Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
I thought that I could put life on hold. This happened primarily in Alaska, but also for much of my time in England. In either case, I was working myself into the ground, foregoing the cultivation of human relationships in exchange for blindly focusing on the advancement of my career. A career, I hasten to add, in which I’m no longer involved. All of my time, effort, energy, and will were focused on work during a fairly large stretch of what should’ve been some of the best years of my life.
Living in Alaska is its own reward, provided you’re not prone to the seasonal depression that can accompany ~20 hours of darkness every day in the depth of winter. I wasn’t, so everything was fine in this regard. On the other hand, I arrived at work early and stayed late every single day, regardless of the season, forfeiting a lot of opportunities to get away, enjoy the state, be with other people, etc. It was a very one-dimensional existence. Granted, the one dimension resulted in substantial success and the awards that lead to greater things down the road, but living exclusively for ‘Down the Road’ is a total waste of the present. It paid off in that I received the ideal follow-on assignment to England, but …..
Not being the type of person at the time to learn from ones recent regrets, I arrived in England and proceeded to immerse myself in much the same type of workaholic dipshittery. The difference was that now I could justify things by virtue of finding myself in the middle of a situation inviting justification of such actions. I arrived in October 2001 on the doorstep of a special operations unit, which meant that boredom was no longer an option for the foreseeable future. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that I’d finally allow myself to stop making work a priority, but this would require a lot of bad things happening as a prerequisite to clarity.
Call it six years, then. Six years lost to focusing on some far-off notion of ‘Success’ at the expense of actually doing stuff that made life worth living. Admittedly, I learned how to fly in Alaska and had a spectacular relationship at the time, but both took a backseat to my ambition. I lost the girl and never completed the final check ride. In England, 14-hour days led to isolation. Yes, I bartended in my village and made some great friendships, but the majority of life was spent in a very small bubble of pressure and worry.
It’s a cliché that no one on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work. I suppose that this largely depends upon both the person and the nature of the work, but while I’m not yet on anything resembling a deathbed, I certainly find this cliché to be relevant in my case. The overarching motive for my actions during that stretch of life no longer exists, which serves to focus the regret for the time lost. I had placed all of my faith in ‘the next thing’ being the sole purpose in living rather than just a minor part of a bigger picture.
There are some who find themselves stuck in this kind of rut for much of their lives, certainly more than just a few years. I realize this and recognize how fortunate I was to have only squandered a relatively short period of time in the pursuit of some illusory ideal of happiness and contentment. Having now found, almost by accident, a realistic version of both of those ideals, I try not to dwell on the past. Nevertheless, those years can’t be recovered and for their time and place, I can do little more than wish that I had a second chance at making their memory less regrettable.
Sir @ November 22, 2010