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Long trips are dangerous things

They give you time to think, as you spend 13 hours at the wheel trying to keep them all on the pavement with the same forward vector. What with the passing of the Auld Soldier, I'm at one of those clichéd places in my life where I'm supposed to sit down and take stock. 24 hours of driving in two days gives you that chance.

To pass the time, I took along a lot of music - Cirque du Soleil soundtracks, Loreena McKinnit, and a 4 disk Harry Chapin collection. I like Harry, he can tell a good story, without being too in your face with his politics. This collection is interspersed with interview snippets. One caught my attention, where Harry is speaking about his grandfather.

"My grandfather was a painter. He died at age 88. He illustrated Robert Frost's first two books of poetry. He was looking at me one day and he said, `Harry, there's two kinds of tired. There's goodtired and there's bad-tired. Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day in which you won, but you won other people's battles, you lived other people's days, other people's agendas and dreams, and when it's all over, there's very litte you in there, and when you hit the hay at night, you toss and turn, you don't settle easy.

Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day in which you lost, but you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days. And when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy, you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say, "Take me away."

Harry, all my life I wanted to be a painter. So I painted. God, I would have loved to have been more successful. But I painted and painted. And I am good-tired, and they can take me away."
What struck me was that I realized that when the Auld Soldier retired from the Army, he did so because he was bad-tired. He came of age during WWII and then fought in two wars which were un-appreciated and one in which his family was harassed and people like him actively excoriated. His Army was ill-used and broken, and he didn't see himself in a position to do much about it - so he left. He went back to school to finish out his PhD in Education, and ran into an astonishingly thick wall of hostility due to his background - enough so that he was told he'd have to settle for his EdTech, as "the military mind is not compatible with education." Heh. Mizzou came late to the anti-war protests (like, after the ground troops had been withdrawn) and I still think a chunk of his treatment was a milquetoast professoriate's circle-jerk of self-righteousness.

The Auld Soldier went to work for Columbia College, where he labored in a small office, looking at the college's needs and finding grants and writing them to get the money to meet those needs. He was pretty good at it. He, sitting in his office at a computer, raised as much money than the rest of the fund-raising efforts combined. He was happy with that. Doing something useful, it kept him busy, and was helping improve the school. But his success was his undoing, as it embarassed other, more powerful people who weren't nearly as good at finding money as the Auld Soldier. And thus did that bane of academia, jealousy and the quiet smear campaigns that go with it, raise it's ugly head. And the Auld Soldier was once again bad-tired. So he quit.

And he quit working for a paycheck, and started working for himself. Mind you, retired Colonel, paid-off house, independent funds, he didn't have to take a lifestyle hit to do it - not that his was an extravagant lifestyle.

He became a full-time Rotarian, effectively. Threw himself into something he loved, and was able to do it simply because he wanted to - and it allowed him to work with those things and people that gave him the greatest strength. He steered away from what politics there were in Rotary (stemming around some of the leadership positions at District and higher) happily toiled away in the trenches helping his club do good things, his District grow new clubs, and do Good Things for people near and far, whether it was wheelchairs, clean water, exchange students, literacy projects, the list is long.

And I know, from talking to him as he was coaching me on my upcoming Presidency of my own Rotary Club, that when he died last September, while he wasn't really ready to go - he did get to go to his final rest good-tired, and at peace.

What's the point? I am, and have been for months, maybe years, really, bad-tired.

And I'm contemplating what to do about that.

Which may mean changes here.  Maybe not, I don't know. I just know that I don't sleep well at night, and it's not just from the wear and tear of athletics and military service. My heart is tired and not in it anymore. Something needs to give.  And this is a blog, so I'm supposed to put my navel-gazing online, right?

27 Comments

Not sure whether you mean changes here in blogspace, or at the Castle.  I suspect both are percolating.  The battle of what to do to earn a living versus enjoying the job with all your passion is a toughy, I know. 

 
Yes.
They are.

 
The issues you raise could take 50 books to answer. So many could find themselves in those words. So many times the answers are not simple or obvious, others just take the right level of need to push them into action. So many of your readers consider you (and yours) family. Family helps when it is not popular or in vogue because family is family. Right bro?
 
As a salesman, burn out is something to guard against. Once it's a drudge or stops becoming fun, it's time to find something new.

I also looked for energy outside my job. Being a Lion and running the Flea Market or being Chairman of a major committee was more work then earning a living. It was a personal joke that I hoped my boss never found out how hard I worked for other then my job. It was important to my mental health. And, yes, fishing in exotic places also recharged my batteries.

You can buy a hot sports car and drive by the High School, but then Beth would kick your ass. Mid life crisis' can be fun or depressing. I had fun with mine, bought a 928, and started a bucket list. Like your Dad, changing jobs may be a good idea. Heading in to the same office, talking to the same people about the same problems is not my idea of a good life.

I've taken many chances, moved into a new industry, blazed new trails. But...what do you want to be when you grow up? I certainly never was good at punching a clock. Now I'm off to see some of the National Parks I've never seen, visit some more battle fields and plot what happened on a map. Maybe find a woman that does the Big Five.

