further ensure my privacy.

So at 5:00 I got to school, passed Mandy but didn’t realize it was her because she had a new car, and went inside. On my way in Cyndi stopped me, helped me fix my tie, and we talked for a few minutes before her mom took a picture of us. Got inside and found Kalpana, Ashley-Rose and Donnie, Britannia, anda bunch of other people. Just sat around before taking my pictures and waiting for Safie and Shawn to get there. It took them forever to get there, and when they did we went ahead and headed to Middlesboro to eat.

Here we’re getting into some of the names I don’t remember. I know who Kalpana, Ashley-Rose, and Britannia are. I believe I know who Cyndi is. I am less sure on Mandy (she might simply be my friend Mandi, but I’d need further context). Safie and Shawn I know. But Donnie? Who the fuck is Donnie?

I tried to find one of those horrid official portriats they do at prom, with the cheesy, cheap backdrop, but I couldn’t. I know we have some, but I can’t be bothered to dig one out when I have a photo album of Kodak moments handy. So you get one of those.

Going to Middlesboro to eat, for me, was a big deal. I lived in one of the most rural areas east of the Mississippi. Stinnett, Kentucky is 7 miles outside Hyden, Kentucky – population 375ish and the only town in Leslie County. It was about 30 miles to Hazard or Harlan, the two cities with the nearest McDonald’s and Wal-Marts. Middlesboro was about an hour away on windy, steep, and narrow mountain roads. The only time I went to Middlesboro was when we were driving through to visit family in Tennessee (where I now live) or for prom. If I recall, we ate at Ryan’s Steakhouse – a chain that I believe no longer exists.

On the way over there we just talked and blasted the stero with “Holidae Inn” and all of these other rap songs. Kept passing dead snakes in the road, which sucked, and just laughed and had a good time. We talked about people we knew, but nothing really bad, and discussed who we thought would win prom king and queen. Safie, Kalpana, and I were all already on prom court, but we weren’t sure who would win. We all put our money on Brighton and Britannia and talked about how some people thought they got back together just for prom, and Kalpana started talking about how Brighton and I used to flirt in geometry all the time last year. We started talking about that day last year when Britannia balled Brighton out because he was talking to me and not her. Safie and Kalpana were both there, and I mean… wow, fun times in geometry, lol.

Hated snakes then. Hate snakes now. It didn’t suck they were dead; it sucked I had to see them. Using “prom court” loosely here. We didn’t have a prom court, per se. We had people who were on the ballot for king and queen. I suppose that is what I considered “prom court.” OH MY GOD I REMEMBER EVERYTHING THINKING BRIGHTON AND BRITANNIA GOT BACK TOGETHER JUST FOR PROM! Literally everyone thought that it was a publicity stunt. We were so jaded.

That geometry class junior year was lit. There were very few of us in it, the teacher was chill as fuck, so we mostly just talked the entire time. Brighton would probably not call it flirting with me, and even I remember being unsure it rose to the level of flirting – I think he was just being polite? But this was 2004 in southeastern Kentucky. If you were a guy and you talked to the openly gay guy without calling him a fag, you were flirting. Also, Britannia had a reason to be a little upset about Brighton flirting with me (I had a massive crush on him which I thought was a secret but apparently was not). Early in my senior year she and I got into a massive argument over it in the middle of the school. “It’s just because you’re in love with my boyfriend!” she screamed. Y’all… you could have heard a pin drop in that hallway. It was like something out of a tv show. (My response was “fuck you,” and then I stormed off, because, well, she wasn’t wrong. Okay, ‘love’ might have been strong, but I fancied him.)

Got to Ryan’s and thought we’d have to wait forever, because the crowd was fucking huge. We were the only prom people there (everybody else went to London, Hazard, and Harlan), and the crowd proved to be smaller than we thought, because we were seated in no time.

Ryan’s is a steakhouse, not a boy’s house. London is a town in Kentucky, not my beloved London. 

So our waiter came up to us and started taking orders for soda. Let me tell you, he was so fucking cute it isn’t even funny! I mean, I wanted this boy so badly you just don’t even know. His name was Josh, he looked about my age, with really pretty brown eyes and short brown hair. He had the cutest little ass, lol. Anyway, so the entire night I was sitting there flirting with the waiter, and Safie and I were trying to figure out if he’s gay or not.

“God, it doesn’t matter,” I sighed. “That boy is too hot to be waiting tables.”
“Well what the fuck do you expect him to do?” Safie asked. “Be on the table?”
“Wouldn’t hurt,” I smiled devilishly.
“You’re such a little whore,” she laughed.

I can’t remember what the waiter looked like, but I do remember that he was ridiculously good looking. This Sex and the City talk is a bit much, though. Feels like it wouldn’t fly in 2020, but I can’t decide if that’s because I’m older or because society has progressed past ojectifying the hot waiter.

I got up to go get some fruit (ended up getting nothing but strawberries), and when I came back there were these women telling Safie and Kalpana how pretty they were.

“Well you’re just so beautiful,” they said.
“Well thank you!” I beamed. The women laughed and Safie hung her head as they walked away.
“They weren’t talking to you, dipshit,” she said.
“Well they could have been,” I laughed.

Good comic timing, teenage Skylar

A few minutes later we were talking about how painfully obvious it is that I’m gay.

“I suppose it is pretty obvious,” I laughed.
“Well, finally!” Safie screamed.
“We’ve been telling you that forever,” Kalpana said.
“I dunno though. Shawn,” I turned to Safie’s boyfriend, “did you know I was gay when you met me?”
“Well,” he laughed, blushing. “Uh… not until you opened your mouth.”
“Oh,” I laughed. “Well then it’s settled. I’ll be a mute straight guy.”

It’s funny, because some years later, when I first met the guys in the fraternity which I would end up hanging out with (but never pledging) in college, they said they had no idea I was gay. I wonder how much of this was just Eastern Kentucky thinking anyone who didn’t fit a narrow definition of masculinity was gay? I’ve always kind of thought I read gay, and I’ve always been fine with that – I mean, I am gay, so whatever – but it’s interesting how people percieve me. Obviously online it’s a bit different, but in person I wonder. I never think to ask because, why would I? 

We finished and I left Josh (who I kept flirting with throughout dinner but never really decided if he was gay or not) a $5 tip before walking out. On the suggestion book I wrote “Give Josh a raise!” and we walked out.

“Wait,” I said. “I’ve gotta pee. I’ll be right back.”
“I’m going to leave you,” Safie warned.
“Oh hush,” I said.

I ran back in and walked up to the greeter. “Do you have a pen?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she smiled. I quickly scribbled down my phone number and wrote my name under it.
“Give this to Josh,” I said.
“Okay,” she laughed, and I ran back out.

