Vacation Notes

Today is Tuesday, July 18, 2017. We have driven up from Austin, stayed with the in-laws in Dallas, stayed in Little Rock, and now we are in Nashville. For the most part, the trip has gone smoothly, aside from the adjustments we are still making to traveling with a small guy. But, overall the small guy has been a pretty good trooper.

Of course, every time I remark about this in a journal entry or to my wife, the young man becomes incredibly needy.

In short, I haven’t had more than little five minute chunks to write about anything at all.

I haven’t drank too much–I was probably drinking more during the most stressful nights of my classes.

The new company called last night and they made me an offer that I can accept. I’ve accepted the offer and will be leaving seminary and leaving behind all of the old dreams to do something with my life other than be an office schmuck. It’s clear to me now that I wasn’t made to be a pastor, and the way that I am going to make the world a better place is to write checks to churches, non-profits, schools, etc. and raise a son.

Every time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve sat down with so many things on my mind to write and dreams of things that are mostly dreams about my current classmates in settings of going back to work. However, the constant need for attention on the part of the little one has scrapped most of whatever was in my head.

This, too, is part of the program that I just need to come to accept–I am no longer going to think for even a second that I have a future as a writer of anything…I was put on this earth to pass along my DNA, and make sure that it’s in someone who is equipped with the right social and intellectual skills and caliber to pass his/her DNA along as well.

It will feel weird over the next few weeks, getting used to this cashing out completely, but in the end, it will make me a happier person.

Wednesday, July 19
We are driving in to Charlotte today. I will get the full, in-law experience over the next few days. I suppose I shouldn’t be drinking as much at night because it is making me more grumpy than usual in the morning.

However, I have tried to steal away tiny little moments where this actually feels like a vacation instead of a constant battle to keep my son from melting down. Yesterday, at the train museum, which was, of course, a thing just for him to see, he got upset because he couldn’t hold the model trains and play with them. It was pretty much downhill from there until we got to the hotel and he had a chance to play in the pool.

I’ve tried not to get excessively focused on any particular thing on this trip, and just let my mind wander. I will be needing to undergo an intense amount of preparation for another big shift when we get back: reading up on the industry of my new employer, refreshing myself on marketing automation best practices and how to use their particular MA tool, dealing with people who are going to be hostile toward me for skipping out of seminary, finding a new place where we can live and keep the dog, moving–all of it will have to happen in a three-week time span.

It seems like an inordinate amount of stress to put myself and my family through, but it should pay off in the long run. The amount of stress we’ve been through in the past year has been way out of bounds for anything we should have to go through at this point in our lives. I think we will have to hit this one bump, and my son will be transitioning to a new school next month as well, and then we can get into a nice groove where we live more or less like every other American middle class family that has gone to sleep as it pertains to the problems of the rest of the world.

For me, the big shift isn’t going to be any of the moving or new job stuff–I’ve done that many times over and I’ve never been in a better place financially to pull the trigger to make it happen this time. The big shift is strictly about changing my mentality. I will no longer really concern myself with thinking that I am on some sort of “great path” toward an ultimate life telos where I will become the absolute perfected being as it pertains to God’s will for me. Or, to be more to the point, I will no longer think I was put here on earth to accomplish something specific. I will no longer be looking over my shoulder at options for going back to school and wondering what might have been if only I’d studied harder in math class my Freshman year of college, or what would have happened if only I’d joined the Army, or had the guts to ask so-and-so to a dance.

I’m still of a mind that I am on some kind of cosmic journey. But, what that really is, is something unfolding independently of human-imposed notions on what the timeframe should look like for progressing toward an ultimate state of being. I will no longer pay much attention to people who insist on me having a career of some kind in mind at my workplace. I was having a perfectly okay sort of career as a web developer and email marketer when I started letting every single voice in my head steer me this way and that. I wanted to be a great leader like Bill Clinton, so I spent one summer volunteering full-time while still working full-time. Then, there was the insistence that I would have a career in the local non-profit community. Then the EMT preparation summer with the A+P and medical terminology classes. Then, a summer dating my wife, and that was probably the best summer I’ve ever had, at least since I was a teenager. I think that was the best summer because I completely stopped caring about my job and the workplace as being the catalyst or stepping stone toward ultimate happiness.

