On October 29, 1929, after a decade that was known as “The Roaring 20s,” the stock market on Wall Street crashed leaving the country and the world in a grave depression. The crash did not happen without warning signs. It didn’t come without reason. The twenties were not only a time of social change and liberation for much of the country, they were also economically stable times which led to economically prosperous times which then led to many people living a life that would make Jay Gatsby green with envy. The theory is what goes up must come down. Stocks rose higher and higher. Everyone in the nation, thanks to the twenties, had a false sense of security. The joy of the twenties was so strident that the youth of America thought that it might always be this way. Of course, that was until the Crash of ’29.
I was born in 1987. Reagan was President, Madonna was on MTV, and the Huxtables were the perfect portrait of the classic American family. I grew up in the 90s, with President Clinton balancing the budget, everyone wearing plaid, and your friends would be there for you. I turned twenty years old on April 28th, 2007. I was living in Los Angeles and I was on my own. After the year was over I decided to move back to Alabama and get serious about my future. I went to college, got my degree in history, met the love of my life, and decided that I wasn’t finished with entertaining people yet.
The thing you need to know about me is that I was diagnosed late in life with ADHD. Most people are diagnosed with this particular mental disorder by the age of ten. The symptoms of ADHD can manifest themselves in many different ways. For most of my twenties it was difficulty focusing and a very ardent emphasis on the hyperactivity of ADHD. It was explained to me that the way this mental disorder manifests itself in your life can change over time, as our lives change. I think that can be true for anything, really. As our life continues and we develop into the adults we are meant to be, the way we react to things change. And at the age of twenty-five, it did change. We decided it was time to move to New York City. It was what we both wanted… We being myself and the love of my life aforementioned. We both had dreams that was leading us there, we both wanted to take a bite out of the Big Apple, and we knew that there was never a right time to do it.
Of course, Murphy’s Law never saw an opportunity to pass me by. Well, at least if it did it certainly never took it. As soon as we got to New York, we lost every penny we had. We didn’t have a place to live for three weeks. We then both got wonderful jobs, not in our chosen fields, of course, but wonderful jobs that would pay the bills in full. We found an apartment with a friend. The friend wound up being so dumb he could throw himself to the ground and miss his target. But we overcame. We scrimped and saved and finally got our own place. Then, Murphy came a calling. my partner lost his job. So, there we were, poor again. Mind you, all the while we are going through all this, we were hopeful. We figured this was the struggle to make something last. You have to remember, too, that all the while we are going through all this, I still have ADHD and I can feel little things changing in me. Anxiety became a big part of it all.
Well, my partner found a new job, an even better one, and the house was finally furnished and I had started my new adventure of creating a podcast. Then it happened. I turned 29. Here I was at the last leg of the rat race that is your twenties. I always assumed that by the time I was 29 I would be sure of myself, and I would have my life in order and I would be in control of my own destiny. Little did I know, the crash of 29 was coming. The stock market crash of 29 led to the greatest depression the world has ever seen. Well, so did mine. My anxiety took me down some of the darkest roads I had ever been through. The motivation was gone, the energy was gone and the worst part of it all: all the creativity was gone. Creativity. That is all I had and it was gone. My anxiety had led to depression before but I always had hope that it would clear up in a few days. But just like the stock market crash, I too had tell tail signs that something bad was coming, which I promptly ignored. This time it was bigger. This time it was all-encompassing. This time it permeated every available space in my mind. How did I get out, you ask? Well, I did just what the world did to get out of the Great Depression. I went to war.
I don’t know that I can begin to explain what it means for someone who is prone to anxiety and depression to say it was a dark time because all times have the potential to be dark. These were times when I would think about things that I had never thought about before. Thoughts that everyone has entertained at one point or another, were thoughts I was entertaining on a daily basis. It wasn’t like I was actually considering something drastic, but it gave me a sadistic, dark pleasure to flirt with them. I would take leisure with these thoughts. It would give me a thrill that is both disturbing and repulsive to me now when I would think about what the rest of the people in my little world would do should something dire happen to me. In the 1930s, in the depths of depression, the most destitute citizens living inner-city set up temporary shanty houses that became semi-permanent. They were called Hoovervilles, named after the President of the time. I too was standing in a place that had always been deemed temporary with the downward gaze of submission. I had lost hope and thought I would potentially be in this shanty dwelling permanently.
I know it to be true with anyone with high anxiety and depression that little flecks of light sometimes penetrate the dark. Something deep down inside of me, I guess that part that was the little boy with the patch over his good eye in order to strengthen the lazy eye, the little boy that declared his place in the world at an early age to be a humorous one, the boy who would watch sitcoms for company when he felt he had no friends, the boy who moved to Los Angeles at nineteen-years-old, the boy who moved to New York City to take the world by storm, that part of me used the the last little bit of strength to harness one of those little sparks of light. If you can give a spark enough oxygen, the fires of battle can blaze with glory.
