It’s all very simple yet all very complicated – the threads of my life that constitute the roads taken.
I was talking to an old friend (acquaintance, more specifically) last week. He’s my age, we briefly attended the same university together back in the ’70s. The only thing we had in common is that we were both severe underachievers at the time although I recognize both then and now I was the more successful underachiever of the two: more women, more parties, more drinking. You get the idea.
He made a boast somewhere along the way that his future career was going to eclipse mine (‘bury me’, I think were the words he used).
He followed in the footsteps of his rich daddy, became a lawyer, and never left Detroit. He married, adopted two children, went into bankruptcy two years ago, and still has both children (ages 21 and 26) living at home. He is a failure in everyone’s eyes but his own; but I am not telling this tale to shame him.
I never much thought about my future career back then at the age of 20 when he said what he did. In fact the future never became real or important until I met the love of my life the following year.
I worked hard from the ages of 21 – 32 to build a fairly successful career. After my divorce I coasted until the age of 44 which was when I essentially threw in the towel and turned my pursuits to more personal interests.
I took five, maybe six years off. Built a pretty cool custom house in the mountains. Traveled a lot. Started writing my first novel.
So it was maybe 17 or 18 years ago that life got very interesting. I can’t say that I really chose any of it. Life just took me in some very unexpected directions.
I took a job with an aerospace company in Washington, DC in the summer of 2005 only to experience my first layoff 13 months later when the division I was working for was sold off.
I sold my newly built house literally 4 – 5 months before the market crashed in 2007, finished the draft of my first novel, and then took another job with a government defense contractor in the same area.
That lasted 18 months. I grew to hate the bureaucracy so much that I quit that job over the phone. I think I was walking down 16th St. NW, a couple of blocks from the White House, at the time I got a call on my cell phone requesting – no demanding – my immediate presence at a meeting some two hours away out in the Maryland suburb where certain questions needed to be urgently attended to.
The caller was rude which made me rude. And I told him if the problem(s) couldn’t wait until the next morning then he could take the job and shove it up his ass. So that ended that.
I took some more time off. I got back into running – this time minimalist style. And before I knew it I was running every morning across the Capitol Mall, sometimes out past Reagan National Airport and back. And I started writing another book. Or did I just complete a second draft of my first? Who remembers?
I took one last job in DC – this time for an encryption outfit – before finally bagging it in 2010/2011 when I then moved to Mexico in 2012 where I’ve been ever since.
I attempted to start a leather sandal and bag company – unsuccessful. I’ve since finished novel number two. Started novel number three. And have currently written approximately 320,000 words about my life and thoughts living here in the beautifully wild state of Michoacan. I call it ‘the devil’s own playground’ for reasons which would become readily apparent if you have read any of my previous ‘mexsandalguy’ blog.
These last five years in Mexico have changed me in many ways. I am older, arguably wiser, and more thankful for the opportunities that have been presented to me over the years.
I look back on my life and see the interlocking chain of events that have helped me on my way to who I now am. A gypsy verse resonates, “What I once was, I no longer am, nor shall I ever be again.”
So have I out-succeeded my lawyer friend? Probably, but then again he wasn’t too hard to beat.
Do I view myself as successful in light of all my failures? I can’t sell sandals. I’ve never published a book. And I left my career in the dust some twenty years ago.
So conventionally speaking – especially if you use wealth as a yardstick – then the answer is a resounding, no.
But I leave the judgement of my life – the successes and failures – to others. How I will be viewed when I’m put in the ground is beyond my control. Because that my friend is the only time when the credit sheet can be truly weighed against the debit sheet.
Until that time I’ll keep doing the only things I know how to do – or care to do – and that is to keep running, writing, and keep spending an inordinate amount of time in prayer and thought.