I laughed to myself as I sat on my 2.5″ hard foam mattress pad I call a bed and packed up three cent bracelets by the dozen for some Buddhist stranger living in Brazil.
Here I am, forty-seven years old. Ex-American. Living in Thailand for the past decade. I spend a couple hours each week packing up ridiculously meaningless fluff for people across the globe that think it’s going to make them look better, feel better, or have more luck in life.
When I was eighteen I didn’t know shit. I thought I knew shit, and that’s precisely why I didn’t. I was invincible. I could do anything I chose to do, but unfortunately I chose to have enormous amounts of fun. Nothing serious, nothing meaningful or life-changing, just fun.
In my mid-twenties I was on my way to being a photographer in New York City. I liked photography. No, I loved it. I didn’t have any faith in myself that I could stick it out and become successful with it. I didn’t grow up in NYC. I didn’t like people there. I didn’t enjoy the weather, the city, any of it.
In my early thirties I had my master’s degree in psychology. I had helped kids for a number of years, but my empathy was getting the best of me. Well, that, and my anger. I was on the verge of cracking someone in the base of the head with a hatchet. Not the kids! The assholes that abused the kids I was counseling.
I have always had this idea in the back of my mind that the first fifty years of my life were for fun. I’d start making serious money after that. I’d start helping everyone I knew that didn’t already have the ultimate life – get it. I’d do amazing things. I figured I’d change the world somehow. I didn’t know how, I just knew I’d be amazing at something. Something big.
In my mid-thirties I fucked up more good things in my life than I had going. I literally fucked it ALL up. It hit me hard, and yet, I figured, I’m in my thirties. I’ve got nearly twenty years to go before I had to get serious. So I just kept fucking things up.
Finally around age thirty-eight I figured a massive change was needed. Living in the USA had me in a toilet-bowl spiral and I didn’t see anything good resulting from it if I carried on.
I moved to Thailand.
While here I cleaned up whole heaps of shit. I’ve had the best nine years of my life. I found a woman that I can’t believe exists. Then I had a daughter that blew my mind completely. I squeeze them sometimes at night just to make sure they are really there and not a product of my overactive imagination.
Over the last thirteen years or so I rather forgot about what I was supposed to ‘become.’ Greatness wasn’t something that had much allure any more. Helping my daughter and wife have a better life was my focus. I’m still in that mode, and it has been rewarding beyond words.
As I sat there on the bed and looked at the unmade postal boxes and bubble-envelopes that surrounded me, I had to laugh.
Apparently I’m going nofuckingplace great. Apparently a 160 IQ doesn’t mean anything after all like so many people told me. Apparently the thoughts in my head that were telling me I would be great someday float around inside many peoples’ heads, not just mine. Apparently what I have right now is much the same as what I’m going to have in ten, twenty, and thirty more years.
Somehow the goal of greatness faded. Somehow it really was nothing more than my ego reassuring my mind that the rest of my life wouldn’t be as hard as the first eighteen years. Somehow the mind does whateverthefuck it wants and whatever comes of it, comes.
Sometimes lately I catch myself thinking about what might have been.
What might have been if I’d lived in Hawaii from 1985 to now and never moved to New York City, Miami, Tampa, and Thailand?
What might have been if I’d toughed it out and gone through the physical therapy program at university instead of switching to psych?
What might have been if I’d just stayed in the Air Force and made a twenty-year career of it?
What might have been if I moved to Silicon Valley in the 199o’s, early 2000′s?
What if I’d continued with triathlons and gone full-time with training?
What if, what if – right?
So today I’ll look at all the what ifs. I’ll feel the pain of not being great.
I’ll laugh at myself some more because I should be writing equations for anti-gravity, not packing stupid shit into boxes to send people with superstitions.