Ugh this is so cringey. On the one hand, giving a waiter your number hardly makes you Kevin Spacey. But there’s something about this that just rubs me the wrong way now. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing something like this, not least because of how awkward I think it would make him feel. It actually reminds me of the hot waiter at Reno, when I lived in Chicago. This was about 2013. I was a regular, and he was hot but also very sweet. I was smitten. My friends tried to get me to make a move, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it while he was working. I remember thinking that was wildly inappropriate. I always hoped I’d run into him somewhere else in the city, but I never did – except when he changed jobs and ended up working at another place I went, albeit less frequently.

On the way home we jammed some more hiphop and just gossiped like usual. I don’t really remember what we talked about, but the hour back to Hyden passed in no time, and before you knew it we were walking into the prom. I voted before going in, of course for myself. My prom queen vote went to somebody, but I don’t know who. I just closed my eyes and let my pencil fall on a line, and checked the box next to it. Whoever got my vote can thank me later, lol.

There were a couple friends who read my blog, even after “the scandal,” so I wonder if my prom queen vote really did go to a random person or if I just said that. I honestly can’t remember.
So I got in and just mingled, talking to Kendall, Cordelia, and everybody for a while. I danced for a few minutes with Bethany, did the Cha Cha Slide, and went out to talk to Mandy about her new car (which is gorgeous) and all of that jazz. I walked into the commons and found Kendall, talked to her about the waiter for a few minutes and walked back out to talk to Britannia.

THE CHA CHA SLIDE!

“So, how are you tonight, your highness?” I asked.
“Huh?” she looked at me, puzzled.
“Oh cut the shit,” I laughed. “You know you and Brighton will win. You can be all humble around the others, but with me… let your ego soar.”
“No we won’t,” she said. “We would have if you wouldn’t have broken up, but now I don’t know.”
“Hmm… I still don’t know,” I said. “Good luck.”
“Thanks. You too,” she smiled.
“Thanks,” I smiled back, and walked off.

I am assuming “we sould have if you wouldn’t have broken up…” is a typo, and the “you” should read “we.” Britannia and I ended up parting as friends, despite a couple massive public rows along the way.

Hung out a while longer, talked to Oliver and Emily and decided to stay long enough for the crowning and then bail with them to go to a party or something, and danced some more. Cordelia and I talked about how far we’d come this year and how if you’d have told us in October that we’d be taking a picture at prom together we’d both have laughed, and that’s about it. They had this wierd little contest where the straight guys got up and sucked down the juice from a baby bottle (Tim won) and then it was time for the crowning.

Coredelia was part of “the scandal.” It really is remarkable that she and I made up as quickly as we did, because I legit hated her for a while. That whole thing was way overblown. Whatever.

“And your 2004 Leslie County High School Prom Queen is…” the DJ paused for what seemed forever. “Kendall Williams!”

Yay!

I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed before. I mean, I was so fucking pumped. My best friend, the insecure head cheerleader who was convinced everybody hated her for one reason or another, was our prom queen. I swear to you I about cried. When she reads this she’ll probably think I’m full of shit, but I was so fucking excited that you just don’t even know. I knew that would make Aram king, but for some reason I didn’t care. I mean I really didn’t. Aram did win king, and I was actually happy for them both. Even though they bailed right after that.

“Kendall” is absolutely one of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met. Reading this put a big smile on my face. I haven’t talked to her in years, but she was such a lovely person and really was one of my best friends in high school. 16 years later, I’m still chuffed for her.

Do they do Prom King and Queen in the UK? I don’t think they do. Basically it’s a popularity contest. The Prom King is often just the most popular boy, while the Prom Queen is just the most popular girl. They get flimsy little crowns and bragging rights at high school reunions, but beyond that, not much. It is considered an honour, though, and sometimes you’ll hear people mention it as a “fun fact” about themselves years later, though most people over the age of 20 know that what you did in high school doesn’t matter, not even to the people you went to high school with.

They had the court dance, and being one of the only ones on court that didn’t have a date, I danced with Kalpana. On one side of me was Amy and Samuel, on the Mandy and Blake, and on another was Greenlee and Stephan. All around me my best friends were, and I think it sunk in to all of us right then that we were graduating in a month. Mandy and I smiled at each other and mouthed one thing – “2004” – to each other. Amy winked at me, and I swear I thought I saw a tear in her eye. Safie and Shawn danced slowly, and Greenlee looked so beautiful. I thought Britannia was crying in Brighton’s arms, but I’m not sure. I know that, realizing that we were graduating and that I was leaving them all, I almost began crying. I just leaned my head on Kalpana’s shoulder and sighed.

What is this “court dance?” I don’t remember that being a thing. I’m guessing it was the first dance of the prom king and queen? Okay, I know who Mandy was/is now. 

“I can’t believe this is our senior prom,” I sighed.
“I know. We’ve come a long way.”
“Yeah, we have,” I said. “We haven’t killed each other. It’s a miracle.”
“I don’t know. You and Britannia came close a few times.”
“But we emerged to be the best of friends,” I smiled. “I’m really going to miss everybody.”
“Me too,” she sighed. “me too.”

Narrator: he did not miss everybody. There are some of them I genuinely do miss, but I haven’t remained close with anyone from high school. There are some whom I talk to on social media from time to time, but the truth is once I graduated I left town and never looked back. It has been probably 12 or 13 years since I even stepped foot in my hometown. Once my grandparents left, I had no reason to go back. Weirdly, I had planned on visiting this summer. I now only live about 2 hours from there, so it seemed like an easy trip to make. The pandemic has probably killed any hope of that, though.

I left right after that, came home and changed, gave Oliver some of my clothes to wear, and headed out. While there I put on a couple of neclaces. One was my brown A&F one I bought in Daytona with Amy. The other was my St. Sebastian neclace.

“What’s that one?” Oliver asked.
“It’s my St. Sebastian neclace,” I said. “He looks out for me and keeps me safe.”
“Riiiiiiiight,” he said. “You wear too many neclaces.”

The story of my Saint Sebastian necklace is actually really neat. There was a website called Saints for Sinners, which produced hand-painted necklaces with various saints on them. Somehow I discovered this website in 2001 or 2002 and sent an e-mail to the owner, telling her or him how much I loved their artistry and how, as soon as I had a debit card of my own, I would order one. They responded by asking for my address and which saint I wanted. From the moment it arrived I wore Saint Sebastian around my neck daily – until the night of my senior prom. You’ll see why.

We left and went up to “Party Boy’s” house first, but there was no party, so we just cruised around for a while before taking Emily home. The entire night I was telling Oliver to slow down, because he drives like he’s flying a plane. Emily freaked out on me at one point, telling me to stop being a “back-seat driver,” but I didn’t care. It had rained during prom, so it was extra slick, and on the curvy roads of southeastern Kentucky, I know that wet curves equal almost certain death. Thoughts of Bridget hydroplaning into that bus were constantly on my mind, and I tried explaining to Emily and Oliver why I was so paranoid, but they didn’t seem to understand.

I don’t remember who Party Boy is. I don’t remember who Emily is, either. I do remember Oliver driving like a goddamned maniac though. And I do remember poor Bridget, may she rest in peace. 

