It’s been so hard to figure out what I want in life that I’ve wondered if something’s wrong with me. That old question, “where do you see yourself in ten years,” that they start asking in your teens and stop asking in your thirties — I would actually try to focus inward, through my mind’s eye, and I’d just see blank black. Will I be dead in ten years? But then ten years would go by and I’d still be alive, so I guess it was just a failure of the imagination.
Meanwhile, other people are so self-assured. I dated this guy in my mid-twenties; we were both in college and the National Guard, different units. We lived separately on an Army depot in some really old housing for next-to-nothing rent. He was a really good guy, but with clearly delineated edges — and I just sort of became the compatible puzzle piece, for a time. He grew up hunting and making things from scratch; was very detail oriented; gravitated to leadership roles and an excess of responsibility. Free time wasn’t a thing — his days, and by default my days, were mapped out in advance. I would beg off with another responsibility simply in order to not have another responsibility.
He had a friend, another Guard guy in his mid to late-20’s, who we’d hang out with. That guy was blustery but funny. He probably matured into some kind of obnoxious blowhard, but during the time I knew him, he was fresh faced and reasonably driven — also in college and the Guard.
That guy acquired a girlfriend, so then there were four of us, and she was great. She’d just graduated police academy, and she had this lovely mediterranean complexion, perfect skin, glossy waves of black hair, and a sturdy, strong body. She was confident, easy going, and locked in on where she was going in life.
All three of these people were very ambitious — they were at the right age to be lining themselves up with real careers, real livelihoods, with real stuff at stake, and real advancement on offer.
I don’t know why they came to mind — time passed and I broke up with the guy, but the whole thing had that sense of being momentous — his parents expected us to get married and my parents expected…nothing more than that my — and my brother’s — karmic cycles continue lmaooo! I mean, this is hard to explain, but my family of origin just wasn’t about it — what we’re going to “do” with our “lives”, although they were happy about and interested in most of our choices, in a kind of mildly amazed way. I’m realizing the oddness of it myself, just writing this blog. I mean, it was obvious to them that we’d try to do all kinds of things in the course of our lives, just as they had, but their attention was on a different dimension of experience. So my attention’s often been on a different dimension of experience. I don’t know how to describe that dimension; I just know that, every time someone asked me, “So where do you see yourself in ten years?,” I was completely unprepared to think of the things that matter to me — whatever those were, and even assessing that was hard enough — relative to an arbitrary chronology.
I’m introspective about this, this morning, because I’m so happy, actually, and it’s as hard to define in traditional terms why I’m happy as it ever was to define what I want. I don’t think that’s because anything’s the matter with me; I think it’s because the menu of items to potentially want, at the restaurant of life, hasn’t quite been my thing, but I’ve stumbled across the right custom entree anyway.
I don’t know what became of the blustery guy and his cop girlfriend, but my ex-boyfriend continued along his established trajectory and is now head-master-mega sergeant of that state, in charge of tons of shit, dating a gal that’s in charge of tons of other shit, and they work really hard, save up, retirement all squared away obviously, and then take these extravagant scuba vacations all over the world.
I don’t mind regimentation — in fact Nick has run afoul of my regimentation as regards morning writing time often enough that it’s not unusual for our entire day to be creatively organized around making sure I have this, and he has his barbell workout — so I guess it’s just regimentation in service of stuff I don’t really care about, that irks me. But the list of things I don’t care enough about to regiment is so long. And it includes really apparently important stuff, like career goals, which for the most part I don’t have. I’ve tried having career goals and, before you know it, you’re upside down existentially. Even this blog — like, it would be nice if it could eventually generate some money, directly or indirectly, but on the other hand it’s so nice to have a zero-obligation thing to engage with. Because no one can make me do it, no one can make me not do it, or ruin it in service to some co-opted regimentation. (Additionally, it’s worth noting that the relationship between my income and my career goals has most often been inverse. There’s real power in a “not my clowns, not my circus” mindset, as long as you have a legitimate skill to trade.)
Similarly, I noticed through the years that when I didn’t worry about money, I always had enough, but when I worried about it enough to start saving, my car would break down and its repair would cost the exact amount of money I’d managed to save. I was like, how does my car know?? I’ve become fascinated with strategic, applied ignore-ment, in recent years. This is when you just watch something about your own life, but only sideways, keeping it in your peripheral vision.
For analogy, I’ll use Milo, our recent rescue teacup Pomeranian. Never, not one single day in my life, have I ever asked the universe for a teacup Pomeranian, but long story short, now we have one, and he’s just epic. He wasn’t well socialized in his first three years of life, though — hence the eventual rescue status — and so he receives new people’s attention like a confidence-interrupting mixed signal. He’s really cute, so they lock in, and he becomes entangled in his own paralysis about what that should mean — advancing then backing up, growling but wanting to be petted. (He doesn’t bite.) The best way to approach him — which almost no one does — is to ignore him completely, just kind of stand in his general area, interact with everyone but him — myself, Nick, our other dog Buffy, whatever — and give him time to figure out what he wants, which is obviously to be included. He’s like, “what does it mean, what does it mean, what does it mean.” It means ear scratches, you little ding dong.
That’s how a bunch of stuff in life is, or seems to me. You want to make friends with it, but you can see it’s shifting and blinking and just as liable to break or bite you as to show its belly, so you just keep it in your periphs, ostensibly ignoring it, until it offers a clear signal. This “it” could be a dog, a career change, a move, a romantic interest, really anything. Honestly what it comes down to is timing, divine timing. We don’t have conscious control over that — the very impetus to exert control pushes the desired thing further away, often — so strategic disinterest, while lingering around ignoring it, is a great way to make friends with life’s gift horse without looking in its mouth.
