One a.m. and I'm just waking up from what I thought was going to be an all-night sleep. Woke for a moment--my princess shifted and swiped all the blankets--and before I could fall back into whatever dream I was having, my brain kicked into gear. One question, "What am I going to do?" and that was enough.
This question tumbles through my head every day, probably thousands of times. Someone cuts me off in traffic, that's the question that goes through my mind. What am I going to do? Am I going to get mad about it, am I going to honk and rage and let it ruin my day? Or am I going to accept it as another part of the day, move on, forget about it?
When noon rolls around and it's time for lunch, "What am I going to do?" Something healthy, something cheap, something from home?
During the day, it's just a simple question, and the answer is easily plucked from that secret spot of my brain that makes up what is me.
But at night, when you suddenly find yourself staring up at the ceiling you can barely see through the bedroom dark, it's not so simple. It's not so easy to answer. At one in the morning, when you roll over just a bit to grab your blanket and to grunt at your wife, this is not an innocent, unassuming question.
And that's why I find myself out at my computer at one in the morning (1:13 now, this one's been a slow one to write), knowing I should try to force myself back to bed, knowing that I'd fail if I tried.
What am I going to do?
It's a question that has popped up in my life often, sometimes through an alcohol haze, sometimes through drug-bent reality, sometimes through sadness. Sometimes through laughter, sometimes while I'm making love, and sometimes when I'm all alone, watching a beautiful moment in the world.
In the past, it has been an easier question to answer. "I am going to live," I told myself. "And then I am going to die."
Those were my younger days, of course, when life was a little more black and white. Simpler.
Life was simpler, the answer was simpler. So I asked the question, answered it, and then went out and lived.
Thinking about it now (at 1:20 in the morning), it is obvious that following my own orders is what made things so difficult. You live, you continue being, and the world changes, life changes. You live, you love, you find yourself in complex situations.
I have responsibilities now that I never would have fathomed as a younger man (I was a child, really, despite how old I was). The answers from my youth no longer seem to apply, no matter that they still technically hold true.
I have to plan for the future, which always makes me uncomfortable. I have to take the feelings of others into consideration, which I've never been too good at. I have to be an adult, which I've always despised.
What are you going to do? The thing that makes that question so much more difficult at dark o'clock in the morning is the three hitchhiker words it picked up along the way: with my life.
What am I going to do with my life? Three little words that add so much weight.
I have this trunk, this footlocker. I was out in the garage with my dad one day, and I saw it hidden away against a wall, and I asked him what it was. "Old trunk," he said. "When I was young, I tied it down to the back of my car and took off. Me, that trunk, and my dog. Didn't have any idea where I was going. When I got low on money, I'd get a job for a few weeks, couple months, then I'd move on again."
That sounded like Heaven. I wanted that trunk, I wanted to continue on with it, show it more of the world.
The world that raised my dad is a different one than the one in which I grew up, though. I couldn't travel town to town and grab a job whenever I needed one. Potential employers look at your job history, and they see a shotgun-blast of past jobs, all of them lasting only a few months, you're not getting hired.
I didn't drive my footlocker around on the back of my car. I lugged it when I could, and when I couldn't lug it, I stored it and filled it with my life when I got back to it.
I look down at it now (1:34 in the morning), and I realize that I haven't opened it in months, and the last time I did, it was only to take a quick look through its contents. I haven't added anything to my footlocker in years. Soon, it will probably be stored in some garage, forgotten against some back wall.
I'm not done, but sometimes it seems like the exciting part of my life is. Instead of going in to the doctor to get stitches, I'm going in because of a bad back. Instead of worrying about STD's, I'm worrying about high blood pressure. And instead of being just another hour to live life, one in the morning is now a time I should be asleep, but instead, I'm up writing shit like this.
And it's slow writing. Too much thinking in between words, sentences. "You can do whatever you want," I used to say, "But you have to be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions."
At the time, I was referring to things like overdosing or jail time or some horrible disease rotting my dick off or any other number of things that the young are fortunate enough to worry about. But it holds true, still.
I could get up from this desk, pack a bag, and leave. Leave my princess, leave my job, my family. I could live a life with no credit reports, no neck tie, no bed time or wake up time. I could go out and try to live an entirely different life, start over.
Honestly, I think I could do it, too. There's a good chance I would end up dead in a gutter somewhere, but I'm pretty sure I'm smart enough and strong enough that I could start over and make it work.
But I'd have to deal with the consequences. Stuff like going days without eating, sleeping under bridges, trying not to get robbed. More important stuff like leaving behind my love. My people. Life.
See, that's the thing. I used to tell myself to go out and live life. So I did, and I fell in love, and I made a life with my princess, and I incorporated her into everything that I am. My friends, my family, my world, she's a part of all of it. And my friends, my family, my princess, that's what my life is.
I went out and I lived life, and now I have to deal with the consequences. And thinking about it (at 1:49 in the morning), those consequences are pretty cool.
What am I going to do? What am I going to do with my life? Hell if I know, man. The cynical voice in my head whispers something like, "You're gonna fuck it up, just like you always have, just like you always do." The optimistic voice whispers, "You're going to use it to change the world for the better, it's going to be amazing."
The realistic voice, the one I've grown to trust, it smiles the smile of a friend you've woken up in the middle of the night with a stupid question, and it scratches its imaginary face stubble, and it says, "You're gonna do what you do, man. You're going to live it."
Which, really, sounds about right.
And then that voice goes, "And go to bed, dumbass. You've got work tomorrow, and you're gonna be worthless."
At one in the morning (2:02, actually), that sounds like pretty good advice.