Lester Burnham was completely apathetic to all aspects of his life. His job, his health, his daughter, his wife, his neighbors, the music Carolyn played during dinner. No reactions. There was only one thing that got him excited. A fantasy about a girl. The fantasy was completely out of realms of possibility. It was just a dream. Yet this dream took over his life. Whenever something was frustrating, boring, or irritating, he could mentally escape down a well-worn thought path. More and more he found himself inside his head inventing new scenarios to meet and have a romantic relationship with this girl.
And each time he did so, he became even further disengaged from reality.
I was in a similar boat, but my fantasy was different. I had gotten through the drudgery of schooling all the way through college to reach the golden opportunity for a corporate job. And it was boring. So boring. All I could think of was wanting to do anything else, but I felt locked in. I had no idea how to find a different job and I was dreadfully afraid what would happen if I couldn't afford my rent.
Somehow "living in fear" translated in my head to "staying safe."
Seriously, I was so afraid of losing my paycheck that I stayed at a job that I hated. I mean I hated it. I hated every day for 2 years. Yet, I was constantly afraid if I quit, my life would fall apart.
So what did I do for those 2 years?
Did I apply for jobs at other companies? Did I go back to school? Did I start pursuing a job on the side?
Instead, whenever I wasn't stressing about the work, I attempted to "de-stress" by doing things like:
- Take extended breaks in the bathroom to read fantasy novels like "The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Name of Wind",
- Commit to learning about something on my lunch breaks. I'd go on-line and
research something I'd heard about, but never learned. Like the Potato
Famine in Ireland in 1845-1849.
- Make lists of my top 10 favorite fill-in-the-blank: Bands, Songs, Books, Movies,
Video Games, Foods, Sports teams, Teachers I'd had, Influential Celebrities,
Annoying celebrities, and even "Top Ten Lists"
- Review my "top 10" lists--which I simply had saved to the hard drive of my work
One of those Top 10 lists was:
"Things I would do if I didn't have to work".
I can't tell you how many times I looked at that list. It was basically a list of things I thought were impossible. Looking at it inspired me to dream of bigger and better things, but it never inspired me to act. Every time I reviewed that list I just imagined what it would be like if I could play music at festivals or travel to Ireland or go road tripping across America. But I knew that with the entry-level salary I was making, I could barely pay my bills. It was definitely going to be 30 years before I could do anything fun.
Strangely enough, however, some of the activities I listed were:
- Draw every day or Write every day
- Play guitar every day.
- Read every day.
Those are simple goals. At least, in retrospect. (Especially, now that I've been writing something everyday now for at least 5 years!) Why did they seem so impossible? Why did I think I had to wait until retirement to do the things I enjoyed?
Because I was dreaming.
Nothing was real. Everything was a possibility, but I didn't believe in anything. I didn't believe I had control over my life. I believed my boss had control over me. Or the landlord had control over me. Or my parents' influence had control over me. Or my pastor had control over me. But there was nothing that I could do to change my circumstance. So I just kept on dreaming...
Lester did the same.