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  • Writer's pictureDerek Davidson


“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

— Winston Churchill

I have been on my grind recently. I’m climbing at the bouldering gym three times a week. I’m in serious danger of reclaiming my Dad Bod on the way to getting fully shredded (okay not really but I am a few pounds down). I’m eating lentils, and I made a Lenten Vow to stop drinking soda and have stuck with it. I’m writing here and getting published and sleeping eight hours a night. I can’t remember the last time I missed my medication. And something really strange happened the other day.

I felt joy.

Like, honest to God joy. I was sitting on my couch under a blanket next to a fire. I was rubbing Vanessa’s feet, watching a Rockets’ game, and she was talking to the dog about something absurd, and I was laughing and smiling, and then my eyes started to water, and I said aloud to the room, “I feel joy” quietly at first and then again a bit louder. I wasn’t focused on anything in particular. No video games, no rabid refreshing of my google analytics page. Just joy. There was a lightness to it. Like a beachball thrown to the audience at a sporting event. I was smiling and fully present and even thinking about it now I cannot help but tear up a bit. Joy has been so distant from me for so long.

I often laugh or am pleased about things, but those feelings are always restrained, amputated before becoming global. There is a buzz in the back of my mind—the kind that makes you squint one eye in discomfort—stopping me short of losing myself in a loveliness. “Yes this is nice but be careful, Derek.” What am I afraid of? Is there a loss of control inherent to happiness?

And so but anyway—joy, real joy came to me, and now I want more of it all the time like a fat kid wants cake. Like me. I’m the fat kid.

And then I messed around and let myself care about the primary. And I let myself care a bit more about my job. And a couple of not perfect things happened, and I felt it slipping away. I felt the tone of my inner monologue break bad. I got a piece of (really quite reasonable) feedback at work. “I should quit.” I got fewer page views than I wanted on my published pieces. “This isn’t worth it.” I go to the gym and climb, but stop short of the top. “You wouldn’t make it.” It’s all so fucking contingent. I was driving to my counselor, and I imagined my car flipping over. Just peacefully popping off of the ground and landing on the roof, skidding sparks, blood splattered on a cracked windshield. I read an email—just some passive aggressive Minnesota Nice ass shit. And in a sort of robotic moment of clarity, I realized the bad was accumulating, becoming cumulative. It had taken months of hard work for the good to pile up enough to feel a sliver of joy in my life. And then two days—really 25 minutes across two days—to undo it. I was driving to my counselors, and it felt like a bucket of deep grey paint had been tumped over onto my world, coating everything in dread and blah and fuck this.

And then I stopped it. I willed the paint to stop dripping, and I saw what the grey was made of. I saw that it was my candidate losing in the primary and a couple work emails and someone using a friend’s legal name instead of his nickname (these things can be so fragile). It was “It Must Be Winter in my Heart” playing on the radio on repeat, and I just paused it. The song first and then the rest of it. I decided not to tie all of these disparate things together and not to craft a narrative about my remarkable unworthiness. Instead, I told my counselor about it and told him that I was going to try to stop spiraling before I drown in it. He said I should write this down, so I did.

That was two days ago, and it’s almost held. Now the pile of non-related shittiness is sort of throbbing at me, begging to be aggregated, adding a weightless lack of joy on top like a thin layer of lacquer. It’s a shiny pile. But I don’t look at it if I can help it. I’m trying, effortfully, to tie the good things together. I’m trying to have new ideas and trying to see this ceasefire from my depression as diplomatic progress. A month ago I would be in bed, soaked in grey—best case scenario. Today, I just keep going. One foot in front of the other. And then the next. Forever. If you’re going through hell, keep going.

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Aug 27, 2020

Hey, I came across your blog in a sleepless moment and it's brought me a lot of comfort, as a youth worker adjusting to beimg based in a school context. Your reflections on your greatest teaching regret and why school sucks really resonates with me at the moment. I was trying to identify why kids don't feel motivated and why there are challenging behaviours but when I've been able to see kids for this reason, each has been open to learning and a pleasure to work with. Your words have given me much needed comfort, and helped me provide language and clarity to the challenges I am seeing as a non teacher in a school setting. Thank you for learning…


Mar 18, 2020

‘Joy’ I see myself in this one. Diagnosis: Pate Brain

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