Dream that I was at some kind of fair

Dream that I was at some kind of fair, where I wanted a croissant with peanut butter on it. One booth sold croissants, the other peanut butter. The lady at booth A wouldn’t let me take the croissant over to the peanut butter booth and purchase my combined peanut butter croissant sandwich from booth B. And, the croissant was only ten cents, but all I could find in my wallet was a five dollar bill and a one hundred dollar bill. After I’d already given her my hundred (because for some reason I thought the change from the 100 would be better suited for buying the peanut butter), I found a one dollar bill, which was apparently what I was really looking for. For my change, the lady returned a bunch of cancelled checks she’d found at the bottom of the cash register drawer, along with some plastic card holders. There were also some envelopes with various amounts written on them that didn’t amount to the $99.90 she owed me.

At first, I interpreted the dream to mean that I am going through life in a similar fashion. I keep trying to take $100 worth of brain power and skills and experience, and use it on ten cent jobs. And, what I get back for my efforts is a lot of garbage that looks like it might have had some kind of value at some point. Of course, this doesn’t make complete sense, because a job should pay you at least what you are worth, if not the dividend of additional experience you can use to move on to a better paying job. However, maybe that’s the point. I am not really thinking in terms of finding a job that matches me for what I am worth. I am still stuck in the mode of trying to find the least common denominator of a job so that I will get hired and have a job of some kind.

I also remember having some kind of dream where I was getting feedback about my teeth on a website. Most of the commenters seemed to think that my teeth were fake and should be replaced with better fitting teeth, and I was somehow proud that people thought my natural teeth were so good as to be fake.

Today is Friday, and it feels like each Friday is getting harder to reach. Where I work, the work that my boss wants me to do, I don’t really want to be doing, and it’s not much work, anyway. The other work that is required of me is small-change work like the kind of work I’ve been doing for too long. I certainly need to figure out a way to move into a more senior-level position somewhere, but this is hard. I don’t have a lot of official people-managing experience, even though I’ve spearheaded plenty of projects and groups, and have been responsible for seeing many tasks to the end that required the delegation of work to others. I am at an age where I should at least have a Director in my title, but the VP title I held was so brief that I think it would just look weird on a job application. I don’t know, I’m in need of some free time to really think this through and just get tight about what I really want to do for the last twenty-five years of my career, but I never seem to have that kind of time, anymore–or I am just so drained by the end of the day/week that I don’t feel the least bit like thinking about my professional sphere of being.

It probably goes without saying, but I am going to have to admit that I am experiencing the downhill slide of the aging process. I am not motivated to try to do new things, learn new things, create new things. My preference is to be entertained or simply sit and do nothing, letting my mind wander in no particular direction, and certainly not in any direction that would net me some new creative idea to help me make more money or grow more as a person. Certainly, part of it is purely mental. I’m going on my seventh year of marriage, in my forties, have more gray hair on my head than dark and more bald on my head than hair. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never do a lot of new and first things that young people do for the rest of my life, but I haven’t bothered to replace the desire to have and living for those experiences with something equally stimulating. My condition isn’t any different than most people’s. Most of my peers entered this state of being ten years ago or more when they got married and had their first children.

But, I think there is also just the kind of resignation that comes with having seen so many experiments and attempts to become something or someone amount to nothing. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say I look forward to my dreams more than anything else, but they certainly supplement the ordinary, regular and the mundane in a way that no original television programming or movies seem to be able to.

A couple of times throughout the week, I almost feel as if I am about to breakthrough into some higher state of Mind. When I’m on my way to work, or walking about the city on a break from work. There is a sense that the way we are all connected is out there, floating in the air, beyond the reach of the highly spiritual and the highly materialistic, the religious and the atheistic. But these are just hints. The way that I end up connecting with people, if I do at all, is mostly angles and deflections–people all around ducking their heads and not wanting to be intruded upon, except by those who know them well. It’s not like I’m any different, except sometimes I believe that humanity could be completely connected in a way that was pure and righteous, rather than evil and obscene, like some kind of hive mind that is controlled and manipulated by an evil government pyramid with Satan sitting at the top.

