COLUMN - By Danny King, Headliner Columnist, March 14, 2023
I was huddled around my computer screen in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to re-word a paragraph to make it sound more confident. It was one essay that blended in with the other dozen I had written that year in an attempt to earn a bachelor’s degree and get the job of my dreams. It was a completely forgettable piece of BS I had claimed directly from my posterior; I attempted to convey some sense of passion in my writing on how the Supreme Court had changed the American legal system in the last 100 years, as if I cared.
The essay needed to be seven pages. I was at three and it was due in four hours. I had just wrapped up my fourth page when the vision in my right eye began to turn to static. A black floating dot began to bounce around my field of vision bringing thoughts of my childhood DVD player menu to mind. As the dot bounced back and forth it began to grow in size, as if it were feeding on the sensory information my eyeballs were receiving and growing fatter with each passing second. Within 10 minutes I had lost all vision in my right eye. It was time for a break.
As I sat there trying to massage the vision back into my eyeball, I yearned deeply for the days where the only thing I had to worry about was my career. Each day the same routine: wake up, go to work, get home and get myself ready for the next day. No late-night study sessions, no more essays, no more blinding optic migraines. I wanted stability.
One year later and I found myself in the opposite position I had prayed for a year before. I had gotten an A on my essay and was getting ready for the upcoming school year by working in the summer and getting ready for my thesis, I was closer to graduation but still at least a year out. I was working a construction job and was asked to hang a piece of insulated round - used in HVAC to heat and cool the house eventually - in the ceiling of a living room that was still under construction. The ceiling was at least 30 feet high. We had a 20-foot ladder and I was the one asked to hang it. I thought that I might be able to reach where we needed to get it without going all the way to the top. I was wrong.
In a move that would make OSHA sob, I stood on the top rung of the ladder, on my tippy toes, with my arms above my head, my entire life flashing before my eyes as the ladder began to sway. In that moment I felt a familiar desire for stability begin to wash over me, the stability of a job that would have me sitting on my butt most days, in an air-conditioned room, and on a chair that would remain on the ground and make a lot more money in the process.
Despite my delicate frame and princess-like sensibility, I survived those years of odds jobs and online education. I earned my bachelor’s degree in December of 2022. I was able to find a job doing what I always wanted to do even before my degree was complete; my career was in its infancy, and I was absolutely ecstatic for what the future held. I had anticipated the first month to be difficult, filled with working out the kinks of a new lifestyle and trying to figure out where to spend all the money I’d be making.
It got to be the second month and it was still a difficult adjustment, there was less money involved as i had planned and the days were much more draining. The third month flew by in a flash of remorse and regret as it had not gotten easier but had actually become increasingly more difficult. I sit here, now in my fifth month of my new career, dreading tomorrow as if I had to write an essay or work a long and difficult day of construction. It has gotten to the point where each day effortlessly blends in with the day before becoming a large, tangled mess of anxiety and regret.
As I have tried to come to terms with the fact that what I imagined for myself wasn’t all it cracked up to be I can’t help but think on the timeless witticism “the grass is always greener on the other side.” I became bitter at myself for my career choice and for the time I had taken for granted. The idea that life is better on the other side is a complete and utter lie. What they don’t tell you is that any life worth living is built on toil and hardship. Dreaming of a future without thinking of the work that has to go into it will surely set anyone up for future disappointment and what a waste that is.
As these negative thoughts have filled my mind these past months, however, I have also been bolstered by the words of Ernest Hemingway, “the first draft of anything is shit.” This provides comfort to me in those moments where I feel utterly and completely lost in a sea of my own worries. It fills me with hope that each day I have the opportunity to write a new draft of my life that will be better than the one before it. I have the choice today not to wallow in doubt and self-pity, but to get up and try new things, to be bold enough to fail but to fail forward as I learn from the mistakes I make on an hourly basis.
The real kicker for me came through the realization that I was living my life wishing for the future to be better than the present. Hoping for a day where I wouldn’t have to worry or toil or work or stress about something. A day of peaceful worry-free living spent doing something else. I realized that it was these thoughts that were filling me with remorse. How could I enjoy the present if all I cared about was the future? What moments would I miss because I was too busy looking for better ones along the horizon? Although I still suck at my new job and I am in a near constant state of worry, the haunting words of Syd Barret always warn me of what could happen if I don’t live in the present “the time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.”