Tuesday, June 01, 2004

looking ahead, the day you die

When I started my job I thought I was supposed to feel this way:

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. - Woodrow Wilson

... but I really ended up feeling this way:

You are not your job. You are not the money in your bank account. You are not the car you drive. You are not how much money is in your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. - Tyler Durden, 'Fight Club'

I got to thinking about these things because Tina just caught a glimpse of one of her possible futures and even though it is more than a bit scary, as I lie here in bed day after day after day after I dream that next time, if there is a next time, I won't be in a cubicle, I won't be in a soulstealing job that adds zero to the world while adding many zeroes to some stockbrokers bank accounts and subtracting days from my life and destroying my health. Such a grim outcome is not necessarily what becomes of the 'ordinary' job, and in my own case the sheer amount and urgency of what I needed to prove to myself was more than a contributing factor, but I suspect that the majority of people have jobs that are at the very least confining and without a doubt they contribute nothing good to the world.

There's so much fear going around... I know so many engineers that sit and take the soulstealing job every day because they think there isn't an alternative. (The picture in my head is like that scene in 'The Dark Crystal' where they take the happy little joyous people and hook them up to the machine that sucks out their essence, leaving a dry and empty husk with lifeless eyes. I know those guys. I am those guys.) When co-workers saw some of the other things I did back when I was healthy, like making musical instruments or art projects, they all asked me "if you can do that, why are you here?"

I wish I had listened to them.

I always thought that all of that 'follow your dreams' stuff was nice work if you could get it, but it turns out that the only difference between us and them is that they just went ahead and did it. Of course, that may also be the only difference between you and the guy that lives in the refrigerator box in your alley, so maybe some discretion is advised.

I once thought that being a hotshot wealthy engineer was my definition of success, and for a few years it was. Next time around, I think I'll be content with a stall at the Saturday Market, or sitting in my home office writing code that does something interesting. Either way, I know now that I'll have to make that decision without fear.

Here's to better days: