Sunday, September 10, 2006

Deep Thoughts (Not Sponsored by Jack Handy)

What is my life amounting to right now?
What do I WANT in my life right now?
Where do I want to be in ten years?

These are the thoughts that won't let me go ever since that dream I had. (See earlier post if you're curious.) I lie awake this morning in bed from 6 AM until almost noon, thinking to myself, arguing to myself, and trying to reason out the things that were flowing through my mind. The dream itself was completely nonsense and doesnt bear repeating here. What DOES bear repeating are the questions that run throughout my head all day lately. To make matters worse, trying to find a moment of peace in which to write in this country is driving me crazy. There are five of us sharing a four bedroom apartment with one communal living room, kitchen, patio, and two bathrooms. At any given time, two to three people are watching television, which makes peace and quiet in the living room or dining room out of the question. The rest of the team are either in their rooms or out here on the patio, where I like to write. It's the only place here where we can smoke, so there is almost always at least one of us here at any given time, and we all know that if I'm writing then I'm usually sitting somewhere that I can smoke, else I go crazy. Last night, I stayted up until 3:30 in the morning just to get uninterrupted silence in which to think and relax without the sounds of humanity. Those of you who know me are well aware how I get when I begin feeling "confined" for too long. I need my space, my time to think, to unwind in precious silence without the sound of another living soul to disturb my thoughts. Today, I have spent almost 8 hours trying to write these two posts. Between cooking lunch, cleaning the kitchen, prep-cooking dinner, cleaning some more, being social, cleaning up behind others, and the myriad of other things that occupy my time in this place, getting free time in which to relax is extremely hard to do. Even worse, it seems I can't write when others are around. One song, one conversation, one stray thought can completely blow my focus for the whole strain of thoughts that I want to write. God, when I think about it, I feel like a struggling author with no book! I try to find peace to write, but don't really have anything worth saying most of the time. ( take this post as exhibit A in the defense for that statement.)

The good part of being surrounded all the time by others is that I stay going, stay motivated, stay focused on one thing or another. The bad side of it is that I get no time to NOT be going, to enjoy my down time. I'm going to stop this train of thoughts because I feel like I'm writing in a pointless circle. Let's see if I can begin to maybe detail some of the thoughts I had in mind when I started this post.

What do I want?

In short, I have no idea. I know that I'm not happy a lot of the time lately. I'm not quite self-aware enough yet to put my finger on the cause of it, but I'm slowly making strides into possibly figuring it out. I've spent the last 11 years of my life busting my *@% to get "somewhere" in life. Along that journey, I think I made projections of what that "somewhere" would entail. I don't want you to think that I'm driven by money. I'm not money-hungry, greedy, or anything like that, but I am smart enough to know that many of the conviences I dreamed about require the monetary ability to achieve them. Thus, if I want to "succeed" then I have to have the money to get there. Some of my goals are things like a reliable vehicle that I'm comfortable with and enjoy. I want the credit to buy my first house without signing over my life for the next 30 years. I want the freedom to pursue my career happiness without the necessity of some ignorant individual placed over me in a position to hamper that progress; simply put, I want the freedom to ensure or deny my own success without the impediment of others.

Now, I'll pause and address those I've mentioned thus far. I'm 29 years old. I make twice what I've ever made before, so I can't really complain about the money factor. Even better is the fact that its dependable salary income, not the sales commissions I'm used to from the past. Those can quickly dry up in a bad economy. So in addition to the extra money, I'm financially stable and in a position to forecast my future. I drive a newer model Jeep that I've wanted ever since my ex got the LAST one I had. Its not brand new, but close enough for me that I'm happy with it. My credit has finally pulled out of the gutter and is looking good right now. I can get approved for a home on my own with no help and that's a plus AND I'm pretty much at the highest position that I can be with my current company, so I have only a CEO to answer to, which is how I like to operate. I hate working for middle-management-idiots. So, basically I'm an adult. There are few vestiges of adolescence remaining in my life with the exception of my spirit, which I refuse to bring inline with the expectations of suburbia. I work hard and I like to play even harder and I hate to do it alone, so I do it with as many friends as I can find when the opportunity presents itself.

