A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
So there I was sitting, reclined… having a pedicure. This still, for the briefest of moments, grinds against everything hard coded into the helix of Joey-ness… but damn it feels good.
There is some dichotomy in me that I appreciate, that of being somehow typically South African. And also not. The typicality comes from as far as possible abhorring the use of footwear. (Unless its freezing out, ie lower than… 18C (65F) ). Otherwise its barefoot or flip-flops.
After a while my feet start to take on a hobbit like texture that can resist hot tar, bend rusty nails and otherwise counter nature and its machinations to punish those that defy shoes. This is not a cosmopolitan look however. And so, every so often I make the pilgrimage to have my trotters re-humanized. I turn down their offer of free champagne though. Seriously, there’s only so much my heterosexuality can bend.
Opposite me is a couple. A repugnant, nauseating couple. (They feel freshly minted) She’s having gel applied to her toes. He’s… ergh… massaging her back, whispering sweet nothings into her ear, they pause, make out and then pick out colors together from a mountain of… what do you call them, swatches? Or is that only when you paint walls? I don’t know why, but he makes incredibly angry. Ha ha. And so I sit, glaring at him. The irony of the situation is lost on me.
The women next to me started out quite chatty. Which concerned me (that I’d be forced to be social) But she’s fallen asleep, snoring ever so sightly, her feet wrapped in cellophane. Vaguely I wonder why they do that.
I crack open my book. I’d been listlessly perusing the bookshop earlier. My ability to read and finish books has become a real concern for me of late. That doesn’t seem to stop me buying them though. I am a Tsundoku. Nothing today seemed to be grabbing my attention though. I wonder if I should even admit to this, but while I was browsing through the bookshelf in my passage yesterday afternoon, I angrily pulled Rudy Giuliani’s book, ‘Leadership’ from the shelf, stormed over to the wood burning stove and tossed it in. Several seconds later, after my inner brown-shirt moment had passed I rescued it, (fucking thing wasn’t even singed, alluding to its… netherworld properties I imagine). I dumped it in the donation box we keep next to the recycling instead. I used to be such a fan (back when he was the mayor of NYC). I take his… whatever it is that he is now… quite personally. Fuck you Rudy.
Back at the bookshop I pick out Robert Greene’s book, ‘Mastery’. I hate the stupid cover theme that flows through his books. I am quite… pedantic about little things like that. Although it must be said, I love Robert Greene, even if his books are somehow often deeply Machiavellian and uncomfortable. And… at the same time… smack of a self-help genre that I really loathe. In any event, I tell myself that it’s the stories that I love. Mr. Greene has this awesome… style (I guess) where he illustrates every point that me makes with a real life story example. All his books are amazingly researched, his treatise on war and strategy is one of my favourites.
I start reading Mastery. Keeping one beady eye on the sickening couple while Noma takes a wood chisel-analog to my heels.
I am almost immediately hooked. On the book I mean.
I thought my midlife existential crisis had come and gone early in my life. Well… I say early. But becoming an atheist really stuffed me up. I had no idea how much structure my catholicism had given me. When that was suddenly taken away, I really struggled to fill the void with any sort of meaning. Took me a long time to get over that. (probably still not completely over it… )
The book Mastery… is about… well… I suppose on the surface of it, it’s finding that thing that you love and… mastering it, making it your thing and finding your purpose. The first chapter is broadly about how we open make career choices and I suppose life choices, not the things that we love to do, but often based on societal pressures and other pressures (like your parents).
I have rarely related to a book so immediately. In fact, I bring up my Damascus experience and conversion to atheism because one of the other books that did that, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.
I am really not into my career anymore. I think that is likely visible to everyone who is required to interact with me. It’s something I grit and bear and endure. The plucky, startup vibe is gone and as the company has matured it just feels like a huge millstone around my neck. It was never my intention for ‘this’ to be me. As a career choice. I mean, entrepreneurship is all fine and dandy and I think I have some skill at the beginning phase thereof (mostly because of an innate stubbornness and competitiveness that works well at that point in an organizations lifecycle… but then later… well it stops being a valuable asset). As businesses grow they need managers. And I am not that. I just sorta expect people to get on with it and self-manage.
I knew this was going to become a serious problem. And I had intended to remedy the situation by hiring a manager and taking myself out of the day-to-day running of things. But then I enacted a very ill considered merger (seriously I could kick myself for this) and inherited a lot of staff with a completely different culture and mindset… anyways, my ascension to other things just got back-burnered indefinitely and has remained there.
I’m 40 now. And the thought of doing ‘this’ for the rest of the time allotted to me by fate fills me with such dread. Its a very, first-world bourgeoisie problem to have. And that guilt eats at me a little bit. After all there are people with no jobs out there who don’t have the luxury of a self obsessed whine about the self-actualization portion on their life’s journey and really would be happy with any job to put food on the table.
I am exceptionally fortunate that I can still pivot in my life but unfucking yourself from a morass of your own creation is hard. Harder even without doing irrevocable harm to everything and everyone in the system.
At least part of me says I should gut it out. That I am acting out the spoilt child part of my persona. I don’t really have any good arguments against this. I am the kid that table flips the board game because he’s loosing and now no one else can play and so maybe I should pick up the cloak of Martyrdom and just carry on…
I haven’t really squared that particular circle. Or is it circled the square?
I do know that if I carry on doing what I’m doing though I will just be miserable. And that misery flows into every other aspect of my life. And that isn’t fair on my wife or kids. And really, when you assay those things the scale tips in direction of change, because those are the people that matter. Everyone else is just collateral damage.
It is what it is I guess.