Some things you just accept….

lip-butt-dial

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Checking Every Box in Life

Life starts so clearly. So well defined and structured. And then it’s not….

The progression through early school is defined by achieving a clear set of measurable goals. You must pass each grade. You try out for the varsity sports team. You make JV. You graduate high school and one of your classmates dies that night in a drunken driving crash after the party up at the lake. They put his mangled car on the front lawn of the school as a lesson for the remaining students. Someone spray paints a picture of genitalia on the car because kids have no respect for the dead.

Then you’re an ‘adult’. You enroll at a ludicrously expensive college and quickly realize everyone is smarter and cooler than you are. You join a fraternity to try and address the coolness gap and get hazed by a bunch of dicks. You choose a major. You become a dick because you realize you’re not any cooler and take your anger and sexual frustration out on new fraternity pledges. You write nonsensical term papers and learn just how many pages you can add by changing fonts and margins. You graduate. You’re in debt.

hooray

Hooray! We all did it. Like millions of our peers.

At that point you’re REALLY an adult. Some people extend education another four, ten or fifteen years through graduate studies or specialty disciplines. Some decide to rob a bank and guarantee a clear progression for twenty-five years plus. But eventually the sands run out of the hourglass and the yearly rigor is replaced by real life. The time-defined goals of academia vanish.

Fortunately, society offers some clear ‘next step’ goals that keep the teaming masses heads down and shoulders to the grindstone. You need to get a job that puts your questionable skills to use. You need to try and find that special someone who isn’t disgusted by your presence and tie the knot. You need to qualify for a massive mortgage with a monthly payment that will crush your soul and then fill those bedrooms with little kiddies who may or may not be yours.

homes

One of these beauties has your name on it!

And then……….nothing.

One day you’ve checked all those boxes. You’ve knocked down the remaining goals that society says are important. Maybe you knocked them out in five years. Maybe twenty. Maybe you had a false start and married a philandering ass and need to try again with husband number two. But eventually, one day, you look up, pull your shoulder off that grindstone and realize that all that remains is the vast emptiness of time until you die.

This bitter pill is sugar-coated with concepts like ‘retirement savings’, ‘moving up the corporate ladder’, ‘buying a vacation home’ and ‘burner phones’, but all of those are just distractions. Once the big goals of life are completed, the extra mortgage for a place you never visit and has the squirrel problem, or the second family that thinks you’re a truck driver, are shadows of the main event.

At some point you realize that your goal dance card is filled up. There’s no prescription for the next step. That’s when the panic sets in and bad decisions get made.

Perhaps one of the most common bad decisions is to have more children. You already checked that goal box. Little Timmy can be as cute as a button sometimes. That time he hand-wrote a card for your birthday was adorable. Just fucking adorable. You were so proud when he scored his first goal in soccer, even if it was with his hand. Orange slices all around.

But sometimes, secretly, you wonder if little Timmy can fit in the thirty gallon trash can with the lid, and how much duct tape it would take to keep the lid tightly secured for when you drop it in the lake. Hint – the trick is to punch some holes in the garbage can to let out the decomposition gases. Also, drop it in the ocean. About fifteen miles out so you’re past the continental shelf.

trash-bin-review

My wife says that last bit is over the top. Nag nag nag. You can’t joke about infanticide any more? This country….I mean am I right?

Maybe you think your problem is that you work for the man. If I were my own boss, you say, running my own company, then I’d end every day with the deep emotional satisfaction of a job well done on my terms. Unfortunately you’re a general doofus with no business sense, and after burning your entire savings on an ill-conceived Cuban Buffet on the corner in the strip mall, you tuck your tail between your legs and go work for the phone company where it’s safe. You may even try to convince yourself that the innovative work you do on that new Call10 plan, where any call under ten minutes is one flat rate, is as exciting as the keg bowling event you won in college. It’s not. Secretly you want to murder your coworkers for slurping their coffee.

Even if your business is a success, even a raging success, you realize that a job is a job. Your boss might be your customers, or your creditors, or your secretary who is blackmailing you for what may or may not have happened at that convention in Reno, but you still have a boss. In the last case the boss allegedly has some photos and credit card receipts, but a boss nonetheless. And because you have a boss, your business is still a job. And after three to five years of blood, sweat and tears you’re back to the same place. Staring down the endless void of what next.

