Yesterday I ran into an old friend on the street and it was almost unbearably awkward. I’m generally able to turn any situation into an awkward one for any number of given reasons so this is far from a new sensation for me but THIS awkward was very particular. My discomfort was of a much more specific type than usual. So after I pretended to not know she was working downtown where I also work and feigned some interest in ever going to an alumni of anything event, I thought more about exactly what this specific brand of awkward was.
It was embarrassment. I was embarrassed about what I’m doing in life–or better said I’m embarrassed about what I’m NOT doing in life. I knew this girl as part of a scholarship group that paid my tuition through my four years at UW. The students that made up the scholarship group were the cream of the crop. I didn’t stack up to any of them in academics or ambition. Most of them were bound for graduate school bound an I’m sure the ones that weren’t had lives filled with international travel or something equally trite and meaningless like medical research or the like. In the face of this old friend–who for the record is a funny, warm girl who had never given me a reason to feel judged or threatened by her for a moment–I saw the woman who ran our scholarship.
Call her ML. ML was an overwhelming woman. She was in a female minority in a position of power and leadership at a major university. She knew adversity and challenge and hard work and dedication and met it with a smile and a steel will. She expected the same of her scholars so “having a hard time adjusting” freshman year or “girlfriend problems” could not be further from acceptable excuses. I felt embarrassed to sit alone in her office while I knew that my ambitions and intentions were so far below what she would want and expect of her scholars. There were times where it was hard to look her in the eye, knowing that I was taking tens of thousands of scholarship dollars to major in radio, television and film. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Communication Arts degree and still don’t think I’d trade it in for something more practical. But even within those studies, I certainly didn’t get everything out of it I could have. I sauntered halfheartedly to a degree and then went about settling into a perfectly complacent existence. ML would have been disappointed, as she should have been. The guilt now, as it was then, is perfectly justified. And it doesn’t come from without but from within. I’ve always been somewhat aware of my own shortcomings and the guilt for a wasted gift–any of my own talents, or the scholarship money, or the time on earth itself that I’ve been given–weighs heavy on my shoulders. ML should have served not as a guilt trip personified but as an inspiration.
So there I was bumbling through a thirty second conversation that I managed to make feel like thirty minutes with a person that I actually miss and actually would love to catch up with. I was nervous and avoiding eye contact because she was a reminder that I am STILL not doing all I should be doing. I’m not doing anything I truly love or deeply fulfills me. I work with long time friends and truly tremendous people that I love. But I don’t care about what I do there. I simply go through the motions and just sloppily check all the boxes. My haphazard approach to my responsibilities surely bleeds into my work product as well but I’m always making sure to get to that point of “just good enough” for none of these long-time friends to oust me from the position. After the explosion, I tried to change course and quit my corporate cubicle job to go back to work with some friends for a local company. I changed the setting and the characters but I didn’t change the story; my plot remained stagnant. Quit one place where you loathe most of your daily tasks to start at a place where you’re simply indifferent to your daily tasks. So I’ve decided to create a fork in the road. The new path is murky and unclear but I’ve got go push forward and try something. More specifically, I’ve got to write something. Even if all I do is write these meandering, vaguely personal missives, then so be it; at least I’m writing again. Even if I’m talking from a soapbox to an empty park, at least I’m talking. Once a week this blog will be updated one way or another. No matter where the new path leads, I can hopefully be a little be prouder that I’m on it.