Drove back towards my house, and he thought he saw his dad sitting in the little parking lot type deal right before you turn up my hollow. The truck pulled out when we passed, and freaking out because his dad fucking hates me and would probably kill me if he caught me with Oliver, we sped down the mountain and turned up the road towards Micki’s house. We got up there and drove for a while before, convinced we’d outrun the truck, turned around. On our way back I was still a bit nervous, but I was ready to get home.

Micki and her sister, Tosha (known as Micki-Tick and Tosha-Tick, though I only ever called Tosha ‘Tick’) threw some kick-ass parties. I went there for a little bit after my sophomore prom and it was one of the best nights of my high school career.

“Oliver, slow down,” I said. Things got fuzzy. I felt us leaving the road. I heard the trees scratching the door. The windsheild busted. Things to hazy, like you were looking at a really bad picture taken on a digital camera. We crashed into a tree. I was jerked forward, the airbags rushing out, my seastbelt keeping me restrained. I saw my dad and stepmom getting married, my first day of kindergarten, a field trip I took in fourth grade, winning the geography bee in seventh grade, [redacted] meeting Sarah and Shaun, breaking up with Benji, [redacted] coming out to my dad, moving to Kentucky, meeting Ryan, meeting my birthmother, Bridget’s funeral, my first class with Chem, fighting with Britannia, hugging Kendall, playing with Angelica, Jacob, Grandmother, and Grandfather in the snow around Christmas, kissing Adam at Planet Hollywood, winning first place at FBLA state conference, and dancing at my senior prom. I seriously thought I was about to die.

Okay, so this requires some explanation. To begin with, we did have a car accident, and it was a pretty bad one. The car was totalled, and if we hadn’t hit that tree we would have careened off the side of a mountain. Beyond that, if we hadn’t hit the tree exactly where we did – almost exactly the middle of the car – one or both of us would likely have been killed. It was terrifying. That being said, I do not remember my life literally flashing before my eyes. I am pretty sure I included that for dramatic effect. The entire time I was reading this I rolled my eyes. I was such a fucking drama queen. [I redacted two memories that require context to be included responsibly, and it would be too distracting and time-consuming to provide that context in this essay.]

Things really did slow down, though. I do remember that the accident appeared to happen in slow motion, that I couldn’t quite process what was happening. It’s weird, because I remember the accident, but only in flashes and bits, not as one continuous memory. That was the case from the beginning. I just remember that it felt like we travelled through brush and trees for minutes when in reality it couldn’t have been more than a couple seconds, at most, from the time we left the road to when we crashed into the tree.

My brown vintage A&F flipflops flew off my feet, and the car stopped, smoking. I felt glass in my face, and went to wipe it off. I looked at my hands and ghasped. They were covered with blood.

“Oh my God,” Oliver said. “Oh my God.”
“Just get out of the car,” I said. He climbed out and I discovered my door was stuck, so I climbed over the driver’s side and got out. I cut my foot on some glass as I did.
“I’m so sorry!” he cried, hugging me. “I’m so sorry, Skylar.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m alive. It’s fine.”

I have long understood as a truth about myself that while I’m quite panicky and high-strung most of the time, I am great in an emergency. I freak out very easily, and anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you that. HOWEVER, in a crisis, I am amazingly calm and level-headed without even trying. When shit gets real I somehow snap out of my neurosis and into Superman mode. I’m not talking like “oh God, we’re not going to meet this deadline” crisis, but “oh shit, the house is on fire and we’re trapped” crisis. 

A car passed us up going towards the main road. Another one came and stopped. Blaine rolled down his window, and I looked over at him and Alicia.

“Oh my God,” she screamed. “What the fuck happened?!”
“I wrecked,” Oliver said.
“Well I can see that,” she said. “Is everybody okay?”
“We’re alive,” he said.
“Can you get service on your phone?” I asked.

She tried but couldn’t. It wasn’t a minute later that Whitney, Ryan’s cousin and an aquaintance of mine, pulled up. I knew I was right near Stephan’s house, so I was going to walk down there, but instead Whitney took me down to the hospital.

“You can take me home,” I said.
“No, I think you better go to the hospital,” she said.
“I’m alright,” I said, shaking.
“Right. Where do you hurt?” she asked.
“My neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee,” I said. “All on the right side.”
“You look awful,” she said. “It’s goign to freak you out when you see yourself. But I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks.”
“Thank you so much for this,” I said. “I’m sorry if you had any plans.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” she smiled. “I’d have done it anyway. So what happened?”
“I don’t know. He lost control, I guess.”
“Were you all drinking?”
“No,” I said. “We’re both sober. That’s what’s sad.”

“Were you drinking” is a fair question, but I got asked it so many times that night that it really began to annoy the fuck out of me. I was always very honest: no, we had not been drinking, but the point was to find somewhere to drink. I wouldn’t have gotten in the car with Oliver had he been drinking (those poor decisions would be made in college), but I, at least, planned on getting drunk off my tits.

Got to the hospital, checked in, and Whitney stayed with me for a long time. They took me back, laid me down in a room, put a neck brace on me, and had me give verbal consent for a few things before Grandmother got there. (I called her right away, but had told her it wasn’t that bad.) The doctor came in and looked at me, and he asked me how I was doing.

“Well, I’m alive,” I said. “I’d like to stay that way, too.”
“I can imagine,” he giggled.
“I’m not going to die, am I?”
“No,” he said. “I think you’ll be alright. But, we’ll be overly cautious here. Just to make sure, we’ll keep you for a few hours. Something might be wrong, but we’re not sure.”

Again, here is an example of me being dramatic. I was scared, that is no lie, but I was 99% sure as soon as I climbed off that mountain and back onto the road that I was going to survive. Even when I saw my face – and it was incredibly bloody – I knew the worst I would endure is some minor scarring. The cuts were mostly superficial (like nicking yourself shaving, but on your entire face) and while I was sore, I could move fairly easily. I did have some shoulder injuries, but they were minor in the grand scheme of things. I knew I wasn’t going to die.

Grandmother got there and ran into the room, not five minutes after Whitney had left. She started freaking right away.

“You told me it wasn’t that bad!” she screamed.
“It’s not,” I smiled. “I’m alright. I’m alive, aren’t I?”
“Looks like barely,” she sighed. “I’m going to go call your grandfather.”
“Alright,” I said. “Just hurry, because I don’t want to be alone.”

It’s impossible to say why I didn’t want to be alone – was I scared? was I bored? was it both? – but I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face when she saw me. She was terrified. By that point I knew I was fine, just sore and cut to pieces. 

They took me back for x-rays, a CAT scan, and all that jazz, and I just laid there for a while. This girl, Rachel, who was Bridget’s cousin, was in the bed next to me. She’d gotten into a fight or something and had to go in. We talked for a while about high school, teachers we both knew and all that stuff, and she helped me put my bed up so I could see people coming in and out of the room. Oliver’s mom came in after a couple of hours and checked on me, which I thought was nice, considering she hates me, and she stayed with me for a little bit while Oliver was being examined.

