It was a night like most others. 2 am. Cold. The only light was streaming in through the blinds from outside. No electricity. I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house and go to the office to take care of the shut-off notice, so I had no light – no heat.

I’d bought two cartons of Marlboro Reds earlier in the month, so at least I could smoke in the dark.

I hadn’t showered in at least two weeks, and it wasn’t happening tonight with cold water, so I had to live with the smell coming from under the blanket. Fomunda – that’s what we used to call it when it was a joke.

The noise was unbearable, but my neighbors couldn’t have heard it because the screaming was in my head. The bastards in charge had spent the better part of the day and night trying to get me to slice open a vein with the razor blade I had been using on my upper arm.

For the most part, I wasn’t listening. In my mind, I was hiking up a cliff above a fjord in Norway. The view was breathtaking and a credit to the imagination who had created this reality for me, so I didn’t have to deal with the pain, blood, darkness, and fear in my real life.

“If I get through this, I’m going there someday.”

I survived each new day with the promise to myself that when things got better, I would travel and visit places like the ones my broken mind had fabricated.

Over the years, my mind had taken me to the beaches of southeast Asia, the craggy mountains of Norway, the cloistered streets of the old town in Estonia, the rivers and peaks of Switzerland, and the streets of Paris where I ate croissants and spoke terrible French. Each day was a new place to visit, and by the time I was able to fall asleep, I felt like I had explored every nook and cranny of these manufactured realities.

I was going to visit them all for real one day.

Fast-forward – twenty years later – and although I have walked the beaches of the Philippines, I haven’t been anywhere else. It’s not that I forgot about the promises I made to my past self those nights sitting in the dark; it’s that right now, even if there was no pandemic, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

A little over two years ago, I decided I wouldn’t let my illness keep me from my dreams. I hadn’t worked in over a decade, except for a few freelance jobs, but I had spent so much time learning ways to cope with my episodes of psychosis, depression, and anxiety that I felt I could take on a bit of a career in writing.

At times it seemed as if I would make progress, only to push myself too hard and end up fighting the voices in my head and those pesky suicidal tendencies. But I would always bounce back, and each time would jump into writing with an enthusiasm unmatched.

For two years, its been a cycle of intense work and focus, and then a period where I would lick my wounds and recover my strength.

I do this to myself because I can feel the Jason from twenty years ago pushing me to be better than I was the day before. He wants to see Norway and France because I promised and he won’t let me forget.

I push myself both because 30-year-old me demands it, and because I want a better life for my family. If I drive myself hard enough and I can afford to travel the world, you can imagine that my family would be well-taken-care-of as well.

My dream is to travel, but it’s not my wife’s dream. If I can travel though, I can afford to finance her wants as well. I can put money away for the time when my kids want to spread their wings and experience all that life has to offer. I want to help my aging parents live out their life without wanting for anything, and I’d like the boys I raised to be men to be able to count on me if they ever need anything.

It’s not just a selfish desire to take my past self to exotic places, it’s also to make sure every member of my family is safe and cared for.

I have big dreams, and I must push to reach all the goals I set for myself.

Everyone is counting on me. I depend on me.

Here I sit. 2 am. The air is cool, and the electricity is on. Like every other night, I am working – writing, building blogs and brands, and battling the demons that seek to engulf me.

I push myself hard, but not enough that I topple from my perch above the darkness. I don’t push myself too hard because I can hear the voices screaming my name, deep down where I locked them. They look for any opportunity to break out, so I have to be careful not to leave the keys lying around.

I run harder and harder because I can see the finish line in the distance. I am at the precipice of a breakthrough that will give me everything I want and need and allow me to take care of my family.

I push harder, but I am strong, and I know I can run forever.

I move forward because my past self wants a croissant.