“It’s easier to ride the ride, than fight the tide.” JSM
Chapter Twenty Three
Back and Forth and Back Again
While hammering through my first degree program at the local university, I worked part time as a mechanic at a recreational facility.
Bowling, arcade, late night light and laser show events (with a DJ and a fog machine), killer sound system, indoor restaurant, party nights and functions with two full bars. One of the greatest benefits of employment as a mechanic there, was the ability to focus on my studies (with permission) in my own little work space during down time. It was perfect. Job priorities first–study and read when not working and catering to an issue.
Not a problem.
One day, out of nowhere, something hit me while passing by a common room off the main hall at the college.
Moving between classes, I stopped at an entryway and overheard cross conversation among other students. The hairs on my arms prickled up and a shiver shot from my lower back straight into my neck.
The bulk of the talk was centered on job possibilities after graduation. Who was doing what, where, who is furthering and continuing their education, internships, starting own business, and so on.
The level of excitement was high and the enthusiasm was obvious to everyone in the room. While casually listening to their dialogue, I found the nearest chair and lowered myself in it.
What hit me wasn’t jealousy or envy of any kind, I wasn’t even that curious or interested in what they had to say.
I felt overwhelming waves of confusion. Dizzying and gut spinning. As though I was struck with a sudden bout of dehydration. I forced myself to sit down before I fell into the wall.
By default I have always chosen the path of least resistance. I attempt to find the easiest route through a problem. I cut corners. I seek and attempt to apply common sense. If I can’t do something or figure it out, I find someone who perhaps can, before I make matters worse. If money needs to be spent to solve the issue, so be it.
My dislike for math is over the top. I mean… over… the… top. I avoid it like the plague.
Not long after being handed a termination slip at the steel mill, someone planted a seed in my head on the idea of attending college, and how awesome an experience it is.
Money in loans, pay off debt, pay ahead the bills, potential grants.
Hmm. That could be the way to go.
Therefore, as I’ve also been a follower for a good portion of my life and have always considered myself a “yes” man, I joined the college experience, through a suggestion, and chose English Lit based solely on the fact that the math requirements were minimal.
I know right? Idiot…
At the time, I never thought it through to completion.
Sitting in that chair in the common room, I waited for the dizzy to dissipate and once it did, I was finally able to compose myself. I then had a good heart to heart chat with my alter ego.
What are you doing?
You were told college was a good idea.
What are your options in all this?
Think about it. English Lit… What do you want to do with that? Write? Teach? Traveling journalist?
When you put it that way, I don’t really know.
Can’t do the latter that’s for sure, can’t leave the family… So what’s it gonna be?
Out of the conjured possibilities, it seems this is a huge waste of time and energy. Maybe it’s time for a degree change. Sleep on it.
Soon thereafter, I switched from English Literature to Mental Health and Human Services. Transferred all my credits, moved some things around, and started from scratch. A family member had received a degree in mental health and was working a great job with amazing benefits.
I’ll follow that path. See where it goes.
After finding out I was about to be a father for a second time, it was suggested that I leave my education, drop it completely, and find a way to snatch up a full time working gig. The money needs to flow. I asked my boss if I could get more hours and it wasn’t in the cards.
I quit school and found full time employment within a handful of days.
Almost a full year invested in English Literature and two semesters in Human Services, flushed right down the crapper.
I snagged a job installing office furniture. Decent money setting up new buildings, and replacing worn out equipment. Two of us driving all over the state constructing work desks and petition walls. Slapping together swivel chairs with lumbar supports and piecing together conference rooms.
We spent a month on the coast preparing a technical college with brand new desks, chairs, student equipment and various other needed chores. Loaded up the box truck early in the morning and returned in the evening. An entire university all to ourselves with a coastal view from every window. Lunch breaks wherever we chose.
My co-worker didn’t have a licence, and as such, I was the primary driver; classified as an installer in training.
After each location was completed for the day, we’d return to the warehouse and rearrange the orders for the up-coming deliveries. Using the unlimited overtime opportunities to rake in as much as possible.
Because… ya know. Give someone a chance to make a bunch of money, no questions asked? Who says no, right?
It’s safe to say we probably “milked the clock” a little here and there, but the upside was the fact we were never micromanaged. No unexpected visits from the boss. No phone calls asking about progress. Trust bestowed upon me with nothing other than the words, “I don’t care what it takes, get the job done.”
“You got it boss.”
As I labored through my day, I felt a sense of accomplishment. A good honest days work.
In actuality though, the overtime felt like I was ripping off the company. It was great for a span of time.
Here’s the conundrum. You become accustomed to your environment. Leaning on a broom, chatting about movies, TV shows, moving a crate to a different location and then moving it back ten minutes later… and getting paid for it, feels normal after a time. You become numb to the idea that it’s no longer honest. You get used to it.
Like so many other things in life. Numb to it all.
Just as long as the cash pours in, life can move forward.
Regardless, a small itch in the back of my mind continued to warn me that what I was doing wasn’t right. I’d always find a way to fight it off.
No, Jere. It’s OK. This is normal.
But it doesn’t feel right.
This is the way things are done around here. Go with the flow. Listen to your superior. Take the cash and run with it. It’s a gift. You deserve it. Come on… It’s easier to ride the ride, than fight the tide.
No. Leave early… this one time.
I turn to my superior, “Hey man, I’m going to take off and call it a day. See you tomorrow.”
He grabs my hand before I can punch my time card, “Wait, wait. The boss said he wants the attic swept out and last years equipment stored upstairs. A full stock rotation. Come on. Snatch up another hour with me.”
“… Alright. What’s another hour?”
I shrug my shoulders, force a smile, and return to “work”.
When the attic job could be done at any time, I’d give in and stay anyway. The devil on my shoulder always shot the angel square in the face.
From that point forward I felt like a pawn in someone else’s giant game of chess. My decisions and opinions were irrelevant in every nook and cranny of my universe. My feelings on specific issues were ignored and shrugged off. As though I was remote controlled by an outside force. I couldn’t say no. I was embroiled in other people’s lives, and my life stopped being my own.
Life is more than merely existing. Life needs to be lived.
I forgot what it was like to live and feel as though I’m still healing. Incrementally waking up from a decade long coma.
And all of it is my own damn fault.
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