But, I wasn’t done yet. At my next employer, I really let the people who supervised me talk me into thinking that I needed to advance through the ranks of marketing, and be career-focused instead of content and happy just doing what I had been doing. That finally ground to a halt after so many false starts, and I spent a summer thinking I would like to go back to school and pursue a BS in mathematics. However, somehow, by hook or crook, I found myself back at the company I’d left recently with VP in my title, though it was utterly meaningless–they’d given me the title because some of the management were too damn lazy to sign contracts and the company was in Waco so they couldn’t figure out how to use docusign.

And then, this past year at seminary. And, what I’ve come to realize about myself is that I absolutely despise being told what I have to read, and when to read it, when I’m not on the clock drawing a paycheck. During the hours of 8-12 and 1-5, M-F, I am more than happy to read about my company and make my goals its goals, and make my reading material be all about how to ensure my company’s and team’s success. But, when I am off the clock, I don’t want to be weighed down with the burden of having to read only books that pertain to what my company does. If I want to spend the next three months reading through some science fiction and dipping into military history books, so be it. If I decide that poetry is going to be my thing, or math, or physics, or whatever–then I’m on my own time, not the timeframe of my MA or PhD program…

Which is to say, it has been made abundantly clear to me that more school for me never really was in the cards. I had to give it my best shot, though, because so many of my past rejection of going back to school was an immature sort of hang-up around me being uncomfortable with the fact that my father had paid for all of my schooling and had all but physically prevented me from doing anything else until I got a college degree. I had to eliminate the people-pleaser in me as well as the rebel and get down to figuring out what I want to do. And, I think to some degree, the seminary program has been a kind of people-pleasing activity. It is designed to be something that I hope makes my mom happy from wherever she is watching, or would have made her happy had she still been on the earth today. Admittedly, I do find historical writing and linguistic study about the times and places the Bible was written to be fascinating, and I always will. But, I also find other times and places in human history to be equally interesting. So, I don’t want to ever get focused on one particular area of study to the point that I am able to successfully obtain a PhD.

Which also means that I have to abandon any ego or pride that what I write is especially profound or earth-shattering for anyone. It is simply a record of my thoughts and activities.

You might think that it is a bit of a tragedy that I have only reached the conclusion that I’ve reached at the age of 41, when most people arrive at this kind of understanding by the end of their 20s. I should have cashed out a long time ago, started a family in the suburbs and have been saving up money from my office job for the kids’ educations and our travels post retirement. But then, there are plenty of things I should have done differently, and worrying about why I didn’t do them differently never makes a bit of difference.

So much for all of that. The rest of this vacation will likely be mostly on the boring side, as I no longer feel compelled to take my son to an attraction every single day. We visited the Clinton Presidential Library while in Little Rock, and they had a big animatronic bug exhibit inside the building, which was helpful for us. Knowing what I know now about Presidential campaigns and presidents, I’ve finally come to an understanding of what we really look for in a President–by we, I mean almost everyone who has a family or has thought about the importance of the future when they consider the current generation of children.

We really don’t want a president we can have a beer with, what we want is a president we can proudly say to our children, “this was our president” or “this is our president.” It then depends on what that has to be for various people. For many people in America, it is still unacceptable that we had a black man as a president, and the thought of having a woman as a president was equally awful. Whatever deluded conspiracy theories regarding Kenyan births, Islamic tendencies or evil machinations of a single family (ie, the Clintons), it all came down to a person standing in the booth and asking themselves “do I want to tell my child that this is our president?” For many, a pussy-grabber was far preferable to someone possessing her own vagina. And this was because in spite of his poor track record when it came to morals and ethics, Trump is still a father at the end of the day who appears to love all of his children deeply. Which is not to say Hillary doesn’t love Chelsea, but it is to say that a woman president was too much to bear, and the alternative was a man who at the end of the day was at least a father (who was at least good enough of a father that his kids were willing to publicly appear to like him).

Looking back on U.S. presidents, the ones we admire the most are the ones that we are proud to tell our children: this was our president. JFK can be at times admired more than FDR, simply because we like the idea of a younger, healthy, attractive fellow who looks like the man many men want to be and women want to marry. JFK didn’t do much during the time of his presidency and FDR probably did more than any other president since Abraham Lincoln, but we just like pointing to a virile, photogenic man and saying: that was our President. JFK was the last president before America got caught up in Vietnam and its protests and race riots and hippies bombed out on drugs. Ronald Reagan fits this same mold. He may have run us into more debt while talking about shrinking government, and he may have messed up the economy to the point where Bush Sr had to be left holding the bag. RR is someone most of us can happily point to and say: this was our president. To some degree, Bill Clinton came along and tapped into this same desire. If he’d just kept his pants zipped up, he very well could have walked out of the White House having as much love for him as Reagan. Sure, Clinton had his detractors who would never love him no matter what, but so did Reagan.

