I’m a million different people from one day to the next

So I was tagged recently in a blog post and given a task to complete and propagate. As often as not I shun such shit, mainly thanks to Facebook and its implacable piss-river of quizzes, applications, and notes like “15 Things You Never Shoved Up Your Ass” having hardened me to electronic chain-entreaties in general. But Julie is interesting, so I will try to be interesting in return.

The task:

1. Answer this question: if you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be?
2. Pick 6 people and give them this award. You then have to inform each that she has gotten this award.
3. Thank the person who gave you the award.

What immediately struck me when I first read this is what would seem to be a colossal contradiction: I regret about two-thirds of everything I’ve done on a good day and more like nine-tenths when I’m on the mental skids, yet when pressed to come up with one specific thing I’d undo above all others if I could, not only can I not do this, but I can’t really think of anything I would do differently–at least anything that involved a modicum of planning. (I read “change one thing in your life” as “change something you consciously chose to do”; others may see things differently and respond with “I’d change the fact that I wasn’t born a billionaire,” but I’m eschewing such frivolity in favor of my frivolity.)

Granted, I can think of a giant fucking cache of things I wish I simply had not done. In fact, this very past weekend saw me engage in a protracted social atrocity that’s crying for a rewind button. I wish I could erase the money I’ve blown on things that I not only didn’t need but only led to a dynamic spiderweb of additional fuckery, notably alcohol. I wish I’d handled a breakup nine years ago differently. Come to think of it, one three years ago as well. And so on. But I take the urge to dispense of embarrassing or shameful shit as common to everyone and so I am leaving these episodes out of consideration here as well.

I could make this a short exercise and say I wish I hadn’t gone to medical school for almost three years only to not finish and wind up blowing a solid eighty grand or more of my and the U.S. Government’s money. Not only do I not have a medical degree, but I could have been socking away some money in my early twenties instead of toiling away at something that ultimately went tits up. (It may strike some as curious that I do not instead say that I wish I had gone on to finish, but believe me, that’s not even on the table. I believe that I would have come to hate being a physician in many ways and would have sucked at it from various angles, but that’s both speculative and irrelevant.) Yet for some reason I don’t quite feel that way. I enjoyed my time at DMS. I was near the top of my class and met some outstanding people and for some sick and often vexing reason I retain a lot of what I learned more than a dozen years ago–more than anyone not actively plumbing his brain for such shit on a daily basis should, really. And I have managed to parlay a lot of that knowledge and experience into material and token credibility in terms of a lot of the freelancing I’ve done over the past decade. And it’s ensured that I love a TV show I’d have relished anyway, House, M.D., with a special breed of ferocious glee.

I often wish that I hadn’t wasted so much time trying to run faster marathons. I used my 100- to 140-mile training weeks as an excuse to rarely pursue meaningful full-time employment while at my fastest, and that’s a poor choice in many ways for even a 2:14 guy, much less a schlub. The fact that I spent years not knowing what the hell I wanted to do anyway (which is usually still the case) hardy seems to justify this pattern. But anyway. as much as I love running as long as I don’t think about it much, I have no choice but to think about it a lot and I occasionally relapse into the mindset I sunk into in the summer of 2005 when–beset by a mysterious groin injury, tired of the intravaginal running conditions of South Floridistan, and aware that I was getting old–I threw away every pair of training and racing shoes I owned at the time. (Later I went back to the dumpster for them, but they were gone. My girlfriend at the time had already recovered them.) Now that I have lost interest in competing I can look a little more gently at the years when I was interested, and obsessed, and so this one is kind of a push–I did what I did and I could have been dealing dope or having multiple affairs or stealing from employers instead, so I guess being lazy wasn’t a terribly high crime.

Nah, fuck it. I wish I’d stuck with learning to play an instrument when I was younger. Not so I’d be rich and famous now but simply good at something I value. Along not-dissimilar lines I wish I’d devoted myself to writing fiction by now instead of talking about it (in so doing reminding me very much of the hundreds of people who say they surely want to run a marathon “someday” but haven’t quite gotten around to the training part yet; we often like the idea of being a given something but not the process involved in getting there). The thing is, I could clearly still do those things at 40 if I really wanted to. But figuring I’m too fucking old and worn out to take a stab at enjoying life as I might be able to if I thought I deserved it is just another move in the same chess game I’ve been playing with my demons my entire adult life. I am content 90 percent of the time to just scrape by doing what I do, which is enough to pay rent, afford Internet access and cable TV when I want it, and ensure a steady supply of reading material. The 10 percent I realize what a fuckup I’ve been can take a real toll when I refuse to recognize the threat it represents to me along numerous axes. But to use one of the few pithy phrases I can stand as my friend Dave says, “Hey, that’s me and I can live with it.”

Oh–I’m not following the directive in step number two above. Anyone who wants to can pick this up and run with it without me tagging him or her.

  1. #1 by Ewen on September 14, 2010 - 6:58 am

    Where’s the Facebook ‘Like’ application when you need it? Charles Bukowski wrote Post Office at 49.

  2. #2 by jim on September 15, 2010 - 6:46 am

    “I wish I’d stuck with learning to play an instrument when I was younger. Not so I’d be rich and famous now but simply good at something I value.”

    Interesting observation. There were three things I cared about as a child: science, running, and later, music. Those three things still maintain me. I guess I was fortunate that way.

    Music and instruments have been such a major part of my life for so long that I almost consider humans who do not play and have no interest in music to be a separate species.

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