To wander as I wonder, or wonder as I wander. In my twenties, as I wandered the globe, I wondered what it would be like to not wander. Then again, as I continued to wander there was little time to learn anything practical. So, for almost a decade when I decided to stop wandering and stay in one place for a bit, I succumbed to the fallacious lie that is otherwise known as the American dream. In 2007, I managed to land a job in the belly of the beast – the corporate world – where I found out quickly that the whole structure wasn’t for me, but where I also stayed and allowed my soul to die slowly, at one point losing all hope of ever being the wanderer I had once been.
The corporate world was such a strange place for me. To say the least, I was more than ill-prepared for the system into which I wandered. There were politics, cliques, strata, hierarchies, and pitfalls. In all honesty, I was completely ignorant to what this business world was all about. Merit was worth little, but it would allow one to be endured if one were not accepted into the organizationally-defined class of elites. In no situation, environment, or organization had I ever been a part of the overly-praised and extremely-respected contingent of the upper-crust. However, I had somehow secretly hoped that I might be. The problem with achieving such veneration: I was not willing to play the corporate game, in fact, I did and still do find it loathsome and unappealing. All I wanted to do was work and learn, but in the corporate world, politics plays the major role, even if there are glimpses of other aspects therein.
For the most part, I failed at being a corporate employee. There was no overwhelming success for me, no raises in 10 years, and I found myself relegated to a specific identity by many of the middle management viceroys whose heads and hearts are swelled with the bit of power they have been delegated. The higher managers didn’t really know me but did know of me through the filter of the viceroys. Alas, despite not being a success, in this way, I was able to learn a tremendous amount of useful information.
My colleagues, for the most part, made the work in corporate America enjoyable. They provided an ear when I needed to vent, were a part of much laughter, and they built me up and treated me with respect – for the most part. However, it was simply time to leave. The work was great, and I loved it, but the politics and the resentments of adolescent angst, unprocessed emotions, and power-hungry-lower-management-want-to-be dictators became an unendurable aspect of, what I so foolishly referred to as, my career.
As the sun began to set on this chapter of my life and I began to consider leaving and taking the big step to go out on my own, I came across a video snippet of an Alan Watts speech in which he succinctly states that life is not a journey. What he seems to be expressing is that most of us seek some arbitrary achievement and we believe that life has a destination “it ought to arrive at.” However, what happens when the destination is achieved is not a great feeling of success, and such is felt, it doesn’t last very long. Perhaps, then, it might be better to be like a piece of music and think of life as something to be played for the sake of playing and to be moved through instead a creation of destinations to which we must strive to arrive simply to say we have done so.
If it is a destination, though – life – and, from a certain perspective it is, every life ends at the same place — death. This doesn’t have to mean anything, in particular, no – it is just a simple fact. As I listened to the words of Mr. Watts a few times, I realized that I was not happy with my life, I found myself bored and seeking remedies to habits that form when one lives in a space of “ought to.” Eating, drinking, smoking cigarettes, feeling annoyed, giving my time and energy to things that brought me nominal, if any, enjoyment. I just wondered why and how I had allowed this to come to fruition.
Fear? Laziness? A sense of responsibility? Each was a piece of the puzzle, but then again, where I am is mostly a direct result of what I have allowed myself to accept. At 65, I don’t want to be living in a house with a rocking chair yelling at kids to get off of my lawn as I waddle slowly to an ostentatious status symbol to drive myself, no more than 22 miles an hour mind you, to another location simply because I can’t stand to be in the same place day in and day out to interact with people I have no desire to know, due to the fact I am bored, old, tired, and resentful. The thought of living the next 30 years in Houston and becoming this person, was such a wake-up call that it, along with the unhappiness of working in a dead-end job with no chance to grow professionally, gave me the extra push I needed to turn in my resignation.
There was a sense of relief once I had taken the action to leave my job. Immediately, I began to line up a new situation as a freelance translator where I could have more control over the amount of interaction needed in business, the type of business I wanted to be a part of, and the people with whom I want to do business. I don’t believe that business has to be hard, annoying, or unpleasant so I will do my best to not be in those situations. I have no interest in owning a home, a car, or designer clothes so people would be able to superficially determine my worth based on their perception of my wealth. And, I was going to leave Houston, the city that I had gotten used to, but that I didn’t really care to be in any longer.
After gathering everything I owned, and organizing those things – some went to charity, some I was able to sell, and some had long passed usefulness – I managed to get everything I owned into 2 suitcases and a carry-on. This would still probably be too much stuff, but in time I would be able to understand more accurately what I would need, and what could be put to better use by someone else. Practicality was the most important thing to me now.
I allowed myself one physical piece of nostalgia, a completely frivolous inanimate object which I had attached feelings to — a low-end non-branded stuffed rabbit from my childhood. The story my grandmother told me was that this stuffed animal was given to me shortly after I was born and as a baby, I clung to it tightly. I have somehow managed to keep it with me over the years, and I decided I would allow myself to keep this completely impractical thing because it has been with me, though it is inanimate and unalive, longer than any living thing. Plus, I like it and I want it, which is all that is really required.
Then, there was a plan – to just enjoy life and move along with the few years I have left here, caring not about what I leave behind or what impact I make on the world, because there is little chance that, were I to achieve anything of the sort, it would be original, memorable, or even useful. That is not negative in my estimation, but it takes away most of the drive to impress others for no reason other than to be impressive itself. As much as there is time to play the game of life according to the rules, I’d rather bend them and make life work for me. So, the plan isn’t so much a step-by-step list of items to check off (there is no bucket list as such), but rather a few ideas to work from. I have a bit of hope still left that before I die, I will be able to enjoy my time on the planet and share it with those who are looking to do the same thing. This is a time to learn how to receive the overwhelming goodness and joy that does exist in the world, I know it exists because I have seen glimpses of it, and to let go of worry and stress.
I wonder if I am reaching to high? I suppose it is time to wander around until I figure it out, or until I realize there is nothing to figure out. All I have is time, so why not take advantage of it?