Here we sit, 365 days on, and everything is just as it was the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that. The goal is the same, but I seem to be falling shorter of it with every passing orbit round the sun. Ever more cognizant that the world, or God, or Loki, or whoever – nobody owes you a happily ever after. Stephen Schwarz’s Godspell notwithstanding, it’s not always all for the best. And the days may be long and drag on, but the years go flying by, each one faster than the last.
I felt it more this year than ever before. Friends and family leave town – over the hill or up the coast or across the country. Others fight through health issues, of increasing seriousness. Work becomes ever more intolerable, to the point where I not only despair of it ever getting better, but despair of it being any better anywhere else. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels for too long, marking time, treading water, abiding by what’s safe and secure even as the safe ground slowly crumbles beneath us.
Right now, if the Old Scratch himself appeared before me, offering to jump me ahead to age 60, but I’d be retired, with my wife and a healthy pension, and a cottage in a cold seaside town where the cops still carry revolvers and the coffee shop is still where you go for bacon and eggs and gossip, and where the one dive bar in town has a fireplace and doesn’t sell anything more exotic or complicated than Guinness, and where the sputtering air-cooled VW can get us around without the hassle and strain of walking on a bad back…I’d have to think long and hard before turning it down. Assuming I would.
Feb 27, 2014
Not a lot has changed in the last three years, it seems. Work isn’t as bad as it was – the day-to-day doesn’t involve user-facing support any longer, and the turnover in org structure has left me with less annoyance and more peace and quiet (for now). But the one big project that I’m consumed with is something I genuinely don’t find that interesting, and other people are carrying it further and faster, and it’s still at the same terrible employer in the same terrible town. And when my boss and I discuss my future job prospects looking five years down the road, the options seem to be JAMF administrator here, or JAMF administrator in the larger organization, or JAMF administrator in another private-sector larger organization…and maybe if I was moving into a place where I didn’t have to build the underlying server from scratch (with no help from what is ostensibly a data center group that hosts and administers Linux systems), and be somewhere it would be possible to use the bulk of what JAMF can do without political obstacles or the interference created by a cockamamie networking infrastructure, it might be more desirable. But right now, barely hanging on to keep up with an unnecessarily complicated system that will eventually let us do 25% of what it’s capable of…it isn’t what I’d planned on.
It isn’t what I’d planned on. Carve that on my tombstone. Not that I ever had a plan. Just a sense of where my life ought to have been by now, and you can argue that the two biggest mistakes of my life were just that because they each cost me three to four years. Better college choice means I don’t waste three years in grad school trying to make up the difference. If I stay at Apple and let myself move away from being technical all the time, I don’t lose four years between a government subcontract with no benefits and then trying to work my way up to the salary I walked away from in October 2007. And to be honest, looking at my present life circumstances would be a lot sunnier from age 37, say, than it is from 45.
Because the future doesn’t look bright. We’re going to be stuck with a weak, stupid, selfish, obnoxious prick with a 70-year-old Fox viewer’s worldview in the Oval Office for years. Not only does that mean hell to pay on immigration and foreign relations and health care, it means that by the time the smoke clears, Comcast and AT&T and Verizon might be the only three providers of Internet access in America. And Caltrain might never have any increase in capacity while the roads get even worse. And we could wind up with a screaming cable pundit on the Supreme Court. God only knows what my retirement or health care might look like – and how grateful am I that I had the nose surgery last March and find myself much more able to breathe than ever I was before? – and it’s to the point now that I don’t feel confident that I could go visit Ireland and come back without some meathead wanting to dig through my phone. The whole entire world is on the edge of a knife, and will be for a long, long time. And that makes it impossible to exhale, to relax, to say “it is what it is” – and I’m white and male and well-off. If everyone else reacted like white men, we’d already be in a shooting war in the United States, because if Hillary Clinton had been made President with three million fewer votes than Trump and the Congress was under Democratic control, I guarantee you the redneck white trash would be spraying bullets in every direction.
My instinct is to escape. Find things to take refuge in – the books, the pub, the dozens of California’s Gold episodes on the DVR, the return of baseball. The only problem is that every time I escape into something, the real world is right here waiting, and it won’t be fixed in a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, or possibly several years. If ever. Given that this is twenty years since I embarked on this career – and ten years after that second big mistake that set me back – it’s hard not to look behind and be angry at what the view forward looks like. Because you can’t say “it’s all going to be OK in the end.” There’s every possibility it isn’t. And right now, all I want is to make sure that in my despair and rage and depression, I don’t make another five-year mistake. It’s bad enough being at the midpoint of my working life without the prospect of not having age 65 as the get out of jail free date.
So…what now? Try to reach out to old friends. Try to find some way to make new ones. Try to find something to be interested in, something that will be a distraction without making things worse the way my brief Vanderbilt sports blogger career did. Turn off the news, cancel the Twitter account, keep the world at arm’s length and just try not to think about it. Whatever it may be.
Because if there’s one thing that’s never helped me in my entire life, it’s having too much to think.