Cyclical Depression

I’ve written this blog post in my head dozens of times over the past four years. Once I stopped blogging every day I found it quite hard to commit to posting again even just occasionally. I still think about writing blogs all the time but clearly thinking about doing something isn’t quite the same as actually doing it.

I have certainly missed this daily brain exercise. Forcing myself to organize my thoughts and feelings into writing is something that no amount of rumination can replicate. There’s a type of clarity I enjoy about committing thoughts onto paper, even if that paper is digital. Plus, there’s something I enjoy about it being public. It’s a very freeing feeling to just release something into the wilds of the internet. This blog is the best diary I’ve ever kept and I’ve started 5 or 6 since I was old enough to think my ideas were worth writing down. Note that I say started, I never got more than 7 to 10 entries into a diary before abandoning it.

Which brings us to tonight’s topic, something I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about for many years – I get depressed, cyclically.

My general sense of wellbeing is very much like a rollercoaster, only it’s a really shitty rollercoaster that starts out exciting and full of energy. I can see for miles all around me. Aall the things I want to do, all the places I want to go, all the creative projects I want to start. Then very gradually, the cart slides down the slope a little more each day until we hit the ground but it doesn’t stop there, it continues below sea level into a dark place filled with negative thoughts where everything is terrible, I’m a failure, I should be doing something else with my life, you get the idea.

Then, after an extended period of time, I explode out of my depression filled with energy and zest for life. I start lots of projects, challenge myself to all sorts of lofty goals and assure myself that this feeling will last forever. In that moment, I believe that I’ve finally figured out the source of my problems – I just needed to transfer to another college or quit my job and start a business or close my business and start a new one. I’m not saying that I would change any of those decisions, I would make all of them again in a heartbeat. It’s just this pattern of thinking that there’s a single reason that I feel the way I do and it can all be solved once I figure out my perfect career path. If I only create the perfect job for myself, I will be happy forever. Or at the very least I won’t get depressed anymore. Easy peasy.

The wild thing about it is while I’m in both my mania and my depression, it feels like that state is going to last forever. It’s only now that I’m 36 that I realize that they are part of a larger pattern, they’re only temporary. And like every other thing in existence, it too shall pass. No matter how much I wish I was the energetic lust for life guy all the time, I’m a surly quiet guy more days of the year than I’d like to admit.

This is by no means to say that I’m Manic Depressive. I don’t know enough about it to say whether I am or not, nor have I ever been diagnosed as such. I’ve been in therapy for a while now and it’s never been suggested so I feel like that would’ve come up by now. I’ve just reached a new level of understanding about myself and the patterns I keep reliving throughout my adult life.

I have found that daily meditation has helped me quite a bit. Even just 10 minutes a day has really made it easier to step outside of my automatic behaviors. This blog used to be a great way for me to reflect and put my feelings into words but that only works if I actually sit down to write so I think I will start doing this more regularly.

I don’t have a solid way to wrap this up with a bow because I haven’t figured out how to get comfortable with this whole new concept of myself yet. When I do, I’ll let you know.

Until then, I’ll just keep riding the shitty rollercoaster. I do think it’s a bit different now seeing the ride for what it is.

Road Trip Wrap-Up

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Hey Y’all. So this is going to be my epic wrap-up for blog posts. I have a sizeable collection of photos and stories from the remainder of our trip back north.

I left off in Charleston where we had an excellent lunch for my 2 Year Business Anniversary. After that, we continued on our way to North Carolina to spend some time with my cousin’s.

Kara and I stayed with my cousin Adam and his wife Lauren in Durham, NC. Adam made a delicious dinner for us and we got to check out their photos from a recent trip to Ireland. It was nice to check out someone else’s photos for a change! Add that to our list of future travels.

In the morning Lauren took us to the Duke Gardens.

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After our morning stroll, we headed into campus. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were walking through Hogwarts.

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This is Duke Chapel. It felt more like the Sistine Chapel.

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And one of the strangest coincidences from our trip – we happened to cross paths with Kevin in his first week of class while walking around campus. Kevin stayed with my sister-in-law Kirstin’s family while attending St. John’s Prep. He just started his Freshman year at Duke and Kara spotted him walk right past us so we had to take a photo.

My Aunt Tricia made us an enormous home-made dinner with roast pork, potatoes and two tortes to top it all off. It was delicious and we got to spend the evening catching up with my family.

The morning after we hit the road for DC. But first, we had to stop at the Lemur Center at Duke. Everyone told us this was a must-do while we were in town so we visited some of our primate relatives in the morning.

