A Year of Living Dangerously.

medancing

Alternate titles: Recognising one’s limits.  Or, that time I was young, drunk, and incredibly foolish.

In my early twenties, I spent two years living in the Dominican Republic. I’d flown down to visit a friend for a much needed mental break from life and decided not to come home. It seemed a necessary decision at the time.

I picked up a job as a teacher. I taught English as a Foreign Language at a local institute to classes of kids in the afternoons and adults in the mornings & evenings. At one point, I worked from nine in the morning until 8 or 10 pm at night.

Truth be told, what I really did was teach in between long nights out at the bar with my friends.

I drank.

A lot.

If the bar happened to be close to where I lived, I’d walk home if I couldn’t catch a ride with one of my friends. I’d walk home, at night, after getting drunk off my arse.  It’s quite honestly a miracle that I was never assaulted.

A routine established itself fairly quickly for me. Work hard. Drink harder. Sleep a few hours. Repeat the cycle. Somewhere in the midst of all of it, I managed to pay my rent, save a bit for food (occasionally), though I often drank more than I ate.

Priorities.

I didn’t have time.

By my second year living in Santo Domingo, a dangerous cycle had begun. I always paid my rent. But afterwards, I’d shop. Clothes, CDs, nothing substantial (like food or water for my room that I rented out of this apartment). What I did spend shopping, usually went to nights out.

It wasn’t as if I was making a significant amount to start with, either. I made next to nothing, though likely more than the average worker in the city did. Teaching paid better.

As money dwindled, I started borrowing money, as several of my friends did, as well. I’d do it to get through the month. Pay it back after my next paycheck, and end up having to take more out from the lender to cover what I’d lost (or wasted partying).

In the middle of all of this, I wrote a play. Not only did I write it, but I also worked with some people I knew in the local theatre scene to produce and direct it.  We only did a few shows. Made more than I earned in a couple of months. Did I save any of the money? Of course not, we went through all of the money in a single night out.

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I mentioned the vicious cycle, right?

On my twenty-first birthday, I had to acknowledge to myself that I’d sunken into a genuinely dangerous place. I’d started to have dizzy spells. A doctor even took me out of work for a few days.

I wasn’t eating anywhere near enough–and taking far too much alcohol into my body.

I’d like to say I immediately changed. It took about three more months of sinking deeper. Fear had caught a hold of me, though. I didn’t want to know what rock bottom might be.

In one of the rare instances of impulsivity in my life, I made the decision to leave. I tendered my resignation, bought a plane ticket with borrowed money, and within a month I’d left. I returned to the States, got a job, and cut back on the drinking.

So here are a few lessons I learned in my years of living dangerously:

  • You’re spending should never exceed your income.
  • Drinking yourself into a stupor is playing Russian roulette with your safety.
  • There are some incredibly good people in this world, who will look out for you.
  • It’s harder to pick yourself up than it is to knock yourself down.

Those two years in the Caribbean weren’t all doom and gloom. Here are some truly amazing things I did:

  • Travelled all over the Dominican Republic (extraordinarily beautiful place).
  • Made life long friends and have some brilliant memories.
  • Had my horizons expanded.
  • Added playwright to my list of accomplishments.
  • Spent time with some intensely talented artists, musicians, and writers.

Even with all the insanity, not sure I’d change a bit of the experience.

What’s the most foolish thing you’ve ever done?

 

 

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