Happy Birthday! Fuckin’ Not!

My phone’s been pinging like a pinball machine. Friends on Facebook or text messaging to wish me a happy birthday.

I’m not responding.

Fuck that noise.

I do not want to be 60 years old (I want to be dead, but that’s another story). I want to be younger. Much younger. Like 45 years younger. It’s not about eternal youth, shit like that. It’s about life choices. Every year, every day, I’m reminded I should have taken the left fork, the road less traveled. I took the right instead, the superhighway that rushed me to exactly the place where I didn’t want to be.

When I was a teen, I remember telling myself and others that I didn’t want to work however many years at a job I hate until retirement. And that’s exactly what I’ve done. It’s funny–not long ago, someone told me I’ve had a good career. Brought me up short. I thought, “career? What career? I’ve had different jobs. I don’t have a career.” Then I realized. I’ve been doing this shit for longer than some people have been alive. And I’ve hated almost every minute of it. Almost, because there were fun times, times I enjoyed, but those were few. Mostly, I wished I was anywhere but here.

So here I am, nearing the end of my “career.” Every day, I wake up with the feeling I’ve wasted my life. Wasted it doing shit I don’t want to do, and not what I wanted to do. “Ah, but you’re close to retirement. Then you can do what you want to do.” Retirement? What retirement? Hun, unless I can start selling enough books to eat and have a roof over my head, I’ll be working at what I hate until they carry me out feet first.

I’m not “complaining,” understand. I’m well aware my “career” has afforded me opportunities that most people haven’t had, and will never have. I’m well aware my “career” has afforded me a pretty decent standard of living. A standard I’ve grown used to, and now can’t imagine anything less. I’m well aware how lucky I’ve been. Because of my “career,” I haven’t had to deal with most of the bullshit life throws at us. Or tries to, anyway. Except for the first 6 months or so I lived in NYC, I’ve never been poor, and even then my “poverty” was relative. I ate crap because that’s all I could afford, but I never went hungry. Food pantry? What’s that? I lived in a shitty apartment I shared with roaches and mice, but I didn’t have to sleep on park benches in the rain, or pretend to be awake in a subway station so I wouldn’t get hassled by the transit cops, or hope to find a dark, recessed doorway for the night. Because of my “career,” I’ve got stuff. Lots of stuff, a lot of it I had no business buying. I had the money, so I did.

But that’s on the outside. On the inside, I was starving and homeless. My two marriages were disastrous, which was kind of funny because the two men I married were the exact opposite of each other. And I bought stuff. I think they still call it “retail therapy.” I was trying to fulfill a need inside of me, a hole, but didn’t know how to do it. I thought if I had enough sex, bought enough stuff, drank enough alcohol, and did enough drugs, I’d find what I was looking for, what I needed. I didn’t. Life just kinda blew me around, like a balloon drifting on the breeze. In fact, that’s how I wound up with my “career.” I just fell into it, with only the most rudimentary knowledge of what it was about. I learned about what I do for my day job, on the job. There’s still a helluva lot I don’t know, but I don’t care enough to learn.

Of course, at the time I didn’t know I was bipolar, and that was part of the problem. To be honest, when I found out, I was relieved. It was an anchor, something I could point to and say “this is me.” Part of me, anyway. Another piece, a big chunk, fell into place when I started writing. That fulfilled a need, the need to be creative. I would have kept on with my music, except I ran a shard of glass through my finger while doing the dangerous household job of dusting. Did nerve damage, and that was that. But what I do for a living is insanely boring. It’s not something I tell people, especially the people I work for. I’m interested in it just enough to put out a good product, an excellent product, so I can keep my job. There are people in my field who live and breathe this stuff. I stay far away from them, as far as I can. Except when I can’t.

So that’s my birthday. Wondering what could have been, what should have been.

I really wish I’d taken the road less traveled.

Ciao.

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