This morning I came to the realization that I’m 43 and still haven’t figured out what I want to do when I grow up. I live a stable life. I’ve worked at the same job for 15 years. I’ve worked my way up from the bottom to management. I have property. If you were to examine my life, you’d say I’ve lived the American Dream. The thing is though, I have a job not a career. I took that job because I figured it would do until I figured out what I wanted to do, and I still haven’t figured out what I want to do. Am I the only person in this boat?
How I Got Here
This morning I was walking and was just analyzing life. After school I screwed around for a couple of years, then joined the Army. When I was at…
At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic was declared, I began this journey. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, but it started at the beginning of January. I didn’t know where it would lead. I just knew it was time to start something new in my life. So, what I did was begin weeding out all the perceived negative elements of my life. The things that induced those negative vibes, you know, like taking part in gossiping. I stopped hanging out with people who weren’t aligned with my beliefs or perceptions of life. I put distance between myself and things that drag human decency down. I began my journey on the high road, if you may say.
The High Road Becomes a Relaxing Ride.
On this journey, I’ve limited my communications with many people in my life, who throughout time have elicited negative feelings. I haven’t been ugly about it or even made it noticeable. When the time comes to exit people’s company, I just politely excuse myself. With an ongoing pandemic for the last year and a half, my exit to social obscurity has been made easy. My wife and I find ourselves alone together a lot, which is nice. Neither of us minds the seclusion. We venture out on little getaways together. When we’re at home, we mostly hang out with Buddy and Grace, our dogs. It’s a simple, easy-going life.
The Door My Journey Has Led Me To
I’ve come to this place in the last few months, or so, I’d say starting at the beginning of the spring. I’ve realized that my place of employment is one of those negative experiences that eventually will have to be removed from my life. Most of my interactions with people now are at work: co-workers, subordinates, and such. So many of them always carry this negative cloud of gloom and doom. Many believe someone is out to get them. While others are worried, they are not being treated fairly in the most minute details. It seems to be a toxic cauldron of racism, and I mean, everyone is racist. If you’re not the same skin color, whether it be black, white, or brown, then you’re wrong. It’s equal-opportunity racism. The thing is, it’s not from the company. It’s just a systemic racism problem in the area I live. So many people are alcoholics. Illegal drug use is rampant, from smoking a little weed to anabolic steroid use, to hefty prescription pill addictions. The vast majority are morally bankrupt, which has led them down a reprehensible path that I refuse even to look down.
What To Do
What I’ve realized are all the things that have led me down this path of betterment I’m beginning to see in my everyday life at work. Eventually, I’m going to have to turn the page on this chapter and move on from the morally corrupt, racist, and reprehensible people I find myself surrounded by every day. I’m not sure where it may lead, but I see the door, and I’m reaching for the handle. Soon, it will be open, and I will be stepping across the threshold into a new journey in my life.
Movies were a big part of my childhood growing up. Being we lived in a rural town, there wasn’t much else for us to do as a family. So nothing was no more exciting than on Friday evening when my mom got home than going to the movie store and renting movies. You got to go and pick out the one movie you had wanted to see since you saw it advertised on television for the movie theaters. I was always drawn to the horror movie section when we’d go in there. Even when I was little, and my parents wouldn’t let me watch those movies yet. The terrifying covers of the boxes just captivated me and terrorized me at the same time.
The Exorcist was the first horror movie scene I ever remember seeing as a kid. I wasn’t supposed to be watching it. I was young. Probably not even five years old. I had two older brothers who were teenagers at the time. Somehow, I wound up in the room while they were watching it, and I saw the scene where her head spun around. At that moment in my life, I decided that was it for me. I jumped up and ran out of the room, screaming and crying to my mother. My brothers laughed at me. It was late in my teens before I ever decided to watch that movie.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
I never saw The Amityville Horror till I was older and could handle it. But I was terrified of it at a young age. See, my brothers told me the story of it. They also had the book. I remember the book so vividly in my mind. It was a thick paperback book that had a picture of the house on the front of it. I’d see the cover, and it would instantly bestow fear onto me. Another thing was my grandparents had a front door on their house that had windows at the top of it that looked like the Amityville house’s windows. So I couldn’t be in their living room at night without my sister.
