Monthly Archives: August 2017

300-Day Challenge: Part 1

In Up In The Air, Ryan Bingham has an arbitrary goal. He wants to reach 10 million frequent flyer miles. As is sometimes the case, the book substantially differs from the film in key aspects. George Clooney does a great job playing the available but aloof Bingham, who fires people for a living. The real value of what Walter Kirn wants the audience to consider lies in the spaces in between the pages. 

I’m thinking about both Ryan Bingham’s book and movie form this morning. My arbitrary number is 300, as in 300 days remaining. 300 days from now I will be out of this school, and if the universe allows, I will be out of education altogether. The reasons really don’t matter. I’m not here to complain. Rather, this is more about time passing and the quick canal of thoughts how.

On the commute this morning, XMU’s Julia Cunningham played Interpol, then the National, and then Best Coast. I choose to take that as a sign that it is indeed good enough to be feeling okay. It’s a start.

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And on the third day

At work today I was thinking about how lucky I was as I kid to live where we lived and to have been able to see the countries I did, among other things. As a reflex I then immediately started thinking about when exactly it is that we abandon Imagination and Wonder–which aren’t mutually exclusive to childhood–and start to focus on bullshit metrics. 

I have to make X amount of money to buy a certain car.

I have to dress a certain way.

I have to subscribe to a brand or to several brands to justify my actions and to build a false narrative. 

I’m 38 years old. I don’t care about your politics. I don’t care about your religion. I don’t care about your academics. 

Are you disarmed yet? Many of you could be. Yet here we are, hurtling through space, and the great Unknown is still that. And it will continue to be.

As I prepare to leave a profession in which I can no longer believe, I am revisiting a lot of the constructed truths I needed to synthesize in order to justify aberrant behavior, which at times, certainly could have (should have?) resulted in my doom. 

It didn’t.

I’m a pretty lucky guy. I fucked up a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. I got a lot of second chances. 

I think it’s time for Imagination and Wonder to come back.

The First Day of the Last Days

In 307 days and a little over three hours, I’ll be out of education. My best days are behind me in this industry. 

I started late as a teacher; I was 26 when I landed my first classroom position. The first half of my twenties I spent in a casino and being, generally, an asshole. Not one of us put money in financial markets. Most of us had some money in savings, but the rest we spent as quickly as we earned it. I knew about compound interest, I just didn’t do shit about it. 

Here’s something funny: working three decades in a job you don’t really want in the hopes of earning a pension large enough to live on when your health fails. That was The Plan in the Ohio Valley. A post-industrial American Dream. None of us thought far enough ahead to consider whether or not we were spiritually capable of such a feat. 

I’m certainly not. So, now, just like I did when I was seventeen, I’m researching viable career paths and studying the steps to pursue something else. It’s complete bullshit. And utterly necessary. 

Teaching was a “calling” for me, and I never really drank the Kool-Aid, although the ladles never ran dry. “Nobody got into teaching to be rich” is commonly uttered. True, but a salary that keeps pace with inflation might be a reasonable, achievable goal. 

I’m slow-witted. You wouldn’t know it to talk to me, as I can be obnoxiously charming and even maybe funny. Beneath the sarcasm is a long-running loathing. I’ve known for a long time I was wasting my time teaching. Here’s my payoff: my last two full years in the classroom were the best. There’s no going back, and those days are gone. I learn slowly. It takes months or years of near-disaster for me to wake up and do something aggressive. In some cases, I’m lucky I got fed up before forty. 

All the things I wanted to do but didn’t, I will do. Life is far too short. I can’t reverse time and make up for the $100 per month I should’ve have been auto-investing since age 20, but I will stop the batshit consumer behavior that keeps me from working toward true freedom: financial independence. It won’t be easy. But I won’t be 65 when I “retire” with crossed fingers that fifty years of insane blood pressure won’t drop me. 

Take a walk with me for the next 307 days. I think it will be interesting.