“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It's an interesting question, often asked of children still struggling with long division and playground politics. I never really had an answer. Once while playing with blocks, I may have told a relative “architect”. When I was in elementary school, I just didn't think that far ahead. I lived one day at a time, reacting to things as they happened. By the time comic books were my hobby and my notebooks had more doodles than notes, I started to seriously consider it. I knew it was a dream; I REALLY couldn't draw that well in high school. Even so, time was running out and I had to choose a major. And I was starting to see some artists published that I was sure I could do better than. In the early ‘90s, I clearly recall the dread I'd feel when I'd pick up the next issue of my favorite comic, and find out it was a “fill-in” issue, some story by a different artist and writer about the same characters that usually had nothing to do with the previous issue, nor the subsequent one, and only served to get the book on the stands on time while the real creative team finished up. I don't buy comics anymore and only order the occasional trade paperback when I read about something interesting on the internet, but I will see fans complaining about their books being late and bashing the creative teams for missing their deadlines. Maybe it doesn't bother me because I only buy trades, or maybe because I'm now in an industry in which I see how little time there is to accomplish a large quantity of creative efforts, and have empathy for the writers and artists. Until someone actually DOES the work, he or she has no idea what it entails.
I'll spare readers from this turning into a rehash of my Career Tracks series. Long story short, I majored in graphic design in college, while taking some more traditional courses and developing my fine art skills. In the past nine years I've had two office jobs, and while the benefits are good and the pay is okay, both could always be better and the creative aspect of my job sometimes gets lost amid scheduling meetings, dealing with people in other departments via e-mail, and more technical applications of my computer skills. I used to draw daily, but in my first job soon found myself too drained at the end of the day to pick up a pencil. I found inspiration in my girlfriend for a time, but once she left I stupidly abandoned my fine art side and vowed never to return to my studio, to finish the painting I would have given her had we made it to our next Valentine's day. It was a grand romantic gesture, ringing with poetic angst. I gave up many things, punishing myself as much as I was wallowing in doom and self-pity. I was a stupid, stupid kid.
No dreams? Everyone has dreams. Sometimes we give them up completely, whether by choice, circumstance, or exhaustion. Often we compromise in favor of reality, and comfort ourselves with, “well this is SORT OF what I wanted to do...” There are many things in life that I've never done, that I may never do, and I've been learning to accept it, because that's what I believe growing up and becoming an adult entails. My parents always taught me that life is hard, that we're put here to work and suffer and no matter what, we DON'T play until all our tasks are complete. My dad at 75, for all his medical problems from a heart condition to arthritis to carpal tunnel syndrome, still plays a musical instrument on the weekends, and still fixes his friends' cars any time they ask because he “wants to stay in it, not get rusty.” My mom's being going through some medical problems of her own, but still manages to run a group of volunteers at an arboretum on weekends. The work they do is FUN for them, things that interest them and, by staying active, they're reaffirming the fact that they're still breathing.
I never had much interest in working in the yard, or fixing cars. I wish I had paid attention when I was younger, and picked up some of their skills. I did go into a field I felt I could still work in well past the age of retirement, and something I thought I'd enjoy since so many hours of one's life are spent at work. There's been a shift lately in which I don't think about work very much once I leave, and I strive to get home while it's still light out. For four solid days I've driven home along the shore, and bore witness to incredible sunsets shimmering on water from a respectable height. I'm searching for something, but I don't know what. I've entertained the notion that I've lost my mind, or that I'm going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. The former is something that's always been a question but, as I understand it, a question only asked by the sane. The latter is equally unlikely, unless I'm going to die at 60.
A woman at work, a few decades my senior, shared some wisdom with me this afternoon similar to what I've been thinking about. She said “we work here so we can go out there and have fun, not the other way around. THIS isn't important. OUT THERE....that's what matters.” Echoes of FawnDoo's words. Echoes of things Rey and other coworkers have postulated. Echoes of MYSELF. What will Monday bring? Who cares? Monday is miles away and I plan to continue tearing the good pages out of young MCF's book. Maybe I'll have an adventure tomorrow; I have no idea. This morning I took a long drive through wooded areas to work, well off my beaten commute, and flung myself a 60 MPH on to a dangerous parkway cutting across four lanes of heavy traffic moving equally fast, to catch my exit. Any time I leave my room, freeing myself from my self-imposed exile to solitary confinement, the odds of adventure increase.
We'll see about that....
”It's the old days. The bad days. The all-or-nothing days. They're back.”—Marv, Sin City