Oliver’s mom was, at the time, a cruel and homophobic woman. I should point out at this juncture that Oliver was someone who had harassed me for much of high school but come out of the closet my senior year. We became friends, but only friends. People suspected we were dating, but we never did. I just wasn’t interested in him like that.

My x-rays and everything came back normal, so they let me go home after giving me four stitches in my lower lip and bandaging my head, which has a huge gash in it. They said I’d be sore for a while, but that’s about it. The doctor asked if I wanted off of school on Monday, and I told him no.

I still have a scar below my lower lip from this accident.

“I have to go,” I said. “I’ve got portfolios to work on and stuff.”
“You really should take a couple days off,” he said.
“Neh, I’ll be alright,” I smiled.

Now? “Hell yeah, give me all the time off work, please and thank you.”

I came home, washed my face, took a bath (I can’t wash my hair until my gashed forehead scabs, which should be tonight according to the nurse, and I can’t get my stitches wet), and went to bed, ending prom 2004.

I forgot about this. The forehead gash was bad, and big, but didn’t leave a scar as far as I’m aware. Oh, yes it did. I just looked in the mirror. At least, I think that’s a scar from this accident. Anyway, if it did it’s barely noticable, unlike my lip scar which is much more prominent (though I doubt most people notice it).

Go fucking figure, eh? The one prom I actually remember and I remember being in the hospital. The one prom I don’t drink at and I get in an accident. The night that had been perfect ends in hell. Yeah, I could sit here and tell you that prom 2004 sucked, but it didn’t. I met a cute waiter, had fun with my friends, danced my ass off, saw my best friend being crowned queen, and lived through an accident that I’m very lucky didn’t kill me. I truly believe St. Sebastian was watching over me tonight, and that because of him and God I survived. I’m just so thankful that I’m alive and no paralyzed, and that Oliver is okay too. Sure, it sucks being all banged up and nasty looking, but I suppose it really is better than the alternative, eh? Besides, at least being alive my wounds can heal. Could you imagine if I’d had died and they had an open casket, and this was how people remembered me? Oh, I’d be looking up and crying, screaming “SHUT THE DAMN CASKET!” Yes, at least now they’ll heal. And I can say that I ended my senior prom with a bang. =D

“I’d be looking up and crying, screaming…” LOL I see what you did there, baby Skylar. Clever. (Get it, I’m in Hell?)

That accident was bad, but it could have been so, so much worse. When I think of the friends I’ve lost in auto accidents, including Jasmine who died two months after this entry, I consider myself very lucky.

It’s interesting to see how “magical” I thought my prom night was in this blog, because all these years later I don’t remember it as being anything special. I wonder whether this was for dramatic effect – to juxtapose a happy night with the tragic ending – or if I really thought prom was great when I wrote this? I actually think it’s more the former. Towards the end of my senior year, I remember feeling that I wasn’t feeling enough. I thought I should be nostalgic and upset and maudlin and emotional about leaving, and so I put on a affectation of such. In reality, I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there. I’ve always tended towards sentimentalism, so it is possible – probable, even – that this is an early example of that in my writing. I simply can’t be sure.

To any current high school seniors reading this, though, let me be clear that in hindsight my senior prom sucked and I really don’t remember anything from the night other than the accident. I rarely think about it. My guess is that unless you’re prom queen or king, or you get engaged (like one couple did at mine – hey, it’s the south), you probably won’t think much of yours either. It’s fun at the time, but frankly it’s quite forgetable. College – college is where the real fun lies. College is where the memories you truly cherish will be made.

Finally, it doesn’t get a mention in this blog, perhaps because I didn’t realize it at the time of writing, but I lost my Saint Sebastian necklace that night. I never saw it again. I assume it got lost in the accident. I still think, though, that Saint Sebastian was there to protect me that night, and that he went to someone else who needed him afterward.

How was your own prom? How did you get there? What did you wear? Who did you take? Where did you eat? What was your prom theme and your prom song? (Ours, if I recall, was “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. The theme I think was “If I had one wish,” hence the title of this blog, though what the hell that means is anyone’s guess.) Let me know your prom memories in the comments below!

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Harry and Meghan quit their shitty job, and you should too

Harry and Meghan are quitting the royal family, and I couldn’t be happier for them. In a statement released earlier today, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced plans to “step back” from royal duties this year, splitting time between the UK and North America while working “to become financially independent.” In other words, they’re peacing out.

It’s hard to blame them given the torrent of abuse – a lot of it racist and misogynistic – the couple has received since marrying in 2018. Everything from their travel arrangements to the way Meghan holds her baby has been criticized by the tabloids and the Twitterati. The pressure of being constantly—and often unfairly—scrutinized was bound to take a toll. The Sussexes had to weigh whether that toll was worth it and, in the end, decided it wasn’t.

Well done, them. In deciding that the unrealistic expectations set by those around them—from the press to “the firm” (as the Crown is known within Buckingham Palace) to trolls on social media—was not worth the hassle, Meghan and Harry have set an example for people around the world who are fed up with their miserable, high-pressure, low-reward jobs.

It’s a timely lesson in priorities and self-care. A 2018 Gallup poll found that more Americans are unhappy at work than at any time on record. Younger people, especially, are dissatisfied with their jobs. More than 70% of Millennials report they are not engaged at their jobs due to factors ranging from unrealistic expectations set by management to a lack of new opportunities and career advancement.

The stresses of being expected to be able to finish multiple complicated projects quickly and proficiently will eventually catch up with you. This is especially true when you’re making less than what their parents made at similar jobs and, thanks to smartphones, are expected to be reachable at all hours of the day.  When you an never escape the pressure, the pressure can become unbearable.

It’s a phenomenon which Buzzfeed called “Millennial burnout,” and it’s one I’m all too familiar with. I spent eight years working in the mortgage industry, in a job CNN once included in list of “stressful jobs that pay badly.” The job often involved long hours, intense pressure, and frankly very poor compensation. After the company I was working for decided to up the stakes by enforcing an unreasonable turnaround time, I decided enough was enough and quit.

That was in September of last year. Four months later, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m building a career as a freelance writer while working on my first novel. I’ve lost 20 pounds in two months because I’m not eating crap at my desk and drinking to calm the anxiety of being expected to close a loan in fifteen days. I’m not having anxiety attacks now that I’m done with borrowers who can’t or won’t provide the necessary documents, loan officers with unrealistic expectations, and underwriters and managers who expected me to do my job as well as theirs. I’m happier than I have ever been in my professional life because I dared to step away from a role that was making me miserable.

Which brings me back to Harry and Meghan. A lot of people are already criticizing them for putting their health and happiness above “royal duty.” Piers Morgan is, predictably, already crying that Meghan “broke up” the Royal Family. The rest of the Royals are said to be “hurt” and “disappointed” because they weren’t consulted. But why should they have been? A little heads up on the decision might have been nice, but at the end of the day, Harry’s and Meghan’s personal and professional happiness are no one’s business but their own.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that something everybody thinks should make you happy doesn’t. I left a job with a corner office, gave up my own apartment, and moved 500 miles to live with my grandparents while I write my first novel and freelance. Most people have been supportive—just as most on social media appear to be supporting Harry and Meghan—but a few have side-eyed me, asking why on earth I’d make such a drastic decision. It wasn’t an easy one, I admit, but the panic attack I had in my office helped make it for me.

