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Monday, March 12, 2007

Timeless

Greenville, South Carolina is one of those places you'd never go on a whim. Ten years ago, if you'd asked me to find it on a map, I maybe could've pointed within 400 miles of the Greenville dot. When I describe it to friends from London or Amsterdam or Madrid, I say, "You've heard of Atlanta and Charlotte? It's halfway between those two cities."

Greenville is more than that, though. I always tell people who ask, "I ended up in Greenville by accident and never left." That's basically true. In TV news, when some one offers you a decent job that is better than the one you have, you take it. If that job is in Anchorage, Glendive, or Greenville, you take it. That was what happened with my wife and I. She was offered a job. Then, by virtue of her talent and her employer's desire to prevent me from working for the competition, I was offered a job. We moved, married, bought a house, had a kid, and called Greenville home.

A few of you have been here, either for the wedding or for Bradoween. You've seen bits and pieces of why we stay here. The city is vibrant, the climate is comfortable, and the people are slightly more forward-thinking than the rest of the South.

It was in this environment that we packed up our new family-mover and went to the downtown park along the Reedy River. It is probably the most beautiful place in the city. It's green, flowered, waterfally, and generally among the most comfortable places to spend an afternoon. Yesterday was a pre-St. Pats day Irish festival. Thousands of people were out, drinking Guinness, listening to Irish music, and eating Irishy food. I had the kid, the wife, and this laptop in tow. Sunday is a rough day for me work-wise and I couldn't afford to be without the 'puter. The park has wireless access, so, well, it worked out. As the band played and my kid danced, I climbed about 80 feet up a hill and got online. Where everybody else was holding a beer or their child, I was sitting on a rock with a laptop on my knees.

If you're a frequent laptop user, you know it's uncomfortable to wear a watch and type at the same time. My watch is not an overly expensive one, but I love it just the same. It was a gift from my wife. One night, I'd stuck one of my kid's stickers on the back of it. I do things like that to make me feel closer to my kid when I'm away.

I slipped off my watch and put it at my side while I finished up ten minutes of work that couldn't wait. As I completed the task, the band started playing a good song and I looked down to see my wife. Eighty feet below me, she held my son in the air and spun around in the sunshine. I slapped my laptop shut and ran down the hill.

I dodged my way through the crowd, ignoring the jokes from a poker player I know about whether I was playing poker online in the middle of the park. I threw my laptop in the kid's stroller, grabbed him, and danced like we were in our living room and the whole city couldn't see me acting like the idiot I loved to be. The song ended and I walked my son down to a small tributary of the river so he could get dirty.

Daylight Saving Time had come early and I marveled at how beautiful it was outside at 5pm. Wait, was it really 5pm? I pulled up my left arm to check my watch...the watch I'd left sitting on the hill.

I handed the kid to my wife and ran back up the hill. As I suspected, my watch was gone. I spent ten minutes vainly searching to see if the watch had rolled down the decline or gotten buried in some dirt. Nope. Gone.

For reasons I couldn't fully understand, I got mad, then sad, then generally surly. I wondered how long it took for one of the people on the hill to pick up my watch and put it in their pocket. I wondered what they would think when they looked on the back of it and saw the tiny Christmas tree sticker.

My arm has felt lighter ever since, and my heart conversely heavier. I could go out and buy the same watch today, but it wouldn't mean anything. It was a gift. It was a private symbol of my child's innocence. It meant something to me.

I remember a time in the north of France a couple of years ago when I was sitting beside an exceedingly wealthy man. We were both on laptops and both removed our watches to type. Later, we went to a bar and he realized he'd left his watch behind. He sprinted back to where he'd left it, likely because the watch cost more than I would make in four months. People value watches for different reason, I guess.

The past three months have marked some pretty odd changes in my behavior and personality. Perhaps the most evident change is the length of time it takes me to lose patience for something. For as long as I can remember, I have been the most patient person I know. It took a lot to rattle me. It took a great deal more to make me mad. Recently, the smallest of things have sent me down a path to such insane tilt, I barely know myself. If I'm being honest, it's pretty fucking scary.

I've worked pretty hard to attribute the personality change to something specific. I've looked at my lifestyle, my family, my job, my finances...everything that can affect one's personality. While every one of those areas has seen need for improvement in one way or another, I can't really lay the blame on any one of those things. Even putting them all together leaves me wanting for that one vital missing link to explain what's messing with my head.

Yesterday, as I steamed about the lost/stolen watch and elbowed my way through downtown to our favorite little Mexican joint, I couldn't put my finger on it. It took until just a few minutes ago for me to finally admit it to myself.

I'm scared.

I've spent the past decade putting my all into my job. Although I've had better jobs than most people I know, living a life that is defined by your profession has its drawbacks. What's more, I think a great deal of my purported passion for my jobs has been a way to hide my fear of actually trying to...well, okay...be what my friend Wil calls a capital "W" Writer. There. I said it. Again.

I think I have determined that I'm letting time fly by as fast as I can because I'm afraid if I slow down, I'll realize how little I am actually doing. This afternoon, I watched my kid (just two and half years old) put on an entire play with a couple of dump trucks. There was a plot and everything. It was improv. The kid breaks my heart and I can barely write about him without tearing up.

My wife and I have occasional discussions about how we're becoming more summer than spring chickens. Ten years ago, we had our lives ahead of us and could afford to be bohemian and lazy. Now, it feels like each month slips away a little bit faster. We've managed to succeed on a lot of fronts. We're financially comfortable. We have a beautiful son, a home, a dog, two cars, and very little debt. It is the American Dream...which we managed to accomplish in spite of ourselves.

As much as I want to be mad at whoever is wearing my watch today, I can't help but accept the blame for leaving it sitting there to be stolen. I was trying to balance my obligations to work and family and failing miserably at both. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to make sure I am doing what I am supposed to do that I leave some of the important things behind.

Acceptance, I'm told, is the first step.

Labels: , ,

4 Comments:

Blogger BuckeyeTimmy said...

People might not go to Greenville on a whim, but I know several who have come on a Whim. Two too many, actually.

1:51 PM  
Blogger G-Rob said...

A) Jesus Timmy. Jesus.

B) This is a fine post.

C) I am struggling with every one of these issues.

D) Really struggling. It isn't easy.

E) Not to be one of those lowbrow dopes always quoting popular movies but, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Damn good question eh?

4:03 PM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

When you get to where you want to be, where else is there to go?

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Uncle Ted said...

My arm has felt lighter ever since, and my heart conversely heavier.

Sublime.

9:34 PM  

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