Just Hang On.

Updated: Mar 25

Down comes before Up ... so when you're down just hang on for the next bend in the road.


So many times in my life, I was sure there was no way out. I have felt as powerless as a person can feel, with no possibility of change in sight.


But here's the thing: it's absolutely 100% human to be down. The myth that we should always be up is like going on a bike ride and believing that all roads should be downhill so that you never have to struggle or sweat. That's just not reality. On balance, half of any ride will be up, and the other half will be down. This is life.


So it's normal to be stuck, to not to know what to do, to feel powerless or down. You cannot avoid it. Which means that the only important question when you find yourself in your own personal hell is, "What will you do?"


It was like some part of me knew it was not foolish to dream, that dreaming was in fact was what was going to get me out of this mess.

And now - understand - I am not implying that you need to turn everything around on a dime, just like that. That would be stetting up an unrealistic expectation, and who the hell needs that when you are already feeling powerless and down? Because, let's be frank, sometimes - no matter how much you know you are stuck and would pay anything to get out of it - there is just not a good next-step to take.


So let me say this, because this is what kept me alive. It's the most important thing. Sometimes the only thing you can do is this: Just hang on. For many many years that was all I did. But thank god I had this small steady voice inside of me (I don't even claim to know where came from) that just kept saying, over and over: Just. Hang. On.


And cynically, I would say, "For what?"


"Just hang on," was the response that came back. And so I was trapped in such an odd place, with all of my own stuckness and powerlessness and just this one small voice in the dark, with this one constant message to deliver: Just hang on.


And so I had a lot of time in my swamp to just sit and think, and the funny thing is that the voice was right. If I really looked deep down inside, I had so so many things that I still wanted to do. So the voice was right, I should hang on. Although the possibility of the things I hoped for seemed as flimsy as a dream, as fictional as fairy dust. I mean, how could I ... a completely powerless young man with loads of depression, who was closeted, had no money, was still stuck at home, and also had no job, no job skills, and no life skills .. how could I possibly do all the things I could see in my heart? How? It was impossible!


Plus, with all my stuckness and frustration all I had back then was rage, on top of everything else, although I managed to hide it well because even my rage felt like a source of shame to me. But many years later I would learn something important: I learned to see that my rage is what saved me, too, in addition to the voice. Rage, I learned, is often confused with anger, which is hot and destructive and hurts others. But rage is different - it is life force. So this rage was an expression of my life force knowing that I was trapped, but refusing to go out, like the fire of someone who knows they have been wrongly imprisoned.


Just hang on. You'll see.


At some point the message received this amendment: "You'll see." It was a like a small glint of hope. It was like some part of me knew it was not foolish to dream, that dreaming was in fact was what was going to get me out of this mess.


If only I could go back to tell that young kid that it would all be alright. That - beyond all reason - I would escape. I would get out. I would see the world. I would live in one of the world's greatest cities. I would work for some of the world's top corporations and universities. I would travel. I would witness history. I would swim in aqua seas. I would see Mexico, and Hawaii. I would scamper up and down ancient ruins in Asia. I would lay about in Tuscany. I would see Venice and Rome and Paris and drive all across America, completely alone, all of my life packed in the back of my car. I would see the redwoods and the Badlands and Death Valley and Joshua Tree. I would find weird tribes of people, and go camping on weird soulful weekends, I would have mystical experiences in sweat lodges. I would hike naked in the desert. I would go on a pilgrimage of my own making. I would meet famous people, I would see Hollywood, I would do comedy, I would act on stage, I would even (gulp) sing in public. I would live in California. I would make friends I could not have imagined, I would have sex, and boyfriends, and even for a time, an honest-to-god partner. I would even find a community of men - gay and straight - where I could be myself and be vulnerable and break down and build myself back up again, and be held lovingly as I did it - my years of held-back tears and rage would not scare these men away, nor make them want to beat the fuck out of me. Instead, they would hold me to them like a lost brother who was finally found.


Impossible. Totally fucking impossible. All of it. (This from my younger self.)


And yet it happened. All of it and more. And it continues to. Life is amazing.


I still don't know where that voice came from, the one that saved me. But you know what, time is a funny thing. The voice talking to me back then, the one keeping me afloat, well, it sounds a little like me right now. Is that even possible? Can I be the one who was talking to myself all those years ago? Is life really that magical?


Just hang on. You'll see.


OK, good enough for now,

~ Quest Barely


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