Much of the breakthrough starts to come when I am firmly able to leave off from considering other human beings from the place of what use they are to me. This is hard, because this is how we are conditioned. That each human I meet must be a person who is useful to me, even if it’s to prove how virtuous I am and aggrandize my own ego-driven sense of having a noble self. Such an insight can come easily, but it is hard to really change it. I’ve simply taken my old, selfish approach of asking whether each human I meet can serve me in a material sort of way, either through a sexual or a business relationship, and I’ve replaced it with a similarly selfish approach, albeit one with a presumably altruistic veneer.

…and it’s all over.

There was this dream, and you reinvented yourself time and time again to try to keep the dream alive. You didn’t want to wake up from this dream that you pursued. You didn’t want to face the reality that you are not the kind of person who gets to be the trend-setting, culture vulture, hip traveler who talks about art and food and bands in large, sexy metropolitan areas. Your friends are not the ones who are quasi-agnostic, kind of atheist, often sympathetic to those brutally repressed non-Judeo/Christian peoples of the world.

You cannot ever fit in completely into the work environment that delivers job satisfaction to its employees by providing snacks and games in the break room. You do not think that the young have all the answers, and the old are washed up with stale ideas. You didn’t believe this when you were young, so why would you think it to be true now?

You learned that there are people in this world who will hate your guts at a glance and never bother to get to know you. You learned that people do not get ahead at companies big and small just by doing the smartest, best work, even if that work is more revenue and bottom-line focused than the work of others. People get ahead by knowing just how far they can go with their loud, brash mouths without crossing the line into that unholy territory of being labeled “unprofessional.”

You really don’t care for live music most of the time. The amount of effort expended on struggling to find decent parking, getting ill-treated by the thuggish doorman, getting ignored by the bartender for thirty minutes to overpay for a tiny plastic cup of watered down beer, getting smashed up against random strangers who hate your guts at a glance, having tall men and women push in front of you to block your view of the band, hearing the bass override all other instruments and vocals in the house mix, and waiting in line to use the world’s filthiest bathroom–none of it adds up to overcome whatever joy may come from watching musicians perform their music in the same room as you. Lying in bed wearing noise-cancelling headphones while surfing Spotify beats that shit any day of the week.

The Austin story was mostly told and finished three years ago, but then, you stayed on for some reason, buying a condo and pretending one last time you could be some kind of chic, hipster gentrifier; getting engaged and married, and then driving up and down I-35 all the past year.

You won’t miss the last place you worked at. It was a place for people under 35. If you were over 35, and not a manager there, you were merely an extension of the software you manipulated.

You never made it as a writer. That was the original idea, right? You’d refuse any writing work that came your way, to keep yourself pure and untainted. It was really the simple fact that you feared criticism of the thing you enjoyed doing the most. If someone ripped apart your professional writing for some dotcom online furniture store, then maybe all the writing you did in secret would have to be rendered invalid. And, maybe it should have been. Perhaps your entire premise that this was your calling was a deeply flawed premise to begin with. You were as good a writer as anyone else with a four-year liberal arts degree, but no more, no less.

Something in you changed during these last 14 years.

You went from being a creative, artsy, right-brained individual, who prided himself on choosing the independent film of the week in the theater over the latest testosterone-and-explosions flick–to being someone who decided that pretty much any tribe a man cares to join in this culture is a bullshit tribe. Sports loving men, goth and industrial music loving men, outdoor adventure men, men ranting about politics–all kinds of men worshiping whatever little gods this culture props up for them to be distracted by. You can see it in their eyes, this unsteady, inhuman kind of stare that tells you they are no longer grounded, connected with the earth, with the wisdom of their ancestors, with the forces of the universe. They are zealously fixated on artificial things, whether its the slickly produced cliched pap from Nashville or the endless talk about college football. These artificial things are manufactured to give the appearance and feeling of being traditionally manly pursuits, but they are no more traditionally masculine than a dandy at a NYC fashion show. This is not to say that there aren’t still a few men who do manly things, but the era that delivered a wealth of jobs that were primarily best suited for men is a long-dead era that so many men still don’t want to wake up to.

