Monday, January 21, 2008

What's next? A Corvette?

"Anyone could see
The road that they walk on is paved in gold
And it's always summer, they'll never get cold
They'll never get hungry
They'll never get old and gray"
- "The Way," Fastball

It was late last night, on a Sunday night, after a full day of work, and I was doing husband duty, which means gathering food for the clan, only instead of spearing a Mastodon I was in Wal-Mart.
Fastball's "The Way" came over the speakers that play music to keep us happy and mildly entertained, to reassure us that Wal-Mart is a happy place and we should linger over the lobster tank and maybe wander over to the bakery items for some impulse purchases.
Impulse food purchases are why my wife always gets nervous when she sends me to the store - I can't resist the siren song of a new kind of pop, maybe a box of sugar cereal my parents never let me have as a kid, or there's always the snack food aisle - and I started singing the tune, happy and contemplating what carton of ice cream I should buy (oooo, Peanut Butter Cup and a 1/3rd less calories) when I stopped the cart and paused.
Wait a minute. "The Way" was one of my favorite songs a couple years ago. Now Wal-Mart is playing it?
I was already resigned to songs I grew up with, even hair metal, being stashed on classic rock stations and made into commercials (the latest, "Melt With You," now shills a GM car after being used by Taco Bell last year, and Poison's "Nothing But A Good Time" is sung by children for an X-Box commercial).
But Fastball? Really? In a Wal-Mart late at night? Fastball is now soothing shopping music? So I looked up the date of its release.
Holy shit.
That song is TEN YEARS OLD.
Now don't even get me started on how "Appetite for Destruction" and Metallica's "Black Album" is 20 years old and "Pyromania" is 25 years old. I understand that. I know my high school days are long behind me.
Fastball is different.
I wasn't really even fresh out of college when that song came out. I had spent more than three years at my first job, "The Salina Journal," and I had completed several projects and won a dozen awards by then, including one for the state's best feature writer among the eight or nine mid-sized newspapers. I had an apartment and was on my third serious girlfriend, and we were about to live together in a house owned by her parents (yes, we were going to pay rent). I had a few cats and my old dog was living with me instead of my divorced parents. I was on my second car.
And now that life is a decade old.
Sometimes your mortality jumps you from behind.
I always hated the Mid-Life Crisis. To me it was always an excuse for men, and sometimes women, to make a stupid large purchase that will leave them spending their kids' college fund paying off interest on their credit cards. Or bang that 24-year-old at work who looks up to them. Or try drugs again and relapse into therapy. Whatever.
But I'm wondering if I'm starting to approach my own Mid-Life crisis after all.
It will be a different crisis, to be sure. I'm not going to buy a 23-year-old some new boobs and hole her up in an apartment, name her Lucretia and shower her with dresses. I love my wife too much for that, I love my kids too much for that, and to be completely honest, I don't have the energy for that.
I'm not going to get a hair transplant. I only have one bald spot, and a good haircut covers it up. Plus there's some debate as to whether the spot is there whether it's because of age or because I smacked my head on a rock, opening a bleeding wound that was never stitched up, during a climbing accident. I prefer to think climbing accident because that's sort of cool.
I'm not even going to get another car. I love my CR-V too much and it's paid for. I'd rather save the money so my kids will be finished with their students loans by time their grandchildren arrive, as opposed to them being left in their wills.
But I'm wondering what to do with journalism. A bitchy and fairly clueless supervisor, a continuing comparatively slim paycheck, an uncertain future, mediocre work by others (and, unfortunately, myself at times) and continuing to work under a somewhat public spotlight is wearing down my enamel. I still love to write and can't imagine doing anything else, but I also feel trapped by a specific profession in specific market. If I jump to another paper, I may lose my job to continuing cutbacks in the industry, and we'd probably have to move, which means we'd have to sell our house in an -EV market.
Yet I have no idea what other options to look at, and even if I'd want to explore anything else. And raising twins and a toddler doesnt' exactly leave any time for that, other than doing it when I'm completely exhausted and just looking for an hour or two of downtime.
I'm also wondering about my place in the world. Even as I'm constantly wary of the kids swallowing every scrap of my free time, I also wonder if I spend enough time with them. I'll never be as selfless as Kate, and it shows, with Jayden favoring her over me every chance he gets. I fear the twins will favor Kate as well, and right now I wouldnt' blame them.
I wish I didn't need long trips to Black Hawk's poker room on a Saturday every once in a while (we went Saturday, seven hours, I finished down a bit after some cool but fairly uninteresting poker, I really hate the limit format - there were four chances I knew I could win a pot with a big bluff bet on the river but was handicapped by the $5 limit - but love live cash games with my buddy too much to quit).
But I do need them.
I'm not a sad panda, just thoughtful, probably a bit too much, and really wondering what will happen in the next few years.
I know people who go through periods like this one for the better. There are people in our running group who complete marathons for the first time and lose weight and get out of bad marriages or, hey, dead-end jobs.
I'll need to look to those people for inspiration as I grapple with a world that isn't paved with gold, where I do get cold (all the time this winter, kinda tired of it actually), and I'm starting to realize that I'm getting old and even a little gray.


Mondogarage said...

This is the time in our lives where we realize we really are lemmings in tiny little boxes. Wish I could shine a better light of guidance than just:

1. Invest in WSOP Main Event
2. ??????

but in truth, as a person who is completely unsatisfied in his job/career but having no other ideas to turn to at all, I can only send my empathy.

The reality is, our lives are pretty damn decent, and if we let ourselves get eaten alive by the uncertainties, it becomes all too easy to lose sight of those things in our lives that do bring us joy. And in your case, those things seem quite abundant, indeed.

BadBlood said...

Picking nits here, Black album was 1991. Justice was 1988.

More amazing to me? Van Halen I. 1978. 30 years and it still holds up today.