Today I am in Castellermo del Golfo and it’s about 30 degrees warmer than in Berlin. I can sit outside as the sun breaks through the clouds staring out at the olive tree farms and wiggling my toes because they seem to know that they are in Sicily and not in California. I am preparing to drive along the coast today as an alternate version of a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. I am in Italy and I am lucky.
When I look at my life and the random way that I got here, I can’t help but to laugh. While most spend their youth worrying about the world in the microcosm of college, I joined the military and discovered my darkness. I dove head first (as is my way of things) into alcoholism and depression as a mechanism for that which I had hidden. Years of masking and suppressing my feelings — all of which are strong at their weakest point — had relegated me to an exit door found in every dream and nightmare.
As those same people were suffering from Senioritis, I was working in one of the numerous places I’ve worked making ends meet with beginnings. Skipping meals because I didn’t want to work more hours, being late on rent because I was young and impulsive, and relying on the support that I had because of serendipity. I was focused on being content because I hadn’t learned that content could be a baseline.
When folks were getting settled into their careers, I was moving to San Diego for love. Leaving a job where if I’d stayed I would have been secure because the future for me was anything but. What is life, I thought, if I am chasing dreams when I know that I could live them if only I’d dream abstractly. I had yet to settle down but I’d spent my life digging trenches. The battles of monotony that I’d seen everyone fighting was what I was preparing for, but it was not what I had seen. My war was with my Self.
Then the destination had moved to Las Vegas because now they could afford to let loose. I was tired of it, having been there endlessly while I was stationed in Phoenix. I could no longer afford to keep up and my prospects were slim. I was relegated to dead-end jobs, “If only you had a degree you’d be more attractive” said the hiring manager. Experience was too expensive when they could hire a child straight out of college. It made sense.
Months of looking for work while also contemplating college. My lack of “formal” education was what ended my last relationship and now seemed to be preventing the next from ever starting. Through my time learning about cars I’d learned about financial aid. My curiosity and inquisitive nature put me in their office learning the ins and outs. As my friends had flown once again to Vegas, I sat there thinking about my future and how I should move next. It was time for a plan to get me over this hump and I knew it had to be solid.
I sat and thought long and hard while I enrolled myself in beginning courses, the ones I’d need regardless but easy enough to get my toes wet, and plotted it out. I’d get a degree in practicality so that I could do what I wanted to do: afford to play with my friends. Knowing the system I had stopped working just early enough to avoid passing the financial threshold that would prevent me from receiving maximum help. It continued on for a while longer as I advanced through the necessary classes. I had a plan and I was sticking to it but slowly I returned to baseline.
Course after course I rolled and the further from passion I’d gotten. No longer could I look forward to the next class because it was 4-6 hours of studying while the remainder of the day was spent considering about tomorrow. My life was lacking the passion that fueled me thus far, so perhaps it was time to change? I thought long and hard and decided to take a semester to figure it out as I conversed with friends and family about what they thought. Most said I’d do what I wanted but having a job that made good money would suit my lifestyle, but they were focused on the future. The others said I was passionate and therefore I should do what challenges me since the sciences only challenged my time management, so they pointed me towards English because I have tons of opinions and am critical about everything. I was glad that I took that semester to think because it didn’t take long before I’d faced what I knew all along.
The greatest challenge I’d ever faced was whenever someone told me that something shouldn’t be. I always wanted, and still want, to know why. I found that in a teacher. The hardest thing to do in life is to convince a person that their life is a story. That it’s a piece of art that’s unfinished and so worrying only about the outcome is as troublesome as worrying only about the opportunities. That what will come is as improbable as it is impossible. I fully embraced this challenge and suddenly I knew that I wanted to become a Professor. To teach young minds at the university level because that is when knowledge of the world at large starts finding facts that destroys the facades we’d been fed for so long.
To say that I don’t know what’s next is an obvious statement. I am a person that plans frameworks to keep space open for probability, possibility and luck. I think incessantly about situations and circumstances in order to minimize critical hits because regardless of all my thinking and planning, I’ll never cover everything. Surprises come via love and compassion, but they also arrive in the form of hate and viciousness. I simply don’t know, but I’m always ready to find out.