Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly

The Long RunThe Long Run by Mishka Shubaly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't normally read drug memoir essays. I'm tired of long, arrogant ruminations by people who've wrecked their lives and believe that in the process they have learned some deep truth about how existence really is this pointless wasteland (does it ever occur to them that if you destroy anything, it tends to look pointless and wasted afterwards?) and those of us who haven't dared to live on the edge subsist in a fiction of our own making (really, if I want to see truth, I think not taking hallucinogenics is the way to go, but hey, that's just me.) I'm amused by the idea that a gritty description of the smell, taste, and texture of vomit spewed into a gutter is a great artistic accomplishment.

This essay, however, walks the sword edge of truth between needless glorification of alcoholism and simplistic platitudes about getting clean. Shubaly's drinking didn't wreck his life in the conventional sense. He's one of those people with enough brain power that he can subsist on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol and still get straight A's in school and hold down a job. By the same token, quitting drinking didn't land him in a blissful existence full of love, acceptance, and beauty. Rather, this essay reads like a journey through the proverbial tunnel to the light at the end, except the light isn't the kind that warms you up and makes the world look glorious (he tells the reader what drug to take if you want to see that one), but rather the kind that illuminates life as it is, with all its shabbiness and drudgery, its disappointments, hard choices and all around frustrations. Most important, it faces head on the fact that once you give up one obsession, life will still ask you, "So what now?" and while the answers might come more automatically with practice, they will never get easier.

I am glad Mishka's back and willing to tell the tale of where he's been. He and I were middle school classmates, people who could probably recognize each other on sight (if we're looking), pronounce each others last names (Shubaly has the stress on the second syllable, if I remember correctly), and have on rare occasions said something to the other, and on even rarer occasions said something that requires more than a smirk, chuckle, or sarcastic thumbs up in response. For years we've been connected on Facebook, but only recently have I seen him tearing up the virtual hallways with his crazy sense of humor and posting the odd (in all senses of the word) comment on someone's wall. There are a lot of things I was happy to leave behind in middle school, but I'm glad my association with Mishka wasn't one of them. Life isn't always pretty, but it's the people we share it with and who pace us on the long run that make the journey worthwhile.

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