The Shoulds

It didn’t take much to see that I had lost it, whatever the driving force was, inspiration, or desperation—I don’t know but I had lost it.  For weeks, I had been so good, keeping myself to a rigorous schedule, writing at least five hundred words a day.  Now I stared blankly at where I had left off, and for some reason, I couldn’t write.  I could open new documents, and write blindly, write things that didn’t need to be written, but I couldn’t continue my book, even though I knew how I wanted it to progress.

The truth was, I knew exactly where the scene was going, and couldn’t motivate myself to continue.  What is that?  I think there was a little bit of me that was frustrated, I had to balance trying to write, with trying to find a ‘real’ job, and watching my son all day.  A ‘real’ job, that’s what everyone wanted for me, or from me, but I didn’t know what to do.  I had worked my ass off for more than ten years, and almost exclusively had jobs where I was treated like shit, but I kept with it, the promise that I was paying my dues, working shitty jobs that paid shitty salaries in order to earn a shittier job that paid an amazing salary.

This was the lie the were selling to all of us.  That there were still good jobs out there for those willing to work hard.  Making us try to appreciate the fucking awful in the hope for the divine, but it wasn’t going to be that way, not for our generation.

So I sat, and I filled out applications, and I stared at a word processor, trying to write something, trying to write anything.  I would distract myself with dumb video games on my phone, trying to numb my brain which was railing against itself trying to justify the search for more shit.

Every time I had a new job, I lied to myself for months, sometimes years that this was it.  This was the job I had been waiting for.  No it wasn’t my dream, but that didn’t matter, this was going to pay the bills, this was going to allow me my personal dreams.  I had to sacrifice the career dreams in order to find the personal dreams.

I was completely willing to sacrifice the career dreams in order to realize the personal ones.  I loved being a husband, I loved being a father, but I wasn’t the man in a movie who was too busy making a fortune to fully appreciate my wife and son, I was the man too busy trying to make any money whatsoever, the man begging for scraps who couldn’t appreciate his wife and son.  I resented ‘real’ jobs because they didn’t exist, and there was some condescending thing that said ‘give up on your dreams and it will all be better’ but it wasn’t really, I had given up on my dreams and nothing was better.

So I decided I had enough.  I began to reject things—well ideas really.  I rejected the idea that owning a home was the way to go.  I don’t mind paying rent, we aren’t tied down in a rental, we can pack up and live while backpacking through Europe, we can get a trailer, and live on the beach in California.

I loved the idea of living on a beach.  I had taken a surfing lesson once a few years earlier, and for four hours, the ocean, and the board beat the shit out of me.  I got slapped in the face with the board and thought I broke my jaw, I got so tired paddling out that I thought I might drown, and ultimately I never was able to get up on the board.  But I had felt alive, there was no outcome that affected the rest of my life.  If I got up, I got up, and could experience that, if I continued to fail, I could feel the adrenaline, and the accomplishment once I finally mastered it.  Failing didn’t mean I might lose a house, failing didn’t mean I might end up in financial ruin.  Success didn’t mean I gained those things, but I would feel something.  I really wanted to feel something.

People began to think that I was crazy, rejecting the norms, or as my mother-in-law beautifully called them ‘the shoulds.’  I couldn’t continue to live with the shoulds, and hope that some day I wouldn’t fucking hate myself as much as I did already.  I didn’t want to raise my son to think that owning a home, that working in soul-crushing job was what made a life.  They allowed you to survive, but I wanted to live, and I wanted to teach him how to live.

So I started taking breaks.  I couldn’t try to write everyday, I couldn’t make it another should.  I would write when I could, what I could.  I would work if I could, but I wouldn’t lie to myself.  My son was my priority, my wife too.  I would try to struggle to do things if the struggle was worth it, not if the outcome was.

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