Friday, March 21, 2008


“The shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story.”
-- Anthony de Mello

The question I hate most during job interviews is: “So, where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?”

I don’t much see myself anywhere in particular in the future. I certainly don’t want to jinx myself by saying something ridiculously aspirational. Or hem myself in by saying something too plausibly realistic and mundane.

I don’t know where I will be in five years. Or ten years. I know how old I will be. And how old my kids will be. And anyone else I know. But that is about it.

I know lots of places I don’t want to be. Things I don’t want to be doing.

If I look at where I was five years ago, I would never in a million years have imagined myself to be where I am now.

I kind of like the unknown. The thought that I could be somewhere totally new and different and unpredictable.

And I am sort of rooting for that path toward the unknown.

At the same time, are we not responsible somewhat for our own destinies? If we want to do something or be something, then shouldn’t we look ahead, plan ahead, start taking the necessary steps to get there?

But get where?

Ever since being in two car accidents in less than one week during the month of February, I have been a basket case whilst behind the wheel. Granted, I am finally back in my own trusty little car now. And that makes me feel much better. At the same time, whenever I am driving I see (and imagine!) people going through stop signs, running red lights, and changing lanes without turning signals as if they were a part of the Indy 500. I see them neglecting to stop as they approach me from behind and merging into traffic without a glance at what might be coming their way. I see deer leaping out from everywhere, from behind bushes and trees and billboards, even in the middle of downtown! I see crashes in my mind’s eye. I hear crashes in my mind’s ear. I get chest pains and feelings of acute anxiety whenever I commute to and from work. I break out in a cold sweat. I grip the steering wheel too tightly and cuss like a drunken Russian sailor at every idiot (too slow) or maniac (too fast) I encounter.

Normally, my commute misses the worst of rush hour as I don’t have to be at work until ten and I don’t get off until six or later. This past week I had to go in early on several occasions, and I felt as though I were taking my life in my hands each and every time I merged into rush hour traffic.

And it is not as though the rush hour in Pittsburgh is really even a rush hour. I mean, I have driven around Chicago before, when it was not rush hour, and it was about a hundred times worse than Pittsburgh during a torrential downpour right at five o’clock. Which was what I experienced last Friday when it took me half an hour to move two blocks in the midst of gridlock and honking horns.

As I was cold-sweating my way to work early one morning this past week, I had an epiphany. “As God is my witness, I need to become a recluse!” I declared, hearing the strains from “Tara’s Theme” well up around me.

Yes, that was it! My future.

I need to find a job where I can stay home, work at home, and walk to most of the places I want to go during the day. This rush hour crap is for the birds! It does nothing but distress me, discombobulate me, and send horrible fight or flight chemicals into my bloodstream that are probably going to give me either a heart attack or stroke. And for what? So I can go to my little job that hardly pays any money and then turn around and give what little money I do make to taxes and paying bills? What’s the point?

What do I see myself doing in ten years?

I see myself with the kind of job where I can stay at home and work during the day.

Where I do not have to make stressful commutes. Where life moves at a slower pace. Where I have time to go for walks and talk with friends and read and do errands. And write and write and write.

I know. It doesn’t sound very realistic. But other people do it. Why not me?

In my heart of hearts, I see myself as a writer. Writing. Writing all day. Telling stories. Thinking about stories and how to tell them. And then writing them down. For others to read. And think about, too.

I have never really wanted to be anything else but a writer. I have always written. And I always write. Why can’t my writing be published, too? Why can’t my life’s work be something that I am truly passionate about? I don’t need to make a lot of money. When my kids are grown and gone, I will need to make even less. Money has no real meaning to me anyway, except as something you need to have to buy food and clothes and pay the electricity bill.

Who am I?

I am a writer.

And a writer needs to write.

And tell stories.

“I believe in stories. The world has enough dogma. It’s stories we need more of, stories that reverence the still, small voice that sings our life.”
-- Sue Monk Kidd, Firstlight