I recently posted about a motorcycle trip my friend Jacob and I took to Key West. It generated a response from another blogger, a guy also named Bob who I admire greatly. He wrote: “Sometimes I think you have the life I would have if I didn't have this one . . .”
This is a very odd thing to say, considering that I am so unsatisfied with my own life. Notice that I said unsatisfied not dissatisfied. There's a difference.
I know it must seem fun: flying helicopters and riding motorcycles and living a pretty free and easy lifestyle. And it is. But I have to admit that it leaves something to be desired. I just don’t know what. There is an emptiness...something missing. Lately, it’s been bothering me. A lot.
Back when I worked for Petroleum Helicopters I worked a week-on/week-off schedule. I had a motorcycle then, too. Often, I'd get home from work, strap my bags onto the Sportster and take off for a couple of days, roaming around, just traveling and seeing if I could get into some trouble. (I couldn't. It seems I am the most boring motorcyclist to ever come down the 'pike.)
Arriving home after one such "adventure" (heh), my mom phoned. After hearing of my trip she said...and I shit you not, this is exactly what she said, "Bobby, when are you going to stop having all this fun, settle down and get married?"
I let the crickets chirp for a while before replying. I finally said, "That's about right, huh? STOP having fun and get married."
She quickly backpedaled. "Ooooh, that's not what I meant," she said, genuinely chagrined. "Your father and I had lots of fun after we got married...just in a different way than when we were single."
Perhaps. Didn't look like it from where I stood, but I wasn't about to argue with her.
That was almost twenty years ago, amazingly. And not much has changed with me. I’m about to turn 56 years old. And you know what? I haven't really done anything with my life. Yeah, I’ve had a fun career, but there is more to life than work, no? And anyway, it is not our work that defines us. So, what does?
I have no family – not married, probably never will be. Honestly, I'm not even in the market for a relationship. I like living alone - which even I realize is messed-up. No kids. Good God, no kids! Some of us are just not parent material, and I’m one of them.
One of the women at work just had a beautiful baby girl. She brought the child in recently. All the other women in the place were going ga-ga over it - holding it, kissing it, loving on it – doing all that motherly stuff. When Jenny finally offered the baby to me I was, like, “Uhhhhhh no thanks. I…really…don’t…you know… “ I had no desire to hold her baby but at the same time I did not want to offend her. So I said I had a bad cold and went off, fake-coughing down the hall in another direction.
So it’s not that I long for a wife and kids and all that crap. I know that ain't me.
So what do I want out of life? For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a pilot. And I have achieved my childhood dream. I should be happy, right? So how come I’m not? Why do I feel like there’s something…else…I should be doing? Maybe childhood dreams aren't all they're cracked up to be. Problem: It’s getting late. There isn’t much time left to figure it out.
Deeper thinkers than I have pondered the question of “What is life?” George Harrison for instance, he wrote a song about it. And I just wonder if this is just all there is? We live each day: We work, we play, we laugh, we love…we do all the mundane things that get us by. And eventually we die. I'm doing it; my dad did it - as did his father as well, probably (I never knew him). His father’s father too, I’d imagine. The cycle repeats.
I hope my friend Bob is not unsatisfied. From his blog, he seems to have a wonderful life, full of happiness and joy and fulfillment. His incredible posts are so much fun to read. They always bring a smile - and sometimes a tear. I won't go so far as to say I wish I had his life, but I will admit that is surely doesn't seem like a bad one. When it's over, he will have nothing to be ashamed of and indeed, quite a lot to be proud of! I, on the other hand, will have a hard time answering St. Peter when he asks, quizzically tapping his clipboard with his pen, "Sooooooo...ahhhhh, what DID you do for humanity while you were down there? We really...ahhhh...have no record of you here."
This is not one of those “I’m so depressed I want to kill myself” posts. I actually like my life and am having a pretty good time. It’s just that you get to a point where you go, “What was I supposed to do again?” Because more and more I get the feeling that what I am doing isn’t it. I think I missed the assignment.