All the lofty titles and all the money in the world can’t buy you happiness. There is no shame in trying something and deciding that it isn’t a fit for you, whether it takes you one year, two years, or a lifetime to decide. Harry and Meghan looked at their life, with the trappings of wealth and privilege, and saw a gilded cage. Rather than choosing a stoic suffering, they chose freedom and joy.

Making such a drastic change is never easy, and it is never without consequence. It is, however, sometimes the only sensible thing one can do. Life is too short to be miserable, whether you work in a cubicle or a castle. May we all take a lead from the Meghan and Harry and choose happiness in 2020.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer with a decade of experience covering US and UK politics, culture, and media. His work has appeared at The Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. 

#TBT: Millennials on the March

This is the first in a series of Throwback Thursday posts I’m going to be doing, highlighting my work at now-defunct publications I’ve written for in the past. This is a piece I wrote on the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. which took place several years ago. It first appeared in the October 2009 issue of Rise Over Run Magazine.

The sun was wicked, but the air cool and crisp. Standing in a crowd of thousands, swelling and expanding by the second like a balloon ready to pop, I tingled with anticipation. Students from Western Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky University, and Bellarmine University—an unofficial Kentucky contingent—were chatting merrily, albeit loudly, as the roar of the crowd, chanting and singing before they even began walking, drowned out most anything else.
A middle-aged woman I was talking to began staring at the group. “You’re all college students?” she asked. I nodded. “It’s hard to believe how many young people are here. I feel so old,” she laughed.

This was a common sentiment expressed by older people at National Equality March, a march of approximately 200,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, as well as their allies, in Washington, D.C. Though practically every age group in America was represented in the hundreds of thousands of marchers, it was the Millennials—loosely defined as those born between the late 70’s and early 90’s—who stood out. Chanting ferociously and demanding “equal protection in all matters of civil law in all 50 states,” according to the National Equality March’s Facebook page, a new generation of LGBT Americans came out to the nation this month.

Activist David Mixner first called for an LGBT march on Washington—the first since 2000’s Millennium March—last spring, and at the Meet in the Middle rally in Fresno, California following the California Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of Proposition 8, Cleve Jones, the veteran gay rights activist and disciple of Harvey Milk, made the first public call. Despite initial hesitation and a few prominent naysayers, including openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, (D-MA) who was quoted by the Associated Press as saying “the only thing they’re going to be putting pressure on is the grass,” it was quickly apparent: the gays were marching in.

And though Mixner and Jones, both elder statesmen of the LGBT community, were the ones who called for the march, it was young LGBT Americans they were interested in reaching. Mixner and Jones set out to inspire Millennials to step up to the plate. Looking around at those marching, and listening to the speakers on stage, you couldn’t help but to feel they had succeeded. What made this march different than any before it was that, for the first time, a new, liberated generation was stepping up to take over the reins of the LGBT community. The Millennials were on the march.

Millennials Get Mad:
The “Prop 8 Generation”

To understand why young LGBT people responded to Mixner’s and Jones’s calls requires delving into the psychology of a generation. This is a generation that grew up in the era of Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, and The L Word. As being gay became more socially acceptable over the last decade, to gay youth, so did inequality. Still, the social progress being made gave a false sense of hope for legal progress, and many LGBT youths simply felt progress was inevitable. This myth was jarringly shattered last November, when California’s Proposition 8 passed, banning gay marriage in that state.

This was a flashpoint for the LGBT community, according to Tobias Packer, the New Media Manager for Equality Florida, Florida’s statewide LGBT rights organization, and one of the speakers the march. “Prop 8 brought the issue to the national stage,” he said, “and whenever any issue is brought to a national stage it gets a lot more attention—and the people who are doing the work for a lot more attention. And more people join the work.”

Tanner Efinger agrees. “You don’t just come out of the womb being politically active and politically aware,” says Efinger, founder of Postcards to the President, a grassroots campaign to send postcards to President Obama urging him to support LGBT equality and one of the organizers of the march. “Something has to happen. For a lot of us that’s what Prop 8 was. It was a very public, very loud thing that happened in California and we all stepped up.”
Like many of his contemporaries, Efinger, 25, was not politically active before Proposition 8. However, following its passage, Efinger felt a call to action. After discovering you could send letters and postcards to the president, Efinger decided to enlist some of his friends to help, eventually taking his initiative to the bar he works at in West Hollywood, California. From there, events were held in New York and San Francisco, and to date over 15,000 postcards have been sent from nearly 30 states.

This is no surprise to Mario Nguyen, a sophomore at Western Kentucky University originally from Dallas, Texas. “Of course we’re waking up and we’re doing something. For us, grassroots and being active is what’s in, is what’s cool,” he says. “We’re the generation that cares where our coffee beans come from, that care about water and global warming—we’re that generation. It’s cool to be an activist.” Nguyen was the runner-up of “Equality Idol,” a competition held by march organizers to find a speaker for the event. (Though he was runner-up, Nguyen was asked to deliver his speech anyway.)

Sam Sussman, a freshman at Binghamton University in New York, was the winner of “Equality Idol.” He, too, felt that things changed for the movement last November. Sussman dubbed himself part of the “Prop 8 generation,” a generation of “young people who had strong convictions but didn’t have the urge to act” until after Proposition 8 passed. In the wake of Proposition 8, Sussman—a straight man—founded the Alliance for Realization of Legal Equality in his hometown of Orange County, New York. He wanted to “put [equality] in people’s faces and make them think about it when they got their morning papers.”

The Second Great March on Washington?

If Proposition 8 inspired a new wave of young LGBT rights activists, the National Equality March gave them an outlet to vent their anger. Tanner Efinger, for one, was growing impatient with the lack of progress and was ready to be proactive. It’s why he founded Postcards to the President, and why he jumped at the chance to help organize the march “I started e-mailing anybody I knew that was involved, even in a small way, and was like ‘I want to help.’”

Kat Michael echoed this sentiment. Michael, a junior originally from Louisville, is the president of the Student Identity Outreach (SIO) at Western Kentucky University. SIO took 18 students to Washington, driving nearly 1400 miles round-trip in less than 48 hours. But for Michael, the trip was worth it. It was great to see that number of people come from such long distances,she said. “The way the people managed—fly, train, car, boat it—they got there and that’s really encouraging to see with this movement.” Michael says that hailing from the south, people often think LGBT people aren’t organized. She wanted to dispel that myth.

For Tobias Packer, it was an opportunity to represent not only himself and Equality Florida, but also transgender Americans. “There are definitely moments where I have felt, as a transgender person, excluded or overlooked intentionally or unintentionally,” Packer said, pointing specifically to the 2007 passing of a non-transgender inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act in the House of Representatives. (The bill died in the Senate.) For Packer, the march was a way to take his—and Equality Florida’s—message to a national level.

