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Effortlessly Average

Sort of half-heartedly leading the charge into mediocrity since, oh, let's say around 1987 or so.

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Location: Roaming (additional charges may apply), Argentina

Proof that with internet access and a powerful laxative, even insipid people will blog; the place where your excellence and my mediocrity collide; where my Karma whips ass on your dogma.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Prophet Mellencamp

I recently found Stacy's blog. I read many blogs on a frequent basis and have to say I rather enjoy popping into her world for a dose of inspiration. Her life is the kind I've always claimed to lead, but have really only tried to actively lead this past handful of years. Yeah, it's tougher to do nowadays as a solo act, but I still find I enjoy the satisfaction of experiencing what life has to offer; even taking pleasure in the smallest of actions. Oh, and I so want to hang out with her, too. It would be like being in an episode of Friends.

Anyway, something I read over there today, coupled with an opportunity that presented itself to me yesterday, reminded me of the chorus to a Mellencamp song (my favorite artist of all time, btw). He sings:

Days turn to minutes
And minutes to memories
Life sweeps away the dreams
That we have planned
You are young and you are the future
So suck it up and tough it out
And be the best you can

I remember the first time I heard those lyrics. It was 1985. Gas was $0.73 a gallon at the 7-11 down the street from my parent's house. No, there weren't dinosaurs roaming the Earth; we'd hunted those to extinction in the 70's. I was just starting my undergraduate program at the university, although at the time I was an engineering major. I had a new girlfriend, Becky; my first real serious girlfriend. Actually, my first real girlfriend, period. The few I'd been lucky enough to "date" previously turned out to be... well, they didn't work out.

I was sitting my truck* at school, listening to the "Scarecrow" tape (yeah yeah, I'm old; CD's were still a few years from mainstream) and reading the lyrics insert while waiting for my chemistry class to begin. Well, I had to go inside for the class, of course; it's not like the prof held class outside and we just sat in our cars while he lectured. Not that that would have been bad, now that I think about it, because that would mean I could have attended class in my underwear if I wanted to - well, if I wore any back then, but let's not stray off subject here.
When I read those lyrics in time with John's singing, something should have struck a chord in me. I had no way of knowing then just how prophetic John was being. Life does indeed sweep away the dreams we have planned, but the key is in how you strive to achieve even in the face of changing, or unrealized, dreams.

And I had a lot of plans then. I was going to be rich. I was going to be successful. I was going to someday marry Becky and we were going to have a dozen kids. I'd planned to take them all to Disneyland on vacations and teach them to ski and pole vault, just like their old man. Life was an open expanse of virgin territory and I was going to conquer it all.

At the time I had a poster on my wall at home that depicted everything I wanted in life. On it's glossy finish was the image of a huge mansion perched near the edge of an oceanside clifftop. In the foreground was a multi-car garage and parked within was one each of a Ferrari, Porche, Jaguar, and Corvette. In the background beyond the house was a helo pad, on which rested the sleek black form of a jet-powered helicopter. Finally, standing between the Ferrari and Porche in a skimpy bikini, was the final trophy in my collection, holding a frosty brew in her hand and a smile on her lips that said the beer was not the only head I was about to receive. Funny how so many of my "dreams" centered around the material. Huh. Well, I was 18 and it was the Reagan era.

But Life, while standing next to me looking at that poster, turned to gaze down at me as a kindly father looks upon his naive son. He mussed my hair with a rogue laugh, placed his hand on my shoulders and squeezed gently, then said "keep dreaming, bitch."

The timelessness of Mellencamp's words escaped me back then. As I sat there tapping my foot to the sound of his strumming guit-tar, the words wafting into my ears were just that: words. Words set to a catchy musical hook. They held no more real meaning to me than the Social Security debate or New Kids On The Block music. It's not that they were irrelevant, per se, I just didn't think about them. The same way I don't think about Bananarama.

Today, however, I pause and reflect over the sweeping curve that has been my life this last 22 years since and I realize the importance the chorus to that song has played in my life. In all our lives, really. Days do indeed turn to minutes. We go to sleep one night feeling young; vibrant; secure that the world will mold itself to conform to our desires.

In my home right now there's a picture on our living room wall. It was taken many years ago when BW and I were still dating. I believe we were engaged at that point, though. We had gone skiing with my brother and his wife at Boreal Ridge in northern California. During a rest break at the lodge my brother snapped a picture of BW and me, pressed cheek to cheek with our arms around each other's neck. We were smiling, as if the world was turning to suit us.