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Kara’s favorites were these two brothers. They do everything together.

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Do your time homie, don’t let the time do you.

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DC!

I think it’s poetic that our final stop also happens to be our nation’s capitol. We celebrated the end of our trip by sleeping in and getting some pop tarts made from scratch.

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Ted’s Bulletin was a great call for breakfast. I forget who recommended it but it was excellent.

Our last day in the sun was full-on summer. 95 degrees in the shade, felt like 110 in the sun. We decided to go towards the National Mall and museum-hop to stay cool.

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First stop was the Renwick Gallery – all kinds of artwork & installations.

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This is actually a bracelet.

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This chandelier has hundreds of LEDs that light up in patterns continually.

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Museum of the American Indian.

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I love this, it’s a sculpture from an old fable about the Raven That Stole The Sun.

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I also thought this mayan calendar sculpture was gorgeous.

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Outside the Capitol we passed by the Mine Worker’s union who were marching to get healthcare for retired Miner’s.

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After lunch we headed to the Natural History Museum. This is one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to. 10-year old me would have lost his mind here.

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The North American Pika face to face with a bull moose.

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Sugar Gliders in flight

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At this point the museums were closing down and we had to brave the heat. It didn’t actually cool off at all during the day, it was just as hot when we got back outside at 5:30.

We took a little rest in the shade of the Washington Monument. I wanted to venture to the top but it’s closed for elevator maintenance right now.

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It didn’t feel right to come all this way and not go to the reflecting pool & Lincoln’s Memorial so that was how we wrapped thing’s up.

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WWII Memorial at the edge of the reflecting pool.

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And that’s pretty much a wrap on our trip. Kara insisted that I take some photos on our last road day, especially once we saw a sign for Salem. Hard to believe it’s been 6 weeks!

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I joked with Kara that once we drove by Albany we could always go left and go once more around.

This was one of the most fun adventures I’ve taken in my life. I feel incredibly lucky that we had the time to take this trip now as well as the support, generosity and hospitality of so many friends and family we joined along the way. Most of all, it was an amazing experience to share with my best friend who also happens to be my wife.

My favorite thing about travel is every time we go somewhere new it makes me want to keep going further, keep exploring. The country is wide and full of adventure!

Day THIRTY SIX thru THIRTY NINE

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This past week I’ve missed adding more blog posts because we’ve filled just about every waking moment with visiting family, friends or things to do. In favor of brevity, I’m going to keep this post light on text. There’s way more to be said about all of these places but if I start falling down that rabbit hole, I won’t get this out today at all.

From New Orleans to Atlanta, with a stop in Montgomery.

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Our first stop in Montgomery, the Civil Rights Memorial. Engraved on the Memorial are the 40 people who lost their lives in the fight to gain civil rights in this country.

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Inside the memorial. This was very powerful and completely worth the stop.

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Details from the memorial. The quote here is “Until justice rolls like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” MLK

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Here is the capitol of Alabama where the confederacy was born.

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Here is MLK’s church exactly one block away. The bus boycott was planned in the basement of this church.

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The Greyhound Bus Terminal now the Freedom Rides Memorial. The tiled over section of the door is where the “Blacks Only” entrance was to the bus station during segregation.

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Off to Atlanta we checked out the MLK National Historic Area. This is his childhood home, now a National Historic Site.

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Outside the MLK Center. The exhibits inside chronicle the life and work of MLK. Totally inspiring.

From Atlanta we headed to Savannah to spend the evening.

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Capitol of Savannah.

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Multiple weddings were taking place when we got there.

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Cotton Exchange out near the River Street. All of these buildings are elevated so they could use the slope of the hill to roll their crops down the hill to the waiting boats.

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Reverse of the Capitol.

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WWII Memorial. I just thought the design was particularly cool on this one.

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One of many historic staircases near River Street. Super steep, watch your step!

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One of the things I was most excited to see in Savannah were the trees with the Spanish Moss. The last three shots are from Forsyth Park.

Next day we spent in Hinesville to visit with Kara’s aunt and cousins. We had a lovely day with all of them finally getting to see the town where they live! Cindy was super sweet and gave us a goody bag of stuff for our trip, so thoughtful! After lunch we headed back to Savannah to spend some more time with CJ and her wife Stephanie.

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Somehow we missed this the first time through. Savannah also has open containers now and this place does about a hundred different types of frozen drinks – Wet Willies.

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Kara with CJ & Stephanie

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Candy store. These are chocolate covered rice crispy treats on a stick.

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Rock em Sock em Robots on the river walk.