So what can you do? Some ideas:

  1. Alcohol or drugs – You might end up on the streets or in jail. You’ll certainly end up without a family or loved ones. But you can say, with assurance, that you decided to ‘opt out’ of the system. You rebel. Well done.
  2. Geographic cures – Move your entire family to another city, or better yet another country. To be clear, this is purely a delay of the inevitable, but if you string together a few of them you can pass a couple of decades.
  3. Burn it all – Take a moment and read James Altucher’s blog  He will give you reasons to avoid college, avoid a mortgage, forgive yourself for not having a passion, and give up everything.
  4. Set Non-traditional goals – Consume your time setting and achieving goals nobody else does. That way nobody can criticize them like I am in this article and you have good party conversational fodder. Like learn to cobble shoes. Or slaughter a bison.

Perhaps none of these are good ideas. I’m open and listening.

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I’ve officially become my parents

Collecting bacon grease next to the sink. Of course this is plastic and therefore likely to melt because I am dumb and won’t achieve anything right Dad? Right? I learned it by watching you. Seriously…you’re dumb too.

Also don’t ask why I’m making bacon at 6:30pm.

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A little experiment in time travel

The year is 2016. The scene:

A father and his 7-8 year old daughter are riding their bikes downtown. They need to cross the street in some traffic.

Daughter: “Meow, meow, meow, meow…” (apparently pretending to be a cat. Kids are so frickin adorable aren’t they? You just want to squeeze them until they can’t breath.)

Father: “All right honey, be careful, you need to pay attention.”

Daughter (SCREAMING AT FATHER): “I AM PAYING ATTENTION! MEOW MEOW MEOW!” (this has now become partly aggressive and partly petulant meowing).

Father: “I know, but it’s dangerous and there are a lot of cars around.”

NOTE – They are now holding up traffic in the middle of the road.

Daughter: “Meow, meow, meow.”


Now let’s try this again. The year is sometime in the late 70s. To give you a visual, here I am in 1978. A bit younger than our character above, but you’ll notice:

  1. Meowing has been replaced by crying.
  2. My hands are covering my rear end and I have strategically backed myself up against a wall for protection. These are likely related. Spanking wasn’t a sexual term then.

andrew-child

Okay. Here goes. We’ll replace the daughter with a son.

Son: “Meow, meow, meow, meow.”

Father: “Shut your mouth and pay attention.”

Nearby Motorist: “Sir, I saw the lip that boy was giving you. If you need to spank him right here I don’t mind waiting. I can turn on my high beams if you need extra light.”

 

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Universe 1, Andrew 0

Me (last night): Gonna get to bed early. Have a race this weekend, so time to start stocking up on sleep. Feeling good. Healthy dinner. Lots of water.

Universe (at all times simultaneously): Ha ha ha ha. Hmmmmm. Ha.

Me (last night): Okay, hitting hay. Settle and calm.

Universe (throughout history): Wait for it.

Me (11:45PM last night): Okay, I woke up, but still have plenty of time for sleep. Except I notice some lights are on downstairs. I’ll just head down and turn those off. I’d do it with Alexa, but it’s offline for some reason. Thanks Amazon. I now blame you too.

Brody the Dog (11:45PM last night): Holy shit? What are we doing? Holy f*cking shit are we doing something? I want to do something. I really want to do something RIGHT NOW.

Me (11:46PM last night): Well, okay. You did wake up and you are still a puppy basically. I’d hate for you to have an accident. You can go outside for a quick pee.

Brody the Dog (11:46PM last night): YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES! This is the best thing ever.

Universe (father, son, holy ghost): Guess what. At this specific and exact time. Tied to exactly when you woke up randomly. Tied to a decision to get out of bed. Tied to waking the dog up. Tied to opening the back door right now at this very instant in all of universal history including all of the events leading to exactly this spot, which nominally include global wars, the pyramids and the faked moon landing…..I decided to put a skunk in your back yard. Suck it.

striped_skunk_florida

Brody the Dog (11:47PM last night): OH OH OH OH OH OH. What’s that in the bushes?

