Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There will be trees. Something will matter.

I had a thought yesterday. I hesitate to call it an epiphany, mostly because the word is overused. Let's think of it as a little clarity.

Let me tell you about how I ended up here. I don't remember stressing over college when I was in high school. My junior year my parents and I went to a couple different campuses, shook some hands, ate some cafeteria food. But I only applied to one place, because I was only really interested in one place. In certain circles of Christian American culture, there is only one best school. Everything else is a safety school, or somewhere you go because you aren't driven to be the best. I didn't bother with safety schools.

I've often thought about what would have happened if I'd gone a different direction. You know, if I'd thought about what I wanted to do with my life in a specific and structured way, rather than just going with what people thought would work for me. I'd probably have ended up at Iowa. Iowa or New York. I can't even imagine who I'd be in that environment. I have trouble understanding how I ended up the way I am, even when I'm familiar with the path I *did* take. Anyway. That's how I got to Chicago, to this school. Part of my motivation was to meet the expectations of my community. Part was to get the hell away from that community. Tick Tock.

At college I met my wife. If I were to boil everything else away, everything has been worth it just to meet her. I don't want to dwell on the details, but it's almost silly how well we get along. When we argue it drives me nuts. When we get along it's like sunshine. Sunshine that tastes like strawberries. Something. Anyway. I met my wife. We got married the summer after my junior year. I was still in school, but she had graduated and had a full time job. Instead of renting for a year or two, we moved directly into our first house. The money came from a fund my grandmother had given me when I was born, to pay for college. My parents invested some of the money in real estate, and that went well. It paid for the down payment on our first house, some portion of the monthly payments for about a year, and my wife's wedding ring. But things were tight, let's be clear. Then things got worse.

I got expelled from school, halfway through my senior year. I was going crazy. If I could have held off the crazy for another four or five months, things would be different. Again, I don't know how, but I wouldn't be here, doing this. That's not how things are, though. I got expelled, and I needed a job that day. I took a job as a waiter, and quickly ended up as head wait and bartender. The money was okay, but god the dollars were tight. I went back to school, part time at first at the community college to work out some of the transcript issues, then full time at a better local school. The second school had an entirely different way of organizing their English program, though, so I ended up having to take the entire core curriculum in one year. That was three English classes at a time, plus a couple other courses to cover requirements that the first school didn't have. All in all it took almost three years from when I should have graduated to when I actually got a degree.

Once I was out of school I started looking for jobs. I applied at a *lot* of places, did a lot of interviews, but I only got one offer. It was a strange interview, because I had zero qualifications for the job at hand, but I emphasized my, I don't know. Fanatical will to succeed, I suppose. It was true, but that's not the kind of thing you go into a job interview touting. Point is, they offered me the job right there and then. I should have taken that as a warning sign; these people didn't know who they should be hiring. They shouldn't have hired me. In fact, looking around the building, they shouldn't have hired any of these people. Maybe that's how companies work.

This is what it comes down to. I didn't choose this place. I didn't choose Chicago, not really. I didn't intend to stay here after college, and yet next month marks my 16th year here. I didn't choose this career path, but I was desperately poor and just needed to work, that day. I've built up a lot of inertia here, and things are just barely tolerable enough that it would be too much trouble to move on. Pretty much everything I've done since college, I've thought of it as a temporary measure until I can get to where I want to be.

I've spent more than a decade living five years in the future. I keep telling myself that there's this other place ahead of me, this house in the NW with trees and good weather, and friends that I like and a job that I love and that I'm willing to work hard for. And that place doesn't exist. I'm here. I go to parties and I just get bored, the days are sunny and it depresses the fuck out of me and nothing, nothing seems to matter. Because nothing can compare to that other place, that fantasy place, that thing that lives in my head but will. never. be. And I can't adjust to that. But I'm trying.


At 8:15 PM , Blogger Marshdrifter said...

I don't think I ever had much of a say in where I ended up, except in that I was focused on my career. That said, if I got to choose, my choice might very well be Chicago.

I suspect that most people feel the way you do. It makes me think of the musing that Cayce did about that in PR. Just going with the flow, wherever that may be.

At 8:26 AM , Blogger Splitcoil said...

My entire childhood was a roller coaster ride of random moves. I moved 13 times in the first 11 years of my life, if I recall the numbers correctly. All over Germany, then a few dismal places in the states. The first move I made that was all up to me was when I chose Wisconsin for grad school. Mostly because of the school, but also because of the culture. I loved the place, but didn't have the money to properly enjoy it.

And then I left grad school to become a real boy, Gepetto. All my job leads started coming to fruition all at once. I could go to several spots in Virginia, a couple in Maryland, Birmingham AL (which, while I hate AL, is not a bad town), the evil that is Southern California, or this wee little town on the water in Western Washington that I'd never heard of. Web searches weren't encouraging. "Economically depressed." "Sailor-infested shit-hole." Etc. But I just had this crazy feeling that it's where I belonged. I turned down the other offers and went with WA, and I couldn't have made a better choice. I feel like I'm at home for the first time in my life.

When I'm actually home, of course. Not so much at the moment.

At 4:34 PM , Blogger colin said...

When I manage to think clearly about it, I know I've been fantastically lucky in a thousand different ways. I didn't go to a famous university, but it was a good one for what I was looking for. I also knew what I wanted to do before I went to university, and had both picked up enough relevant skills and had advice from an older brother in roughly the same field for job searching. I've always been comfortable, financially, and pretty much always been doing work I like.

That's why I feel terrible when, as happens from time to time, I feel like I want to be somewhere else, doing something else. I feel like I should be satisfied with my luck, instead of fantasizing about being something I'm not.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home