I'm 66 and don't need to work, but I promised to stick around to oversee the roll out. After that, I want to sample more wine, pick up my score in trap shooting, see the Grand Canyon from the south rim, tour Yellowstone and go see what happened at Market-Garden. And find exotic places to fish.
 
Mugger - grow up?  Isn't it a bit late for either of us to be doing that?
 
It's just a state of mind John; the heart is 17, the equipment is 66 however. Just can't go to my left like I used to.

How much fun did you have putting the Technical together? I'm not saying you should go get yourself a Sherman, but a scout car would be nice. You know, tires in the front, track in the back and we can put a 105 in it. You could chase coyotes around the farm.
 
 John has always wanted a scout car.  Always.
 
While a T19 Gun Motor Carriage would indeed be way cool, methinks the Budget of Argghhh! would groan mightily under the stress...
 
I found my version of the Auld Soldier's Rotary a few years ago.  I'm still working an 8-5 that gives me that Bad-Tired feeling, but on weekends I can indulge my sheepdog soul and help save lives with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  The look on a boater's face when we come alongside after he spent all night drifting 40 miles at sea is all the paycheck I need.  Physically, I feel 100% better since I joined the Auxiliary.  Heres hoping you find what you need.
 
Just in case you didn't notice - Beth really does know I've always wanted a Scout Car...
 
Alternate career options: 
Cattle rustler.  You could train Petey to lure unsuspecting cows out of their pastures, whilst you are busy establishing an alibi (perhaps delivering cookies to your local constabulary?)  Nobody would ever suspect a horse!

Attack goat squadron leader:  Some of your goats already have the necessary killer instinct, so you just have to establish some voice commands.

I guess I'm lucky; I have a job I don't love, but I don't hate either.  It's neutral.  I get my mental satisfaction writing fiction.  Perhaps someday I will have a paying job that satisfys me as well -- but in this economy I'm just happy to get a paycheck.


 
 I only sent that one time! The Castle Echo is acting weird.
 
I was bad-tired for a long time...  Took a trip back into the fire to knock my sights into alignment, and realize that it was time to, well, not "grow up" - maybe more like "raise my sights to higher expectations"...
I've got a technical, and I'll work on that, and then I'll prolly get another, something with tracks would be nice, but something with armor, decidedly...
Something tells me that I'll get more satisfaction creating a job for myself, rather than work for someone else.
I've got one heck of a wingman, and she reminds me to take seriously that which should be taken seriously, and then giggle at the rest...
I'm aiming for the end goal of having the pile of pick-up stix cast upon the ground being the result of my own hand, and not Fate's:  My own private brier patch, and me starring as Brother Rabbit.
 
 Serafina is an evil goat.  Don't know if she is trainable, BCR!  You would laugh if you ever saw me chasing her to give her shots or whatever.  I usually end up grabbing her fleece and she spins around me 4 or five times while I'm hanging on for dear life until she gives up or we both fall down.
 
John...a T19 with racing stripes.

With restorations, you can get expensive or not. It's all according to where you start and how much sweat equity you want to invest. It also helps to have some knowledgeable friends around to bounce ideas off of. Or hold things, or carry things (after they put down their beer) or paint or sand blast or file or hammer. Volunteers come cheap but work slow.

My math works with the golf country club equation: dues, green fees, caddy, golf cart, extra dozen balls per round and the 19th hole. Since I no longer play golf...look what I saved...so it's off to the Bahamas with the savings.

You need a budget and some good scavengers. (the Army still has those around, right?)

And...you can make money renting it to some prissy Hollywood producer.
 
Fishmugger & Massa John,

We all have to grow old, but not to grow up.
 
BOQ...Jimmy Buffet said it best.
 
 Jimmy Buffet has the bucks to do whatever he wants!
 
John, I think it comes down to serving others and knowing you have made a difference.  If I had known earlier that your father had written grants for Columbia College, I would have said thank you from the bottom of my heart.  If it is the same one that has a satellite campus at Fort Lost-in-the-Woods, it is the one the Engineer graduated from.  His getting his degree spurred me on to get mine.

Words fail me in trying to express my appreciation to you and Beth for having this blog and answering my questions, and helping solidify what was in the Young Man's heart about his Calling in Life.

Take a break.  Let others post...but do write your father's story.  It is one that needs to be told and has some fantastic elements.  It would make a superb movie.

