Life Update: The Wall

February 17, 2013

I just finished reading the book Replay by Ken Grimwood. As is the case with good books, the words tend to dwell in my head for days, if not weeks, after I finish… how fitting it should be called “replay”. A man dies at age 44 and wakes up twenty five years prior to his death, an 18-year-old in college, fresh with promise and possibilities. He follows a different path, but still dies again, on the same date, at the same age. And over, and over again.

I say all this not to illustrate I’d like the same thing to happen to me, but the possibility of infinite lifetimes made me think. What would you do with that kind of foreknowledge? The main character uses his first replay to become insanely wealthy (bet on the Dodgers to sweep the World Series in 1963), only to realize how so much money affected his standing with women and friendships. So he scales down a bit in his next replays, making enough bets and investments to live comfortably, but not to become an ultra-billionaire.

Financial independence is one constant across the replays; no matter what life our protagonist chooses upon waking up after death, he always plans to get enough money to not worry. With that kind of burden lifted, he’s free to follow any path he wants: marrying a different woman; choosing a new profession; indulging his curiosity for decades; achieving his physical peak.

Readers of my Twitter feed and Facebook page shouldn’t be surprised to learn I’ve been in a bit of a funk these past few months. To say that I’ve been doing work that I consider counterproductive to my overall goals (of which I don’t really know) would be an oversimplification. It’s more of a sense of helplessness… I don’t see the point of investing energy into anything that won’t lead to a major contribution to humanity. Not a city. Not even to individual lives. The Earth as a whole, ideally the entire universe. And sadly, only a few thousand out of the billions of people to have existed have ever achieved that. I’m not speaking of actors, sports figures, or other insignificant political figures. Rather, ones whose ideas and works have permeated time because they are that remarkable: Einstein, Plato, Beethoven, Da Vinci, to name a few.

The characters in Replay were able to affect these kinds of changes, not simply because they had foreknowledge, but because they achieved financial independence early on and had much more perspective than anyone else in history (possibly with the exception of the Buddha… how many lifetimes?) Sadly, I don’t believe I will ever have an achievement to my name on this scale. I have perspective; certainly not as much as those characters, but enough to create something truly original and appreciated. But what I lack is time that can be used.

I have plenty of time, of course; I’m only thirty. But at the moment that time is spent fulfilling day-to-day needs: a place to sleep, food to eat, clothes to wear, entertainment for the mind. And to have these things, I have to invest time into jobs I care absolutely nothing about. Let me state that again: no job I have ever worked has been one I truly would have done if money hadn’t been an issue. Not teaching English abroad. Certainly not promotions and marketing. Though I benefitted from the experience of each and every one of them, my desires have and will always lie elsewhere. Creating a work of art capable of lasting the test of time. Being remembered as something other than a footnote in humanity’s legacy, if that.

I’ve been paralyzed by this struggle for some time, but most recently the last few months have been telling. I’ve been pushing myself further and further into debt because I’ve been refusing to commit to full-time job offers I know wouldn’t be satisfying to me in the least. I don’t think I’m cut out for any job. I just want to accomplish something, and jobs don’t do that; they fulfill basic day-to-day needs, but nothing in the big picture. I’m not trying to mock those of you working retail or in any profession who want to make a decent living doing something you can do, but I just won’t. I won’t put in more time and effort into doing something that’s completely forgotten in the course of a day, yet provides enough stress to last a lifetime: seriously, who cares if your coffee came with whole milk instead of skim? Who cares if a report was filed late?

If my life were a marathon, I’d be at mile 20 or 22 right about now: the wall. That point at which it seems unnecessary to keep moving forward, difficult to find the energy to last until the end. But just like in Austin and Boston, I’ll push through this, somehow, someway.

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