One day, I hope to wake up again. I hope to be capable of thinking with some of the clarity I only believe I once had. I hope to be free of the tendencies toward lust and escapism, anger and impatience. I hope to be free of the need to work full time at a job that looks nothing like a calling. But today is not that day, and tomorrow is not that day.
The good thing about my life is that I’ve gotten to live the American Dream exactly as my ancestors dreamed it would be for me. One grandfather fought in the first World War, the other one fought in the second World War. My dad took all the money he’d saved up from a dreary office job, which was, in fact, a huge step up in the world for the generations of my family, and he spent that money on my college education. My mom had a bachelor’s degree in teaching, so I wasn’t the first person in the family to get a degree.
But, I think my dad had this idea that I would be able to pick up where he left off on my first day after college, and take the torch and run with it to some place grander. Of course, with an English degree, you don’t start out making much of anything at all. Over time, though, I fought my way through endless office politics and always positioned myself as the indispensable one in the room.
All of this is to say that I will probably walk on down that path of trying to get somewhere further than middle management, as I take my first true middle management job. To be for sure, I’d still like to find the hours to write that novel that never materialized over the last three months, and sock away enough money that I can drop a few grand into playing the markets and traveling abroad.
The vision that my father had for me is most likely not the one that my Father has for me. In fact, I am mostly pretty certain that my dad’s dream of me becoming an engineer with a respectable salary is not my calling. I’ve been running like Jonah for too long, so I don’t know if I will get my sense of calling back. I may very well end up being able to merely say that at least I didn’t hide my talents away completely, even if I didn’t make as much of them as I could have.
I want to wake up one day and be free. I want to be free of the false dreams and delusions. I want to be free of needing to deal with difficult people who don’t need or want my help. I want to be free of worry and doubt and insecurity. I suspect that I will wake up one day and experience this freedom. I might be in some other body, or in no body at all.
I’ve given up waiting around for signs and visions, dreams and revelations.
I want to have a radically different relationship with my son than the one I’ve had with my dad. I call my dad up and he isn’t the least bit curious about what I’ve been doing. When I tell him that I’ll be managing a bunch of people, he tells me that I probably should go back to school and take a few classes with the clear implication that I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s never a: wow that’s amazing, I’m really proud of you son.
He’s not been up here much to see my new son. I thought he’d be delighted to see that I of all people have carried on the family name with a brand new boy child. He seemed more incline to mess around with the light and shutter settings on his camera than pay much attention to his new grandson.
All those years ago when I let him get on the other line and yell at me until the recruiter hung up, and scream at me that I most definitely was not going to join the military–it really makes me wonder if bothering to heed his words was worth anything at all? The happiest job I ever had was at a hotel kitchen the summer after high school. I’ve hated pretty much all of my office schmuck jobs, but I’ve gotten too old and lazy to change myself and become something else. If I could go back in time, would I study harder and try to get a STEM degree, or would I join the military, or would I say screw it, and go back to working in a hotel kitchen somewhere?
I don’t know.
I’ve spent many years asking those questions, and I still don’t know. Perhaps I’d become a priest and then a monk once I saw that my little brother survived his teenage years and started a family of his own. Maybe I’d go nuts with the newfound youth and freedom and try to make a go of it in New York before 9/11 happens.
I’ll decide I am most definitely an X,Y,Z kind of man, and then wake up one morning with plenty of evidence to the contrary. I’ll ask for God’s help and to have a sign, and nothing will happen, but then some months will pass and things will work themselves out, no matter how impossible the situation seemed to be.
Maybe my biggest problem is trying to visualize what kind of man I am without letting the Lord in to take the lead in this visualization. I start to cobble together a pathetic figure out of a scattershot collection of memories of when someone said I was good at doing this or that. I block out all evidence to the contrary. The next thing you know, I’ve formed a vision of me that I am calling “the Lord’s will” and my true calling without doing much prayer or consultation of the Lord at all.
I have had a lot of days of feeling waves of nostalgia over times in my life that didn’t see me feeling especially happy when they were actually happening. The primary period is probably college, and such nostalgia has benefited my alumni association without any effort on their part at all.
I find myself missing friends I never had.
I never learned how to properly make friends. I made friends with misanthropic people, and thought perhaps I was one, but I am pretty sure I was just shy. I was too scared to throw myself into the mix of a social club, where people would contradict what I said before the words had barely left my lips. And so, I declared myself to be above it all and not interested in participating, when I really was dying inside to be a part of something other than my sad little troupe of friends who drank, watched movies and never got members of the opposite sex to hang out with them.
Which is not to say that I couldn’t lose myself inside the main library, pulling down stack after stack of books, if you were to pick me up and drop me down inside my eighteen year old body and let me do as I wish. I would at least make somewhat of an effort to meet new people. I would poke my head inside the Newman Center, and see if there was any chance I could become a good Catholic boy with proper Catholic college chums.
But then again, I probably wouldn’t be a good one, because I am full of a lot that is bad. Except, I’m not nearly as bad as I thought I was back then.
I don’t like drinking booze as much as I wanted everyone to think I did. I love jazz and classical so much more than rock and blues, but I don’t hate rock and blues. I have managed to never get a tattoo. When I descended again into the world of people who live for drink and drugs, back during that first summer in Austin after I broke up with Olivia, I discovered pretty quickly that I had little or no tolerance for people who appeared to be doing absolutely nothing with their lives.
Now, of course they might all have been secretly writing like mad, the way I did and do. But, they didn’t seem to be maturing at all on the outside, either. People I knew who were 32, 42, 52 in Austin seemed to be little changed from who they must have been when they were 22. The ones I did get to see grow old confirmed this suspicion. Sure, they slowed down and didn’t stay out as late on weeknights, but they were pretty content to schlepp along at whatever job they’d landed after college.
I suppose I am more of a romantic than I’ll ever admit. I fall in love with the idea of being this way or that, but I rarely get comfortable enough with being that thing to proclaim: this is it, this is what I was made to do.
Was I made to sit and write randomly at length until I wake up and realize my inner monologue has come full circle? Maybe, but it never really feels like it. Writing often feels simply like a need my mind has along with sleep and exercise, eating food and getting intellectual stimulation from books or art. It’s simply a thing I need to do often enough so that I don’t go completely crazy.