Now, what's wrong with all of that? Nothing I guess. Most people would consider themselves lucky to have my life at this point. Even a year ago, i would have happily traded my soul for a shot at a better life and now I am semi-firmly rooted in the beginnings of one that can carry me down the road to retirement and happiness. Here's the rub; You ready for this? Cause it's a dumb one. I've peaked. It's true. I wake up and think how I'm gonna get this project done, how I'm gonna plan the next one, how we can perfect the implementation and scheduling, how to tweak the logistics for better efficiency, and a hundred other things. However, the truth is, I've peaked. Unless my CEO were to die tomorrow and leave everything to me in a final senile moment of self-deprecation, then I've pretty much hit the top.

What can I change? Well, the money isn't a problem. It will go up over time and even if it didn't, I have a resume and a portfolio now that should assure me some interesting job interviews if I ever needed one. I've got plenty of companies back in NC that have offered me jobs that I could start pretty much any time I chose to. So, I've got options, which is always a good position to be in. What I don't have is a life. Now comes the part where some of you will say "see, money isn't everything.. and you have to have priorities aside from work..." Yeah I know. Save it. I'm not looking for platitudes, but solutions. What I don't have right now is a close family life. I can finally afford to go spend time with my family from time to time but don't have the time to do it. Literally. It's not like I can't GO when I'm home, it's that I'm in Africa! For the forseeable future, this is what I see myself being pushed in. If I'm so good, then I should be able to find a way to do this in the United States where I can travel from time to time but also spend time at home with my family and my friends. I need that time as part of my "happiness." That's one of the things that I'm adding to my freshly-remodeled view of success.

How can I accomplish this? I'm not sure aside from the possibility of opening my own business and running my own show. I have a dependable team that would follow me anywhere in the world, as they've already proven through their actions. I have enough people impressed with our colllective skills that I can get funding for the organization and can be up and going within a year, above the red in two, and into seven figures in three. So, what's next? What do I do? Why am I even having this conversation with myself?

Am I happy in my current job? Yes, for the most part. There are a few significant issues that need to be resolved before I will agree to further pursue this avenue with my current contract-holder. One of those is travel. I'm tired of traveling for three months at a time with no end in sight. Everyone who thinks they know what's going on says 'oh, you'll be over there a month, MAYBE six weeks, and then you'll be home" when I know damned well that the job can't be done in less than 4 months, no matter HOW you slice it. One month on, one month off would be acceptable for me at this point in life. I've met over a hundred contractors in this country who come here from other countries and none of them stay longer than three weeks at the longest. If you look at my current projections for right now, I'll be here at least another month, on top of the 9 weeks I've been here already this trip. Then, when I return home I'm supposed to pick my next project to work with. There's only one right now that appeals to me at this point, maybe two depending on how the second one pans out. I can't go into the logistical problems I'm having without stepping over some fairly distinct lines of professionalism, but suffice it to say that I'm not going to be dumped in a third world country again with enough supplies to finish only half the project, enough tools for two men to work when I need twenty, and no spending budget, no vehicle, no decent accomodations, etc. Some things just aren't worth the money.

Then, I find out through the grapevine that my CEO is less than impressed with my attitude lately... imagine that. Wow! Amazing! I'm expected to... nope.. nevermind. I'm not turning this into one of "those" posts.

Ok, back to what I want from my life.

