“We all see our lives as stories, it seems to me. And I am convinced that psychologists and sociologists and historians and so on will find it useful to acknowledge that. If a person survives an ordinary span of sixty years or more, there is every chance that his or her life as a shapely story has ended, and all that remains to be experienced is epilogue. Life is not over, but the story is.” –Kurt Vonnegut, 1983
There are days when I must ask myself, is my story over? Am I simply living-out the epilogue of my life? Is my punishment for my crimes against my family, my profession, and against myself going to be the living damnation of living a torturously long epilogue? Vonnegut is right; if a person lives sixty(ish) years, they’ve had an ample opportunity to live a full and productive life, and what follows is epilogue. Better expressed is the sentiment of William Forrester, the character played by Sean Connery in Finding Forrester, written in his final letter to Jamal, when he refers to it as “the winter of my life.”
But here is my fear: Have I entered the epilogue – or winter of my life – this early? I’ve visited this particular theme before, in “Act Four,” but I think perhaps my thinking pattern is shifting. I was watching a documentary about Vonnegut recently, along with reading Mother Night (as I’ve mentioned in previous postings), and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps my choices have brought about a prompt cut-off to the story of my life, only to leave a long and indefinite epilogue, taking my story from a comedy to a tragedy.
As Harold Crick was told in Stranger than Fiction, every story is either a comedy or a tragedy (“The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: The continuity of life, the inevitability of death”). As a popular fun teacher, my life was definitely a comedy, minus the beneath-the-surface secret life of lust I led. But that’s where my choices literally cut my story in half – Vonnegut says a person’s “ordinary span” is sixty years; the depth of my life occurred in January of 2009: I was thirty-years-old.
Now, over six years later, I have been trying repeatedly to rebuild my life, to begin again, to set forth on a new path that would lead to the reemergence of my life’s purpose and story. But as of yet, I have been denied. I recently tried to apply to graduate school to begin a new career. Denied by all – four schools want nothing to do with me, including both of my alma mater universities. Logistically, I can’t blame them. On paper, I’m a very viable and capable candidate for graduate school (after all, I already have a Master’s Degree). On Google, however, I’m a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person. Unfortunately, universities check both. I still have dreams, goals, and aspirations, but it appears that the ubiquitous powers of “life” seek to force me to “settle-for” whatever I can get. Yet, admittedly, I understand that these limitations are of my own doing.
I am stuck between two opposing emotions: Upset with myself for making the choices that put me in this position; and upset with “others” who refuse to give me a second chance and understand that I’m not the man I used to be. Granted, some people have given me a second chance – like my current employer – and I have been remarkably successful. But few people in this world approach life with the optimism and forgiveness of the woman who hired me a year ago. Therefore, just as I hoped for (and found) an employer who was willing to overlook my past and give me an opportunity based on my merits, I’d also hoped to find a graduate school who was willing to see me in the same context – so far, I’ve had no success.
So, as Jack Nicholson said in the aptly-titled film, “This can’t be as good as it gets!”
But please understand that this notion is completely separate from my personal success (i.e. family, recovery, friends, etc.); this is about my success professionally and occupationally. My personal, moral, and familial life has never been better – it’s my professional life that is in shambles, and it is my professional life that I am continually seeking to rebuild. And I can’t just spend the rest of my life doing “a job,” but rather, I want to do something that makes a difference. Some people are content with jobs that complete an objective that forwards the initiative of a company or industry, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But that sort of occupation differs from what I seek to spend the rest of my doing – I want to do something that makes a positive difference in the lives of other people. Granted, this intrinsic drive likely derives from my subconscious need to rectify the evil that I’ve done in the lives of the people in my past, but regardless of my conscious and/or subconscious motives, the drive exists – the dream exists – and I’m not ready to give up just yet. For now, not every door has been slammed in my face – just most of them. And until the very final possibility is exhausted, I will keep trying to achieve my career goal, regardless of my history. My past can be an asset rather than a liability, and hopefully, some day, the right person in the right place at the right time will realize this. Until then, “it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”