My life changed in the past two years.
I turned 37 today, so it is interesting to note that most of the changes in my life are really only two years old. It seems like it has been much longer, mainly because of the length of the lying, ongoing monologues I had sustained for so long.
35 was a big deal. I liked to think of it as "halfway to 70," and it was when it was time to embrace my inner Raymond K. Hessel. In Fight Club, Tyler Durden holds a gun to convenience store clerk Hessel’s head and gives him a choice: quit his job and pursue his dream, or die right now as he’s practially dead anyway. Durden takes Hessel’s driver’s license and tells him he will check in on him. If he’s not on his way to becoming a veterinarian in three months, he will be dead.
That was the passage that did it all. What am I doing writing this horrible drivel about the same handful of Macromedia products for four years now? Why can’t I finish this novel? Why can’t I lose weight? Blah blah blah…
In less than a month after my 35th birthday, my sabbatical to Thailand began. Six weeks with no Macromedia. No itinerary. No plans. Although, to be safe, I did pack notebooks and pens, just in case the urge hit me.
If 35 was the seed for my life to change, Thailand was both where that seed germinated and the second half of an awkward, cliched metaphor.
In short, I wrote a draft of the book there, longhand, on the beach. It wasn’t the first draft, although it was the first time the book was written from beginning to end. But it was written with such a fun spirit, that it became the moment when the book became more real than before, and my need to chart a new course in life was clearer than before.
Of course, I returned to Thailand with some major issues. I was in credit card debt. I had no money saved. I wanted to dedicate myself to the book. I wanted to quit my job. And I wanted to travel the world. Very few of the things lined up well together.
Two years in, though, and there is more clarity. I am long out of debt. Savings is still holding up nine months after being fired. The book is written and being s-l-o-w-l-y edited. The job is long gone. And, well, I still want to travel the world. All in all, a lot of progress.
Add in 100ish pounds of weight loss, and even some dating to the mix, and it’s a pretty good picture.
Not that I’m necessarily content, of course. I still think the last 15 pounds should be coming off much faster. The book should be finished. Some crazy restaurant should have hired me by now. But, I think my, umm, focused mania is positive at the end of the day on those points. Keeps me moving forward.
I’m not the person I was at Macromedia any more. I was frustrated before Thailand, but decidedly bitter afterward, like an animal born in a zoo suddenly learning about freedom, but unable to break free.
So, all of that is behind me now. Everything seems to be on track.
The big piece that is still lacking from my blog entry upon turning 35 is the sense of abandon that should accompany this.
I talk about this with friends a lot. I think it has to do with not going right from college into the starving artist thing. I never had to learn to live from unexpected money to unexpected money, gig to gig, point A to… whatever came next, because I necessarily care about there being a point B. I learned how to make money, enjoy stability, and work the system. It is a blessing and curse.
I would love to live in my own delusional world, with no need to respect reality. Someone who gets to bend reality to suit them, and not the other way around. Last week, I saw Charo host a Charo look-a-like contest at a weekly drag show called Trannyshack. She was totally batshit crazy, as near as you could tell. But that’s the problem! Because to call her crazy is bringing reality to the equation. She was just Charo, and you get the sense that she is just Charo every day. The world has decided to change and let Charo exist outside its rules. In fact, that’s not true. Charo proves there really aren’t any rules except the ones we think exist.
Prince is the same way. He has recorded so much music that he could probably put out a CD a week for the rest of his life, if rumors are to be believed. And, like Charo, he is completely living up in his own head, without worrying about the rules of the world. He lives in the world of Prince, and we accommodate him in that reality.
I think you have to be born that way, though. It doesn’t seem like something you can just start doing. Although, when I first interviewed Marilyn Manson, right before he recorded Antichrist Superstar, he seemed to accept that at one point it was a role, but then he told me:
"I always get pissed off when people say, ‘Is this really you?’ Well, if it’s is an act, at some point in my life it has consumed me and it’s no longer an act, because it’s all that I know."
So, he seems to be saying that there was possibly a moment when it was a role he took on, but then he became it. The line may have been crossed, but at a certain point it disappeared.
When I look at my options in life, a lot of them seem to be tethered to stability, family, safety, all of which have their positive and negative values.
For example, one thing that Darrel and I have been talking about on AIM lately is getting certified to teach English as a second language. Basically, once you are certified, you can write your ticket to any country in the world and teach them how to speak English. With my bachelor’s degree, I could even teach English in a college setting, although I would prefer to teacher younger people (5-9 year-olds), just because they are less evil and rambunctious then, as the goal is really to keep doing work that fuels my joy and empowers me to write. Not to mention, the younger they are, the less taxing homework there would be on the teaching side, one imagines.
When I think of teaching, it means leaving San Francisco. But it also means, where do my books go? Where do my DVDs go? Big questions, like who am I without a lot of this stuff by which I have defined myself? What would my family think if I moved to Japan for a year? Thailand? India? Europe? Would I make friends there? Am I moving forward, or leaving before I do what I’m supposed to do here? What am I supposed to do here? Why aren’t I doing whatever it is now, if it’s so damned important? Is it some psychological stall tactic? If so, what am I running from? And, if I don’t leave, what am I clinging to (in case you think it doesn’t go both ways)?
And that thinking is all negative. Every DVD I own, I could buy again. Every book is still in print. My friends here will stay with me long-distance or not. (The ones that don’t, well, what can you do? Hope the next lot is better? Heh.) My family will cope. Most of our communication is phone calls and me visiting them anyway, so where I’m flying to/calling from seems a small part of the equation.
It is all in Fight Club, which is spooky. The things you own end up owning you. You are not your (insert anything).
Who are we without the story we tell ourselves about our identity? Why do we cling to it? What happens when we let go?
In a nutshell, I want to keep making sure that I keep living a life whereby Tyler Durden won’t kill me someday.
I’m a lot closer than I was two years ago.
I’m getting there, but there’s still some work to do.