Brody the Dog (11:47PM last night): OH GOD IT BURNS. IT BURNS IN MY MOUTH AND EYES. THE ONLY THING I CAN THINK TO DO IS TEAR ASS BACK INTO THE HOUSE AND BEGIN RUBBING MYSELF ON EVERYTHING BECAUSE HOLY GOD WHAT WAS THAT THING IT IS TERRIBLE AND BURNY AND I REALLY WANTED TO BITE IT BUT THEN IT DID SOMETHING HORRIBLE AND I BETTER PUT MY FACE IN YOUR COMFORTER AND WHY ARE YOU CHASING ME AND SCREAMING AND WHY IS THE 9 YEAR OLD CRYING NOW?

Universe (time immortal): Sigh. Never gets old.

Me (11:49PM last night): ERIN! Help! (Begin furious but ultimately pointless and ineffective dog washing).

Brody the Dog (12:15AM last night): Baths aren’t fun while you’re having them. But after they are fun, especially if I tear around more and rub my face – which still burns a bit – on things. Now I guess I’ll go to sleep on your bed.

Wife / Crying Child (12:20AM last night): We are sleeping in the guest room in the basement. You stay here with him. Don’t let him near us.

Universe (past, present, future): I like when the little ones cry.

Me (12:45PM last night, lying awake next to a stinking skunk dog): Please kill me.

Me (1:25AM last night, lying awake next to a stinking skunk dog): Kill me now.

……….. and so on.

 

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“Cash-Based Activities”

The wife and I recently took a trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico with the family to swim with whale sharks. Like this:

Whale Shark

We also recently opened a new bank account with a single personal check. Unfortunately we found that a lot of what you want to do in Mexico requires cash. And because my regular bank account ATM card wasn’t working, we were relying on the new account.

When that got frozen, we called in to the service center and my wife had this conversation.

My Wife – “Hi, we’re in Mexico and the ATM card isn’t working.”

Them – “Okay, since this is a brand new account we froze it for your protection since the activity is out of the country and is repeated withdrawals.”

My Wife – “Yeah, we’re in Mexico engaged in some cash-based activities. Is there a way you can unfreeze it and also raise the withdrawal limit to like a grand?”

Them (and I’m paraphrasing) – “Uh….no. For all sorts of reasons. You just opened this account. All the transactions thus far have been cash withdrawals in Mexico. And you just said you’re engaged in cash-based activities in a foreign country. We’re considering reporting you to the DEA. And ma’am, say the code word ‘peanut’ if you’re being held against your will.”

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But amazing places was a core hope….

I was sitting outside having coffee this morning trying to come up with a series of bucket list destinations I wanted to visit and experience. I’ve done some amazing trips myself and recently found myself jealous of friends I know to be heading out on long adventures. I’ve always believed travel and experiences are where to spend one’s money and time and was assembling a list in my mind of the type of life changing / enlightening destinations I could visit in the future.

Here I am with my son in the Kaiser Wilderness in the High Sierras. It was beautiful. I was inspired. I wanted more. In fact I bet I spent time there – time I could have been simply reflecting on nature’s majesty – thinking about how I could get back.

Kaiser

Of course the universe loves to give nudges in life, some of them subtle, some of them not. So minutes after assembling a list in my mind that covered Alaska, Zion National Park, Africa, you name it, I was reading a passage from Rumi in Coleman Barks ‘The Essential Rumi‘ and the page I opened to contained this poem.

The mystery does not get cleared by repeating the questions,

nor is it bought with going to amazing places.

Until you’ve kept your eyes

and your wanting still for fifty years,

you don’t begin to cross over from confusion.

Loosely translated, sitting in the High Sierras asking questions about how I could get back to the High Sierras or sitting outside on my patio having coffee dreaming of the amazing places I could visit to find peace, serenity and connectedness are not going to clear up the mystery of why we’re here and what it’s all about. Stop asking. Stop seeking. Stop looking. Stop wanting. Only then might you find it. And it, I imagine, is internal.

But I really really want to think about a yacht sailing in the Caribbean. So my fifty year clock starts again.

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