May 1st, 2023

Normal people wake up in their normal beds on the morning of their birthday and they post the cutest pic they can find of themselves on the internet to announce that they are a year older, a whole three-hundred-and-sixty-five-days wiser.

I stayed up until midnight to post this photo of me I’ve never shared before to publicly remind myself that I’m not even supposed to be on this planet right now, and I am some kind of tragic miracle.

Tragedy, and I mean this in the most serious way, is a terribly funny thing.

When we witness a traumatic event, we get terrified by the sense that it’s contagious.

We hear or see something bad happen and immediately think, “I’m next.”

We think this even when it’s improbable or impossible in truth.

And when we think of a tragedy spreading, we think of the event as a fire, growing and destroying lives, like trees, down lines and around circles and through entire neighborhoods of forest.

But this picture, for me, is a reminder that tragedy is contagious in a different way.

Tragedy can be the drop that creates a wave of positive change.

Tragedy can be the reason we remember to hug someone. Tragedy can spark conversations we should have had years ago. Tragedy can bring people together in unconventional ways. Tragedy can strengthen bonds and repair breaks. Tragedy can shake us until we fall out of ourselves; tragedy can wake us up and make us reevaluate our entire existence.

Tragedy tells us to live. Tragedy can be the reason we are still alive.

Tragedy is why you’re all still stuck with me now.

This photo captures me in a moment during my infamous week-long stay in the hospital to get sober (you read about it in the papers, no? This is a thing the papers wrote about, right?). I was there because everything was trying to kill me, including (and especially) myself.

I have been, by definition, crazy. I have been hurt and hurtful; I have told the sharpest lies and the deepest truths. I have been sweet and gross, thoughtful and thoughtless, and it took me a long time to realize I don’t deserve a second chance.

No one does. We deserve third and fourth and fifty-fifth ones, as long as we know that we want to get better, and we work on it.

It’s impossible to thank all the reasons I survived. There’s the people and the words and the feelings and the music and the animals and the comic book pages and the pop culture and the plastic parts of my existence that I’ve found real meaning in.

I was thirty-something yesterday and I’m thirty-something-plus-one today. I’m not even supposed to be on this planet right now.

But I’m a tragic miracle and I am happy to report from the other side that so are you.


Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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