Nothing to see here, move along

Wow, well, that was a refreshing break. So anyway.


I mean, I guess some details have changed. My beard is greyer, my step slightly less springy, we did some work on the house, etc. But in all the big ways, I’m right where I was a year ago. Same job, same house, same wife, same car, same dogs, same creeping sense of urban dread. Safe and secure.

I think I understand where mid-life crises come from now.

No, I’m not gonna buy a sports car or trade my wife in for a newer model, but I feel like I made some sort of mistake about twenty years ago and it’s just starting to catch up now. That mistake being “the course of my entire career.”

Back in those days I was going to be a writer, I was going to create books and change the world. I was even good at writing, which already puts me ahead of the pack as far as most writers are concerned. (Ho ho funny joke please don’t kill me fellow writers.)

But then I started wanting things. Things like a car that didn’t die at every intersection, or lunch made from non-processed meats. So I got a better-than-subsistence-level job writing ads. Hey, it was still writing, right? Good creative job, but solid, the sort of thing you could mention at family reunions without people replying “No, I mean what do you really do?”

It worked pretty well until I realized I was spending all my brain energy on ads. At home, I couldn’t drag myself to a typewriter (we used these things called typewriters, ask your grandparents to explain) except to stare at a blank sheet of paper for several minutes, sigh, and go watch TV. I needed to find a job less writer-ly in disposition. Maybe something with computers or the internet. Yeah. Those things were starting to get popular, there may be a future in that. So I jumped ship to the lucrative world of web design.

And it was great! Graphic design, layout, some light copywriting but not too bad, some heavy coding but I discovered I took to that pretty well. A whole brain workout, creative and analytical all at once. Then I could actually come home and actually write things and get on with that world-changing business.

Except … it didn’t happen.

My mind was plenty full of ideas and there was nothing stopping me from writing them down. I was enthusiastic about establishing myself as a web guru, and every day I was gaining new skills in that arena, but still had lots of time at home.

But instead there I sat, a lump in front of the TV or clicking languidly through the web, just like before. The only difference was, instead of being mentally exhausted, I was …

What? What was I? Timid? Unfocused? Frightened? Unmotivated? Full of ennui? I’ve been trying to figure out what that emotion is for years. I still feel it, even stronger now, along with a fresh batch of pissed off; now I can look back and see, with great clarity, all those tremendous tracts of wasted time that could have been novels and story collections and screenplays and are instead less than a handful of dust.

So much lost. So much time gone for good. I’ve heard it said that twenty years is the minimum amount of time to hone a craft, pay your dues, get your mistakes well made, and establish your unique foothold in the world.

Only now, twenty years later, do I look back and realize I’ve been honing the wrong skill.

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