The one thing in my life that I fear losing more than anything else is my starry-eyed naivete and idealism. These qualities of mine approach but do not quite ascend all the way to empty-headed idiocy I hope. I love so much my hunger for new experiences, and my youthful belief in the idea that anything is possible. There have been times in the last few years that I have succumbed to fatigue, frustration, and a jaded approach to life that threatens to limit and contain my ambitions. Even when I was working long hours and living almost entirely on Mt. Dew and Thai food just to support myself, in my own hometown, and even when I was running cars back and forth from the parking garage and having my ears screamed off by Ethiopian valet parking managers, I tried my best not to retire my ambition to make a difference with my writing. I tend to run with the activists and the protestors, the hackers and the outcasts, and the people who just can’t seem to fit in with mainstream society. I think we all succumb to those feelings of depression and defeatedness some days. It is pretty frustrating that I am about to reach the twenty-seventh year of my life and I still haven’t nailed down a job that sustains me and gives me joy for the long-term. But hell, what more is there to this world than to throw ourselves into as many awkward situations as we can, see what works, then stick with it!
There is a difference between “responsibility,” as we boring bespectacled adults love to say all the time, and letting the tired, overwhelmed, droopy-eyed resignation of “I can’t change anything anyway,” take over your psyche. I understand that my friends and colleagues probably get frustrated that I’m easily distracted and that I like to have about 1100 things happening at once at any given time, and because I participate in protests and marches and activism and because if I’m not careful I communicate my daily plans less than perfectly. An older friend of mine once told me that employers are looking to hire people that make their lives easier and won’t be “brilliant but problematic geniuses.” I understand that… the need for efficiency, for your team to function like a well-oiled machine, and the need for the final product, whether it is an election win, a new product, or a public awareness initiative, to be pretty and clean and appealing to the masses. But damn it all to hell! I’ve tried for years and years for to be so clean and appealing and pretty, and it doesn’t seem to be working.
One thing I DON’T want my life to be is boring. I want to follow my flights of fancy, and explore the deepest corridors of possibility. I want to make things that are new and weird, and I want to be pushed way way beyond the realms of what is comfortable and into the world of the uncomfortable. If Jacques Cousteau could wrap himself in a hunk of iron and plunge to the depths of the deepest ocean, and Phillipe Petit could walk a tightrope extended between the Twin Towers in New York, and Jack Kerouac could write a book on a scroll while hitchhiking across the U.S. with his friends, think what I could do!!! A friend of mine just recently set off on a cross-country bike trip and is planning to go all the way to California and south into Mexico. On a bike. I’m still pretty young, and I’ve done some pretty amazing things. Seeing thee National Championship in Atlanta and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza, and driving a pair of Bentleys and three Jaguars in one day, and competing with high school friends in a martial arts tournament in Cancun, and exploring Paris and Bourdeaux and Tel Aviv for god’s sake. It’s a heck of a life I’ve lived in the last twenty-seven years.
As I’m getting ready for my seventh annual Indian food dinner to celebrate another birthday, I find myself chomping at the bit to get out there and start living again. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little Southern Illinois hometown. We have the best peaches (sorry Georgia), the cleanest lakes, the most beautiful night skies (though Kansas does have us beat when it comes to sunsets), and more than our share of friendly people and challenges as well. I’m not an an organizer with the Democratic Party right now because I went to get coffee and read a book during lunchtime on a Saturday without telling him, instead of canvassing the very same neighborhood I had already canvassed earlier this same summer, to ggain support for a General, who I hadn’t even met! And that was two months before we were even going to need to vote! And after having been trained for 60 hours in the past week! Maybe it’s just me, but something about that seems a teensy bit odd.
What’s so frustrating to me about the real-life world of politics is what it does to you. It was happening to me within one week. My ego was swollen, I was treating my oldest family friends really terribly because of my “high and mighty” position (which I had just started), and I got kind of rude and self-absorbed. I’m usually a pretty nice guy, though I’ve recently been trying to be more self-confident and assertive so people don’t walk all over me all the time. But as soon as I was given a position of high responsibility, and found myself working for a Congressman, suddenly everyone was beneath me. That’s not who I am! I like the side of me that is artistic, and sensitive, and creative, and a little broken. I’m kinda proud to have been obsessed with independent artists like Pavement and the Pixies for much of my youth, and I’m VERY proud of the hard work and time I devoted to learn French in college with absolutely NO IDEA how it would factor into my career.
I don’t know where it is I’m going to settle, and god knows whether I’ll ever be able to stop embarrassing myself in front of people I’m trying to impress and saying weird things all the time that seem hardly explicable. But God, I just have to be able to love myself, and whatever it is I do end up doing, I know it’ll have to fill at least that criteria. So, my plan now is to chase down a job opportunity to help fight to close loopholes allowing companies to pollute a pair of rivers on the West Coast, in Portland. Who knows what will happen or what it’ll be like. I don’t even know yet where I’m going to live. But as a close friend once told me, life is an adventure. We’re only here for a little while, and the way I see it, our most important responsibility is to make our dreams a reality. So here we go! Let’s do this!