I give up
I am a very optimistic guy. But I’m almost ready to give up. Nothing has turned out as I expected, or thought that I wanted it to back in high school and university when I was‘finding’ myself and ‘planning’ my future. The fact is that not all of us become the people we once hoped we’d be. But we are still all God’s children. I have passed the point in life where I begin to let go of all the things I was (or thought I was) and focus more on my children’s accomplishments and futures. I still have dreams, but it’s easy to feel badly about it - my life, I mean - and to blame people or circumstances. (My wife once asked me if I “blamed God” for diabetes. I do not.) But I must remember that it’s my life and only I am responsible for it. I never thought that I would be living in Japan. But here I am. I never thought that I would be here this long. I’m still here. I’ve said before that I don’t know what I am doing in life, that I have no plan, and that I am just making it up as I go along. I do not trust that people I say this to understand that I’m not making a joke or speaking metaphorically. Friends - including older friends - in Canada say ‘Welcome to the club.’ I wanted to be a teacher in Ontario. I wanted an office full of books or, barring that, a house full of the same, and own a car, too. If I had been a teacher in Ontario I would be close to retirement now. I never had the chance to pursue that plan. Or, the chance to pursue it was squashed pretty quick. (The explanation is another story.) As it is, I am without a proper career, without a regular salary and the benefits that habitually accompany the two. I’m a professional part-timer, and I probably will be until I die. I can never retire.
At my physical peak I basked in the ecstasy of an intense love affair that turned into an emotional Blitzkrieg leaving total and lingering destruction.
I thought that married life would be different. I’m still waiting for the happiness to start, for the bickering to end, and for the wife to get around to putting her clean laundry away, to stop chewing with her mouth open, and to stop talking in the middle of movies. Of course, marriage means great compromise - many compromises - in lifestyle, beliefs, habits, expectations, etc., continuously and in small and large increments. It forces us to change our notion of what happiness is. The unavoidable, unending rain of compromises makes me question myself deeply. Was I every sure of anything at all? Did I every really know what I thought I knew? Was nothing every true? Now I know that more than being a satisfying relationship with a helpmate sharing ideas, beliefs, affections and intimacies while growing together, marriage is more like an endurance race to the bitter end. My life style is still comparable to my university student days, and in some respects it might even be inferior considering the domestic space available and the personal and family financial burdens. The biggest differences are that 1) now I am not being supported by parents but am successfully carrying myself and my dependants; and 2) I have more wealth on paper than in hand.
Until my late-30s I felt pretty much as I did at 18/19 years. That was my physical peak when I was totally absorbed in the ecstasy of an intense love affair, all my synapses marinating in endorphins. It turned into an emotional Blitzkrieg, leaving total and lingering destruction. In some recesses of my being - and my wardrobe - you can still smell the smoke. Now middle age is starting to take its toll - on my hair, on my waistline and muscle tone, on my eyes and my teeth. My body aches and I can admit that I am on the back side of life now. People I knew growing up have started dying, which seems more unfair when you think that adults I knew when I was growing up are still aliveand getting perpetually older. This situation (acquaintances dying) will only accelerate from now. Things won’t get better or recover from this.
On paper one can see that I have some accomplishments. I have children. I own some property. I do have some (extremely modest) investments. I am good at what I do, although I should be paid a heck of a lot more for it. But all things considered, I am not ahead of the game, nor am I playing the game very well. It’s too late. Too late to make the big plans for life and career, to go out and conquer the world. At this point the most that I can realistically expect is a modest renovation of plans and correction of course. Compromise and downsize to better match my modest existence. It’s too late to think that Life holds any more promise for me. It’s a fallacy to think that Life holds promise for people, anyway. Life doesn’t promise us anything. Everything we want we have to take. To young graduates Life might look good and exciting. And if they had not already recognized it, then they eventually will the sheer imbecilic, uncaring randomness of it all. Which is not the same as existential meaninglessness, I think, because meaningful order and existential vacuity can coincide. In fact, the appearance of order alongside the reality of existential meaninglessness only heightens the angst. But I could be wrong.