Something Worthwhile

The past few nights I’ve found myself staying up late watching Californication on Netflix. For those of you who haven’t seen the show its about a writer played by David Duchoveny (of X-Files fame) and his struggle to write and keep his family together. On the surface it might seem nothing more than a sex-fueled romp through the looser parts of LA, but the show hits at something deeper than that. What it all really boils down to is the question “what does it mean to love and be happy?”, a question that the show keeps trying to answer; its a question we’re all trying to answer, really. But there’s an aspect of the show, an unintended consequence if you will, that I want to focus on and that’s the idea of doing something worthwhile with your life. Being a [published] writer, using words to conjure from nothing emotions that well up and roil in the hearts of strangers, has an impact farther and wider than the professions that you and I share. As an IT professional, what does it ultimately matter if this one server gets fixed, or if I can save my company ten thousand dollars over the next two years? When answered looking at the grander scheme of humanity the answer has to be a resounding “nothing”. It doesn’t matter.

So why am I wasting my time — my one and only life — on things that don’t matter?

I had a conversation with my friends and bandmates tonight about careers; one of my friends said it something like this:

I never wanted to be one of those people that’s always looking forward to the weekend. I used to see my friends and how they would count the days until Friday and the end of the workweek and I just didn’t want to be one of those people. I didn’t want to wake up every day and think “oh, no, I have to get up and go to work, but I really don’t want to”. And I think people look forward to the weekends because they’ve given up on their dreams.

Have I given up on my dreams? In a sense, yes, I have. I no longer see writing or music as a legitimate career path outside of the slim possibility that someone with some power in one of those industries will blindly stumble across my work and in a fit of epiphany say “I must find this person!”. For one I’ve grown to realize my own crippling mediocrity in either pursuit will probably keep me from ever attaining the kind of freedom and financial stability a career as a successful writer or musician can offer. Sure, I can write. Better than some, probably, but not better than the best. I am not a Stephen King or a JK Rowling, and most certainly not a Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Frost, or Jack Kerouac. And sure, I can write songs, but again, I am no James Taylor or Sting or Paul McCartney. I’m just a guy, an extra that was handed a guitar and told “pretend you know how to play”. If the other extras in my scene seem to think that I can play then maybe they’re the ones fooling themselves.

But I don’t want to be an extra.

I don’t want to stand in the background from time to time. When it’s all over I don’t want to have a reality to stumble back into, hat in hand, waiting for the next chance to feature in someone else’s scene. I want my scene to be my reality, and I want it to be my scene. I don’t care if I’m ever famous and I certainly don’t care if stay at home mothers in Springfield, USA ever know who I am or my life story. I want to do something worthwhile. I want my words, my music, my inner demons to reach out and grab a hold of some sullen stranger’s heartstrings and tug, tug, tug; I want to make them feel happiness, sadness, joy, laughter, pain, fear, elation, and even life and death themselves. I want people to live and die with every sentence, every word, every bit of punctuation; to rise and fall as the story or the song rises and falls.

But why? Why would I want any of this?

“Why?” you ask? Because I can, because I must. Because although I am a singular and unique member of the human race with my own experiences I am still a human like the rest of us. I feel, I bleed, I have dreams. And if by realizing my dream I can help my fellow man realize something about themselves they would not have otherwise known then my work, my labor, is paid for. We are meant to fly, to fall, to dream, to dare, to soar, to weep, to laugh, to cry, to question, and to know – and without those of us who dare to dream, dare to be alive, then we are all just looking forward to the weekend.

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