Are you scared you can’t tell me what your life’s about?

I’ve spent a lot of time consuming and studying a lot of fiction. TV, movies, books, comic books, concept albums, bathroom graffiti: the homes of fiction are myriad. I like fiction. It gives me comfort. Realistic fiction has helped me understand how to better interact with the world around me. Genre fiction taught me how to do that without being so goddamn obvious. I relish the tropes. I swim laps in the cliches. Fiction was a friend as a strange child, a depressed teen, and a young adult on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

But I didn’t always appreciate fiction. Or at least, I didn’t realize how much I appreciated it. My attraction to music, and subsequently abandoned path toward music education, was predicated on a love for fiction. Before I understood what teaching actually entailed, I imagined sharing the stories of music, showing children the narratives beneath the notes. I’ve always been drawn to any music that can tell a story, from a Grainger piece built on a folk tune to any number of albums I devoured in my teens that featured the tortured tales of love and hate. I used these musics to define my taste. And in hindsight, it makes sense. I was always searching for that next fix of a story, even if I was projecting onto a piece with no such intentions. But eventually I knew we just weren’t meant to be, and we went our separate ways. Sometimes I worry that I betrayed music, but I hope it understands that it was nothing personal. Music may have been a placeholder for my true love, but the times we shared truly were special.

The first television show I ever loved was Lost. I’ve spent… a lot of time talking about Lost and what it means to me. But it’s really quite simple: I found a story, and equally important, a medium, that suddenly made everything click. A story so pulled like taffy that I could see each individual atom as it made up the whole, observing and noting and making connections, pulling back to see the grand nature of it all. Lost itself worked because of the people. Sure, I saw the archetypes, understood what was going on in a metanarrative sense, but I also saw these people, these intense bits of light glowing so brightly in their own little world. I felt their their love and pain and search for purpose. I’ve connected with few the way I connected with this group of poor souls just trying to figure out what the hell they’re doing on this planet. When Lost ended, I bawled, not just because of the emotionality of the ending, but also because of the reality of the loss, the end of a story that had consumed so much of my life and fundamentally changed me as a person. Honestly, before the end of Lost, I don’t know how much of a crier I was, but Lost made me accept it, embrace it. These days, I’m lucky if I watch an entire week’s worth of television without tearing up once, though the number tends to creep up toward the middle of the single digits. I’m not ashamed. For me, it’s how I experience the story. It’s how I consume the story. It’s putting the story straight into my bloodstream, to become a part of me forever.

Stories mean so much to me, and I want to share that with people. I want to take someone by the hand and show them a story, walk them through what’s happening, not in our line of sight, but in the spaces above and below. I want others to become engulfed and enriched by these stories. I want the world to drown in stories. And yet when someone asks me why I want to write about television, I have a hard time explaining this. Maybe it’s because these feelings are such a fundamental part of who I am that being able to articulate the exact motives takes time, planning. Maybe it’s because I’m scared they won’t understand—not an unwarranted fear, if the hostility I’ve faced for this desire is any indication, though I’d rather not dwell on the negative. But ultimately, I think it’s because I don’t feel like I have to justify myself. Sure, I might change someone’s mind, but about what? I’m not trying to make waves; the work I want to do is for those already on the precipice. And I mean, have you seen the Lost finale? Shit, that’s all the explanation I’ll ever really need.

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I’ll pull my hoodie up over my face, I won’t run away.

Young Avengers #14, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Young Avengers #14, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This isn’t about TV, it’s about survival.

2012 was a year I almost died. I had one very specific plan to kill myself in place early in the year, but when I failed to go through with that, I spent the rest of the year in a suicidal haze. It was a dreary coda to a dark period of my life.

2013 was my rebirth. Dropped into my new life covered in the slimy placenta of mental illness, I spent this year rediscovering myself. I found worlds where I felt I could thrive, began to explore new ideas about what I could do with my life. And when things were looking their brightest, it all came to a screeching halt.

I’ve done more documenting than appropriate about my travails during the fall of 2013, so I’ll spare the gory details here. But what it taught me was that this stagnation act, this inability to make real moves forward, would kill me if I let it. And if I couldn’t even kill myself, I’m not about to let my inaction do it.

A lot of my physical stuff from my life pre-breakdown has fallen by the wayside. Books and CDs and records and DVDs and clothes that are never touched anymore. But there was one holdover from that period that never went away: the green Volcom hoodie.

If you know me, you’ve seen it. It’s bright green, for Christ’s sake. And by December 24, 2013, it was a raggedy mess: strips of fabric hanging from the sleeves and hems; a cigarette burn in the hood; a giant hole in the pocket bigger than the size of my fist. But I never stopped wearing it. Of course, I didn’t actually have another hoodie or jacket to wear, but that was only because I never bought one. I never bought one because I was broke, but also because I didn’t want to. To this hoodie, I was Linus, and I clutched for dear life. I lived in that thing, and in some ways, it came to define me.

For Christmas last week, I received four new hoodies. My family wanted there to be no chance of me falling back on the green Volvom hoodie. And in the last week, I haven’t worn it once. The other day I had lunch with my aunt, one of the only people in my family who have really bothered to talk to me about what’s going on in my head and what I’m thinking about the future moving forward. It was an empowering lunch, and I knew it was time to make the next steps in my slow recovery.

It’s time to officially retire the green Volvom hoodie.

Oh sure, I could just throw it away. Or worse, hang it up in my closet and forget about it for years. No, I know what must be done. Death by flame, a true ritual, a funeral pyre. I need to burn the last three years, because as long as I keep holding onto relics from that time, the harder it is to take my next step. I have to truly let go, and I think this is the only way.

Somewhere on the journey of the last few years, I realized that I’m an optimist. As much as I strove for cynicism, and as much as the thoughts in my brain try and convince me that the world is a monster of misery and pain I create myself endlessly, my heart looks for hope. For the first time in a while, a new year finally looks like that hope. I’ll be facing 2014 without one of my closest allies, but I don’t feel alone.