I will not be so arrogant as to imply that within these 18 years of my life that I’ve seen everything the world has to throw my way. What’s the average life span now, anyways: 80-something? I have plenty of time to royally screw up again and again and bring all sorts of mental, physical, and spiritual anguish on myself by making bad choices. However, I do feel the fumbles I’ve been through have given me a guideline on how not to do things as badly as I once did, and possibly make the sting of those screw-ups feel less painful. I don’t remember specifically where the root cause of my issues lie. I do remember I had all sorts of anger issues going back to when I was a toddler. I do remember punching and grabbing some people because they annoyed me. And the more I think about it, there really was no reason for me to be like that. I had a relatively normal upbringing; nothing really traumatic happened to me as a kid, except when my grandfather died.

That’s probably the last time I remember really getting emotional over a particular moment in my life, and the last time I remember crying over anything. Not even at my grandmother’s funeral did I cry, even though I was just as close to her. Maybe also that’s where my two biggest problems arose: self-loathing and an overly introverted nature. In retrospect, everyone else probably knew my grandfather was going to die—the man did suffer two strokes before he passed—but I remember that at that time I knew it was about to happen and I told no one about it. When he did die, I sort of blamed myself for it because, in my immature ten-year-old brain, I thought if I had just told someone, anyone, then they might’ve been able to do something. And I just thought that maybe he died because I did nothing.

I naturally realized this idea was ridiculous as I grew up, but that feeling of guilt does still linger in me. I also remember how sad my grandfather’s death made me feel and how terrible it was and it made me not want to feel that way again, so I suppose I internalized a policy of never getting close to anyone and always driving people away, even if they were trying to be friendly. I especially put that policy into effect during my middle and early high school years, and I acted like an unpleasant little turd to everyone who I considered lower than me because I had a slightly higher than average intelligence, despite the fact that I never showed it. That’s also around the same time I started really getting into a bunch of cults just to find a sense of belonging. Now, when I say cults, I don’t mean that in the Jim Jones sort of way—well, except in one case—but I primarily use it to refer to my slacktivist involvement in radical left- and right-wing politics.

In retrospect, my involvement in fringe politics led me to make some terrible mistakes, and at one point quite possibly put my entire future at risk. And at some points, I wondered if I truly believed all the nonsense I said, or if I was just saying it to try to belong to a group so I could feel some kind of connection. Of course, this mental baggage doesn’t excuse how I thought that people like Stalin or Pol Pot were actual freedom fighters, or how Hitler was misunderstood, because yes, I did drink some of the Kool-Aid of those cults, and did so willingly. I liked how it gave me validation from other people and how blindly sharing other people’s opinions made them suck up to you and treat you nicely. I liked it; I shouldn’t have, but I did. It was like a drug and it kept me consistently high on that dopamine release, but in reality, all it really did was box me in, because no regular, normally-functioning person cares about the complete works of Antonio Gramsci or Julius Evola.

Eventually, my involvement with this radical nonsense came to bite me in the rear, because another group of radicals attempted to dox and harass me. These clowns failed because spelled my name wrong, but that was a wakeup call to me to quit it with this stupidity and attempt to be better and normal, and shock of all shocks: it worked…for a while. Then I fell into the arms of another cult: extreme religiosity. Because I had been going to Catholic school for the majority of my formative years, I decided to finally convert. At first, it was pretty normal, but of course, me and my massive ego just had to be on top and prove that I was the holiest person at school. So I started researching how things were done in the old days and tried to live like that just to rub it everyone’s face, but of course, I couldn’t live up to the ridiculous standards of the medieval Catholic Church, and what was at first an ego trip quickly turned into over-examinations and intense scrutiny of myself. It got so bad at one point that I actually started flogging myself with metal chains whenever I fell short of the impossible standards I was trying to hold myself to.

As I continued to spiral down this abyss, I also researched obsessively to try to deepen my belief system, eventually growing to believe that the mainstream Catholic Church was not the real church, and that some split-off commune out in the middle of Kansas was the true church. I had become so deluded at that point that I ran away to join that cult. I was found after less than a day, and I lied and claimed I was running away because of some school project I was stressing out over. Even today, I don’t feel comfortable telling my parents what really happened, so they don’t know the full context behind it. After that ordeal, I haven’t gone to church willingly; I only go now because my school makes us go to Mass every Wednesday. I don’t feel totally comfortable with it yet. For a good time after that, I remember just being in this fog of passive existence, still trying to hold on to some of my old egocentric traits, but it was just not working. When I think about it, I was probably suffering from diagnosed depression; I just never told anyone because I didn’t have the guts to be honest with myself. Then I was set off by a bad grade in one of my classes and decided to kill myself.

I remember the silliness of how I tried to commit suicide clearly, trying to shimmy off the gunlock and eventually doing so. I remember thinking to myself, I went through all this trouble over a bad grade? I obviously never went through with it, but I’ve never really told anyone about this besides a scant few people in jest. So after that aborted attempt at suicide, my life took a turn for the better; my grades in the class I was slumping in went up and I managed to have what was at that point my best year of school. I continued on the high cloud for a long while, but then early this school year, the universe decided to remind me that it still wouldn’t be that easy; I got in my first car wreck. I was going through an intersection and a police SUV came roaring through the right end out of nowhere. I hit it and it spun off and hit another car. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt, but it did give me something to mull over: that even when things are going good, that there still would be hardships I’d have to deal with and that I can’t always try to run away from them.

So there we are at the end of my story. For better or worse, these are all the mistakes I’ve made, warts and all, and it’s your choice what to think. I’ve told my story, no matter how unglamorous it sounds, so you can judge me for this or that, but at the end of the day, both of our lives just keep on chugging.