269. it begins with a run
I went for a run yesterday.
A small gesture, but a very important one. See, without even noticing it had happened, a few days ago I realized that I had fallen into a rut – a very comfortable, very unproductive rut. I think the whole work situation greased the slide down into this rut, but it hit me after almost two weeknights straight of playing the most inane online games imaginable (playing them night after night until I was too tired to keep my eyes open) that I realized that I needed to make a change. And the run was a small step out of the rut, but it was an important one and it felt good.
But it’s just a first step.
Couple other background items before I can get to what’s really on my mind.
A few days ago, I took a long hard look at my budget, comparing income to outgo, and it was a sobering experience. I didn’t think I was spending that much but I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to add to my savings account. After running the figures through a basic budgeting program, it became clear to me that I needed to cut way back on my spending if I wanted to purchase some big ticket items I had my eye on.
While working on my budget, I thought about my job and how un-fulfilling (to put it mildly) it was. I thought about quitting and getting a different job and that’s when I had another sobering realization.
I don’t really know what I want to do after the band thing gets played out. I mean, if I could wave a magic wand and conjure up any career I wanted for myself, I’d make myself a successful writer of short stories and screenplays but I don’t have a magic wand and sorcery is generally looked down upon by the church. Now I know I have some regular readers and I’m grateful for their belief in my writing abilities but let’s be honest – a writing career is a poor plan B, even if I was as talented as Anne Lamott or as disciplined as Aimee Bender (who writes for “two hours everyday, that’s the law”), it would STILL be a poor plan B.
So I started to ask myself, “what am I going to do after the band thing?” And then I went on craigslist to see what kind of jobs were posted and there was absolutely NOTHING I was interested in even trying. I felt like Lloyd Dobler in the movie Say Anything when he says, “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” And it’s not that I’m lazy, I do want to do good work, it’s just that I don’t know what kind of good work I want to do.
And this seems unrelated, but it leads nicely into what I want to end with. This weekend, I saw the movie Stardust (yes, it was within my budget) with some friends and to be honest, the main reason I saw the movie was not because I thought it was going to be good (I didn’t) but because it starred (no pun) Claire Danes (sigh). Turns out, the movie was actually quite delightful – a wonderful story as long as you don’t ask too many hard questions at some of the plot turns.
It’s a fairy tale, and like many of the genre, it has to do with a boy who stumbles into a situation that is far larger than he is. In this case, Tristan, a humble stableboy, hopes to win the heart of a girl by crossing a wall that leads to a magical kingdom called Stormhold to bring back a falling star but it turns out that the star has turned into a girl named Yvaine. Word gets out around Stormhold that a falling star has landed and two parties set out after it (a prince and a witch) because possessing the heart of a star leads to immortality. Through the course of the movie, Tristan the stableboy becomes Tristan the brave, sword-weilding hero and of course everyone lives happily ever after.
I mention the movie because there’s one scene where Tristan and Yvaine are trapped in the brig of a sky pirate. They need to escape but Tristan complains that he’s just a regular guy and not up to the task. Yvaine tells him that there are stableboys and then there are people who are only stableboys until they find their true calling and she believes, of course, that Tristan is one of the latter.
Because I was already thinking about my budget and my job and getting myself out of the rut I was in, this bit of the movie really resonated with me. I know there are lots of things I could do after the band, but most of them have to do with “regular” jobs. Way down deep, there’s a little mustard seed of hope that believes I can take a bite out of the world, that I can make it better in some fundamental way. And I don’t mean playing nice with boxes in a warehouse, I mean Martin Luther and his 95 Theses, Martin Luther King Jr. and his Dream. I mention these two not just because of their related names but also because they made a place for themselves in history by working to make the world a more just and beautiful place – a world more like Eden and less like Babylon. See, I don’t want to be great or to be known or famous, but do want to make the world a better place to live and I want to do so in the largest way possible.
And I don’t know what that will look like or how I’ll get there but yesterday I went for a run.
And that’s a manageable start.