You think about yourself too much. Your tipping point. The point in which shit goes your way or it doesn’t. Pick yourself up or allow yourself to fall one final time back down. No one wants to talk about this point. No one wants to remember how they were straddling the edge of that point before coming out on the other side. We all have our points; as unique as our own DNA… our past acting as the trigger. Most of us will meet a tipping point. It may be fleeting, or it may pour over into decades. It may be rushed. It may be unfair. It will change the rest of your life.
Turning 26 this month meant that my health insurance was going to end. I drove down to a State of Oregon Health clinic and took a seat next to a man with an old army backpack and an oxygen tank. With each number that was called the man’s breath grew more hoarse and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. I did too. When his number was called thirty minutes after I arrived he was told that he had come to the wrong building and that the meeting (he was now 15 minutes late to) was across town. The news came in one hurried breath with no infliction of whether it was bad or good.
“I don’t have any money. This appointment is necessary for me to secure next months supply of oxygen.”
“I’m sorry sir, there is nothing we can do.” He was ushered back into the sea of chairs.
Since my sister had children, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of kin: the idea that we all begin a son or daughter. My sister loves her babies and would do anything to protect them, but one day they will grow up. That day at the clinic I watched the man and his tank slowly walk outside. He was someone’s child, and it was clear that he was now alone. What had happened in his life that meant he was now carrying his possessions on his back and just enough air in his lungs? I wanted to follow him outside, offer him money to take a cab, drive him myself. But I didn’t, my number was up.
Sister. Daughter. Friend. Niece. Cousin. Aunt:different roles in each of those labels, all tied to my name. In the past few weeks, each of those roles have been a challenge. I’ve had all of the time in the world which has meant an intense amount of time to think about: me. I will be honest, for the first time in a long time it hasn’t been good.
With our eyes seemingly transfixed on our own fishbowls one would think we’d be better at identifying things we should improve upon. We’re not. I’m not. Although its no revelation to admit that critiquing ourselves isn’t ‘fun’ its becoming easier and easier to tune it out. If you don’t like them, delete them. If you can’t remember it, it didn’t happen. If that job isn’t what you thought it was, quit. We’re constantly making permenant decisions without realizing they’re permenant. At a certain point, they catch up to you.
When you’re going through a hard time, your tipping point is hurled into the forefront. The system of checks and balances that used to even out just fine seems to stall. One bad and suddenly no more good. Its polarizing, relentless, and its all in your head.
As we reach certain ages, we check the box. First steps (1). First Words (2). Teenager (13). Drivers License (16). High School Graduation (18). Legal Adulthood (18). College Graduation (?). Find a Job (?). Find a spouse (?). Get Married (?). Buy a house (?). Have a kid (?). Raise Kids (?). Retire(?). Die (?). Somewhere between 18 and death we ‘have’ quite a few boxes to check. Just as some are finding clarity and stability others are finding pink slips and heartache. It is a bizarre time to watch some peoples lives pan out while yours is in a standstill. Mulling over the reasons why I’ve been feeling so unhappy, all of this gray comes into focus. I’m spending so much time obsessing over when I will be able to check the box that I’ve spent hardly any time thinking about my reasons for checking them.
I am 26 years old with a roof over my head, healthy lungs, and (although sometimes heavy) a beating heart. My tipping point is greeted by family, friends, love, unconditional support. The man at clinic that day allowed me to see for the first time since my own ‘bad day’ that there are other people having them too. There are people who didn’t leave a safe place to come to the clinic. There are people who didn’t drive their own car to the appointment. There are people without the means to ensure that they keep their heart beating. When my number was called I quickly transcended into my own problems as I sat at the same chair as the man before me. It wasn’t until I took out my phone to call my Dad that I revisited watching the man leave, how he had no one to help, how I really should have just helped him make that 10:15 appointment across town.
When shit hits the fan the only person who seems to matter is yourself. You lash out. You make excuses. You become bitter. You tune out. You don’t move on. The answer to this tunnel vision is removing yourself from the equation. Do something for someone else. Do it often. Do it well. Of course problems won’t disappear, but as you begin to search for a former form of clarity, those problems may not go with you. Its working on yourself in reverse in a way, the Field of Dreams mentality. It can always, always be worse and there is always something you can do to make them feel better.