Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Discomfort, Reality, Future Possibilities

This is a post that I wrote on Christmas Eve of 2006. I didn't post it then. I suppose I wasn't ready to. I'm ready now.

December 24th 2006

I am uncomfortable with my two most recent posts. Possibly because of the lens that I'm able to see myself through when I read them, or maybe because I'm afraid that I'm revealing too much of what it is that actually makes me tick.

It is apparent in those posts that I do, in fact, care what people think of who I am now. I also care what people think about why I came to be where I am at this point in my life. I want the reasons to have been logical. I want it to seem that I made the best choices. I want to think of myself as someone who is resourceful, competent and able to deal with most situations cleverly, and with good judgment.

Why do I mention that my sister and I sang in front of large groups of people? As if it matters that anyone cared about what we were singing! They were not at those benefit concerts just to see the two of us. I do believe that at least some of those people were glad to hear us, and I honestly think that we sound fantastic together, but when I relay that story, I am sure to mention the public part of it... to prove something I think. Do I feel a need to validate myself? Maybe so.

I don't talk about the fact that I initially moved to that horse ranch because I was having trouble at home before moving out. The simple story is that I was getting in too late from work, on a regular basis. Anytime after my mother was asleep was too late because we had a very small house, and she had sacrificed her bedroom to my sisters quite a while before, and was sleeping in the living room. She was working two jobs to make ends meet. I was working at Safeway and working at the college radio station and taking broadcasting classes. My shifts at Safeway normally ran until 10 or 11pm. The only time that I could see my other teenage friends, if I was going to see them at all, was after I got off work late at night. Quite a few times I tried to sneak in the back door after 1am (by sneaking I don't mean to imply that I wasn't allowed in after a certain time, I just mean that I didn't want to wake my mother). My mother is a light sleeper, and inevitably, I woke her up each time.

I didn't have the appreciation then for what she had accomplished in keeping us all together as a family throughout my childhood. I'm not sure that I have a true appreciation for all that she was able to do even now. I may never understand the more intricate workings of the emotional gears that ground us through some horrific experiences together, and then spit us out the other side, where, within six months during the same year, I entered the Air Force, one sister went into the job corps, and another sister left town. None of us ever returned for more than a few days.

Back then I was trying desperately to figure out how to mesh the grid through which I viewed reality with the experiences that I was having as an older teen heading into my early 20's. I wanted to be seen by others and appreciated for who I was, and I didn't feel like I was getting any real validation. To me, it often felt as if the world was an unfair place where people wouldn't even take a second look at you until you were wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, and listening to the right music.

I couldn't afford any of those things, but I knew how to work hard. I knew how to listen to people. I felt compassion for people, appreciated nature and loved deep, meaningful experiences. I wanted to learn about what was truly important in the world and I wanted to discard what was only superficial. Sometimes it seemed as if all of that was unimportant to most of the people that I knew. At the time, it often seemed that even those who appreciated the depth inside me seemed to pity my background. I hated picking up on that sentiment. I still do.

So I'm leaving the Air Force. This institution introduced me to a much wider world than the one I knew at the age of 21 when I came in. I left the world of working part-time, riding a 12-speed everywhere, and taking announcing and performance classes to the world of surveillance, and the Defense Language Institute, speaking Arabic and working for intelligence agencies. Suddenly what I was doing seemed really important. I was making decent money, and I have to say that there is a certain respect that even an enlisted person in the Air Force gets that a cashier at Safeway just doesn't automatically receive. There are many reasons why I've stayed in as long as I have, and sometime maybe I'll get into all of that. The important thing is that I recognize that being enlisted is not helping me anymore, and that I would likely be putting myself into an ethically challenging position where I might be forced into a morally unpleasant situation if I choose to stay in.

I'm leaving the Air Force and I have no idea what comes next except that I'm going to go back to college and I'm going to get a degree so that I can earn a decent living (even though I don't necessarily think that whether I do so or not should determine how I'm seen by others on the outside). I want to be able to make a difference in the world and I honestly don't see how I can do that (except possibly with my music) unless I have a degree and can do something other than work at subsistence-level jobs serving the needs of others.

Some ideas that I have about what I would like to do:

I hope to be continually writing songs and making music with other people. I think I'm good at this. I love doing it. I'm able to touch lives when I'm dedicating myself to doing this well. I love the feeling of connection that I get when I'm with others making music together. This is something that I can do to have a positive impact on the place where I am, right here, right now, with those who are all around me.

I love nature. I always have. I grew up studying ants and earwigs and raising insects in aquariums under the tangerine tree in the front yard. I used sell tickets to "Mike's Bug Farm Expo's" in my back yard for 50 cents a piece. All the people (adults and kids) on my block would dutifully walk around tables set up in my back yard where I had placed all of my jars of living insects, and collections of carefully mounted insects in cigar boxes, (back in the days before I decided that I would create digital "picture-collections" rather than collections of dead creatures killed in jars of cyanide) complete with descriptions of what they were looking at and what effect each of these creatures had on their neighborhood. It would be immensely satisfying to follow up on this hobby, and wind up in a career where I'm helping to save the environment and attempting to bring society closer to a place where we're truly living sustainable lives, in some kind of relative harmony with the other incredible and fascinating, wonderful creatures that share our planet.

I would enjoy following the Arabic language path. I have hookah-dreams of being a person who might positively affect the dialog between the West and the Middle-East. I would enjoy being a negotiator or working in the Foreign Service, using my communication skills and my knowledge of the Arabic language and Middle Eastern culture to help bridge the divide between our two societies. I also see that I could have a real passion for helping to defend the folks who have been wrongly imprisoned and interrogated by our government. Some of the stories out there are absolutely abominable and somehow I would find it satisfying to undo some of the damage that our government has done to both foreigners and American citizens.

How am I going to get to any of these places from here? I guess that's what we're going to see.

Stay Tuned... we'll be right back after these messages.