Charles Bukowski Can’t Save Ya

“I am at an angst level only Bukowski can relate to,” I think as I pull my battered copy of Ham On Rye off the shelf. Instantly I’m pulled back to my high school years, picking up this book to impress Chris Martin, my best friend then. I attempted to find something meaningful in this misogynist’s words and apparently did, with all the phrases I had underlined.

“But I didn’t want to be anything anyhow. And I was certainly succeeding.”

Bukowski, Ham on Rye

I hate how much I can identify with this white man’s struggle to find placement in the world; drunkenly stumbling around to the next opportunity handed to him. Jumping from one dead-end job to the next, never finding anything meaningful to hang onto. Years of blaming parents for your shortcomings, giving into the generations of alcoholism instead of working to disrupt the cycle.

I can often fall into these patterns, but as I grow older I take more responsibility for the person that I am. I can accept that I am a certain way because of my childhood and still be working to change it. Yet, even as I write this, I am sipping a white claw, hoping that it will bring out some insightful knowledge I can’t find the words for sober.

I dropped out of college and moved back to my hometown. Working at a sub shop, bored to death, writing journal entries and snippets of poems on the back of the order pads. It took me almost a year to quit that job I hated, afraid to disappoint the man I was working for. Insane. Working at a local bakery, I thought I found something meaningful, something inspiring, but three years pass and I get tired of the same shit. The same people arguing over the same  minuscule things. That is no place to find meaning. Fighting over the meaningless.

I talked to my therapist for months about quitting that job, but it took a pandemic to get me to take a break. And I sat at home for months, consumed by anxiety of where the world was heading. And another Bukowski quote rings in my mind – 

“At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior, I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go. Suicide? Jesus Christ, just more work. I felt like sleeping for five years but they wouldn’t let me” (193).

Bukowski, Ham On Rye

I want to sleep for years and wake up when this is all over. I want to wake up to a world to be excited about, a life to be excited about. I get closer every day, attempting to follow where the universe leads me. But sometimes I fall into these Bukowski-esk traps; wanting to change, but not willing to work for it. I sometimes wonder where I’ll be in a few years, consistently unable to imagine any future farther than 8 years away. I will myself to only imagine the life I want; one where I am not constantly chasing happiness in a new location; relocating myself thinking that somehow I’ll be a different person when I have different surroundings. Somehow thinking the world can change me; yet knowing that it is the opposite.

If I truly want a life I enjoy, I must become someone I enjoy. Throw self deprecation out the fucking window. Bukowski isn’t going to give me any answers except for the knowledge that he hated himself just as much as everyone else did and yet we still talk about him. Success means nothing unless it means something to you. No one else can pull you out of the trenches of self doubt.

Healthy Reminder: Drink tea when you’re upset, wine only when you’re happy. and don’t try to drink yourself to sleep when you’re already lower than the floorboards.


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