By TBF Ambassador: Andrew Davie

I had only planned on staying with my parents for a week over July 4th, 2023. I was in the process of completing the requirements for my Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree. On July 7th, I was supposed to return to Virginia, finish the summer classes, and continue counseling at my internship. However, my mother’s ALS has regressed to the point where she needs 24-hour care, and it’s much easier for everyone if I’m with my folks. Fortunately, I can continue to take classes and counsel virtually. By the end of the year, I’ll have satisfied all of my requirements except for a few electives that will need to be taken in person. This might seem like a tremendous setback, however, during the first year of my recovery, I wrestled with a lot of existential angst. I had always assumed I would get married and start a family. That no longer feels like something I “need” to do, so for a while I struggled with figuring out what could be a substitute. Being a caretaker is not necessarily ideal, but it has provided me with that sense of purpose I had sought. 

As a result of my moving in with my parents, a couple of things had to be rescheduled, like my return flights, and the follow-up CT Scan I get every two years, but that was easy enough to do. I canceled a trip to attend a wedding and tried to give away tickets I’d purchased to a Boris/Melvins concert in Washington D.C. However, the one trip that was off the table from consideration was my trip to Springfield, Illinois to visit my friend, Heather, attend the State Fair, and see REO Speedwagon in concert. 

Soon after my first crime fiction book, Pavement, was published, I spoke with a music marketer named Matt Bacon and asked him about marketing ideas for independent books. I continued to stay in touch with him, and later I participated in a marketing seminar he helped oversee. Heather has an eBay store called “Heather’s Records and Relics,” so she participated in the same seminar to get insight on how to better market her store. One of the projects everyone had to do was create a Facebook group. Heather created “Happy Hour with Heather and Guest” which was originally going to be a message board where people could post about the music they enjoyed. When the Pandemic hit, Heather pivoted, and the Facebook group became a place where musicians could live-stream performances from their rehearsal rooms since live music had been put on hold. I asked Heather if she would like help, and as a result, as Happy Hour with Heather and Guest, we offered musicians a chance to perform during the height of the pandemic. We also became good friends. When musicians would be able to have shows again, Heather and I changed the format to a music review show, which we still hold weekly. 

Over the years, Heather has become an integral part of my life. She has been supportive during times when I’ve been struggling either with recovery or with OCD. She’s also someone with whom I can share in the good times; she reads everything I write without being asked. Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, once suggested friendship is the most valuable currency. I’m fortunate I’ve been able to recognize how valuable our friendship is. Growing up, I would have assumed a relationship like ours would only be possible between spouses, but I’ve learned that is false. 

Since she lives in Illinois, I made plans to visit when she could take some time off of work. We decided on Springfield, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and I ordered a stovepipe hat I could wear around town. We learned the State Fair would be there at the same time, and REO Speedwagon would be performing one night. Seeing REO Speedwagon at a state fair in the Midwest would be at the very top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs if Mr. Maslow was going to revise his pyramid. Also, the trip had now taken on a mythic quality. Like Clark Griswold, in the film Vacation, this had now become a quest for fun and a respite for me. 

It has taken a while to become comfortable with finding happiness in the opportunities presented. I continue to move forward despite the obstacles in the way. I’m not sure what will happen with my mother or my schooling but I remember quotations like this one from the film Zoolander “I wasn’t like every other kid you know, who dreams about being an astronaut. I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree. Richard Gere is a real hero of mine.” Albert Camus wrote an essay called The Myth of Sisyphus, in which he compared existence to the former Greek king, Sisyphus’s condemnation of having to roll a boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll back to the bottom, for eternity. The final line of the essay (Spoiler Alert) is “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” 

Ultimately, your experiences are what you choose to make of them. I will continue to make the most out of the hand I’ve been dealt and find silver linings where I can. The past five years have included many radical traumatic changes, but I’m also finding fulfillment. However, If you had told me I would find this fulfilling wearing a stovepipe hat while singing along to “Keep on Lovin’ You” sitting in section K of the fairgrounds in Illinois…