My brothers got me with this one as well. I was a little older when I saw this than I was with The Exorcist. So, I made it a little further into the movie. When the alien popped out of the seed pod and attached to that guy’s face, that completely blew my mind; but when it became too much for me was when it detached itself, and the alien erupted from the guy’s abdomen, I was done. This time I graciously exited the room, though.
The early childhood trauma thrust onto me by my older brothers didn’t deter me from horror movies, though. As I grew older, I always had an appreciation for a good horror flick. The only thing was, they just never packed a punch as those three movies did. I watched all The Nightmare on Elm Streets, Friday the 13ths, and Stephen King novels made into movies, and they all just never got me there. I guess it was kind of like being an adrenaline junkie. You do that thing that gets you off that first time. Then you spend the rest of your life trying to get back to that feeling.
I’ve always wondered one thing continuously throughout my life. When will I consider myself old? When I was in my teens, 30 seemed old. Yet when I got there, I didn’t feel old. I didn’t see myself as an older person when I looked in the mirror. As 50 approaches, I still don’t see myself that way. I’m not one of those guys still holding onto 17 and living in 1994 by no means. To myself, it seems that I have defied growing old. Maybe it’s due to the fact my baby boomer parents didn’t grow old gracefully. There was a lot of partying and drug use in their younger years that wore them out early on. I think they kept the partying going well into their 30’s keeping it hidden from the kids, now that I look back on some things from an adult’s perspective.
Is It My Perception?
I often wonder if it’s due to my state of mind. I look at the milestones I’ve hit in life as not marking my age or period of existence but more as a season. I’m old enough to be a grandparent, but even if I were to become one right now, I still don’t think that would make me perceive myself as old. Maybe a bit more hardened, but not old. Being I live in such a small town, the town that I grew up in. I still see a few folks I graduated high school with from time to time. And between you and I, some of them — we’ll just say that some of theirs seasons had to be some long cold winters. But they act the part also. They carry themselves as elders of the community now. Let’s take the sheriff in this county, for instance. He looks like a wise elder of the community. I remember him in high school. He was a bit of an awkward guy back then, but everybody knew that one day he’d be sheriff of this county. We all just knew. I’ve watched him give press conferences of the local news channel, and he acts the part of an elder in the community. I guess that where his state of mind has always been.
Going Through Changes
I don’t see myself as old, but I have grown as a person. As I said, I’m not holding onto 1994. Back then, I sat around smoking a heap of pot while listening to Nirvana. I take care of myself. I don’t smoke or drink anymore. I find various things to stimulate my mind to continue learning. I’m aware my values have evolved. I’m a lot less conservative than I was before I struck out and experienced the world. Way more understanding and compassionate about people’s circumstances than I used to be. I see that as seasoned though not the typical old fellow being pissed about kids in the neighborhood.
Maybe It’s The Gen Xer in Me?
You know they say Gen Xers don’t see themselves as growing old. We’re seen as the nomad generation. If you broke it down into Star Wars terms, you know who we’d be? Han Solo and Chewbacca, a couple of space cowboys, smuggling stuff all over the galaxy. Han Solo and Chewy never got old. Even in The Last Jedi, the duo didn’t look old. Could I be in denial, though? I know my son sees me as a crazy old dude who’ll repel from 70ft bridges and go SCUBA diving. He’s asked me a few times if I’m having a mid-life crisis. I don’t see it like that. I’ve just gotten to the point in life where I’ve accomplished so much. I can now take time to do the things I’ve been putting off.