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Kara and CJ were the champions in the first round, this was the final match.

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CJ brutalized Kara’s robot to take the title.

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More stairs, more Savannah.

Next day we headed to Charleston on our way to Durham, NC.

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This is where we went for lunch, a place I was dying to go to – Husk. This also happened to be my 2-year anniversary of being in business for myself so Kara put me through an annual review.

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I had the shrimp & grits with a skillet of cornbread.

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Kara got a veggie plate with all kinds of southern ingredients.

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After wandering the neighborhoods of Charleston for a bit we hit the road for Durham to spend time with my cousins. And that is all for now, maybe I will have my NC post up later today.

Right now we are in Washington DC – our last stop of the trip!

Day THIRTY FOUR & THIRTY FIVE

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So this is where I left off. Texas was way greener (more grasslands and trees, not eco-friendly) than I had expected. I didn’t see a single tumbleweed or dude ranch in over 12 hours of driving across it. Although, I also didn’t have a strong Boston accent to the disappointment of everyone we met.

Louisiana on the other hand, really does feel like you’re entering a new territory entirely. The grass is thicker and the swamp seems to be everywhere around you at all times. I snapped a shot once we crossed back over the Mississippi for the last time this trip.

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We also passed by a number of pre-fab houses on the highway along the way to Baton Rouge for disaster relief.

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We arrived on the outskirts of New Orleans just after nightfall. Kara wanted to take some shots as the sun was setting.

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The last stretch of highway leading into New Orleans is elevated about 10 feet above the swamplands below. It sits on concrete pillars and seems to go on for miles and miles. When the sun sets it creates a really beautiful reflecting surface and the sky and water melt into a purpley-pink haze.

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Kara rolled down the window to take these shots and the car immediately filled with hot, humid swamp air. The car thermometer read 81, the air felt like 95. It was going to be a hot one the next day!

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Our hotel was on the end of the French Quarter, we had no trouble finding it, or navigating the streets for that matter. I guess Boston and Venice were good preparation for navigating tricky cities. We started our day in New Orleans with some beignets from Cafe du Monde. They’re less like donuts and more like little fried dough cakes smothered in powdered sugar. Kara and Scott seal of approval!

I have no idea why, but they bring glasses of salt water to the table. Not refreshing! Good coffee though.

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Jackson Square. Did I mention it was hot? My weather app was telling me it was a high of 96, humidity of 72%, feels like 106.

We took frequent breaks into shops we had no interest in just to escape the heat.

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Steamboat along the Mississippi.

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The architecture doesn’t disappoint. Bourbon Street has a certain funk to it that I haven’t smelled since my old frat days. It was sloppy around there by 4pm on a Thursday, I can’t even imagine the craziness that is Mardi Gras.

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As uncomfortable as I was in the heat, I really enjoyed exploring this city. The food really is as good as they say it is, even bar food at 10pm was superb. On top of that, the city is filled with live music. Each block has a mix of jazz, funk, blues and guitars. The best part is that you actually want to stop and listen to them play and not just speed on by to your next destination.

After lunch we took a trolley to the Audobon area and we took an unplanned detour onto Loyola campus so Kara could take some business calls.

I busied myself by wandering and taking photos.

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We headed back to our hotel because the heat was exhausting. We took the trolley back down St Charles and I watched in horror as kids got onto the trolley in jeans and hoodies. They didn’t even seem to notice the heat whereas I thought I was having an all day case of mild heat stroke.

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We grabbed some tapas and drinks for dinner and headed back out into the streets to find some other music that was more our style. Instead we found an open air art showcase with a mix of photography, fine art, jewelry, you name it.

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Once we checked out all the stalls I heard what sounded like a marching band down the street. I expected there to be a rowdy bar with a huge band but what we found was way cooler.

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A big brass band of kids playing on a empty street corner for tips. They were tearing shit up!

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People were dancing, bikes came riding through with glow-in-the-dark lights all over, people came out from all the nearby bars, cars slowed to a crawl and it became this massive block party out of nowhere.

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It was awesome. I took a video but I won’t be able to share it until I edit it from home. This was easily one of the highlights from our whole trip.

It’s crazy too. New Orleans was definitely a concern of ours before getting there. Our family and friends warned us more about this city than any other by far. In our experience here we found it to be one of the friendliest and most unique places we’ve seen. I feel like I can see both sides of the coin on this one, I know the city has problems but it also has more interesting things happening than just about any place we’ve been.

I’ll leave it with this, my favorite sign I saw in town read: The longer you live in New Orleans, the more unfit you are to live anywhere else.