This year. There was so much that happened this year, I am wondering if it is even worth bothering unpacking it all. I am mostly at a loss for words to describe how I am feeling going into 2018. Uncertainty is everywhere. I don’t have huge confidence in the future, yet here I am, pretending that I will be able to do something of value for at least twenty years to get one and possibly two children raised. I am still waking up each day to the idea that I will never discover my true calling in this lifetime. Life, for me, has become as it was for my parents. The meaning I get out of it happens in the slim hours between sleep and work, and often, this meaning is really unclear.
What’s really strange is that nobody has bothered to ask me if I’m really okay. I don’t mean a daily temperature check of “how are you?” that is really less than anything at all. I’m talking about: “how are you feeling after you abruptly left seminary and started work at some random tech company? Are you okay with your decision? Are you at peace with where things are?” Am I okay? I’ve tried to avoid even asking myself the question, because I really don’t think I am. The truth is, I’m in freefall, now. If I land anywhere except death after being worked to death long past when I should have retired, it will be due to some highly unforeseen grace of God or twist of luck that yields for me the kind of profession I’d once dreamed about.
But, let’s be clear, it’s more than just having a fancy, extra-special profession. It’s about feeling like your life does have meaning, that you have contributed something, that all of the old worries about dying alone and forgotten and then headed to some kind of hell in the afterlife are old worries that no longer need apply. It’s about being able to think and talk about trips to Europe as a matter of course–not as long-abandoned wistful things that once lived inside certain dreams.
Am I doing okay? I guess if you measure me up against most anyone alse about my age who was more or less born into the same class as me, you’ll find that I am at the top of the bell curve–I’m doing no better or worse than most people. Of course, there are some on one side of the curve who are doing better, and some who are doing worse, but most of us are middling schmucks, keeping the average what it is without improving or degrading it.
Most of the ways in which I am blessed seem to be tenuous things that I’m barely holding onto. Maybe all it took was one incredibly tragic event in my life–my little brother’s sudden death–to make me think like this. I may have thought like this before he died, though. Yes, I live in a pretty nice house now, though it’s not as nice as many other houses. Yes, I have a wonderful wife and awesome son, but what might happen next in this life? My dog friend is still with me, and pretty healthy, as she nears the age of 12. I still have my dad. I can still find work that pays decently, though for how much longer, who knows?
I am too afraid to admit that I kind of get at times what must go through the heads of other men and women my age who end their lives early, either through pure intent or the sloppy road of opioid abuse. I can sympathize with the people who are losing and struggling at life much easier than I can with the winners like the ones I met at the recent birthday party of my boss. There are many days where the life I lead feels like it will forever be lived on credit cards and other extended lines of borrowing, and the slightest downturn in the economy could send me and my family out into the streets.
I go weeks without reading headline news, because every time I return to it, it seems to be the same stories, only slightly worse. There’s more of a chance of war with North Korea, Russia, Iran, etc. by some degree, not less. There’s more of a chance that the economic bubble will burst, not less. There’s more awfulness being committed by politicians, but never less.
Where are the wise old men and women who could give me counsel? My dad seems to have gotten himself completely out of the business of giving advice, or seeming to know more about the way the world works than I do. My older brother has estranged himself completely from me. My wife’s parents don’t seem to understand the perils their grandchild will face in the coming dark years as the U.S. loses it’s grip on the narrative of the world, and the economy becomes a joke that only the top 1% find funny.
I know that I am more or less supposed to be the wise, older man now, providing counsel and advice to the younger generation. Except, I don’t have anything of value to give–the world seems to have evolved into something I don’t recognize/can’t get a handle on. When the majority of our country (at least as far as the electoral college is concerned) votes for a pussy-grabbing traitor and all-around lying asshole (even half a million votes for the scumbag would have been shocking), then I have to wonder who are the people I call my fellow countryfolk?
I don’t really get the liberal mentality these days, either. They seem to be pretty much ready to go on a witch hunt for anyone who sins in their politically-correct eyes and take them down, without any sense of trying to accomplish something that is truly sustaining and inclusive of everyone. Most of these types who get offended about something seem more ready to grab social media attention and have their 15 min of fame.
But, I am less focused on the person in the oval office, and more focused on trends that happen away from there. I have no great excitement about the prospect of China becoming the country that gets to call the shots globally, nor do I like the idea of perhaps China, Russia and Iran collaborating and being the global seat of power that the rest of us must contend with. I don’t really disagree with the notion that America is somehow less than it used to be, but I don’t think the solution has ever been to return millions of white rednecks to low-IQ, high-wage factory jobs that keep them in middle-class status throughout their lives. At some point, people have to be told when it’s time to move on from working in a factory or a mine, and get an education in IT or nursing.