The Seasons of Life
So, this evening I’m still sitting here contemplating the seasons of my life. I’m older, but not old. I’ll call it wise. I’ve screwed up enough to have learned how far to go before too far gets there. I still wonder when I will officially become an old man. Maybe when I join the guys I see sitting in McDonald’s in the morning when I drive past, on my way to work? The thing is, here lately, I’ve been looking forward to joining that crowd. I guess I’ll just keep kicking old age further down the road. Sooner or later, it’ll catch up to me.
In the nineteen-thirties, nutria were imported to the United States from South America for the fur trade; by the end of the nineteen-forties, the rodents were turning up in the Louisiana wetlands. By the end of the nineteen-sixties, there was an estimated wild population of twenty million. This abundance of nutria provided many trappers a living until the fur trade collapsed in the late nineteen-eighties. With no money to be made off the pelts, the population grew out of control and began destroying the Louisiana wetlands.
Nutria reproduces very quickly. Left unchecked, the population can become out of control in an area. A litter is born every eight weeks, and the females can begin reproducing after twelve weeks.
Nutria feed off the roots of plants in the Louisiana wetlands, killing them and making the land susceptible to erosion. These wetlands act as a cushion between the ocean and…
In the months leading up to the 2020 General Elections, so many conspiracy theories and reckless statements were being made that I found myself generally concerned about the safety of our democracy. Then one evening, while watching the local news, a report came on talking about the lack of available poll workers due to COVID concerns. I took it as a sign, and the next day went to my local county elections board and asked to volunteer. To my surprise, the lady handed me an application and said, “We’re hiring and need someone healthy enough to take equipment to polling locations around the county and work the polls as well.” So, I filled out the application and went and took my drug test. She pretty much hired me as part-time help on the spot.
Election Day for Me Is Three Days
Election Day for me starts that Monday. I and two others check the equipment, ensuring it’s all in good working order; inspect all the security tags; load up all the equipment and haul it to each polling location. We leave it all secured in the places. All the equipment is cabled and padlocked. The key is issued to the poll manager at the office later that afternoon.
My Second Election Day
My second Election Day is Tuesday. The actual day of voting. I must be at my polling spot at 6 AM. There we all swear in, take all the equipment out and set it up and have it running by 7 AM when the polls open. On a busy day, I’ve sat at a polling pad checking voters, only getting up twice. Once to go to the bathroom, and once to go to lunch for 30 minutes. Polls run from 7 AM to 7 PM, by the way.
My Third Election Day
On my third day of elections, I do everything in reverse of the first day. I go to each polling place and pick up equipment and take it back to the election board office. As I put all the stuff up, I make sure that everything is good, and if there are any defects in the equipment, I have to report it to the elections board supervisor.
I want to say this. I work elections for the state of Georgia. One of the states involved in the controversy of the 2020 election. All those allegations you may have heard made by the loser of the election and the losing party are all bullshit. The election process is secure — bottom line. Donald Trump was a one-term President. That’s just the reality of it all.
A Bright Side to The Election
On Election Day, I had an experience that moved me to the core. It was late in the day. Well after 5 PM, an elderly black lady, no younger than 80, with a walker, entered the polling station. She was being escorted by her daughter, who was a little older than me. She came to my table and wanted to cast her vote. Her daughter informed me this was the first time in her life she had voted and that she would be assisting her. I sat it all up to where she could vote. I turned the pad and moved it as far as I could on the table to get it to where she could sign it. She said, “Thank you.” and scooted on over to her voting station. I took a lot of pride in helping that lady. I also realized when I was doing this, for so many years, it had been white men, like myself, who had suppressed this lady’s vote. And now, at 80 or maybe older, she has finally been empowered to cast her vote. I still think about that moment often.
Making It a Fair Fight
When I got home that night, I told my wife Donald Trump lost this county. And he did, due to the African American vote. Those voters came out because Stacey Abrams’s non-profit, Fair Fight, put in the work and mobilized the black community to come out and vote. Everybody should feel free to cast their vote, regardless of their color, political affiliation, or whatever. If you are an American citizen, you shouldn’t have any apprehension about going and voting.
