An incredibly long-ass day. The kind of day that makes you question all of the life choices you’ve made to lead you up to the place where you crawl in traffic for almost two hours a day, eat overpriced food for lunch, drink excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages, barely hide your contempt for the people who work with you. You know, the kind of day you had for about fifteen years before thinking that perhaps you were someone special who was made to not work an ordinary 8-5 office job.
God seems pretty far away on days like this, when you wake up from restless nights of unspeakable dreams that mostly cause you to stay awake and worry about all of the money you owe people and the precarious situation you are in–you would love nothing more than to walk away from this job, but this time, you really can’t. You have to tough it out for at least another eight months before you can even think of starting to apply to something modestly better than this.
You work somewhere where the business model seems to be more or less a gasping act of desperation to win the kind of business that made the company relevant once upon a time. Not that this is an unfamiliar tune, or anything.
This seems to be your area of specialty–finding companies and non-profits who were pioneers in their areas of business, but failed to innovate and keep up with their changing competitive landscapes. The translation company that missed the boat on localization and hybrid machine translation. The non-profit that missed the boat on the giving preferences of people under 50. The software company that developed a behemoth pile of SaaS for non-profits that required an act of God to update even the tiniest change to its UI. And so on. And now this weird company that offered something in 2012 that was awesome but is now been out-innovated many times over by its competition to the point where it struggles to craft a vision statement that sounds like it even makes sense from the perspective of being a real business plan.
And here you are, because nobody else would hire you, and you got sick of hanging on for the next recruiter to come along and get you into the door with a hiring manager who wouldn’t even send you a boilerplate rejection letter. You are here because you somehow believe that this choice will ultimately be better for your family, though it’s exceptionally hard on days like this to see how this will become a reality. All it will take is one layoff coupled with an economic downturn, and you could very well lose everything and have to start over again in some unthinkable fashion like living in shitty apartments or with in-laws or working five jobs.
Dream last night that the Marines had decided to let anyone join as long as they could run an 8 min mile or less and do at least 50 pushups. Without practicing or training, I was convinced that I could easily do this and in the dream decided wholeheartedly that I wanted to be a Marine. At first, it seemed I was watching a retrospective or entering a scene after it had happened, and the recruiter was telling me that I did better than most 18 year olds on the physical fitness test. But then, it was clear that it hadn’t happened yet, and I had to drive down to where the special recruiting of middle-aged people was taking place. Somehow, I ended up in San Diego while driving either west out of Austin or south towards downtown KC. It was really unclear where I was, except that I’d gone too far. Then, I re-read the address, and drove back to where I was in downtown KC. I was kind of agitated for missing my exit, and in a hurry because I knew their offices closed soon. It was all women in this office. A plump, older woman greeted me, who was apparently the nurse to measure my blood pressure, heart rate, etc. The woman who would monitor my run told me that if I could keep up with her, then I was a shoo-in. She was wearing a full-dress military outfit, slacks, not a skirt, and took off. I was convinced I could keep up with her, but I was barely managing. That’s when I realized I should have at least practiced for a couple of weeks. At one point the point of view switched in the dream, and it was as if I was watching myself trail behind her. I was still pretty optimistic because I wasn’t that far behind, but then I realized it was someone else who was trailing her, and I was way behind. I started trying to follow that person, but got lost when the course became a series of child’s car and train tracks.
The most interesting part of the dream was the fact that my dream self had so readily agreed to join the Marine Corps, as if this was the one thing that had been missing from my entire life. I was certain in the dream that every other boat I’d missed and dream not realized didn’t matter compared to this one act of service and glory. When I woke up, I felt especially flabby and old, because I am not in nearly as good a shape as I was in the dream. I was probably physically about ten years younger in the dream, perhaps 32.
I mean, I wish I could be in better shape, and I am always having these dreams where I become a diehard runner, weight lifter or swimmer, but they never seem to be enough to motivate me beyond walking the dog an extra time each day.
Every time I start running again now, it’s as if I’d been smoking several packs a day and drinking all the time since the last time I tried to run. I mean, really drinking.
Saturday of the move to the new house. Still waiting for the movers to be done after five hours. Three hours spent packing the last time I’d checked. I got overly mad last night at a Popeye’s drivethrough person and said regrettable things about her ability to understand English. I yelled at my wife today when she left our son to try to climb the stairs by himself. I am feeling the stress of the tail end of this long moving process that in some ways began back in Waco when I decided to quit my job and be a stay-at-home dad, only to decide that I wanted to be a pastor, only to decide that wasn’t it after a year of seminary, and now about five months into renting our post-seminary apt, we are moving into another house we will own.
I am still kicking against God’s clear plan for me: to raise two kids in a suburb while working a shitty office job that pays well enough to get by and save a little money, but never becomes anything great. It’s really the American Dream. I’ve been doing it pretty well minus the two-legged kids most of my adult life. It’s why my dad paid for my college education and pissed all over me, telling me I was a spoiled brat any time I kicked against his own plan for me.
