Monday, February 15, 2010

(Somewhat cliched..) Words to live by..

Since I got to Hawaii I couldn't help but be captivated by virtually everything I've seen  It's just totally different from anything I've ever experienced before.  The differing nationalities of the population, the mix of locals and tourists, the different topography and scenery, buildings, just, everything was different.  I came knowing one person fairly well.  Other than that, I knew nobody (This fact has led to some lengthy internal monologues already...this would more or less be an example of one such monologue, though it really isn't internal anymore.).  I knew nothing about where I was headed, and this partly explains why I ended up packing far too many clothes for what my day-to-day activities require.  All of this occurred after twenty five years of never leaving Maine and, more specifically, never leaving the L/A area.

It's a running joke amongst my friends and family that I've never really left and it's 100% true.  And it's more than never leaving the area - I'm fairly certain I've never been away from my house for more than 14 consecutive days (I may have said this before - I don't remember.  Bear with me..).  Even when I was at Bates I'd swing home on Sundays for dinner or to watch TV and during the week to check my mail or just hang out when I wanted to get off campus.  When I lived in Lewiston for a few months after graduation it was the same way - when I was bored I'd head home.

All this being said I just felt it was time to leave, and not just make it a small leave but do something seriously different.  It's a big world and I wanted to start seeing a little more of it.  HOORAY for me.  And after never leaving town before now I don't really feel homesick, and I don't expect that I will.  This isn't saying that I don't miss my folks and the stupid things we'd joke about, because I do, or swilling beers at Liam and Rachel's or Gipper's on Thursday nights or nailing shingles with a funny crew or just the comfort I had rolling around L/A, because I like Maine.  I really do.  I like most everything about it and certainly see myself there when I'm old and gray and crusty and still shoveling my driveway by hand because snowblowers are for suckers and still driving an old car because of the character old cars always seem to have.  But all that aside, I wanted something NEW.  REFRESHING.  I was bored.

And when I touched down and saw the ocean and the beach and the mountains in a 360 degree panorama that collectively distracted me from the ugly hotels and other signs of sprawl that have tainted the natural beauty I was seeking, to some degree I knew I had read a quote somewhere that was appropriate for my situation and how I was feeling but it just didn't seem to come to me.  I mean, I'm here not doing much of anything.  J.Mac has given me the green light to crash at their place until the other people paying rent tell him directly I've outstayed my welcome.  Whatever I do out here I in no way expect to call it a step forward in my career path.  I'm sure this bothers me on some level but I'm really just ignoring the sense that I should have a legitimate job by now, because, well, I went to a good school, I had a good job for a couple of years, most all of my close friends have good jobs...but, for whatever reason that's not really of interest to me now.  Scraping by doesn't bother me at all.  The freedom is refreshing.  Well, it will be refreshing once I get some kind of a a job...I don't know why but I just don't feel this dough rolling gig working out...

But, shit, I've never really failed yet in life.  Mainly because I don't stick my neck out a lot.  I went to Bates because it was safe, took jobs there after because, well, they gave them to me and I didn't have to apply, and everything else was sort of the same.  I got stuck in a rut in that I didn't want to start applying for jobs that I really didn't want, only to see myself get turned down for these jobs.  HONESTLY, WHO WOULDN'T WANT ME WORKING FOR THEM.  The long hair and scraggle was a nice touch because I could say "NO WAY AM I GOING TO CONFORM TO WHAT THEY WANT.  THAT'S WHY I'M NOT GETTING JOBS."  Then I come out here and shave within a couple of days so I can look for a job I would have deemed well below my education level at home.  Then I worked for a day with an 18 year old boss.  I've applied to more places in the week I've been down here than in the almost three years since I graduated from college.  Talk about a contradiction to what I'd do back home..

But I knew I had something that was in the back of my mind that could kind of explain this.
 I mean, not really explain it well but just provide me with a glean of justification for what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  SOMEONE ELSE HAD SAID THIS IS GOOD, SO I'M IN THE CLEAR!!  And finally it came to me after I had had some PED's watching the NASCAR race and then heading out to Honalua Bay to swim and look at the coral below.  And it was then that it hit me: Look at the view.

Forgive me because this is kind of disjointed but on some level this makes sense to me so try to allow it to make sense to you and we'll all be on the same page from here on out.  A dear friend quite awhile ago gave me a book by Anna Quindlen titled A Short Guide to a Happy Life, in which she runs through her views of life after admitting she has no expertise on the subject of life except for the fact she's been living a life for quite some time.  And she implores people to not become obsessed by material possessions and just to live.  I'd say it's a bit cliche and can be prone to oversimplification but I still finding myself coming back to read it once a year or so because it's short and, I don't know, sometimes it just feels right to read it.  But this friend also provided a speech by Quindlen which had many of the same philosophies included in it.  I don't know which came first; please forgive me.

I don't have the book (hindsight says I should have brought it and a couple others more than I did instead of so many damn t-shirts..) but it turns out that a lot of what came to my mind was from the speech she gave.  I'm pretty sure some of these buzz words from the speech came up in her book, too, but without being able to cross reference I'll just cite the speech because I won't know for awhile if it's true the book touched on these quotes and I have a copy of the speech in front of me.  The "internet" can be a fabulous creature.  She brings in some good quotes from others, like "Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he'd been diagnosed with cancer: 'No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office.' "  She also makes some good points like this:
You walk out of [this particular college's graduation] this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
And is most of that cliche and overblown, especially in this generation?  Of course it is.  It's easy to say that you want to take custody of your life when you've never had to worry about putting food on the table or a roof over your head; hell, I've never had these problems, either.  I still don't.  I've got some capital to float on.  Even if I don't find a job I can still get by without any serious repercussions.  If shit really turns sour I can just tuck my tail between my legs and go home with no real consequences.  These facts make it hard for me to explain my rationale beyond, "I can do it, so I'm going to."  Yet I keep trying to.

But while I was treading water with my eyes pointed downward into crystal clear water full of coral, fish, and hundreds of other remarkable wildlife, only to take my head up and see islands, volcanic mountains, and flora all around me I was reminded of Quindlen's final anecdote to her speech, a quote I had usually attributed to her book due to my poor memory:

I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months.
He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule; panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them.
And I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn't he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view."
This seems to be my plan, too.  Cheers.  

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