The Red Pill

5:57 a.m.  The sun is not visible but the darkness is beginning to recede.  I’m about to turn in to the parking garage of the 13 story building I work in.  I’ve just spent the last hour and a half driving about 76 miles from my front door to the little machine that spits out my ticket.

Along the way I have watched a number of people swerving in and out of lanes, apparently in a greater hurry to get to work than I am.  Some of them whip around me to fly up on the rear end of the vehicle in the lane to my left, only to slam on brakes and look really, really stupid as I pass by them again.  I often wonder if that part of the brain that calculates distance and speed is broken in these people.  Or perhaps their understanding of physics is flawed.  Perhaps they believe that if you approach a solid object at a great enough velocity it will no longer be there when you arrive?  I don’t know.

The alarm went off at 3:45 a.m.  Old Faithful never fails.  Years of rolling out of bed at this god-awful hour have conditioned me.  I go through the morning routine, in precise order, without thought.  Sometimes I am actually on the road before I am aware of my first conscious thought.  Shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, eat oatmeal, check email and Facebook, let the dogs out, leave for work.  Same same.  Every day.  Even the oatmeal.

I have posted my resume on various jobs boards.  I hold out some measure of hope each morning that there will be some new lead in my email.  Perhaps one that will point me in a direction that feels right.  But while there are countless spam job offers, there is almost never an actual position worth discussing.  What makes it worse is that I know why, and I keep rolling along, day after day, never doing anything about it.

I got in to technology because it was a high paying field with lots of office work.  But having dealt with a number of initial issues at the entry level, I have never really focused my attention on a career track.  My resume is a Hodge-podge of different skill sets.  I am what is politely referred to as an “IT Generalist”.  Translation:  I understand the vocabulary, and I know enough to be dangerous.  But, I am an expert at nothing.  Coupled with that fatal flaw my mother beat into my head, unwavering honesty, I am doomed.  I never over-inflate my experience or capabilities.  When asked what I know, I answer honestly.  So I hear a lot of “We’ll get back to you”, but the phone never rings.

Meanwhile, I have long conversations with people at work about politics, the news of the day, the state of the nation, etc.  From time to time one of them says, “You should have your own radio show”.  I smile, thank them for the kind words, and shuffle back to my desk.  I don’t know anything about radio shows or how to get on one.

I must confess, that happened again this morning…and I’m pondering the prospect.

I have to do something.  I have to change something.  My only other option is to continue on, bullshitting myself and my employer(s).  Earning a check for nothing and receiving nothing but a check in return for my time.  There is no personal, professional, or mental growth.  No sense of fulfillment compensates me for the precious time I have spent today.  Yes, I have held up my end of the financial obligations my wife and I have made.  But that is all I have done.  As if I exist simply to add my pittance to the economy, or to provide Visa CEO’s with cushy bonuses.

I had to pause as I went to turn in to the parking garage this morning.  A man was crossing the entrance.  I looked at him closely.  Fifty-five, maybe sixty years old.  Eighty to one hundred pounds overweight.  Mostly bald, with grey on the sides.  Disheveled, sweating, and hurrying down the sidewalk to some office somewhere, in an ill-fitting shirt and tie.  Looking ahead to a day of meetings, coffee and/or smoke breaks, and an eight hour game of pass the buck.

I wondered for a moment…does he know?  Did he take the blue pill or the red one?  At some point in our lives I have to believe that everyone has that brief encounter, that moment of clarity, that instant in time when the light bulb is about to go off.  And we stand there, trapped in time, for what may only feel like, or may in fact be, a mere moment or two.  In our hands the red and the blue pill.  The ability to see things for what they are or make a conscious choice to go on in blissful ignorance.  Willful ignorance.  The conscious suspension of disbelief.

I wondered if that man was stumbling down the sidewalk thinking about his life.  Looking back.  Pondering some hobby he could have turned in to a business, some passion he could have made a career.  Or was he simply on auto-pilot?  Going where he was told, to do what he was told…because he was told.  Was he “earning a living” because that’s what those around hm expected him to do?  Was he trapped by fear of what might happen if he simply walked in and shouted “I quit!”?  Did he accept without thinking the notion, shared by the masses, that he was born to pay bills, make babies, and die?

As the only mammal capable of reason and self awareness, are we eternally trapped in the exact same lifestyle lived by the animals and plants around us?  Carry on the species…and pay the mortgage and the car note.  That’s it?

It’s fairly clear to me that this is indeed the mindset of the majority of people around me.  I say that because I get all kinds of crazy looks when I question this paradigm.  I get tales about how necessary it is that we all fall in line and do our part.  How society needs us.  How our wives and children count on us to sweep the floor, clean the toilets…administrate Windows pc’s.

What if I wish to write thoughtful, insightful poetry…or blogs?  What if that man, hurrying off to his cubicle, secretly wishes to create topiary masterpieces?  What would be the effect on the world if everyone with a talent, or a passion, were able to pursue that passion and deliver to the public the fruits of that labor?  Who knows?  Who will ever know?

So…a radio show.  Maybe an internet radio show?  Maybe that’s worth looking in to.

Or maybe I should just drive for Uber or something.  It is not necessarily fulfillment from my work that I desire so much as merely fulfillment from my life.  If I can set my own schedule, do what I want, when I want…to me that is the essence of being “rich”.  I don’t care so much about money and things.  I care about meaning, impact, tangible and lasting differences.

Perhaps I can achieve that within the context of work.  Perhaps in the time I could save if I changed what I do.

Either way, I have taken the red pill.  Perhaps in error.  Perhaps to my detriment.  But there is no turning back now, there is simply a decision to be made.  That being, what to do with the truth that I have realized?

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