So today, we’re checking out of this hotel and driving back to Arizona, as the lull between fires seems to justify it. We already parked the tractor trailer in a long-term storage yard — I arranged for $4k worth of preventative maintenance on the tractor, first, and found an absolutely fantastic diesel mechanic here in Colorado. He used to manage fleets for the Colorado oil field, and recruited quite a few of his mechanics from same, so those guys know how to fix trucks that are broken beyond the average. My tractor was more neglected than the average, so it was a good fit.
I found him by first calling Kenworth, being dismissed and talked down to by that guy, and then having a good phone experience with this other mechanic. I left Kenworth a negative review about all the money I was in a position to drop, there, and which got dropped instead in someone else’s lap, and of course a positive review for the good guy.
We’ll load the barbell equipment into the chase truck, park the chase trailer alongside the tractor trailer in the drop yard, and just hang out in AZ and see what happens with fires.
Nick is a good partner for me because he would have been also unable to answer the “where do you see yourself in ten years?” question, most of his life. Or he would have said, “Well — dead, obviously.” A good chunk of his childhood friends and young adult running buddies are dead, from opiate overdose. Most of his current friends are born-again-sobers, and even one or two of them will die every year, it seems, from relapse. There have been a couple, just since we met, and there’s always like one off in the weeds. I mean off in the weeds. It’s weird to have this boyfriend who has friends who, over time and under the wrong set of circumstances and with a heavy dose of complacency, will just go off the rails for, like, extended periods of time, and then either die or regain sobriety, and there’s essentially nothing anyone can do about it. And these people own cars, they own guns, they own animals — I can barely think about it.
Nick, despite being a driven, ambitious person in his own right, has mused that really anything he manages or accomplishes in life is, in a broad sense, gravy. He was gifted with an addiction — ie, a chemically-focused adaptation to the circumstances in which he found himself — so severe that it was not excusable as “recreational”, and he had to be sent off to emotional boot camp not once, but a number of times, before it stuck, and he emerged as this incredible person I get to hang out with today. I like sharing my life with a sober person because sobriety, if it’s to be successful long term, represents a dogged unwillingness to get too upside down about anything, for any reason. He can’t self-sacrifice, or put himself in a position to rigidly endure, or else bad things will happen. And I like that.
If someone had asked me where I see myself in ten years, ten years ago — jesus, what was I doing then anyway. I was thirty-four. I was initiating a divorce, going broke as an adjunct English instructor at a university, working part-time at a music store where, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out their point of sale software. I wouldn’t have had a fucking clue where I saw myself. Black, blank, hopefully with money in the bank.
What I’ve got going on today, ten years later, is so fun, so loosey-goosey, so reasonably lucrative, so in alignment with what I want to do and how I want to feel every day. I mean, just to be clear, my last vestiges of feeling responsible for some kind of 11th hour career pretty much evaporated along with the national and global economy. Emerging as a somewhat skilled blue collar mercenary, but in a style domestic enough to include my boyfriend, our two little dogs, and our barbell gym has been…kind of like the whole world conspiring to give me the life I’ve actually always wanted, so long as that life includes daily time for creative expression.
For Nick, he’s a perfect example of a millennial getting totally fucked, not once but twice, by economic catastrophe. He wasn’t remotely sober for the first one, in 2008 — there were other alligators closer to his boat — but he had just started a business, and it was trending successful, right before this second and much larger shockwave.
He’s remained pretty philosophical. His strength clients are the ones who really suffered, unfortunately. Imagine: a world full of shitty personal trainers, and you find one that actually gets you results, by putting your 65 year old ass, or 72 year old ass, or 79 year old ass under a barbell — I just can’t lol hard enough — and then the world economy just goes away and you’re not allowed to do anything with anyone, anywhere. Those poor folks — just the sweetest people. I mean, he got those grannies deadlifting. One or two of them were trying to gain strength to care for their declining spouses — dementia, Alzheimer’s, all that.
Nick is optimistic that he taught them enough they can keep it going, alone, which is why his model of coaching was both the best of times and the worst of times. He trained clients out of dependence, but they wanted to hang out and lift anyway.
Nick has been doing a bunch of junk this morning, by himself, to get us ready for the road so that I would have time to write first, and I’m not sure I discharged my sacred duty of making anything very good, but oh well. I need to wrap up and get this room packed.
Where do I see myself in ten years? Rather than any of that getting more clear for me, I think it’s gotten a lot less clear for all of us. Hopefully living in Hawaii half the year, with definitely Nick but also ideally my brother and dad, and doing mercenary fire trucking work the other half of the year. Why not — it’s fun. And narrating audiobooks on our downtime. I should qualify — Hawaii, if the US is still proceeding along the trajectory of its original idea — no, not the idea of white supremacy; the idea of individual opportunity, individual responsibility, and the legal option to own firearms — and emigrate if not. It’s really all on the table.
My brother and I used to drive through hick towns and say, sarcastically to one another, “GBA!” God bless America. It would be on the marquis at the tractor supply store or whatever. Well, I don’t know, it feels less sarcastic to me now, believing as I do in some version of God and some version of America. Again, it’s with near total amazement I find myself on the establishment side of ideas like this — I’ve considered the entire national ideology I live in to be something best kept in my own peripheral vision, at most — but what can I say, I’m kind of rooting for it these days. It is sink or swim, always has been, and even though I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years, I can swim like a motherfucker.