Living With a Ghost

There was a line in Grey’s Anatomy this week that prompted this post. I can’t recall exactly how it was phrased but the character says he “doesn’t want to live with a ghost — who he might have been if he had been brave enough to try.” That line struck a chord with me because I feel like that describes me in some way.

When I went away to college I went in thinking I wanted to be a teacher. I started on that track from the beginning of my college career and only once did I consider anything else. I took a journalism class with the thought of possibly changing my major. I liked the class, but I took the easy path of sticking with my major I chose as a high school kid. I muddled through my education classes and then, when I actually went to the classroom, I realized I hated teaching. My advisor saw that and advised that I change my major. I was working at the university library at the time and enjoyed it. It seemed the easy thing to do was to follow my advisor’s advice and work toward an MLS. I changed my major to communications and worked toward a BS for the sole purpose of going to graduate school for the MLS. I really enjoyed my communications classes. I mostly took classes in small group and mass communications. I especially liked my mass communication classes. I should have considered moving forward in that field, but, once again, I had tunnel vision and went straight on to the MLS program after graduation. While getting my master’s, I worked at a market research firm. I was very good at my job. I didn’t, however, consider that as a career either. I stayed focused on the library thing and when we moved to Maryland I applied for multiple library jobs. Now, here I am 23 years later working in a library in Maryland.

I don’t hate being a librarian. I like my job and I’m at the very least adequate at doing said job(most of the time) but I think a lot of my dissatisfaction over the years has been the side effect of living with that ghost. The ghost of Alan who didn’t go in to college with an open mind. The ghost of Alan who didn’t at least take a 2nd journalism class. The ghost of Alan who didn’t consider a career in communications. The ghost of Alan who didn’t look in to market research careers in Maryland. The ghost of Alan who would never attempt to write more than a mediocre blog post. The ghost of Alan who has always done what is easy and safe.

I like my life. I just feel like I missed out on some opportunities by playing it safe. Learn a lesson from me. Don’t spend your life living with a ghost.

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Tater the Wandering Drunk

On day 7 of my month of Tater I’ve decided to tell two stories of the time I wandered off while intoxicated. One of these came up while I was at my high school reunion in the summer and the other is one that pops in my mind every now and then. The first one is just an amusing story. The second one sometimes pops in my head as a possible crossroad in my life.

Story one takes place on New Year’s Eve. I was at a party at my brother’s apartment. I knew most of the people there, but I was very much not a part of the group. I was just the weird little brother who was invited by the host. I really don’t remember a lot about the party besides feeling out-of-place. At one point that combined with everyone else pairing off in to couples became too much for me so I walked outside. I was sitting outside alone in the cold when one of my brother’s neighbors saw me and invited me to come to their party. Apparently, in my drunken and depressed state of mind, going to a party with complete strangers seemed like a good decision, so I did. I don’t know how long I stayed, but I wa gone long enough for my brother to notice I was missing. I eventually wandered back and slept on the couch at my brother’s place. Nothing really exciting happened. It’s just an “interesting” story about me.

Story two takes place at college. I had been at a party at a frat house. I never joined a fraternity, but I was welcomed and invited to parties at one particular fraternity even though I never pledged. I would go to the parties, drink, and hope that one night I would get up the nerve to actually talk to some of the female party attendees. That never happened, by the way.  So, one night, I was at a party and still too shy and nervous to approach a girl to dance or talk so I wandered off. I ended up at the McDonalds off campus, bought some fries and sat there alone. While I was there, a group of punk looking kids came in to the restaurant. They were either my age or a year younger and still in high school. I’m not really sure. Anyway, they saw me eating alone and invited me to join them, so I did. I don’t remember anything about the conversation, but they were very nice and friendly. When they were heading out, they invited me to come with them to a party. Unlike the story above, I declined and went back to my dorm.  That night pops into my head from time to time and I think that marked a crossroads in my life. I had two options. I chose the go back to my dorm option which led to me sitting here in Maryland.  The other option of going with them could easily have just lead to one odd night at a party with strangers and I still end up here, but it could have led me in an entire different direction. Assuming they were not planning on murdering me, I could have gone with them, had a great time, and spent every weekend hanging out with them. This would have lead me away from the campus based activity where I would eventually meet my wife. Life can move in different direction based on one simple decision.

Or maybe I just watch too many TV shows with time travel and the possibility of alternate timelines.

PSA: I would not recommend drinking and wandering.

Day 21: Being an Example

Today’s challenge is to write about three lessons I want my kids to learn from me. There are a lot of general ideas that pop in my head. The problem is that some of the things that I could say I hope my kid could learn from me I still have a lot to learn myself. This is another post I’m starting with no idea where it’s going to go. That’s probably a bad way to write. Anyway, here they are:

1. Be the bet YOU you can be: It took me a long time to learn this lesson myself. I spent too much of my life wanting and trying to be who I thought other people wanted me to be. I’m much happier when I just forget about the expectations of others and just be me. I hope my kids can learn to be themselves and not worry about what others want them to be. Don’t listen to people who want to pressure you in to a career or life path just because they think it’s what is best for you(or so they can brag to other people). Be who and what makes you happy(unless what makes you happy is illegal or harms others) and the people who truly care about you will love you for being you.

2. Work hard, but find time to play: I want my kids to have a strong work ethic. Work hard in school and get good grades. If you have a job show up and do your best. Be on time, be reliable and earn your pay. On the other hand, don’t be a workaholic. Do your job but when you aren’t on the clock enjoy life. Travel, go out with friends, read good books, watch movies, watch TV, hike, do all the things you enjoy instead of bringing work home with you. No one has ever said “I wish I had worked more” on their death bed. I don’t know if that is actually true, but it sounds right.

3. Care about people: Too many people go through life only caring about themselves with no regard to the people around them. Don’t be that person. Don’t be so wrapped up in your own life that you don’t see the people around you. The first step is to see the people around you. You can’t care about what you don’t see. After that, though, you have to act. If you see someone struggling, help them. If someone needs to talk, listen. Be there for your friends when they need you. Stop to help strangers. I need to do more of this myself.