Day 7210 – Driving Home in Warm February
March, 19, 2002
Driving home in warm February, my dad is warning me not to waste my life. “So I hate to give you advice,” he says, looking over, but I don’t look at him, I’m just staring at the highway, as he makes a wrong turn and then quickly compensates and gets back into the correct lane, “but I would hate for you to go through college and not get out of it what you want to get out of it.”
You see ever since my uncle got sick and died, which was pretty much in the space of three months, last semester, and to tell you the truth, I’m still not over it, but back to the sentence, ever since my uncle died I’ve had this major crisis of faith, and just sort of this disgust with everything and a general malaise about the future. I use to be very idealistic – in a sort of half-assed cynical brilliant egotist kind of way – but now the old Business School creep is sort of sinking in, and I’m thinking about all the college loans I’m going to have to pay back when I graduate and I’m wondering if it might not be best if maybe I went to law school or something like that.
“I would just hate for you to sell out before you’ve even really given it a chance,” my Dad says, and we move onto the expressway and the river’s to my right and I just sort of look straight ahead, not really thinking about much at all, just sort of digesting. What do I say? Because when it comes right down to it, all my questions lead straight back to my father, all my goals and aspirations, my very being, stems from the fact that I want to be like Mike. Mike being my father. Also my dead uncle. Two unrelated men, married to sisters, with the same name, and my father lives and my cousin’s father dies. I guess life just works out that way sometimes.
Why do I deserve to be a writer? I want to ask, what makes me so special? What, my High School English teacher thought I had some talent? Talent. Overrated. It’s still just hard work – and maybe not even that meaningful. I mean, writing a book ain’t ever gonna feed a child. It’s not like building a house, or something real like that – and in a lot of ways it’s dishonest. It’s pandering. What, I’d like to write escapist fiction for all the bustling suburbanites of tomorrow, the brilliant children who will one day be grown and slaving way to feed their children, and just struggling to make ends meet and send their kids to a good school so that they can –
What? So that they can what? Why am I here? Why am enrolled at this Ivory Tower of Higher Education when all I’m learning is that if it’s a big enough class no one really notices when you skip it? I got this one class, and all we talk about is how there are these writers now, these post-structuralists, who are breaking down language, because language is an oppressive system that gets in the way of truth – and I’m like, shit man, I want to be a writer, and above and beyond that, I’d like to be able to talk to people.
How the hell are we gonna do that without language?
Of course I don’t want to offend the instructor, I mean my grade depends on it, and is this really worth making a big stand about, how Modern Literature is a little bit bullshit, I mean he’s this little gay Zen monk kind of guy, and though he seems sort of serene, I don’t want to fuck with that, because hey, if it makes him happy, let him run with that, you know? And underneath that Zen-Tranquility-Peace-Now kind of thing going, he does seem a little nervous, and I’d like an A, or at least a B+, which is what I expect, so I don’t think I’m going to raise my hand and tell him I think his intellectual underpinnings are absurd.
But they are. You can break a lot of things. Not language. I’m sorry if English is oppressing you, man, but you’re just going to have deal, alright?
But that’s just a long and uninteresting rant about nothing, about why I’m not really happy with what they’re teaching me here, and it gets me away from where I am, which is sitting next to my father, in the car, driving home to my grandmother’s birthday party, with him telling me, no, begging me, imploring me, not to give up on my dreams.
I want to tell him that I’m almost twenty, and that if I give up my dreams now, that’ll me give seven years to get ahead of the competition while everyone else is bumming around Europe trying to find themselves. But that’s just a bitter joke, and what it really is, what it frankly is, is that I just don’t know if any of this writing shit is ever really going to make me happy. And let’s be real. That’s all I want to be. Happy. Happily married. Comfortably numb.
For a little while I thought that I wanted to be a hero. An artist. One of the Great Ones who burn their names into the history books and leave their marks on the world like battle scars. But lately – lately I’ve realized that I don’t care what the history books say about me. I’ll be dead – and all I get to have is the love I can muster up in this life. So instead of worrying about my legacy and my gift to humanity, maybe I should worry about getting a girlfriend or something like that.
When I wanted to be an artist, I worried about not being better then my father, who is a talented writer who ghostwrites medical books and writes copy about doors. Now – now I pray I’ll be his equal.
And that’s how I know we’ve reached the end of history. America is done. None of us want to strive anymore. Our parents gave us everything we wanted and everything we needed, and now, our only goal is equilibrium, the hope to do as well, to provide the same, to give our children the same chances that we were given.
Twenty years old, I’ve kissed one girl in my entire life, and all I want to do is be a responsible dad. Want a dream? How’s that for a dream? I want to be a good father who provides for his wife and children.
It’s pedestrian. It’s backwards. It’s reactionary. It’s 1950s suburban dogma – and here I am, an overly-educated child of the Twenty First Century, and that’s it man, that’s the Meaning of Life. Have kids, and try not to fuck ‘em up.
“I would hate to see you waste your life,” my father says.
Me too, Dad. Me too.