Taking it to the national level was, in essence, the theme of the National Equality March. Seeking equality in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states is a fairly sweeping statement, which is just fine in Tanner Efinger’s book. “I’ve always felt that a national strategy was the best way to go,” he said. “For me it’s not about marriage in California, while that would be great and open a lot of doors. For me it’s about the 16-year-old kid in Alabama who thinks his only option is suicide.”

It will be accomplished.”

While the march gave Millennials a chance to vent their anger at the establishment, it also served as an opportunity to rise to the challenges facing their movement. “In many ways it represents a passing of the torch,” Sam Sussman said. “The demographics are changing. I think now you see a new civil rights movement brewing among young people.” Sussman predicts the movement will now be carried by younger people.

Kat Michael also believes that this new generation has risen to the challenge and is beginning to take over the reins of the movement. “The youth is really what’s going to carry this movement forward,” she said. “Those individuals who have been fighting this fight their whole lives, who were part of the Stonewall Riots, are getting tired now. They have beaten down a path. It is our time to pave it now.” Michael believes the real point of the march was to inspire a new generation of LGBT leaders.

This sense of a generational shift was one of the most prominent themes for Mario Nguyen. Following his speech, Nguyen says he got an overwhelming response from his elders. “I got a lot of messages from people over 45 saying ‘I’m not concerned because you’re somebody I know will take care of this. What I couldn’t do in my generation I see it in your generation, already accomplished.’” Nguyen points to the fact that two Millennials were chosen to speak through the Equality Idol competition as evidence that a transition is occurring within the LGBT rights movement, and he is ready to embrace the challenge. “It will be done this generation,” Nguyen says. “My generation will fix it, and it will be accomplished. I will get married, without a doubt.”
Still, Nguyen isn’t without criticism of his generation, which he still views as apathetic. He was particularly hard on the gay community in Bowling Green, which he was “thoroughly disappointed by.” “With the exception of SIO… they stayed here for fun. They didn’t want to ask for work off. A lot of them had the money, a lot of them had the ability.” Nguyen, who traveled with a group of friends to DC (including Adam Swanson, a WKU student heavily involved with Tanner Efinger’s “Postcards to the President” but was unfortunately unavailable for comment as of press time), says a lot of LGBT locals decided to forgo Washington, instead opting for a trip to Miami.

Kat Michael expects that level of apathy to change, though. “I think a lot of people with this movement have just been sort of complacent in allowing the movement to happen, but I think that’s definitely gone now,” she said. “Everybody knows we’re here now, and now it’s time to actually start moving.”

Tanner Efinger agrees, saying he feels the ownership of the movement more so than ever before. But he wants people to remember that the work doesn’t end at the march. “The point was to get [the youth] there to mobilize, to galvanize, to excite them,” he said, “but let them understand that this doesn’t happen if you just march and go home.” Efinger, like Nguyen, wants to hold his contemporaries accountable for the future of their own movement. “Our hope is that everyone will see that they need to work now.”

Where Nguyen sees apathy, though, Tobias Packer sees diligence. “Young people have always been a part of this movement,” he said. “There are young leaders who have been unlocking a lot of the doors and pushing for a lot of the victories that we’re standing on the precipice of now.”

Where do we go from here?

The one sentiment echoed by Tanner Efinger, Kat Michael, Mario Nguyen, Tobias Packer and Sam Sussman was that the work does not end with the march. The words of Cleve Jones—“we are not organizing to march; we are marching to organize”—resonate with these five individuals, all of whom headed back to their respective states eager to continue working, feeling they have established their presence in the broader LGBT movement.

“I was in between Julian Bond and Cleve Jones,” Efinger said. “I can’t even imagine that before. I just felt so humbled and so honored—but also like I belonged there, as well, like I had a place beside them. I didn’t need to be somebody to stand next to them; in fact, we were the same.”
Efinger returned to West Hollywood, where he is still working as a cocktail waiter, but with a renewed sense of service. He plans on continuing with Postcards to the President and remaining active in Equality Across America, a new national organization born of the National Equality March. “From here we organize everyone in their congressional districts…what we’re really trying to do is plant the seeds of social change,” he said. And while he’d like to return to his original passion—writing—right now his activism has taken precedence. “I want to get this done now,” he said.

Postcards to the President is also a project Mario Nguyen is eager to work on. He’s also planning on using his talent for public speaking to further the cause. (In addition to speaking at the march, Mario is part of the WKU Forensics Team, currently ranked as the best forensics team in the world.) He is in talks to speak at Quinnipiac University next spring, and he would like to do more speaking engagements if possible. “My thing is speaking and will forever be speaking. Until I lose my voice I will speak.”

Sam Sussman, on the other hand, is going to continue his political advocacy with the Alliance for the Realization of Legal Equality. He’s also beginning to work with a new national organization, The Right Side of History, a campaign which, according to its website, is “a movement of young, inspired Americans who have committed to no longer be silent. “ Sussman hopes to begin a chapter at Binghamton University. Also in Sussman’s future is a statewide initiative to pressure four to five select New York state senators to vote for marriage equality. Sussman hopes to secure enough votes to pass a marriage equality bill through the New York state assembly next year.

For Tobias Packer, Florida is home, and Equality Florida where he belongs. He is preparing for the 2010 legislative session and hoping to push a statewide, LGBT inclusive civil rights bill through the legislature. Equality Florida also has plans to, for the sixth consecutive year, attempt to repeal Florida’s statutory ban on gay adoption. He hopes that those who went to the march will follow his lead and get involved in the movement. “The reality is there is work being done in almost every corner of this country,” he said. “My wish for this march is that all the people that came out really turn to see what work is being done where they live.”

Kat Michael returned to WKU ready to continue working with SIO. “The work hasn’t stopped for me, it hasn’t stopped for my members,” she said. “I don’t think any of them feel that things have stopped now… we’re all really willing and ready to go.” She says that the march was SIO’s way of showing they’re going to be a permanent presence on campus, and that they exist to serve more than just their friends. “We’re not just here to hide and take care of our own friends, we’re here to take care of everything,” she said.

Thinking back to the day of the march, I’m left wondering what effect the National Equality March will have. It is not the first, or the biggest, LGBT rights march on Washington. Yet somehow, this one feels different. This one feels like instead of capitalizing on momentum the movement had, the march itself created a sort of momentum, sending grassroots activists into the trenches, prepared to wage proverbial guerrilla warfare in the name of equality.
It also feels different because, for the first time, my generation—the Millennials—is beginning to take the reins. What’s unique about the burgeoning leaders is that they are, for the most part, amateur activists. For every professional lobbiest or community organizer are dozens of people like Kat Michael, Sam Sussman, and Tanner Efinger who started organizations aimed to make a difference—not because they were paid to, but because they saw a need not being met.
And while the LGBT movement gears up for fights over marriage in Maine and domestic partnerships in Washington state, these five young leaders expect things to continue trending toward equality, and expect their generation to take a more active role in these struggles.
“This is just the beginning,” Mario Nguyen said. “We may lose the battle, but the war’s what we’re after.”

