Mario Villalobos

The Door

  • Journal

The background static felt especially loud today. I dreamt last night of my inevitable failure. I dreamt that I grabbed my phone, logged onto, and checked to see if yesterday’s post garnered any reaction. I woke up feeling awful. I felt awful because I didn’t dream about the content of the reactions, but the quantity. This is what happens when I use social media, and it’s what I’m trying to eliminate from my life, this incessant need to grab my phone, to grab any device near me, and check for hearts and thumbs up and @-mentions. I know this background static will be dominating my life for a few weeks, and I know it’ll eventually fade away, but I have to wonder what it says about me that this is what I dream about.

I wrote yesterday that I wanted to focus on the things that make me happy. A year ago, I wrote that:

I wish I wasn’t so anxious all the time. I wish it was easier for me to get out of my own way and just live. But it’s not. I have built up these walls around me to make me feel safe and secure from the world, and I’m only now realizing how much better I’d be without them.

I remember that day so clearly. I remember the drive to the river, and I remember the fire pit with the used diaper in it, and I remember taking out my microphone and recording the sounds around me. I remember driving on the back roads and seeing everyone’s ranches full of cows and horses and hay bales. I remember I drove to my friend Ginger’s house, how I pulled up to her driveway unannounced, how she invited me inside and showed me around, and how her two kids were so excited to show me their things, their rooms, their photos. I remember going outside and marveling at the absolute quiet of the place. No cars driving on the street, no one playing their music too loud, no ambulances or police cars blaring their horns. I remember driving back home and wishing my life were different, that I lived in that part of Montana instead of the one I lived in.

And I’m sitting here now thinking, Why hasn’t more changed since then? Why haven’t I done more? At the start of the year, I wrote a post where I asked myself, Will I be able to try street photography again this year? I have to laugh at that because I haven’t gone anywhere this year. I haven’t gone to the river or the lake or the city or anywhere beyond the walls I’ve been living behind my whole life. And it’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of opening that door and walking through it. I’m afraid of seeing what’s out there, of trying new things, of exploring the unexplored. And what I beat myself up so much about is that for six years, I was a wildland firefighter. I ran toward the flames instead of away from them. And for four of those years, I was an EMT firefighter. I roamed the mountains as a single resource firefighter, taking charge as a squad boss when needed and as a medical professional the other times. I wasn’t and am not afraid to face the open flames or the open wounds, but I’m afraid of opening this damn door I’ve constructed, and I don’t know what to do about it.

This is the part of my life I want to change, the part I want to improve, the part I want to devote all of my energies toward. Because I feel like I need to. I feel like every force in the world is weighing on me as I reach my hand out toward the door, fighting for every step, and never quite able to carry it all past the threshold. So I’ve grown use to not even trying anymore. Of feeling content staying still, of sitting on my couch in my air conditioned room, of living behind these walls forever. But that’s not living, and dammit, I want to live.