Then we wake the next day to discover we're 15 years older. The kids are no longer small enough to hang onto your ankles as you drag them laughing around the living room carpet. Your eyes show a little more wisdom; your body a lot more age. The woman from that picture on your wall no longer looks at you as her future and there's nothing you can do about it. You can no longer eat a Double Whopper without feeling like you've swallowed a 200-pound anchor. And you realize with a rueful nod that it's not the years, but the mileage that counts.

But looking back across the years to that person with all those dreams the thing is, you never did earn enough to afford that Ferrari or that mansion. The closest you've come to owning that helicopter was buying the AirHog RC chopper for your kid from a 3am infomercial (let's not kid ourselves: it's also for you). And when you see a girl like the one in the poster, with the perfect D's and trim waist and the smile that says she just can't wait for you to get her naked, your first thought is "heeeey, I wonder what her mom looks like."

20 years ago I knew I was going to be successful. 15 years ago I knew I was going to be married forever to BW. Five year ago I knew I was going to travel the world and live each day like it was created just to accommodate my desires. And last year I knew I was a good husband and father.
Instead, Life has served to prove the chorus right by often times handing me a sobering serving of shit burger, then standing there tapping it's foot as his co-conspirator, Reality, forces me to eat it. Minutes do turn to memories. Life does sweep away the dreams we make for ourselves. Today I'm financially sound, but I won't have a Ferrari any time soon. And that's ok with me. My marriage has apparently run its course and is ending, no matter what I want; no matter what I... well, just no matter I guess. And I wonder if time will prove me an ineffective father, as it often feels I was as a husband.

Suck it up and tough it out; and be the best you can. Well in that I certainly am trying.

Yesterday I received a phone call from a head-hunter I used to work with when I lived in Los Angeles. Ken the head Hunter knows I now do contract work because being with my kids is the single most important thing to me -even moreso lately- and we still like to see the world. Besides, I've been to the summit of Mt. Career and let me tell you it's cold, it's dark, it's fucking lonely, and there's always some 24 year-old MBA punk trying to push you off. I'd much rather be remembered for my contribution to parenthood and husbandry than how far up the corporate ladder I was able to climb. I make a pretty damned good living doing freelance finance work, although I admit get a kick out of telling people I'm a "temp." Yeah, ladies, I'm quite a catch.

Turns out Ken the Head Hunter has an opportunity for me to nearly double what I'm currently making AND pay me a $100 per diem for living expenses. The net effect would be to place my wages weeeell into the six figures. That bodes very well for the new dreams the kids and I have planned. Plus, it's paid on an hourly contract rate (and a double overtime rate), so the company is far less willing to insist I work beyond 40 hours a week. But it would mean temporarily relocating to Birmingham, Alabama.

We still want to travel, but FlyBoy has a problem with the size of our RV. It's just too small for him. While he agreed that one with more space would make him far happier about being on the road, the price to acquire one of them means it might as well be made of gold and come with personal valet service. The contract job would certainly solve that problem.

We've also expressed an interest in eventually settling in Colorado Springs, where my youngest brother and his family are moving this year. Buying a house there isn't impossible, but they, too, aren't nearly so cheap as Houston and I'm now facing having to do so on my own, while still being able to afford one large enough for myself and the kids. Given the state of the housing market now, I'm not sure I'd get enough from my house here in Houston to afford a decent one in Colorado. The contract job would solve that issue too.

The dilemma for me is what to do about the kids' mom. She's said she'll move wherever the kids go and while my 25% evil side tells me I should be more mean to her, go, and let her worry about what to do with herself, I simply can't do it. I'm not going to take the kids from her and I refuse to just "up and leave" if it means she won't get to see them. She's a good mother, so I can't bring myself to do something that would hurt her, even if it's better for me and the kids financially. So... what to do?

Of course it's still in the very early stages and verily I say unto you that it is unlikely to result in my getting it, but the job fits perfectly into what the kids and I want to do over the next few years. And it aids significantly in my desire to provide them a college education if they want one. With our life's-to-do list growing all the time, it would be a huge boost to make that kind of coin.
So I find myself dreaming again; making "what if" contingency plans. But in light of the meaning behind those lyrics, what do you suppose I'll know tomorrow?


*I never should have let me father sell that truck. It so freaking rocked. And I especially shouldn't nave used the money to buy my next car. Yeah, the people are all laughing because they can't believe that dude actually thinks it's sexy.

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