And the Millennials are running in, guns-a-blazing.

Those Who Do Not Learn From History: I’m coming out (as depressed)

funny-wheres-wally-cartoon

Disclaimer: this is a deeply personal post in little to no way related to politics or media. If you don’t care about my personal life, I completely understand. I haven’t cared much about my personal life lately, either. I promise the witty, snide blogs about British culture and politics will return. I mean, I can’t pass up the gift Sally Bercow just handed me, can I?

You’re probably wondering where I’ve been. Or not. I imagine the majority of you who read my blog don’t care enough about it to actually be like “gee, I wonder where that cheeky Yank went?” To those five people, fuck you. To the other 3 people, your concern is noted and much appreciated.

The fact is, 2014 hasn’t started off easily for me. But to really understand what’s going on in my life, you have to go back six years.

The last six months or so of 2007 had been eventful, to say the least. If you’re reading this blog, you know I’m rabidly obsessed with your country a bit of an Anglophile. That July, I made my first trip to the UK. I met a charming Englishman, had a whirlwind affair, and realised that yes, God really did intend for me to live in His own country. (Hence my love of Barnsley.)

I came home to spend a sultry summer “front porch sittin’,” as we called it down south, strumming acoustic guitars, smoking cigarettes and drinking keg beer. I rushed a fraternity, which for your Brits means I went through the formal process of recruitment to join the secret society of binge drinkers. In the end, I didn’t get a bid, which means I wasn’t invited to join.

This was crushing. I burst into tears when I found out, wanting so desperately to be a part of those brotherly bonds. I had made such good friends over the course of the summer, friends in that fraternity, and I hated the idea of losing them. I hated the idea of not belonging with the people I felt I belonged with.

Around this same time, I befriended and began unofficially mentoring a young teenager from the high school academy on campus. I took on something between a big brother and paternalistic role, listening to his problems and concerns and doling out advice while scolding him for Facebooking in class and sneaking off campus. I listened as he told me of his loneliness, his sadness, and his confusion.

That young man died in December.

I rang in 2008 at my house with two friends and YouTube videos.

Reeling from the rejection of being denied a bid and the death of someone dear to me, I began leaning hard on an old friend called Jim Beam. A lot. Like every night. But it’s college, so people do that, right? Of course. Let’s go to Froggy’s, cos it’s Sunday Funday. Let’s go to Aurora’s, it’s Mardido Monday. Let’s go to B-Dubs, it’s two-for-Tuesday. Let’s go to Tidballs, it’s only $1 on Wednesday. Thursday is basically the weekend and you have to drink on Friday and Saturday. It’s in the Bible or the Constitution or something. ‘murica.

Somehow, between drunken comas and through the haze of cigarette smoke, I was convinced to run for Administrative Vice President. I had been involved in student government, the American equivalent of a British student union, since my first semester. I had risen through the ranks to eventually hold a cabinet position as the president’s chief-of-staff, which was appointed. It would be nice to win a student body office, I thought.

The campaign was bitter and got deeply personal, and I ultimately lost, appealed the decision because of election irregularities, and lost that, too, becoming the Al Gore of Western Kentucky University.

I watched my peers graduate without me, knowing good and well that I should be walking the line with them. I had taken off a semester of college at that point, and would subsequently sit out two more, but seeing people my age finish in the requisite four years affected me in a very profound way. I felt like a failure for not marching with them, and it proved a massive blow to my self-confidence. I was jealous of them for having degrees, for getting married, getting jobs, and for leaving the one-horse town we called home. I wanted out. Out of college. Out of Kentucky. Out of America.

But I said congratulations as I smiled in the photos.

Then I went to the bar. They played Alan Jackson. He reassured me it was, in fact, 5 o’clock somewhere and that there was no problem that didn’t have a solution at the bottom of a bottle.

Or, as it turns out, the bottom of a carton of ice cream. While binge drinking was a new, adult way to escape-or at least numb-reality, binge eating was something I’d been doing since I was a child. I ordered pizza every night, was on a first name basis with the waitress as the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, and would drive next door from my apartment to Burger King, where I got two large orders of everything, please. Yes, I want fries with that.

Onion rings, too.

My grades began slipping. I found it hard to get up in the mornings, staying up all night obsessing over the coverage of Proposition 8. I single-handedly waged a war in the comments section of every article I read, defending gay rights from the Mormon bigots, leaving greasy fingerprints on the “f” and “u” keys between slices of pizza.

One of the bright spots of this very dark time was that, on a whim, I took a basic creative writing course. By the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Finding a passion didn’t make me passionate, though. I didn’t have the energy to be passionate about anything.

Leaving the house itself became a chore, even to go to the bar. I couldn’t find the wherewithal to be around people, preferring nights spent at home in the glare of my monitor.

I was embarrassed of all my fast food and alcohol consumption, so I ate only in my room, which remained locked any time I wasn’t home. I’d only take the rubbish out when I knew for certain both my flatmates were out. That wasn’t often. Piles of litter quickly rose, as did the number on the scale.

I gave myself a couple very bad haircuts.

By the time I moved out of that apartment, having failed a couple classes and alienated most of the people around me, I had gained 50 pounds.

Eventually, I moved out of that apartment and into one closer to campus with a friend of mine, next door to four other close friends. This proximity to people I loved and who loved me helped coax me out of my shell and get me back on track. I started going to the gym again, and because I sold my car, walking everywhere. I lost the weight I’d gained and graduated in May of 2010.

Okay, okay, I hear you. What the fuck does all of this have to do with my absence for the last month? To know that, you’d have to know what’s been happening in my personal life.

Contrary to what some of you think, writing is not my job. I hope to make it my career, but it’s not my job. It certainly doesn’t pay my bills. When I moved to Chicago, I took an entry-level job at a mortgage company. Twice promoted in the first eight months, I thought I’d make a living processing and closing mortgages for the rest of my life.

I should have fucking known better. Do you have any idea how goddamn boring mortgages are? Or how douchey corporate America is? In fact, much like the fraternity I rushed, big corporations are pretty much the antithesis of everything I support. In my mind, they’re of the devil, full of rich fat cats who will exploit their employees to make a quick quid or fast buck, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re reading this from. Beyond that, though, is the sheer dictatorial structure a corporation inherently needs to run efficiently. Mussolini made the trains run on time, and I’m fairly certain if given the chance, Amtrak and National Rail would use his tactics to ensure the same.

The public might be okay with that, actually.

But I made great friends and decent money, two things I desperately needed and frankly hadn’t had in some time. Working at a corporate headquarters that was heavily staffed by Millennials was a bit like going to work at Glastonbury: loads of booze, loads of sex, loads of drugs, and loads of mudslinging all before noon. The music was shit, too.

Flash forward two years, and I’m not quite as happy about that. In fact, I’m fucking miserable. An old friend of mine, once of the girls who helped me out of the last depression, had since moved to Chicago and become a flight attendant. She invited me to use her benefits and fly back to London with her. I jumped at the chance to return, and spent a glorious week getting good and sloshed with mates in Soho, making out with a very cute economist, meeting a Tory MP, touring the House of Commons, and having one unforgettable night where I proved that, no matter what continent I’m on, I will find the one curious straight guy in the place and bring him back to mine.

Forget gaydar. I’ve got 20/20 bisight.

I would have married him that night, had he asked. Not since the end of Love Actually had Heathrow seen as many tears as the day I left London.

Sitting on my front porch the afternoon my plane landed, in a city a week before I was in love with, I knew it was time to break up with Chicago. Like Carrie sleeping with Big, I had cheated on my Aidan; unlike Carrie, I knew that it could never again be the same.

But just like Carrie, I didn’t realise what a giant dick Aidan could be.

In September, I lost the election my job in the second round of redundancies that had begun just before I left for holiday. For the first time since moving to Chicago, I found myself unemployed. I drank a case of PBR beer (I’m sorry, there really is no British equivalent), and quickly picked myself up. London had provided perspective. I wasn’t happy in a corporate job, I wanted to write. So I launched this blog after Peter Hitchens pissed me off.

But writing still wasn’t paying the bills, and if Benefits Street has taught us anything, it’s that we’re supposed to hate ourselves when on jobseekers’ allowance. To numb this self-loathing, I turned back to my old war buddies, Captain Morgan and Colonel Sanders. Together, we fought a battle I had yet to realise I was waging.

My great grandmother died. It wasn’t unexpected, but the funeral was back in my grandfather’s ancestral hometown in Tennessee. I couldn’t afford to go, which was gutting.

I found a job within a month, though, at the corporate headquarters of another bank here in Chicago.

I took the job without hesitation, but immediately expressed reservations to my friends. It’s another soulless corporate gig, I lamented, complete with florescent lights, stale coffee and men who think paisley ties are acceptable. This time, though, instead of an office culture dominated by young, single, ambitious people, I was in an environment dominated by middle-aged women who exchanged recipes with and disdain for one another, all under the guise of cuisine and collegiality.

The job was tedious and menial, but the salary was okay, and it was a short-term gig. In the meantime, I parted ways with that old friend who invited me to London, because frankly, we hated one another. The only time I recall being more miserable in someone’s presence was when I encountered Fred Phelps in the lobby of a suburban DC hotel.

To be fair, the feeling was clearly mutual in both instances.

As autumn gave way to what is the worst winter in memory, I began to find it hard to leave the house. I chalked it up to the cold and a cold I contracted in mid-December. But I managed to throw a smashing ugly sweater party and have a warm and lovely Christmas surrounded by the family that adopted me when I moved here.

I rung in 2014 at my house with a friend and Vine videos.

The Polar Vortex happened soon thereafter, freezing Lake Michigan and any resolve I had to keep trucking along. I caught another virus.

I lost another job.

This time I didn’t pick myself up. I once again barricaded myself in my apartment. I found it hard to get up in the mornings, staying up all night obsessing over the coverage of the Amanda Knox verdict. I single-handedly waged a war on Twitter, defending American Constitutional rights from the European press, leaving greasy fingerprints on the “f” and “u” keys between slices of pizza.

Starting to sound familiar, innit?

Once again, I’m depressed

I knew it when I was told I’d been sacked. I felt nothing. There was no anger. No sadness. No shock. No righteous indignation. Not even relief that I wouldn’t have to listen to menopausal Gretchen Weiners tell me how ungrateful and lazy her best friend, menopausal Regina George, truly is.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care; intellectually, I knew this was very, very bad. I knew that I had no plan. I knew that I might not get my jobseeker’s allowance back, because being sacked is very different than being made redundant. And I knew that finding a job in this economy is like finding a millionaire who loves you; no matter how much you hate him, you stick around cos money.

But none of it mattered at the time, and honestly, it doesn’t matter now. For you see, losing that job meant losing any motivation. It was a daily struggle, but I could still get myself out of bed in the morning, even if I wasn’t doing my makeup and fixing my hair. I could still tweet pithy lines about Ed Balls. Katie Hopkins still pissed me off.

Losing my job meant I lost everything. I started eating even more. I stopped cleaning, my apartment once again becoming littered with empty McDonald’s bags and cola cans. I walked around like a zombie, indulging in marathons of the Golden Girls or Law and Order: SVU, anything to pass the time. I didn’t have the energy to leave the apartment, locking myself in for most of the past four weeks. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my February rent, but I found it impossible to muster any concern.

I cut my own hair again. It looks about as awful as you imagine.

And I’ve gained 50 pounds. Maybe more. I won’t step foot on a scale.

My rent did get paid, though, thanks to a little bit of unexpected money and a contribution from a couple family members I know would prefer to remain anonymous. As of the time I’m writing this, any jobseekers’ allowance I’d receive (which by the way should be paid out by the company which made me redundant back in September, as I haven’t drawn the majority of that) is frozen, as a “determination is pending.”

The last time this happened to me-the last time I was depressed-it took a change of seasons, a new apartment, and the love and near-constant companionship of my friends to pull me out of it. I was first diagnosed with depression in the winter of 2009, though as my therapist and I at the time discussed, and as explained here, the roots of that depression set in long before then. I suspect the same is true now. I can look back to this time last year and see the signs starting to appear, though I didn’t recognise them at the time.

I don’t blame anything that’s happened to me, from being made redundant to the death of my great-grandmother to the end of a friendship or being sacked, for my depression. While those events certainly didn’t make life any easier, and may have contributed to deepening my depression, it’s clear to me that I was at the very least entering a state of depression before any of that occurred.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time. I don’t know. Unfortunately for me, the last time I was depressed, I stopped attending my sessions before we really rooted it all out. This time, I don’t have medical insurance and I certainly don’t have the money to seek therapy.

I also don’t have the luxury of my friends being there to rouse me from my apartment or pay for a coffee. That was college; this is life. We all have commitments, spouses, careers.

I’m on my own.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford March rent. In a lucky coincidence, my lease is up at the end of February, and I’ve yet to renew. I’m debating whether or not I should. If I don’t, I’m moving into my grandparents’ spare room in Tennessee, 600 miles away from the life I now know. That might be for the best, as I truly believe it was only the constant warmth and reassuring love I received from my girlfriends that pulled me out of this the last go-round.

But I’m cautiously optimistic. The fact that I’m even able to write this, that I have the energy, focus, and drive to publish a blog, tells me things are going in the right direction. I’m now applying for jobs, trying to find something-anything-to help me land on my feet. As several friends have reminded me, I am nothing if not resilient. “Somehow, out of everyone I know, you always end up on your feet,” my best friend said. Another friend called me a “fighter.”

“Giving up isn’t an option for you,” she said, “even when you feel it might be. I know that much about you for sure.”