The End of a Life

“We have two lives, the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

Confucius

I have spent the grand majority of my life clinging to the proposal of finality. That there is this grand idea that exists somewhere in the stratosphere and if I can only grasp it for a moment, I can find freedom and happiness in my day-to-day. I obsess over the future and what is to come, what is to be.

Yet it was like looking at myself through the lens of another. Not unlike the out-of-body haze of hallucinogenic drugs, I’ve watched myself outside of myself for years, floating ever so slightly above my own body as I meander through the day and wonder what is out there for me to obtain. It’s a question I’ve long asked myself…

“What is my destiny?”

If you find yourself wondering the same thing this evening, I hope I’ve caught you at a good time.

Humanity has a terrible attachment to destiny and purpose. We seek it in everything, and with good reason. If we were to live without purpose we would be no better than livestock that shambles through the fields waiting for slaughter. Destiny, fate, whatever you want to call it… it gives us purpose beyond purpose. It gives us a reason to be. Think of yours, right now. Before you continue reading, take a moment to ponder your destiny. What do you want out of life? Wealth, fame, family, community? All of these things are admirable, should we refrain from letting them consume us.

Being the anxious young man that I am I find it difficult to avoid overthinking my destination. Most often with my work life. I spent the vast majority of my youth working in restaurants in which I climbed the ranks and took management positions. Once I became a manager, the drive that fueled me seemed to almost wear off, like I reached my short-term goal and didn’t have another one. Where else do you go after management, owning your own place?

I crave the idea of a great future in which I have a large house with much land and an assortment of dogs, not to mention the new attachment to my heart in the form of my lovely wife who I imagine will want kids sooner rather than later. My destiny has changed rapidly for the last few years and after the pandemic struck and pretty much everyone I knew was out of a job, I began counting my blessings too early. See, my father always told me not to put my chickens into one basket and of course, being the stubborn man I am, promptly ignored that and threw my omelet into a big bowl and sat down for breakfast.

When the eggs were gone, however, I didn’t know what to do next.

Similar to the omelet that I finished far too early, I stretched myself far too thin when I planned out my future. Recently I read through some old blog posts and refreshed myself on how things used to be. More for insight than nostalgia, I read stories I’d spun of half-truths and tall tales and the lofty dreams of a freshly graduated kid with a huge problem with compensation. I wanted to do everything, and I still do, but you know what makes an all egg omelet delicious?

Other food.

Looking at the food I’d consumed for years, I wondered when the buck would stop. I crammed energy drinks and cigarettes for five straight years like it was the only thing I’d ever get to enjoy again. I did so while whipping through shifts at multiple jobs, penning multiple books, and spending multiple hours with my friends and family on the weekdays. When their priorities changed, I adopted the change on a whim because I was surviving on egg whites and American Spirits and I didn’t need to go anywhere quickly. I was sewn into my office chair and I can still see the ridges from the jean pockets I owned in 2015.

This all culminated earlier this year when, unfortunately, I had to take a long look at my priorities. What had I done to this point in my life? The fire that once raged and stoked my passion for writing had been doused and reignited so many times I could hardly remember the last solid sprint I’d been on. My life at work had grown… absent of purpose. I lost a job and have tried to get back into the work field but realized in the midst of it all that I simply don’t know what to do next. I could go work at a restaurant again, and work my way up the chain until I find myself fat and lazy at the top. I write a good piece every few days and then toss it in a folder because I’m certain it won’t receive the attention I believe it should get. I still rip through energy drinks and nicotine. This time it’s vape and pre-workout.

Still, I think this season is the best one I’ve ever had. For the first time in a long, long time, I’m not plotting my future and planning for things beyond my control. I am preparing. I am preparing to live longer because I realized last year that my friends will soon start having kids. I realized that I wanted to get to be their uncle. I looked down the barrel of the gun I’d used so long to blow holes in bad ideas and aimed it at myself. I am preparing to clean the thing and return it to its rightful owner. I’m preparing for a life well-lived, filled with good friends and good memories. I am preparing to fail, over and over again.

The most valuable thing that this anxious fever dream taught me was that more than anything, I am afraid of failure. So what should you do if you find yourself in my shoes?

Fail as much as you can.

Rid yourself of the fear of not being enough. Throw out the worry that you won’t succeed. Abandon all hope and live joyfully. Tomorrow isn’t a promise. This year I watched tragedy after tragedy unfold and I have no room inside of me anymore for anything less than what I need to survive.

This year I’ve changed my patterns, sometimes I still slip, sometimes I still make mistakes. Sometimes I succeed. The problem with destiny is that it doesn’t tell you what it takes to get there. It doesn’t tell you how hard you have to work to maintain yourself. It doesn’t tell you what must be sacrificed to reach those dreams. I thought that by cutting out all of these things I thought I loved I would find myself at a loss, that I would be more depressed than I had been already.

I was so wrong.

See, I’ve been living the same way for some time. I’ve been trying the same things and never expecting change, but dreaming of it. Every morning I’ve been making a two-egg omelet and seasoning it with salt and pepper. Then, I lost my job and I realized I had a fridge full of things that I needed to take advantage of. So, I did. Suddenly my two egg omelets became colorful, filled with bacon and peppers and ham and dreams and ideas. It birthed within me a hunger I thought I’d lost almost three years ago.

This year I made the conscious choice to take my destiny…

Cover it with toppings…

And take a bite.

Funny thing is, it doesn’t worry me anymore.

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