As for me and my son, I will happily point to Obama any day of the week and say to my son: this was our president–maybe even moreso than any other president since FDR, and that includes JFK. What Obama actually accomplished will be made clear as history progresses and the appreciation of it will increase. What Clinton accomplished will carry a similar arc of increased appreciation, but not nearly so. Clinton lucked out because he presided over an economy that was just starting to become an internet one, and he got out before the dot com bubble really burst. Bush Jr was left holding the bag for some things that probably were beyond his ability to fix, and the bad things that happened in the economy at the end of Bush Jr’s term weren’t necessarily all his fault. Bush Jr will, however, be mostly damned by historians for having allowed his henchmen to lie freely about uranium from Nigeria and weapons of mass destruction to get us back over to Iraq to finish what his daddy started. He will not be eyed nearly as favorably by historians as Clinton or Obama.

This is why Republicans love Reagan so much. They know at the end of the day that their only good presidents since WWII are Eisenhower and Reagan, and nobody hardly remembers Eisenhower much, anymore. When they do, it’s usually to quote his warning about the military industrial complex and mention that Eisenhower started the freeway system, which isn’t an especially small government sort of thing to do. Nixon was terrible, Ford was okay but was just cleaning up Nixon’s mess. Bush Sr was about average, and let’s be honest, Bush Jr had all of the same northeastern nasally voice as his father without any of the more masculine projection. Bush Jr didn’t exactly project the kind of masculine confidence that even Bill Clinton was capable of. Clinton was also well aware of the fact that he didn’t fight in Vietnam because that kind of thing still mattered at the time.

Of course, this is why Democrats ultimately allowed Dean to fail in 04–Kerry just looked like a president, even if he was wooden and boring. This is why they let Obama win in 08–they knew that at the end of the day more men (and even a lot of women) would rather see a black man than a woman of any color in the white house. I suppose they should have taken the same approach with Bernie, but Bernie projected less of the “here’s what an American president should look like” than even Hillary. So, the Democrats hedged their bets that more people would want to say “Hillary is our president” to their children than say “Bernie is our president.”

But, too many people wanted something that was the complete opposite of Obama, and that’s what we got. Is it racist and sexist? Absolutely. Most people would deny that they think this way, but I think we all do to some degree. I mean, I personally would rather tell my children Hillary was our president than the traitorous pussy-grabber we have in the White House right now, but my vote and my opinions matter very little when it comes to your average white, middle-class suburban American psychology. People are terrified of America becoming too brown or too liberal or having a woman telling them what to do. People want the President to look and talk like what they think a President should look and talk like, which is what their parents and Hollywood has told them since childhood–and that person generally should be a middle-aged, middle-height white dude with some distinguished gray hair but not too gray and no visible bald spots. Basically, Mitt Romney minus the Mormonism, though I think that after these four years of a train wreck, many many people would love to have Mitt be their president.

Thursday, July 20…
Up early in Charlotte, NC with the baby while his mom still sleeps. A fairly non-eventful ride into Charlotte from Knoxville. The hills and trees were making me swoon. Why have I devoted my life to living somewhere with so few trees? I love the beach, I love mountains, I love places where trees are everywhere. I live in Austin. Each year that has passed has seen me come up with a new reason to remain there, mostly centered around family and fear of the unknown. After a year of full-time chugging away at a job, I think I’m going to make the push to live some place else–maybe Portland, Charlotte, Boulder–I probably don’t even really care at this point, other than to be somewhere new.

I’ve entered into that awful period of silence where it seems like no one is really interested in talking to me, but I would really like to have someone available to discuss some of the decisions I’ve made, as well as make sure that I am still running on the right track.

Those thoughts were this morning. I recognize that it is pure folly to expect instant and constant validation from everyone for whatever pops into your head.

I think that I have been cycling through a lot of latent bullshit over needing to be affirmed as if I am four, and it’s got to stop. The world is mean and doesn’t care about you, and that’s that. I don’t need any more bitch sessions, and I apologize for all the writing that amounts to only that…

Nobody is going to be happy all the time about my decisions but me. That’s just the way it works. I’m the same way toward others.

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