Clearly, this is not some monumental tragedy. I mean, come on: "Poor baby has to work in a cushy office all day!" It is not the kind of cause célèbre that makes the evening news. Could he "get happy"? After all, his marriage and family are great. Could he be satisfied with that and just keep on keeping on? Yes. But it gets harder with every day that passes, days that have turned into weeks, months, and years. He sometimes hears a voice, his own voice, crying for relief, but he does not react. Sometimes it is just easier not to think about it. After all, does feeling right, does having passion really matter? Is he being just a ridiculous romantic to think that being "true to self" might be something more than just some high-handed philosophy? Shouldn't he be thankful for his many blessings, blessings that everyone else sure seems to hold in high regard?
He rationalizes that he really would make a change, give it all up and pursue something he truly has a passion for -- but he has "responsibilities." He has a wife and kids, for God's sake: How could he ask them to give up their friends, schools, and lives, just so he can chase some dream? He wonders if that is really what holds him back, or if he is just afraid. Maybe he really is just a one-trick pony. Maybe he isn't talented at all. Maybe he just got lucky and could never succeed at something different. He doesn't seem to know that confident part of himself as well as he used to. It's there, but the connection grows weak, the image that once was sharp and clear is becoming dim and fuzzy.
At the precise moment when he is wrestling with those very thoughts, his wife says, "Where were you just now? You have to tell me what you're thinking! Tell me where you go when you are lost in that hundred-yard stare." It's as though she is reading his mind. She says: "More and more each day, I feel like I'm losing a part of you. When it's just the two of us, or when we are alone with our boys, it's like the real you, the way you used to be before all of this we call our life. But as soon as the world creeps in, you glaze over. The phone rings, or something else breaks the spell, and you become totally different -- like a robotic machine."
For some reason, on this beautiful afternoon, driving across town with the top down and the cool autumn air breezing through the car, he decides once and for all to stop denying himself. He decides to give his feelings a voice and tell the truth: "Bottom line -- I'm going jack-ass batty in here. I hate to tell you this, but I think a huge part of my life absolutely sucks! I hate myself for getting in so deep that I feel like I can't get out. I hate my career. I hate where we are living. I hate what I am doing. I've hated it all since before the day I started it. I stood in that parking lot calling my dad on the phone ten years ago, knowing full well I didn't want to move to that godforsaken town and launch into that godforsaken career. I screwed up big time and now I'm stuck, trapped in a life I hate. I sold myself out and gave in to what everyone else wanted for me, not what I wanted. I have zero passion for what I am doing. I'm just going through the motions, and it is getting harder and harder every day. I should be excited about my life, but I am not, not even close. I'm cheating you and the boys because I'm not being me. I have one shot at this, one shot, and I'm choking, I'm blowing it. I'm now almost forty years old. I've wasted ten years of my life and I can't get them back no matter what I do. To even say that makes me sick to my stomach. I don't want to rock the boat, but I hate this deal, and if it were up to me I would shut this whole deal down, move away, and do something I want to do in a place where I want to do it. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. I feel like a fraud. I'm sorry to dump all of this on you, but you're asking and so I'm telling you. I'm running out of life energy here. I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of not waking up excited in the morning. I'm tired of not being proud of what I do or who I am. It's no one's fault but my own, I've done it to myself because I didn't have the guts to stand up for myself. How dumb is that?"
Copyright © 2001 by Phillip C. McGraw
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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