A friend of mine (Marcus) graciously re-posted a story of his, one called The Book Collector.
It is a tale haunted by regret; one which resonates with the consequences of the road not taken. It is the story of choosing safe and sensible over passion and dreams. It is a story which demands to be read.
And I have—many times. The narrative is Luke’s, and I identify with him completely.
When I was young-enough to be making such decisions, I wanted to write. Photograph. Paint. Make music. In my eyes, the traditional work world was a place steeped in the stench of slow, insidious death.
If you’ve ever seen Brazil or Joe vs. the Volcano, their office scenes captured what that world looked like to me. A place where people turned grey and lifeless. A place where unthinking regimentation and soul-sucking conformity gnawed away at you every single day.
But like Luke, I was afraid. Afraid to take a chance. And I have come to understand that was the biggest risk of all.
My father was a free-lance writer. Despite his being a fairly-talented one, he struggled to support a family of six. He supplemented his job as the managing editor of a quarterly publication by selling the odd article to whatever publication was interested. It was, in its way, a grueling life.
True, my father didn’t have to fight rush hour every day or wage combat with the office sociopath. But out of necessity he sequestered himself in the bedroom and banged away at his typewriter from eight in the morning until nine or ten at night. It was a ceaseless grind of research, queries, deadlines and rejections.
Despite my love of words and pictures and music, I knew I didn’t want to work twelve or thirteen hours a day sans benefits and with only an uncertain reward to show for it. There was also this nagging question as to whether I even possessed the talent. I wanted stability and security.
All these years later, that reads like a sick joke. There is no stability. There is no security. And there is certainly no fulfillment.
I lost a publishing job because, in the words of my boss, a financial wizard in New York City figured trimming payroll was the fastest way to boost stock values, and in turn, excite shareholders.
I lost a job in telecommunications when a union-hating gentleman by the name of Joe Nacchio engineered the ouster of my co-workers and I by reconfiguring our jobs so that it was virtually impossible to meet its sales goals.
Then there was Kathy Lovett. She was a company director so disliked by her peers and subordinates that she sat alone at the office Christmas dinner until there—literally—wasn’t another seat in the room.
This same woman made it agenda item number-one to rid the company of me, and succeeded.
The only clue I have for her intense dislike was that I negotiated my wage with her. And judging by her reaction, you would have thought it was coming out of her check.
You are familiar with my latest tale of woe.
Life sucks. Or more specifically, work sucks. Contrary to what we say at meetings and performance reviews and in the hallways, very few of us love it. I take that word to mean we’d do it for nothing, but I don’t know anyone who would.
I failed to locate that elusive place where ability and interest intersect. We make our own beds and then must lie in them.
That being the case, I hear Motel 6 is looking for maids. I’m experienced.