The year was 2002. I laid in darkness on a dark brown, garage sale bought couch in a musty, smelly, single-bedroom basement apartment on the drab west side of Champaign, Illinois. I was hopelessly contemplating my next move, banging my thoughts off fictitious walls in my head in an attempt to find the answer.
Eight months prior, I had broken up with my high school sweetheart, whom I had mistakenly moved in with after graduation. We had dated for three years in high school, so in my inexperience — the next step was moving in together for college, right? The phrase “young, dumb, and full of cum” could not apply more aptly. It was a huge blunder on my part, and it was the first time I had consciously hurt someone for my own happiness.
After weeks of warding off her psychotic episodes over lost love, I had gotten to a point where I wanted to see what else was out there. I dined, drank, and dated several prospective women, even fulfilling some needs along the way, but none of them ever lived up to a standard I had built in my head. In hindsight, I don’t think any nineteen or twenty year old woman could have lived up to my vision of grandeur, but what did I know?
In a feat of pure luck, or at least that’s the only explanation I can think of, I met a woman at my part-time job stocking shelves at the local Meijer. She was gorgeous, hard-working, fun to be around, and a great person. I felt lucky to be in her presence, and even more lucky that she found my company enjoyable. Unfortunately, she had a boyfriend, her high school sweetheart, who she was unconditionally in love with.
The awkwardness began a few days later when he got a job… in my department… on the same shifts as me. I couldn’t have asked for a more fucked up situation. Strangely, I grew to like the guy. We had similar interests, but he had this old-fashioned, jock mentality. He used his size to bully other people around, and his means to settling arguments was punching people. Needless to say, I was greatly annoyed that this beautiful young woman actually loved this brute.
Everything went down in a blaze of glory one afternoon on a rainy evening as my shift ended. We were flirting constantly in the stock room, and I could tell that things were changing. We were definitely falling for one another. She flat out asked me at one point what was going on, so I told her how I felt. She panicked, called her boyfriend, told him, and all hell broke loose.
A few days later after the dust had settled, I made up some story that she misinterpreted what I was saying. She bought it, and I was able to still see her as friends. But her boyfriend knew it was total bullshit. I know she loved me. I know we could have had a wonderful future together, and it was ruined by timing and the fear of things unknown.
The ordeal left me shaken and alone. I was completely depressed, sitting on my couch most days binging on a case of Busch Light like the alcoholics that I didn’t want to become. The only thing I knew at that moment was that I didn’t want to be in that city anymore. It assaulted me from both flanks and succeeded. It was time to retreat.
Laying on that couch in the dark, my ears being penetrated by Jim Adkins’ lyrics…
“Hey, don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best, try everything you can.
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.”
“Hey, you know they’re all the same.
You know you’re doing better on your own, so don’t buy in.
Live right now.
Yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.”
The song had an interesting effect on me. It got me riled up. Live right now. Yeah, why aren’t I living right now? What the fuck am I doing? Sulking in the dark? I was writing myself off, and this song was fueling some sort of deep desire to tell myself to fuck off. Lost love, lost friends, loneliness, it all culminated into a dark existence, and somehow — “The Middle” enlightened me.
A couple of days later, I called a friend at a state school a few hours away. He said he needed a roommate for next semester. I checked out the school’s computer science program. It looked respectable, but I was more interested in just enjoying college life with people who wanted me to be a part of it with them. I made the decision to move, and it became one of the best decisions I ever made. So, thanks to Jim Adkins and being shunned by a record label, I’m a happier person for his pain.