If you drive a giant truck that sees its usefulness met once every other week hauling a few purchases from the Home Depot back to your nest, then you probably are one of these men. These men who work in offices downtown, live in the suburbs, and dream of owning a ranch. They yearn for the days of cowboys or seafaring adventurers, and why shouldn’t they? They have to settle with watching westerns, working on their lawn or in their workshops, and following their favorite sports teams. But, the problem is the incongruent nature of it all, the stress on the biological organism that wants more satisfaction out of life than this. And, of course, the day you wake up and realize that all of your boating and fishing and hunting is simply a Disneyfied version of what your ancestors did.

You see this manifested among other tribes of men as well. Men who adore Science, but possess no math or science education past a few college courses. They get excited about news articles of advances in technology and think that Science is sexy and cool, but struggle with basic math.

Once a nation of doers, your country is now a nation of actors. You don’t want to take the time to be properly trained in a STEM subject, or deal with the backbreaking hard work of operating a self-sufficient farm, you just like the idea of these things and have an affinity with those who do or did them. So, to actually get on with making money and succeeding at something rather than continue to be a professional student or be a random office flunky, you learn to play the game of being a company survivor. You take on enough projects to make it look like you are busy all the time, but ensure that you never get anything actually accomplished so you don’t end up pegged into being responsible for any one thing. You don’t try to advance at the company, but screw just enough people over so that you can be a perpetual middle manager, hopping from division to division, title to title, but essentially doing the same thing: attending lots of meetings to discuss process improvements and building lots of impressive spreadsheets full of tasks and goals.

The real truth in why you never really became anyone in particular, is because the amount of dedication to one particular thing scares the hell out of you. It’s like you are going into a dark tunnel that you might not make it back from. You might wake up one day and be so changed from who you were, that you go insane from no longer having any sort of identity reference point.

But doesn’t it feel great when you are able to successfully kill a lot of the complexity you’ve created in your life? When you start reading too many books at once, having too many ideas, making too many promises to people to be at this or that event or volunteering activity. Suddenly, you find yourself letting people down, letting yourself down, and getting depressed that so many things on your to-do list aren’t getting done. How much does any of it matter? Are you doing something that you are able to carry with you moving forward, or is it something that is a throwaway, forgettable activity?

So much of what you invest in doesn’t pay dividends, it simply pays for itself, at best. Whether it’s a job you invest your time, emotions and sweat into, or a car you dump all kinds of maintenance money and payment interest into, or an evening of surfing the news–the amount of effort, time and money spent returns at best exactly what you put into it. And often not even that. So few things/people/activities give you back rewards that go beyond what you originally paid for them. The trip to NYC is an example. Sure, it cost you about $1200 when it was all said and done, but it returned so much in the way of ideas, memories, things to be reflected on, art to consider, etc. You can still, almost three years later, reach back in your mind and reflect upon everything you saw and did over the course of a few days. Financially speaking, it probably was a terrible idea. It probably prevented you from having some other thing you’ll never even know you could have had, but the return on investment for the things you do in life isn’t all about the money–in fact, it’s only probably about 30% about the money.

When will you ever get the chance to go to NYC again? Your wife wants to visit NC next. Soon, you’ll have little ones running around. You won’t be able to take them with you without spending lots of money to make sure your family stays somewhere nice. Even if you do get to go there on a business trip, it will likely be a mad dash from airport to hotel to conference to airport, with little opportunity to haunt the art museums and people watch.

Was Austin an investment that will pay dividends the rest of your life? Did all of the choices you made that caused you to end up staying there long after the party was over–were they choices you will reap the benefit from in years to come? Was this blog a worthy investment–all this random writing that nobody may read, ever? Are you a worthy investment–would God have been better off never creating you at all?

Someone else will answer that.