Sure, I’ve been through the shitty school of life, told time and again that I’m just bitching when I kick against the hand I’ve been dealt, only to find an entire generation following me has turned complaining on social media into an art form. If I embrace the hand I’ve been dealt, and try to make the most of it, I’m told that I am just privileged, and of course my life turned out the way it has, given all of the things I’ve been handed that other people have fought and died for. If I kick against it, I am bitching and moaning and being a spoiled, selfish brat. It’s the same thing I felt when I moved over to East Austin, to be closer to my job–a condo was all I could afford–I literally could not afford to live in a home over there. Suddenly I was the face of the worst of gentrification. If I’d managed to scrimp and get by on next to nothing, and spent a little more on a dump of a condo near the Greenbelt, I would have been ignoring the problems on the East Side and happily living among my own kind. But,
I drank too much last night. I mean, I didn’t think it was too much. A few glasses of whiskey and soda and a couple of beers used to be about right to feel nice for awhile and not feel nasty the next morning. But, I paid for it this morning. I felt that early sleeplessness around 4 AM. I couldn’t sleep again before my son got me up around 6 AM, and then I puked for awhile and tried to lay around while he played with his toys. Finally, my wife mercifully woke up about 7:30 AM, and I slept until almost 11. I felt good enough for a walk, but still haven’t felt 100% again even now at 7:30 PM.
There is a strong sense of finality about this move and my decision to go back to work. There is no question about life suddenly transforming into great riches and bounty, or something otherwise exceptional where we get to live in SF or NYC or whatnot. There is no hidden talent or secret plan of God’s that I should go on to be a pastor to a small flock of appreciative folks somewhere. No bored literary critics are out surfing random blogs like this one in search of the next great American writer.
It’s not to say that life is over, or that even the best parts of life have passed. It’s simply a sense of finality about a certain era of expectations that began back when I was old enough to have dreams about what my future life would look like. Now, life has transitioned utterly and completely into the latter part of its summer as I raise a child or two and then retire to be more or less like my parents and the generations of post WWII old people. I suspect the millennials of today will eventually reach these same kinds of discoveries, and things will more or less go on as they have since at least the end of WWII for those of us who are fortunate enough to be middle-class Americans.
The neighborhood we have moved to gives off some hints that it could one day transition in the wrong direction and become a place where I wouldn’t want to stay, but these are few and far between. I’m talking like too loud music coming out of a house, too many cars in the driveway, too many fast, loud cars going by, compared to, say, my Aunt’s neighborhood or my in-law’s. However, compared to most neighborhoods directly east of here, it is a step up toward affluence.
I think that I would only move from here again if the neighborhood went completely downhill, I lost my job and couldn’t find anything remotely comparable in Austin, or I got an offer I couldn’t refuse from Google or Amazon. The first two are more likely to happen, of course, and I’ve weathered two economic downturns living here while making a lot less, so I think we’ll be fine and stay put and try to just live out a normal, boring American middle-class suburban sleepy kind of life until we are completely old and at death’s door and ready to move into the assisted living home.
My dad and I finished the baby gate today. My dad did all the work, and I was ten again, holding tools and fetching screws, occasionally getting to drill something in. I didn’t complain, because I think my dad likes to feel like he is still needed, and I grow weary of hearing him fuss if I don’t do something exactly as he would when handling a tool. I was trying to minimize the friction so that we could just get it done and get moved in tomorrow. Right now, the move seems almost impossible, given that there is so much stuff still laying around, but it will get done by the end of tomorrow, and we will cease the apartment living I have quickly grown to hate so much. When you have someone stomping around upstairs at almost any hour of the day and night, Tejano bass pumping next door, alternating with hip hop bass throughout the night, people smoking and selling dope in the stairwell and their cars or playing hiphop from loud car speakers at 3 in the morning–it’s a life for college kids and younger singletons, but hasn’t been the kind of atmosphere I’ve wanted to live around for a very long time.
The house is unpretentious, a cookie cutter from the late 90s that now looks like it belongs where it sits in a neighborhood whose trees have grown up to give shade everywhere where there were none back in 99 when I lived near this house. Nobody is going to say “wow, you’ve really made it, living in a house like this,” but nobody is going to come into the neighborhood and turn it into anything other than an average, boring family suburb any time soon. I wish that I could say I feel that it is the most perfect house and neighborhood ever, but I am a realist–my income is probably peaking at the most I will ever hope to earn in my lifetime, and this is the kind of house that I can afford with it.
I really do want to spend thirty years here, watching my son and hopefully another little one grow up, leave the nest, get a decent professional job doing something semi-respectable, and then sell the house for a little less than twice it’s worth now so that my wife and I can afford to live in a modest retirement community until we die.
