Friday, September 09, 2011

Nobody Asked Me, But...

By Carl
 
[ed. note "Nobody Asked Me, But..." is a weekly round up I post to my personal blog, Simply Left Behind, to summarize news you might have missed. Today, I broke from the usual format and felt I should share it with my friends at The Reaction]
 
1) 9/11 Changed Everything.
 
I spent the dinner hour last night investigating gyms around my neighborhood.
 
All my life, I've been an on-and-off gym rat. A body like mine takes a lot of hard work, a combination of intense training and hard-core drinking and eating, to develop this perfect set of mushy but bulky muscles. I can lift a Buick but look ridiculous in a Speedo. That sort of thing.
 
I haven't been to a gym regularly since I spent eighteen months with a personal trainer in the early '00s, and I've been suffering injury after injury, even just walking down the block. The final straw was curtailing my bike riding this summer, a real passion, because of a bout of severe tendinitis.
 
I was walking home from what will likely become my new gym and I started to let my mind wander (realize that I had no clue about this story perking in the background, altho it's conceivable that subliminally I heard it being discussed on one of the ubiquitous TV sets around the gym.)
 
I started to think about this weekend. see, I got a guest pass from the gym and I wanted to find a way to use it that simulates how I'd regularly use the facilities. After all, if it's packed on Monday nights, that's something I need to know.
 
It's 9/11/11, after all. I determined to try to avoid the television as much as possible that day. And I started to think about how the world has changed.
 
Not your world. Not the world world. My world.
 
I've changed a lot since 9/11. That event was a catalyst in my life, created a whole new dynamic for me.
 
I guess I realized that security was an illusion, that the very people in charge of protecting us couldn't, or wouldn't, or more likely, couldn't be bothered. The oceans no longer protected us from our enemies, and all the duck-and-cover drills we learned as kids were meaningless when the building itself was about to collapse. You get a little scared (first post. I'll get to that in a minute.)
 
If security is an illusion, then why was I protecting myself, my thinking went? If enemies foreign could smite me, surely enemies domestic could do it, and for far less incentive. So why was I sitting in an office, making gobs of money for someone else, all for the crumbs of recognition I was getting? Sure, I was making good money (still am, just not quite as good,) and the people were nice and the perks of the job were enjoyable, but it was all an illusion.
 
Ten years later, the job isn't as fun, the perks have been culled to the bare minimum, I haven't had a raise of any note in eight years (9/11 changed things there, too,) the people around me are antsy, and the illusion has been damped down. I still work where I worked on that fateful day when the plane tore past my office window, but the man who worked here that day is gone. And soon, the man he evolved into will likely leave as well.
 
Part of it is, I'm sure, just the normal aging process. But some of it is because of the realization that the illusion is incomplete.
 
In the 1990s, I would have been content with working, then going out with buddies after work, getting drunk and staggering home to my family (that's changed, too.) That's an illusion too, and it's an illusion designed to feed the illusion that a job matters to your life.
 
The money does, its true, but the job itself is pretty meaningless. Unless you can find a real meaning in it. Making someone else richer is not a meaning. It's an excuse.
 
My attitude towards life changed, mostly. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when most people were pondering how to protect themselves-- duct tape, plastic sheets, first aid kit, cell phone-- I took up SCUBA diving. I always wanted to do it, and realized that buildings fall but achievements last. I may as well do the bucket list thing now.
 
I was careening towards fifty at the time. I knew I'd have fewer days ahead than behind shortly. Time is a companion that guides us through life, gently reminding us that we don't have as much of its companionship left as we hope. Diving meant dive vacations, which meant travel. I never traveled much as a kid/man. Now I travel regularly. There's too much of the world to see, both above and below the water, and I need to see it, to record it for posterity, and to have stories to tell in heaven or hell.
 
That was the first psychotic break from my previous life. I started looking through the lens and into the world, shooting pictures. Again, to record what I saw, how I saw it. I took cameras below the water because I realize 99% of the people around me (including you, my readers, but I'll get to that in a second) will never see the undersea world up close and personal, the way I can shoot it.
 
The final break from what I will euphemistically call "reality" came on August 4, 2005. A friend and co-blogger (if she ever stops playing with her kittens and iPad), Katrina, persuaded me that my voice needed to be heard. I was too intelligent and too passionate to sit around on blogs and websites commenting. So I did. Timidly, at first. This was, after all, the height of the frustration the nation was having with then-President Bush the Younger, and a lot of vitriol was flying in both directions. I really didn't know how I'd stomach taking responsibility for my own words at my own blog.
 
It took a while. A year and a month, almost precisely, for me to reconcile myself to the fact that I was going to have to strip away a few layers of undergarments if I was to communicate my message, and make an impact. I've tried to make this a personal blog even as I've talked about world events and made connections between disparate things. I know my hit count it way below where it could be. I know other blogs that have started the same time as mine and through a combination of fortune, harder work, and more likeable personality, those blogs have flown high.
 
But I'm proud of the work I've done here, and prouder still that my small corner of the world has not contained my barbaric "YAWP!" I'm proud to have been quoted, prouder still to have won awards for my blogging (sheesh...I forgot to include those when I switched to the new format!)
 
But more, I'm proud of the friends I've made blogging.
 
9/11 changed the world, but it changed me even more and for the far better. It made me look at myself and take a hold of my life and start doing something to make a difference in my own world, and I hope, in yours.
 
Even so, I'd give all that good that has happened back to see the world the way it was at 8:45 AM, September 11, 2001.
 
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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