My entire life, I have felt both a part of the world and apart from it. I have been a member of the group, and a loner. I have felt a strong connection to my family, my hometown, my state, my region, my nation, and my world - and yet I have felt so very different from all of those things as to never feel I fit quite right. I feel like a paradox in so many ways - the guy almost everyone liked in school but few considered a true friend.
I would say tragedy set me apart, but I'm not sure it began there. I'm not sure it didn't. But in a way, it wasn't like I suffered the most unspeakable horror known to man. Many have dealt with worse and been less changed for it. Yet somehow the death of my brother shaped my entire remaining childhood, and perhaps even the years since. I have explained to my parents on many occasions how strongly I felt I had to measure up, to be like him. My brother was a brilliant scholar and writer, yet he felt little need to prove himself to others. He simply knew he would one day join the ranks of the great science fiction writers in history, and he planned his education around that goal. Then his life ended. I felt a need to follow him into science for a long time, but I realized I simply didn't love it the way he did. I enjoy reading about it, and observing it, but I am not one to take something apart just to see how it works. I am satisfied it does and go forward. Instead I felt a calling to the law, but after reading The Firm, I realized I had no desire to spend the kind of hours it would take to be a top attorney. So business seemed a logical course, and my father certainly encouraged me to consider business as a career.
Since I could not follow my brother's career in the realm of science, I attempted to follow his passion for writing. I wrote a novella through high school (truly, though, it was a terrible effort that leaned far too heavily on the vision of others). Then I took up poetry, but most of my poems were quite formulaic and boring. Finally I took up trying to write a few short stories, and I felt much more at home there. Then I put down the proverbial pen, for I had completed my academic studies and needed to focus on my actual job - working in the trucking business my father began while I was in high school. I could not imagine a career less suited to my original plans for myself than the one I chose, and yet it worked well enough for me. I learned a great deal, and even came to appreciate the men and women in the transportation industry. Then I felt led to return to college and complete an MBA. Still unsure of my place or my path - I no longer had my brother to follow, since he died at only eighteen - I was blazing a different trail. To what or where, I knew not. I know not, I might say.
I enjoyed a wonderful time in graduate school. I felt I made some great connections and even a couple of friends. My recent reunion, though, helped me realize that I was still a man apart. My class won the award for most people to return, mainly because a group of friends who became very close decided to meet up there. I was not among those contacted to insure my return. I am not offended, nor should I be. I look back and realize how much I focused on myself that year. By the end, I barely hung out with classmates because I had a fiancee, two promising businesses to choose from, and a future far away from any of my classmates. I was short-sighted, to say the least. I think I always have been. I have formed very few deep and lasting friendships over the years. I can be very enjoyable to be with in the moment, but I am terrible about keeping up with people once they've gone. Sure, I can say that is true of most people, but then I find those people who form bonds whereever they go. Like my wife, who has friends all over the country from high school and college. And my best friend, who had friends from at least five states and several jobs attend his wedding. One of his former bosses even showed up in full military uniform to present him with a flag his fellow troops carried around with them while in Iraq. Here is a man who is loved and appreciated by those around him. As much as I might like to imagine I am loved that way by friends from the past, it simply isn't true. I have spent too much of my life on the fringes. I have kept to myself too much where it mattered to really form deep and lasting frienships in most cases. I am a legend in my own mind.
Why have my thoughts come to this place? Why am I feeling so out of sorts, out of step with the world? I feel like I have come to one of life's great crossroads. I have a wonderful opportunity to change where I live, do something I truly would enjoy doing, give my children a chance for a better education than they could possibly hope for here, and allow my wife to finally return to a place where she feels more at home. Yet I feel torn, because I have a job that pays me well, gives me wonderful chances to be around my family, and where I dictate a lot of what I do day to day. I love knowing my kids know my parents very well because they can go to their house so easily. It's just around the corner. So to get some things I might want, I have to give up some great things I have. I may also give up some things I do not appreciate about this community, but I really don't have a guarantee that where we move will be better. So here I sit, a man apart, as always. I feel I am on the outside of the world looking in. My mind is spinning constantly with thoughts of what to do, what has to dealt with, what different contingencies would entail.... spinning and spinning. No answers come, just more questions. And still I sit, a man a of the world but apart from it.
For the record, this post was a Hump Day Hmm with the topic: Walking out of stride---how do you walk out of stride, or do you? What's it mean to you?
For once, I could not start my post with any reference to it, simply because I needed a proper flow to get this post out. Or at least that's how I felt about it.