I’m tired of dreaming, scheming and pretending like I’m going to go on and have an exceptional career making so much more money than I do now, and become someone I never will be. I’m still hoping I can learn a little more math than I do now, paint a few more paintings and get slightly better on the guitar, while trying to stay in shape. That’s it. It’s taken me almost twenty years to get back to this place where I was mostly ready to move to a neighborhood like this one and start a family, but just wasn’t ready to do it with the person I was with at the time. Unfortunately, it’s taken me awhile to come full circle and accept myself for the schmuck that I am.
The ultimate goal is to know myself as I truly am, with all artifice removed. Wherever I land with this, I will accept it, and have peace. Too many times I have sold myself short in order to impress someone, please someone, or momentarily gratify myself. Should gender and sexual identity even be part of the equation? Am I, at my core, so far removed from these basic human identifiers, that it is unhelpful to ask whether I am more masculine or feminine at the heart of my true nature?
The other thing that vexes me: is there some kind of mechanism or entity that tricks me into having satisfaction over where I’ve landed or think I’ve landed? What’s more, if I refuse to be satisfied with where I’ve landed, does this entity provide me with a sense of satisfaction over never being satisfied? In other words, is wherever I land simply a false narrative meant to look like an ultimate truth, even if where I land is a state of never completely landing?
How could someone ever know their own true self with such trickery afoot? Descartes triumphantly proclaimed that at the very least, he knew that he existed. I suppose that’s a start, but I would want to know what the ultimate best and true way of being is for me alone. I don’t want to even begin to say to a single other human being: my way is also best for you.
What I would also not want to do: get caught up in yet another activity or project that consumes me to the point where it tries to define me, yet all the while I know that this thing is not quite me. This leaves me very little in the way of things or stuff to be acquired.
There really isn’t much to report at this time. My dad came over yesterday and worked to build us a baby gate so that Liam doesn’t sleepwalk down the stairs when we move into our house. I took on a freelance project which consumed most of my time today.
I’ve had no muse for the past several months. My dreams are rich and varied, but I haven’t made much of an attempt to remember them. They seem to be mostly a source of entertainment for me–there are no great insights coming out of them, no deep truths.
I doubt that I will stay at my present job for more than three years. I am really toughing it out to last through a full year, which I absolutely must do to find more gainful employment again. I’m ready to hang on for three years, though, if need be, and get all of the debts and house paid down to where I can take a lesser-paying job in a nice, go-nowhere role like the one I’ve had in so many places, and just ride that out until I have to retire.
I have this mild desire to get back into learning math again, but it isn’t especially vexing or convincing as those things go. I still feel as if I need to learn one particular thing really well, instead of trying to get my mind on many different topics and ideas. I would almost rather die having developed a thoroughly memorized understanding of all of the math I had to learn in high school, than continue to breeze through various popular books for the layperson that don’t require too much commitment from the brain.
I am in need of one particular thing to commit to, be it math or art or music. But, I am so reluctant to admit how much I will have to be starting out as a complete novice, and how I will likely die being nothing more than a competent undergrad at whatever topic I land on.
The thing is that the winds of youth that compel one forward for the sake of fame and fortune and attracting the eyes of someone special have all blown away, and I am feeling the winds of the old man blowing in upon me now, and I don’t know exactly what to do with them. Should I happily take up an old man’s craft, like whittling or building bird houses or birding, and be done with it?
It is, I suppose, with a lot of regret that I have to come clean and admit that there will be nothing novel or special in my writing henceforth, if there ever was. But, that magic groove of really feeling the muse speak to me, even if I was perhaps not saying anything really new–that groove is gone and so my writing can’t possibly be interesting ever again.
This time that I am now living in. I can’t say that I have any confidence in how to proceed. Based on previous experiences with market bubbles that burst, I believe that I will probably lose my job in the next year due to the market taking a tumble. My game plan for what should follow is rather slim. I would like to reach a stable place where I have firmly decided that I am going to learn and do one thing incredibly well, and stick with it.
I wish that I could describe what it feels like to have the aging process slowly creeping in. My mind wants to wander and chase down whatever dreams pop up under my eyelids. I no longer have this hard, solid sense of urgency about me, to learn and do one thing especially well. It’s almost like I’d rather just read books, watch TV and get drunk. And, I don’t mean books of any substance, either.
In earlier years, I might have read a lot into what is happening with the world, and become convinced that everything we know to be good and true and pleasant is about to end as we move into a stage where the US is piss poor and half of it is missing from some terrible misadventure caused by a reckless so-called President.
Now, I can’t say as I have any idea, really. All of the things I expected to happen from the Bush Administration having a 90% approval rating following 9/11 never materialized. All of the things I expected to happen with my own individual life never happened. I simply continued to go about my business, and more or less ended up living my life like anyone else from my time and place of origination.