I want to pack my girlfriend in the truck and drive to the beach at 4 on a Thursday afternoon just to catch my daughter's ball game. I want to go down to the river on a Saturday morning and spend half the day on the river enjoying the peace and quiet. I want to take my beautiful date to dinner at a nice place, enjoy some nice italian cuisine, catch an evening of jazz at some quaint little bistro, and follow that with a walk on the waterfront just because we can. I want to be stimulated with intelligent and thought provoking conversation. I want to have mildly amuzing arguments among friends about politics, religion, and what the latest character in a novel represents from the author's point of view. I want to cook barbeque in my back yard on my porch while my kids and the neighbor's children play tag in the yard. I want to sit quietly in my study and read Virgil and Dante and to have someone with a like mind to discuss them with. I want to go to a football game. I dont even like football, but I want to go for the sake of going, to be "part" of the experience. I want stimulation in all it's forms; mental, physical, emotional, sociological, physiological, and all the rest. I want to "live" like few people ever get to do. I want great moments that will remain with me forever to be conversational pieces. I want to retire from something amongst friends who have done the same. I want to sit around the golf course ( Yes I know I need to learn to play first) and discuss the newest investment plan that's hit the market. I want to invest in the stock market. I want to travel to Egypt and ride down the nile in a riverboat to Cairo where I will rent a camel just for the hell of it and take a guided tour of the pyramids. I want the relationships that hollywood writes movies about. I want to be loved so hard that I can't breathe through it. I want to do inappropriate things in even more inappropriate places, just to say I did. I want to take my family to the zoo. I want to take my Mom and daughter to New England during the spring fishing season and stay in a bed and breakfast for the weekend. I want to drive to Montana JUST because I can and I want to stay in a house in God's country and ride horses for a week each year while I live out my adolescent visions of wanting the life of a cowboy. I want to teach my girlfriend to shoot a pistol and how to quick-load a 30/30 Winchester long-rifle while in the saddle.

All of this is on top of the emotinal life I want for myself. I want, no, I NEED stimulation and excitement back in my life. I live in an emotional place that's unlike anything I've ever known. Sometimes I feel myself just shutting down, small parts of my psyche just atrophy and die from lack of use, to fall away into the ether and to be replaced by nothing, slowly rebuilding my internal self into this machination of tied-together nothings that just flow through life in a husk that slightly resembles me from the outside, but upon close examination provides no more substance than the smoke that flows from a burning candle.

Honestly, I can't decide sometimes if I'm dying from lack of exposure to anything remotely like what I want in life, or if I'm actually about to explode from bottled-up frustrations. I used to have my best friend's to vent this to, but circumstances and life in general seem to swirl us away from each other and I'm not strong enough to hold everything together by myself. I haven't seen one of them in about three months and most likely won't see them for another year. Another of them is so busy with their music career that he hardly has time to breathe. Yet another was taken from me by family and circumstances that I don't match up against. I haven't laid eyes on her in one year, eight months, and 28 days. That's how close we were. I know she used to read this blog, but I'm pretty sure she's firmly seated in another life now, most likely forever taken from me, and so busy being mom, wife, student, working woman, family supporter, and a hundred other things that I just don't fit any more into her life. Still others are there for me if I need them, but few of them understand me like those three do, one of them in particular.

I guess age and life are working against me in this too. People grow up, and to some that means leaving friends behind in lieu of other pursuits. It never meant that for me. I make friends for a reason, for a quality in them that improves my own life, which is why I give them up with great reluctance. Losing them devalues my own life as well as creating a hole where they used to be. Friends in life are like snow-flake jigsaw puzzle pieces. There's my analagy for friends. Tom Hank had his line about life and chocolates. Well, there's mine for you. Snow flakes are unique, each one differing in a hundred different ways from others. Your life is the puzzle. Never in your life is the puzzle complete, but I'd say that around my mid twenties was the most complete mine had ever been. No matter how many friends you ever gain to replace lost ones, they can never fit in the same place in the puzzle as the ones who are gone. It's especially true when they are those close-to-center pieces, the integral ones you need to hold the fabric together. Eventually, you have holes near the center of your life's puzzle, which weakens the fabric of your entire life. Each piece removed from the center makes the entire structure slightly weaker. The addition of new friends never quite fit in the places vacated by the old ones, so they have to go out at the edge. This stretches the puzzle in new ways, adding more to one side than to the other. Some pieces tug on the pattern stronger than others. All of these things make up your life in ways too complex to put into words. Anyway, I didn't intend this to be a diatribe on the mystery of the snow-flake theory or a whining rant about my life, but it seems that a lot of them turn out like that lately. I'm going to take a break for a few minutes and come back to this with a fresh perspective.

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