A few days after the election, I contacted Fair Fight and told them about the elderly black lady and praised their work. I also encouraged them to continue their fight and take it nationwide if need be. With all the changes in voting laws, they need to stay vigilant in mobilizing voters. It’s our right as a citizen to have proper representation of the areas we live in, and we can only reach that if everyone goes to the polls.
I live in a tiny town in a rural area. The population is around 5000 people. Over its history, it’s gone from a flourishing agriculture hub, pre-Civil War, to a rural industrial complex post World War II. Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, this area has been in steady decline. You see, when the financial crisis hit, this area was already seeing a decline in its most valuable asset, kaolin. Kaolin is chalk. It’s mined from mineral deposits left over millions of years ago when this area was an actual coastline. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, a large pristine kaolin deposit was discovered in this area. It could be mined from the ground and took minimal refining to make it usable. As more and more kaolin was removed from the ground, those pristine deposits became less and less over time. More refining had to take place, costing the mining companies more to process the kaolin to sell. In search of cheaper costs, many companies started getting their kaolin from other areas. While the mining business still exists here, it’s nothing like it was when I was a kid. Back then, you’d see chalk trucks on the highways seven days a week, moving clay. There is a noticeable difference in mining activities now from when I was younger. As you get older, you think back to when all the old-timers used to reminisce about the good old days and begin to realize you’re now one of them.
Relying on Non-renewable Resources
When I was a kid, I’d hear those same old-timers talk about the kaolin and talk about it running out one day. They’d talk about geologists predicting we’d have enough around for the next 30-40 years. Well, I graduated High School 26 years ago, and it seems that prediction was correct. It’s strange how science can do that, huh? The problem with this declining industry around here is the first thing to go are the jobs that rely on this industrial complex before its complete decline. Many of the construction jobs in this area no longer exist because they relied on the work from these refining facilities. The companies will be here till the end. They’ll continue to hire fewer and fewer employees. So, as you can imagine, the unemployment rate is higher in this area than it used to be.
The Effects of Unemployment and Under-Employment
A lot of people think, “Well, if there isn’t any work there, just leave.” Some can, but for others, it’s much more complicated than that. For many, this place is all they know. Honestly, they think the world is a war zone outside of this county. That’s what happens when you get all your news from one right-leaning news network. Others have more extenuating circumstances. They may have exuberant debt. They could have loved ones that rely on them to be around. It’s just the human factor, you know. But in the past twenty years of this decline, I’ve witnessed the people of this small-town decline with it. There has been a methamphetamine epidemic, accompanied by prescription pill abuse, and in recent months violent crimes have been on the rise. Just this year alone, people have been arrested for drive-by shootings, gang violence that resulted in a shootout in the center of town, and just this past week, a local schoolteacher, who had been missing for a week, was found dead off the side of a rural county road. Foul play is suspected. All of this would’ve been unheard of when I was growing up here. And it’s all linked to a lack of employment opportunities, I think. “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” At least, that’s what I was told as a child. People participating in these types of activities are lost. They feel they have nothing to lose. Many may say they are broken. They are broken because they have lost hope. Their hope has run out along with the employment opportunities that existed here at one point. It’s not just a lack of employment either. I know people here with their bachelor’s degree, working as a server at the Waffle House or a cashier at Wal-Mart, whatever to make ends meet, due to a lack of employment opportunities that may have been here in the past that are now gone. That must be a blow to their self-esteem. Think about it?
