There was a point where I was optimistic enough to look ahead at the life that I knew was coming and think that in the future I would be laughing about how stressed out and overly-dramatic I had been way back in 2000. And there was a point where I could have laughed at it. Now, though, I feel a deeper and even more pragmatic sort of cynicism about the whole thing. Why would I want to laugh at that person? So what if I was just then 21 years old and still hoped for a world where I could get away with working only 8 hours a day? So what if I had some sense of the eventual hard work that would be necessary to bring about my life as it is now? Instead of laughing at that person from the 2000 Memorial Day journal entry, I find myself nodding begrudgingly from the other side of 6 years, and saying to that person: "You had your eyes open wide, and you knew what was coming." In a way, I'm a bit prideful now of how insightful I was.
In a lot of ways, this past year has been enormously difficult for me. My job, which cannot properly be called a career because it is an essentially both entry-level and terminal position, has presented me an endless array of adversity. Sure, it's just taking temperatures and loading needles, but it's also answering phones, ordering stock, comforting people in pain, calming agitated patients, calming agitated staff, making the personal connections with the patients that no one else bothers to make, keeping the VIP patients happy, making sure the doctor doesn't inadvertantly harm someone because he or she doesn't realize that the patient has an infection or drug allergy because the patient only bothered to tell ME about it, remembering everyone's names and what their problems are, dodging used needles left out under discarded iodine swabs and bloody 4x4s... the list goes on. No one of these duties is particularly difficult or time consuming, but they are steam-shoveled on top of me from the moment I walk in the door to the moment I walk out. Sometimes it's 8 hours, sometimes it's damn near 11. The work increases and increases as the doctors become more popular. Every few weeks some arcane new detail of the insurance protocols pops up and adds 20-30 minutes of busy-work to my days that are already far too busy. As I learn to avoid or minimize one new hobbling task, another comes along on its heels. And so forth without end.
In the last year, I have started my own business and seen it hiccup along for months now with only a few clients here and there. As of this writing, it has been almost 8 weeks since I have had a paying client at my location and the future is as uncertain as ever. The aforementioned job, which takes most of my time and nearly all of my energy, has something to do with that, as does my general lack of interest and mindset towards owning and running my own business to begin with. The whole thing just gapes before me like a great and unmanagable task. It is easy to see now how even people with budgets for things like advertisement and promotion can fail spectacularly with businesses. They are the sort of thing that you literally can lose yourself in. I get the feeling that my lack of success with it thus far stems intimately from my lack of time and effort put into it. When I think about what it would be like to run a business like that full-time... The military doesn't demand that much personal investment in work in comparison. This year I am forced to acknowledge the possibility that I just may not have a small business ownership in me. Or at least, not a particularly successful one. On the bright side, I did not incur any debt at it so far.
I would also love to report that Beth's pregnancy signaled a cessation of worry and turnmoil about the future of our family. This is not precisely true. All that's different is that instead of a black cloud over my head every day, it's a big, happy pink or baby blue cloud. I have merely traded one set of worries and insecurities for another. I will sure as hell take the set of worries that I've got NOW over the ones I had last September when we saw our hopes turn to sorrow after the second miscarriage. Nonetheless, a pregnant woman and imminent addition to the family is no small responsibility. There continue to be new and unexpected adventures into this unknown territory on a daily basis. And I am happy to report that they are almost entirely fun, amusing, heartwarming, and exciting adventures. Almost.
Which brings me to the real point of all this: 2006 a year in which I was 27 years old, marks possibly the first year of my life where the problems of my parents have become my own problems. I suppose in some circles, that's what people consider the final signal that I have grown up. Not just up, but all the way up. I told Beth in an email a few days ago that since the baby has been on the way, I have stopped feeling like one of the juvenile lions from the National Geographic specials and I've literally become the alpha male of my own little pryde. Not just the kids that are still in school, but the very young adults that are just now getting their first and second post-college work years in seem just comically young and inexperienced to me. I've started noticing the structure beneath the structure.
This journal entry every year has traditionally been about me bitching and moaning that my friends are so far away and that the summer represents a time of work and lonliness. But as many of you know, I make very firm New Year's resolutions. Three of them for 2006 were, as follows:
1) Publish Red Ivy Afternoon.
2) Get Beth pregnant and have a healthy baby.
3) Keep in better touch with my friends.
The first two are finished, the third I'm working on. I haven't actually been able to physically hang out with any of my buddies yet this year, though that will hopefully change next month if the plans come together. Nonetheless, I have been in regular contact with most of them via email and phone all year. This is something of a departure for me, since I hate calling people on the phone and much of my email traffic is to my friend and editor Paul regarding number 1 on that list. Nonetheless, this year I felt much better than I have in a long time about keeping up with my friends and not letting them slip away.
There was a fourth resolution, by the way, which I will tell you about once it's over, which should, if I'm lucky, be sometime later this week.
In any case, this year's Memorial Day entry finds me in a place where I am accepting and learning to deal with new responsibilities of every sort. I am happy to report that the responsibilities that I have taken on have almost invariably improved my life in one way or another. I took on the yoke of Chief Reviewer and eventually Associate Editor of Silverthought.com, in return I saw the highly-professional publication of my best fiction work to date. I traded in my hot-rod Mustang for a very respectable Volvo and was rewarded with an endlessly more functional, useful, and comfortable set of wheels. And for all of its minor stresses, I cannot be more thrilled that my first child is on the way. In the entry below, you will find a downloadable audio file of its heartbeat, which I have been listening to with our rented doppler like the men in the submarine from "Das Boot".
I chose to forego a long weekend or vacation so I could save the time off and go to Beth's doctor appointments with her, and I was rewarded with the amazing experience of seeing the little Baby Brand on the ultrasound slowly rotate and twitch it's hand at me as if to say "hi Daddy, I'm here, and I can see you."
Something tells me that soon I am going to be intensely concerned with how that little muffin sees me. Will I measure up in its eyes? It's not hard to see how maybe right now, right at this particular time in my life, a little bit of familiarity with these sorts of responsibilities is exactly what I needed.
Oh, and about that Alpha lion thing...