 
John,

You and only you can make the *real decisions*. As I look at it, this is only from my own experiences. If  they are helpful, to you, it just makes them more valuable. If not, just throw them away, no harm, no foul. I like your title, "Long trips are dangerous things". There is a strange process that starts as journey, I'm  driving a big rig carrying all of *my baggage* or at least I think it's *my baggage*. I'm leading a caravan, my body tells me to take the next exit and head for the shopping center. Well, I pull in and everybody follows, with questions, the problem is this was not a planned stop. Well, during this stop, I start going through the bags, they're not all mine. You start a process of giving the bag back to their rightful owner. During this process, you are confronted with this, "I thought you were going to solve all of these issues." You say, "No, that would not be best for either of us." You continue this process until its only your baggage. Now, you're the one who must answer all of the questions. But you will face those things which had *great* importance even a year or two ago, now, everything has changed. There is a place in your mind for those things which are still important to many, but not to you. Then, what do you do with them? For me, I created a mental storage locker, which to me was sacred. When you placed something here, it didn't lose value or importance, it was *just time*. This whole thing was loosely following a poem by Robert Frost, "A Lesser Traveled Road", as a one time hiker, I changed road to path. In my mind's eye, I was looking for my "campsite" and later my "cabin". This is a story to describe a difficult process. 

John, I'll respect your choices about your own journey.  I'm not saying stop or go. I'm holding you with an open hand.
 
The simple truth is that all it takes is 'wanna.'  Wanna stop doing that crap, wanna stop goin around all POd all the time, etc.  I left the Army after 14 years because I was tired of getting up PO'd, going to work PO'd, coming home PO'd, etc.  It had stopped being fun and when the fun quotient goes down, its time to move on.  I left the Army with a pretty darn fine record, honor grad at PLDC, PSG of 3 pretty high-end EW platoons, got crew member wings in hueys, etc., and etc.  I was on the invite list for ANCOC, and was likely to make E7 by 16 years, not to bad for a late starter (took 4 to make E5), would almost certainly have made E8, and had already finished the MI Officer Basic and Advanced Courses (corres.), they woudn't let me do C&SC or CAS3, etc.   For all of that, I'd got where I hated it every day, so I just decided I was done, kaput.  Got out with no job, no plans, no savings, etc., and LO & behold, contrary to what all the know-it-alls kept saying I did pretty well for myself.  Never starved, had work when I wanted it, and my life has been far better off since.  No regrets, except maybe the house payment every month.

Sine then, I've taken it one job at a time, had almost as much fun, sometimes, but best of all, when I've tired of the crap, I move on.  I recently got a promotion, good thing, 'cause I was on the way out of here to go back to DC.  Now I don't have to and I can work on my photography and writing and still get ahead in the career.

So the point here, John, though you prolly don't need input from me is that whatever you decide to do will be fine, if it's what you want to do, and you are happy--at least up front--with the change.  Best thing about it all is that no decision has to be permanent.  I know a guy hated it here, retired to run a small engine repair shop...  that was fun for a while, now he's back to consulting.  He got that other need out of his system.

As for the good-tired/bad tired thing, I dunno.  Even if all my work is for someone else, if I got paid for it, and that was my goal, I'm good.  For me, it's not the tiredness, it's the fun factor, and that may be the same thing to some, but it's different to me.

And if you do decide to change stuff, change to something that you've always wanted to do, but didn't think you could make money at.  That's where I'm at now.  Who knows, I will or I won't but I won't have to wonder what if....

I hope you find your center and your peace.  Really....

Me.
 
I haven't been good-tired since the last time I deployed with the Red Cross.
 
Dang, Sir!  Was it not you who warned me about the dangers of too much mopin' and broodin' not that long ago?   "Despair is a sin." - Jerry Pournelle. (and other, more famous folks) 
 
>John has always wanted a scout car. Always.

Paint a BSA logo on an old VW bug that has a sunroof, and mount a 50 on a pedestal through it.  It's be kind of scrinched inside, but that'd do for a 'scout' car, wouldn't it? 

   
John-
I continue to be moved by your reminiscences of your father.  By the way, my father was a graduate of Missouri, too. Sorry to hear that they followed the academic fashion to ultra-liberalisn.  My college did, too - big time.

I hope that you can move on to "good tired" by taking a very active approach to your job as President of the Leavenworth Rotary Club. Lot of good work to be done there, as you are well aware.

Best of luck

Mike
 
I wasn't real sure what else I could say to this beyond my previous response. I spend a lot of time on my road trips talking with myself and thinking. You've seen how much I travel. It's a constant thing for me even when I don't want it to be. I can't relate to the age portion, I won't try to. I can relate to the time portion. My average work week has been in the 80 hour mark for several years now. I literally cannot function on a shorter time span. But the end result is obvious. My blogging is minimal now, after I cut it out altogether originally. Many things I want to do went way far to the way side. I've canceled things that I wanted to attend. My social life is nonexistent unless it revolves around my job, and unfortunately given the economy, and current national job situation, that part is probably not going to change in the near future. But I think at some point, when we have gotten more than satisfied with what we do on a regular basis, we desire, can almost taste, a change in venue. Be it the job, the blog, the hobbies, the farm, the house, the office or even our books. It feels like something is missing even when everything is as it should be or when it previously felt...satisfactory. Suddenly its not. Personally? I think its goals. We become so used to having a goal to achieve beyond our work deadline, that it becomes a habit, or a need. We have to have a challenge, something to get our blood pumping and the stress level up because we need want to prove we still have what it takes. But then I've never been very good in the social scheme of things, so I could be 100% entirely wrong here at which point I'll join Gollum in the Dungeon.