Desperate Times Breed Desperate Measures
That feeling of desperation drags those people down in a state of depression that, frankly, I wouldn’t want to tread close to. That’s why there is rampant drug use in so many economically depressed areas. So many use drugs to dull the sting to their ego. They knew, at one point, there was a better life than this. They saw it as children. Their piece of the pie was taken from them at the table and tossed on the floor. Drug use leads to other crimes of desperation. Drug dealers make money, and a vicious cycle ensues. Those that don’t fall into the cycle of crime become bitter and latch onto anyone who says they can make it better for them. I still see Donald Trump signs in people’s yards. Trump hats and propaganda are still alive in dying little areas like this all over the country. All because they all feel left out and forgotten, and people like him prey on them for support. He’s just like one of the local drug dealers. It’s a shame.
What People Need
What people need is action. Like many dying areas in rural America, this area was raped and pillaged by large companies for its natural resources. Once the resources were removed, those large multi-million-dollar companies packed up shop and moved on to the next spot, leaving the people who had become dependent on them behind to fend for themselves. With no jobs and minimal opportunities, these communities begin to cannibalize themselves and soon turn to skeletons of their former glory. There’s a way to fix these dying communities, though; the infrastructure is there; if our leaders would open their eyes and look forward to progress instead of examining past mistakes and placing blame, they would see. What is one thing all these old industrial areas have in common — railways. If our government would invest in a high speed rail infrastructure like Japan, China, and Europe, people could take the train into the larger cities and work. If I rode a train for an hour to Atlanta to work, got paid the same wage as people in Atlanta do, then came home to this area to live every day and many others here did the same, this would become a thriving area once again. All small towns throughout the country would see a new explosion of growth. In many of the larger cities, there is a homeless problem. Many of those people work. Yet, they can’t afford the expensive housing in the city. Take, for instance, my house. It is 1800 square feet with a carport, concrete driveway, a lovely little home with a 12-acre pond in the backyard. I paid $85000. This same house in Atlanta would be around $500,000 or more. A high speed rail system throughout this country would solve so many problems almost overnight.
Invest in the Most Valuable Commodity
In this world, the most valuable commodity you can invest in is the people. Providing high speed rail would be the equivalent to the interstate project tackled after World War II. Look at how that transformed our country. It is past time the infrastructure of this country is updated. It’s time for the people of this country to start calling out the politicians who use infrastructure as a political talking point. We, the people, must demand action to protect our future.
I’ve seen a lot of content as of late of many young people who seem to be disgruntled with the current job market. They compare having a job as a modern-day form of slavery. Many refer to it as wage slavery. They believe many people have become slaves to their employers. Handcuffed and shackled by their need for a paycheck. I can see this point of view and have pondered this train of thought over the last few days.
The current economic and political system that we operate under in the United States is capitalism. Capitalism is a system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state. In theory, this system allows people to earn an optimal reward for the amount of work that they are…
“I have a fight going on in me,” the old man said. “It’s taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
The grandfather looked at the grandson and went on. “The other embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”
The grandson took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee gave a simple reply. “The one you feed.”
In me, this first wolf represents fear. The list of negative perceptions combines to form fear inside me. Fear of changing the life that I have been living over the last 25 or so years. The life that I was taught to live, not the life that I’m drawn to live. I strive for freedom from the 9-5 and have always yearned to be released from this man-made system. Yet, my fear of failure grows larger the older I get. As I sit in anguish every evening, knowing I can do it, that damn evil wolf steps in front of me with teeth showing, growling, hair raised along the ridge of his back. I succumb to his hostile advances and toss him a slab of raw meat to appease him.
What Is the Raw Meat?
This morning on my walk, I analyzed what exactly is the raw meat I feed him. I feed him my false sense of pride, my ego, false sense of superiority. Everything listed in the parable, I feed him. I’ve never given those characteristics any credence in myself. I view those only to be found in evil people. But I realized they exist in myself as well this morning. Now that’s been recognized; maybe I should quit feeding that wolf so much and nurture the good one.
