Article V: Number 134

Written by:
Jacob King

Out of 136 kids in my high school class, I was academically ranked 134. My best friend was 135 and we never knew who 136 was, but he must have died during the school year if he got worse grades than we did. But I wasn’t always number 134

Growing up I was a sports junkie. I wrestled year-round and was on a traveling baseball team. I was a straight A student with big dreams, but things changed when my dad’s drug addiction started. As my dad began to fade out of my life (since he was busy getting his hands on pain prescription pills and eventually heroin) all I had as a guide to scheme a plan for happiness were my post-pubescent physiological desires—and a half-functioning frontal lobe (thanks to the evolution of the teenage brain).

I started chasing anything that felt good. I quickly became a troublemaker, doing outrageous things in class for attention (which felt pretty good at first in my half-witted state), like calling my math teacher “Mr. ****head” to win a bet; or like threatening to fight my English teacher — the cops pulled me out of class for that last one. I was partying, chasing girls, drugs, anything.

You name it, I probably did it.

Yet nothing seemed to satisfy me. My life started to become very empty, very fast. Two of my friends committed suicide. And it didn’t take long for me to hit rock-bottom. One night of mailbox smashing led to a cop pulling me over. Well, he tried to pull me over… Instead of stopping, I turned off my headlights and gunned it down several dirt roads, leading a high speed chase for five miles before I almost ran into a house.

With his gun to my head, the cop thought I might be some drug lord running for his life. The truth was that I was just some bored kid looking for a thrill.

The chase happened just a few weeks before I would have been considered a legal adult, which would have resulted in a mandatory minimum sentence of a year in prison. Instead, as a minor, I received just six months probation. But watching my friends get put in handcuffs, I knew this Breaking Bad lifestyle wasn’t for me anymore. I seriously needed to cook up a new plan.

Looking for a Shawshank escape from my current path, I hatched a new plot: I’ll call this the ‘be somebody’ stage. Money and success seemed like they might be just the right keys to unlock the good life. I didn’t, at first, think I needed that DiCaprio type money to be happy (no need to be greedy); just like a C-list (or even D-list) celeb — like Brendan Fraser in 2022 — kind of success would do.

So I dropped out of high school (for the first time), moved from my hometown in Michigan to Denver, Colorado with my best friend, and became a sales rep for a marketing company where my friend’s brother was making mad money. But at the ripe old age of 18, as expected, I lasted a good long month before I went back home.

Yet I was still 134, with records at my school for the most absences ever (my mom was so proud), and there was no way to undo the damage. So my high school advised me to officially drop out and enroll in Alternative Education (unless I wanted to start high school all over again… 🙄 be a high school freshman at 18? No thanks, even dropouts have standards). 

But I was still determined. I knew if I put half the energy I did into chasing my previous dreams of revelry, I had this. I finished ‘school’ with classes like Literature through Movies, in which our class explored the great and diverse world of English Literature with movies like Star Wars. (Hey, you gotta start somewhere.) Let’s just say my classmates weren’t headed to Harvard. I also had to quit partying all the time to pass school, and with my free evenings, I had extra time to pick up a job at a warehouse. My friends weren’t into the change so I dropped away from them as well. Nothing was going to stop me…

so I thought.

I enrolled in college, worked forty plus hours a week, started living at the gym when I wasn’t working or studying. After a significant amount of time putting in the work, I was finally achieving good things in my life. I was once again nearly a straight A student, and people, from class, from work, etc., were even trying to copy me — not bad for a dropout.

Things were at last going well and I was happier than I was in my Dazed and Confused era; but something was still missing. I just wasn’t sure what it was. I started thinking this internal weirdness might be there because of my current position in the food chain. The more I met and hung out with the people who were at the level of success I was aiming for, the more I began to think maybe there were levels to this money-infused happiness after all. Happiness, I concluded, was actually an exclusive club only for those who reach the heights of success, and I was still waiting outside in the cold. I thought, perhaps, it was high time to dial my ambitions up from an eight to rich-rich.

Dan Bilzerian, the famous professional poker player and social media personality, was once asked if all his money and success was making him happy, and he spoke the great secret of what almost all ballers experience when they get all those benjamins:

“Money can buy pleasure, but it can’t buy happiness… Chasing money... is not what makes you happy. When I was younger, I thought when I got a million bucks I would be happy enough, then five million and ten million. Every time you hit a milestone, I was so sure the next million would be enough, then you get to the next point [and] you realize it's not the money that’s going to make you happy. But, then, I still chase it... I’m just the kid who sticks his ****ing finger in the light socket and gets shocked but keeps going.”

My life would have definitely fit that classic definition of insanity, continuing to stick my finger in the light socket like Bilzerian, if it wasn’t for, oddly enough, (and here’s a plan I definitely didn’t scheme up for myself…) a friend who asked me to see a movie. That movie was The Passion of the Christ. It seemed a little intense, to say the least; but it was a weeknight and I had nothing else to do. It also meant eating a bucket of popcorn and flirting with some girls we met at the theater, so I went. But I had no idea what I was in for... 

As the movie played on I started to realize things I had never realized, things I hadn’t even considered thinking about before. Maybe it was the Jedi movie-interpretation skills that I developed in my Literature through Movies class kicking in. Whatever the case, when the movie ended I was completely stunned

Because of this movie I began to think about what characteristics this eternal Being would have to have, if It was real. And for some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about It. I had this weirdly thrilling compulsion to try and peer through The Wardrobe to figure out this God-question... that’s if It could be figured out

It was after that weird night that I began to realize, if this eternal Being exists, It has to have the ability to communicate and It must be able to love. I didn’t know if this Being really existed... but at least I knew what this eternal Being must be like if It was real... 

Next Article: The Voice

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