There are dozens of cliches out there which are employed by writers and the common man alike to comment on the relationship between a denizen of the planet Earth and that denizen’s source of income. Don’t worry, I’m not going to use any.
Instead, I just want you to know that 17 year old Alex would have been furious at 27 year old Alex. Keep in mind also that 22 year old Alex would also have some serious concerns over the path that he would find himself on in just 5 short years. At both 17 and 22, what I lacked in motivation and direction I made up for in energy and wit. Of course, that’s easy to do at those ages.
As a teenager, I lived a comfortable enough life, but seriously lacked motivation and direction. I was able to get by on pure talent, and graduated from high school comfortably in the top ten percent of my class. I sure as hell wasn’t interested in doing any better than that, though. I wasted my time playing video games and listening to a variety of deviant music. Still though, I managed to write pretty consistent throughout those years, even if the products were mostly the overindulgent and narcissistic babblings of a 17 year old kid who was both frustrated with the brutal realities of capitalism, nationalism, and militarism in a post 9/11 world but also excited about the prospect of a new tomorrow. I didn’t know how we were going to get there, and I didn’t know what my role in the progression was going to be. I had no idea for an endgame, but I knew at the least I was going to be someone who didn’t play exactly by the rules, and who would do most of my own thinking. I wasn’t devoted to a path through life, but did do a fair amount of worrying about what I was going to do with myself.
I think that the pressure on us all to figure this out is pretty consistently applied from a young age. For the talented people who either precociously develop their own sense of purpose, or, far more sinisterly are given one, this is fine. These people are pretty much guaranteed to be successful. It’s a lot worse for the intelligent, witty young folks who don’t really have a plan. Indeed, the pressure is the same across the board. I was young, smart and came from a middle class family. I, along with vast swaths of my generation, was expected to do something, if not great, then at least good. The problem, of course, was that I didn’t know what that was.
So I spent a lot of my teenage years worrying about figuring my life out. And working. I worked when I wasn’t in school. I worked at a theme park, and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t fulfilling, but it was stimulating. You get hundreds of young people at the same place at the same time, and the results are predictable. To remain employed required just banging a few brain cells together, and while I certainly did my fair share of bitching and moaning at the time, the job was super easy. I’m assuming most of you have had jobs as teenagers, so I’m not really going to expand on what was great about working at that age. As far as teenage jobs go, I think we’ll all agree that the job was a secondary concern to the far more prevalent social concerns; to the opportunities to grow as people and to develop our senses of aesthetic, our intellect, and our social skills. As our theme park was open from March through New Year’s Day, I only had time for pure chilling during a few months of the year. From a very young age, I had my foot firmly on the gas pedal.
I also played a shit ton of golf during high school. I wasn’t on the high school team, as I didn’t really care for the pressure, and even if I did, I probably wasn’t good enough to make the team. I enjoyed the game for what it was, and cherished the chances I had to play, whether in local youth tournaments, rounds with the old man, or rounds that were more goofing off than golfing with buddies.
Flash forward five years to the age of 22. I graduated from the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania with a 3.99 GPA, having majored in History and minored in Anthropology and Philosophy, a B+ in Basic Oral Communication my only blemish. Imagine that! Basic Oral Communication? It was the only course I didn’t have at least a modicum of respect for, and I suppose I got the grade I deserved.
The pressure to figure my life out only became more pressing during college. It was clear to not only myself, but also to friends and family that I was very intelligent and also capable of fairly easily showing it. I wrote all the time during college, as should be evident given the fields I chose to study. I didn’t limit my writing to academic pieces, as I continued “dabbling in the babbling,” if you will. My intellectual involvement was at a peak. While I still had no direction and only a tiny bit of motivation, I was, at the least, living life and sure of my own abilities to eventually figure something out.
I continued to work at the theme park, and continued to make golf a priority during leisure time, which was becoming increasingly sparing. 22 years of work, school and nary a break, I tried my hand at graduate school. I quickly determined, for a variety of reasons that I don’t currently have your attention span, or mine, for, that I didn’t want to continue on that path, and I decided in the fall of 2008, at 23, to withdraw and, well, do something else.
I had no money and lived in Buffalo, NY. I was scared shitless. Here I was, at the end of my rope, finally having to figure something out. I immediately applied for a job with a major auto insurance company, and was hired to work in the claims department.
Flash forward 5 more years. At 27, I hadn’t done substantial or meaningful writing in 5 years. I rarely read, and gave only a passing glance to the news. I gained 60 pounds since I started working for the big G. It’s as if I gave up on life, and really let myself go. Claims work is stressful, and by the time I got home I didn’t really want to do any of those things I used to thrive on. I became really good at laying on the couch like a beached whale watching sports and drinking beer. I didn’t touch my guitar for months and never played my drums. I was living in a wasteland, and I really hated what I had become.
But I was successful! I had steady and secure employment with a reputable and responsible company, and was pulling in 50 G’s a year. I had finally figured out my life! Close the book on this one folks, the story had a happy ending.
The only thing I continued to do during my years as an adjuster was golf, and to my credit, I improved substantially during these years. I will talk about the details of my game in a later entry, but suffice it to say that I was never any better than a 15 handicap until about 2 years ago. After this morning’s 81 at Arrowhead, I’m sitting at a 9.5 handicap this year.
17 and 22 year old Alex would look at 27 year old Alex with both wonder and disgust. It would be almost unfathomable what had transpired. He had turned into a better golfer than either previous iteration would have guessed. Closer to the core though, an intellectually vibrant, funny, engaged young fella turned into a fat, lazy piece of shit in just 5 years.
It’s not entirely bad though, as the same primary draw of teenage employment emerged as the primary draw of working at the insurance company, particularly near the end. Despite the unjustifiable stagnation I wrote of earlier, I continued to entertain my co-workers with my quick wit and endearing and open personality. Indeed, these were my only avenues for expression. It was stifling.
The writing was all over the walls, and I wasn’t long for sitting at the cubicle all day twiddling my thumbs while I could be doing something, anything, else. The spark was my buddy’s devastating news that he would be unable to join me on our yearly trip to visit a couple new major league cities and ballparks. A job I hated, a life I hated and no vacation to look forward to over the summer.
So I up and quit. And I’m going to play a round of golf in each of the 48 contiguous states and DC in 49 days this summer. And I’m going to write about it. I’m going to live a life worth living. 17 year old Alex and 22 year old Alex both agree that 27 year old Alex is the coolest fat, lazy piece of shit they know.