Look Beyond the Evil Wolf
Behind the evil wolf stands the good wolf. He’s hungry too. How do you go about feeding him? That evil wolf is always right there in front of the gate, ready to gobble up any food you toss in there. You must open the gate and confront him. See, the evil wolf is fear, so if you walk towards him, he will still show signs of aggression, but he’ll back up as far as possible because he is scared. There is the chance he’ll lash out, but only out of fear. You take that hit and keep moving forward, and he’ll keep backing up. Then place the food in front of the good wolf, who the evil wolf fears. Eventually, that evil wolf will begin to fear you and stay out of your way as you go into feed the good wolf. He’ll still try you. That’s what he does.
That All Sounds Simple Enough
I know it sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. I think about many personal accomplishments I’ve made over the years for encouragement. Like quitting smoking, losing 30lbs, getting my SCUBA certification, to even purchasing my property, all those were scary things that I looked right in the eye and overcame. Making the change in my life to be freed from the chains of my 9-5 may be the scariest of them, but it’s becoming a priority for me. When we begin to prioritize things, it slowly breaks the fear of them down.
I have always been a dreamer. I have always had a massive imagination that seemed to have no boundaries. From the time I was a toddler laying in front of the television racing my matchbox cars through the southwest deserts of the United States while hearing Dan Rather’s voice faintly in the background reporting the evening news to my parents, to now, a middle-aged man who imagines himself every afternoon at my daily status meeting looking at every person in the room and saying, “You know what? I’ve had enough of this bullshit. I’m out. Later.” I really do that a lot hear lately as my boss goes around the room asking questions about this and that. Then I snap back into reality. Give him the report on my department. Gather up my stuff and walk back down to my office. I ask myself this evening as I go into a long holiday weekend, “What keeps me there?” I answer myself back with, “Fear.” Fear is a dream killer and imagination smasher.
The Comfort Zone
Many Americans have a fear of stepping outside of their comfort Zone. It’s kind of like their home. They made it the way they want it. It’s cozy and warm. You view your home as safe, right. The difference between your home and your comfort zone is this; if you walk out into your yard, dig a hole in the ground, slap a flower down in there, give it water on a regular basis that flower will grow. In your comfort zone nothing grows. It’s a dead zone. Inhabited by spirits of your past that hold you prisoner in there, so you don’t outgrow them and leave them behind. They use their fear to control you. They make it your fear.
This fear is taught to us by our mentors, teachers, and parents. They don’t realize they are doing it. They are just teaching the younger generation what they have been taught. Let’s look at it like this. Take Little Johnny laying on the floor playing with his matchbox cars, imagining them racing through the desert, then his mother gets up from Dan Rather’s evening report and comes over in the middle of this intense, nose to nose race and just stomps down on top of the matchbox cars. Then nonchalantly walks on into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee like nothing happens. That would be messed up. Some would even interpret it as child abuse. Now take a child with a dream of say being an artist. Then toss him into our current education system where this dream is viewed as inferior and eventually the child is swayed into getting an education in a field that has been deemed as successful by society. Don’t you think that’s kind of the same thing.
Missing Your Calling
As a product of this education system my dreams and imagination were never nourished and dried up. My parents thought I should’ve gone to college like my brothers, but college wasn’t for me. That’s why I went into the military. That was fun and nurtured my imagination and dreams. If I hadn’t done that I would’ve pursued a career in music and everyone in my life would have shit a brick. I look back now and hold that as one of my biggest regrets — not pursuing that path. I’m not bitter about it. I mainly just wonder if I could’ve made it. Not like a huge rock star, just an average musician making a living doing something he loves.
I wrote this piece to just put it out there and feel that vulnerability. To get that feeling of relief that it’s out there you know. So many people guard that stuff, and it festers in them while they sit in their comfort zone. If you noticed I used fester, not grow to describe the feeling while in your comfort zone. Growth is a positive gain. When something festers it’s painful, inflamed and usually slows you down. That stuff must be tossed out. And maybe many who read this will toss it out as they exit their comfort zone.