I have always said there is a big difference between happiness and joy. To me, happiness is overrated. Ice cream makes me happy. Chocolate makes me happy. Walking into the subway station and the train I need pulls right up to the platform without a moment’s delay makes me happy. Happiness is insignificant. Joy comes from within. Joy is the feeling that you are satisfied with the world around you even if you have no ice cream, or chocolate, or if you have to wait 20 minutes for the train to come. That is what was gone for me. Joy had diminished. It seems as though every great war that has ever been fought is filled with irony. The crusades were fought in some capacity for over 400 years in the name of Christianity in an effort to spread the religion that is rooted in love and service. Hitler wanted to make the world great by diminishing an entire religion, killing millions. The great irony in the war I was fighting and am still fighting: a substantial source of joy for me is having my closest allies around me and it was becoming ever clear that this is a war I would be fighting alone. And just like that I found the cause for which I was fighting. I fought the war… and lets’s be honest, I am still fighting the war… to find in myself the true belief and faith that I alone am enough. I am enough. I am funny enough, I am smart enough, I am handsome enough, I am compassionate enough, I am stubborn enough. I am enough. And you know what? I am winning the war.
The spoils of the battles are an important part of any war. Not everyone racks up the booty quite like Russia. They took home seventeen new nations after the ugly business known colloquially as World War I. There are some other semantics in there that I am sure I am leaving out. No. Historically, the spoils of war are usually in the form of riches, land, slaves or power. When you are fighting a war of one, you will find your spoils of war not outwardly, but buried deep within.
Since the beginning of this war within myself, it was me all along that was fighting myself. I questioned my every move, I doubted every course that was plotted. Historians have discovered that there were unresolved furies and cold conflicts simmering in the decades between the first Great War and the war that ended the Great Depression. There were unresolved issues and wounds that were not allowed to heal. Though peace and prosperity may be the outward symbol of the twenties, the embers of a deeper conflict can continue to smolder unseen. That is what this war within myself has been about. I want to make sure I leave no stone unturned and no feeling unfelt. I want to make sure every facet of the conflict is resolved this time. Though, some of the most significant battles have been fought, the war is not quite over. Will it ever be over? I hope so.
The Great Depression is not just an event in History that was significant. It is now a living and breathing entity in the world. It always will be. What I mean by that is it is something to be feared. We saw it. Our grandparents were born before it happened and they watched it unfold. We know it is there. We have discussions of how close we are to having this monster come out and play. Her little sister paid us a visit in 2008 and we wondered if the younger was more beastly than the latter. Every generation knows the fear of something so disastrous that it lives forever and remains something to be feared. There was the assassination of President Kennedy, the “Pointless War” of Vietnam, and the latest of the cousins to throw themselves a party in the American psyche, 9/11, an event so ravenous that the mere date of the event strikes fear and sadness in hearts all around the world. No matter how much distance we put between ourselves and these events, they live. They are something we discuss. We know they happened. If they were once possible they are always possible. And when we get close to their cage we always tread lightly.
My own Great Depression is no different. It baffles me when I think too deeply of it. How does our subconscious decide which events we can let go and what events stay with us in our everyday forever more? On New Year’s Eve I had decided that the year I turn twenty-nine would be a year of transformation. And predictions are like wishes, when made callously or without deep examination, they can be very tricky. Needless to say, I was correct about my midnight revelation. I wasn’t just in the tunnel of change. I was stripped of all that I had in ways I haven’t even begun to describe. I found myself in the eye of the storm. The first thing you do is try to convince yourself the storm on the horizon is manageable. Then when you are in it, you decide that if you double down you can make it through. Then, finally, you throw your hands up in the air in submission and surrender and hope that this beast that is bigger than you will mercifully lead you to the shore. Mixed metaphors aside, that is exactly what I did. I remained quiet but mindful that I don’t know how this will be okay, but somehow it will. Then one day, just as the rainbow appears after the storm, or to return to the original metaphor, the silence after the battle, I experienced the clarity and calm. It was a rebirth, a baptism really. I had life made anew.
After the Great Depression and the Great War to follow, everyone tried to remain cautious but there was too much to do, too much lost time to make up for, and after all the destruction and peril of the greatest war in modern history to date, the energy of creation was crackling in the minds of all nations. I too had a renewed sense of energy and creativity. I had the promise of a bright new day, and I still do. The world swore they would never let themselves get to that place again; so did I. The great nations of the world decided that it was important to instill preventative measures to ensure the peril of the 30s and 40s never happened again. They knew that alliances that were even stronger during peacetime than in war were extremely important. I realized that rest, exercise and nutrition were just a few things that would keep me from the dark places again. I feel as though I have done the hard work to make sure I remain stimulated and energized. If you go through such an event and learn nothing then you are bound to repeat it until you do. I feel as though I have learned much about my own abilities and strengths and even my own soul. If there is anything that history has taught me it is that I will go on, I will have many more successes and failures in life, and if I learn from each one I will have a life worth living. But one thing I know for sure is that I won’t nor should I ever forget the Crash of ’29.