I keep willing the words to come, but it all feels so forced.
The ideas are swimming there, but I can’t convey them eloquently. The shift to hardcore analytical thinking – the distance from emotion that comes from immersing one’s self in the world of computer systems – has positioned me far from expression.
The come-back to the emotional is slow. I have fits and starts of clarity, followed by exhaustion and, then, a lack of willingness to get the ideas out.
But they’re there; somewhere in the mire.
I’ve started on this attempt to post something, anything, at least three times. And every attempt has seemed like a lie.
Today, sitting in the viewing deck of my daughter’s gymnastic school, an acquaintance was also watching.
I let the thoughts out to her in waves – all I’ve been thinking; all I’ve been flailing in (arms-grasping-in-a-quicksand kind of flail) – the suddenly apparent banality of social media, the fallacy of trying to present a life well-lived to the general public, the sense that our flaws far outweigh our perfections.
I tell her about my world: about staying up until 2 a.m. listening to lectures on programming languages and a month where every waking second that wasn’t dedicated to work was given to a project, or an exam or a conference call.
She tells me about being a nurse in a major metropolitan hospital; and about a 4-year-old boy who was stabbed 40 times by his father; whose mother and sister were killed by the same man, and about watching him recover.
These stories are not told side-by-side. They ebb and flow. She’s done the be-a-parent/student thing; and it’s only eventually we come to this tale.
“Children are amazing,” she says, “their ability to recover.”
I know a variation of this tale.
I mention numbers – how I’m always chasing numbers – to put our blessings in the world in place (those of us with food and a roof and security are a global anomaly, I say). I realize she knows it from her work: the hospital, a constant exposure to both the random unfairness of life and the darker sides of humanity.
And the miracle of recovery.
She acknowledges this.
We all face our own adversity, she infers. But we only have our own point of reference.
“My mountains are my mountains to climb,” she says.
* * *
And what of my mountains?
They seem like a load of shit to me.
Complain about the first semester of a master’s program? Puh-leeze.
Would it make any difference if I told you I wasn’t sure why I was doing it? That the hours, nay weeks, of cumulative time I’m losing with my children in the prime of their childhood make me question daily why I’m pushing down this path?
I expect no sympathy.
I have no sympathy for myself.
I see an idea at the other end. But the idea is neither clear, nor guaranteed.
The goal I’m shooting for seems both shallow and reasonable depending on the version of me that is doing the assessing.
Stability? Oh, yes, I like that.
Stability? That’s a silly (non-guarantee) for which to give up three years.
For now I press blindly onward, because I have made a choice. Consequences be damned.
* * *
Tonight, I took a long walk.
I’m prone to these walks now. Long after the kids and Heidi go to bed.
I go when I’m looking for something, though often I don’t know what.
Tonight, it was for the words to tie all this together.
This was after I sat out on the patio and I opined to my wife, “I think I’m entering a mid-life crisis.”
I went on, “It feels like being in high school again. When I all I can break it down to is ‘being real’ or ‘being fake.’”
“I can’t get past that. I feel so childish and yet I can’t bring myself to say it to the people who read what I write. I feel like I used to speak with confidence; and in the course of five or six months, that confidence is gone.”
“Suddenly, being honest seems so hard.”
And it does.
Because I don’t know what I’ve done. And I don’t know where I’m going.
I don’t know what I want; other than the most basic things: time with my kids, time with my wife; time with a couple of key friends.
I went on to explain how, a couple years ago, awash in a rapidly expanding social circle of influential individuals, I decided to tamp it all back, mostly because socializing with people I didn’t have time for seemed a wasteful use of my most precious resource..
It was a conscious choice; and now that it’s all come to fruition, I’m left in the aftermath.
Am I better off?
It’s all first-world bull; that’s how it seems anyway. I have less social requirements, but more mental knowledge about a thing, i.e. writing advanced code.
Qualified for another job? Yes.
Soul-satisfying mornings, when I project the day ahead? Not really.
* * *
And, so, that’s it.
If I linger over this, nothing will ever get published.
It’s a first draft, like newspapers and history.
Yes, I got a couple of A’s in my first two classes on my way to be a software engineer. Yes, that felt pretty good when it was all said and done.
I still don’t know why I’m doing it.
But I can tell you what it cost.
While I was watching my daughter from behind the glass at gymnastics class, she arched her back backwards, touched her toes, and gave me a salute – in true Brody style. I sensed the full-arch was a first.
I got warm; the joy starting at the chest and running up to my brain.
There’s been other firsts like this, I’m sure, but this was the first I’d witnessed, because it was the first time in three months I had time to go her class.
When she finished, and she came up to tell me it was time to go, I’m certain my daughter knew nothing of what it meant to me.
We grabbed her shoes. We got into the car. We drove home. We had dinner.
Life went on, my midlife introspective a distraction in the mind of just one: