Today is always a kind of somber day for me. I can't help but reflect on my life because 18 years ago on this day, I graduated from high school (pictured above, Clarkston High School, Clarkston, Georgia, Class of 1990). Just think, had I gotten some girl pregnant that summer, my kid would be graduating high school this year! That's scary to think about. Others have done it and managed.
But that's not what I wanted to write about. Each year, this anniversary date becomes more and more complicated, as it induces a growing sense of failure over what my life has become. In a memory book I put together in the spring of 1990, there was a place to write where I saw myself in five years (1995) and in ten years (2000). My prediction for my life was that I'd be married with two children, working in a successful writing career, and living in Oceanside, California. I'm far from that goal, but not achieving it didn't give me such heartache in 2000.
In 2000, on the tenth anniversary of my graduation, I had no complaints. I had just completed a White House internship, working for Vice President Gore, as I had dreamed that I would since 1993. I had no complaints about life at my ten year mark because as I looked back, I experienced a Navy enlistment and college. I met my two goals before I'd even begin to think about marriage. On the tenth anniversary, I made a special trip to the gravesite of Robert F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetary in Virginia and had a "conversation" (or prayer if you will). Kennedy is my political hero. I've been waiting years to work for a person of his quality. I regret passing the opportunity to send my resume in to Obama's campaign in January 2007. At the time, I wasn't ready to leave Portland had I gotten a job offer on his campaign. I love Portland (and still do). I thought I'd find a better job by August 2007, but I'm still here...and the despair grows deeper.
In all honesty, I'm in the biggest crisis of my life. My best friend thought it was funny that I called it my "mid-life crisis" and in a way, it's not an accurate term. Mid-life crisis happens to men in middle age (40s and 50s) after they have achieved success in their careers, have been married with children who are either teenagers or college students, and are facing reminders of their mortality when their parents face physical decline or pass away. The cliche is that these men fight the natural order of things by trading in the nagging wife for a younger model, buy a sports car or convertable, or change careers.
But what about a person who hasn't "arrived" in life yet? Who has struggled in nothing but low wage jobs since high school graduation? Who thought an investment in a college education would lead to more job opportunity and a better paying career? Instead, a college degree has gotten me nothing but debt and a job paying less than what I made without one. The quality of my life was better when I didn't have a degree, because I was completely debt free, owned a car, and had a job that paid the same as what I make now. But that was eleven years ago and we've all seen prices rise faster than wages have kept pace with.
Thus, I'm in the deepest despair of my life over my failure to find a better paying job. Had I known that a college degree wouldn't lead me to the promise land of a livable wage career, I probably would not have left the Navy. I endured living on borrowed money, the GI Bill, and a part time job during my college years for the hope of something better. Each year that passes reminds me only of what I've failed to find in the years since. Honestly, even my faith in God has suffered lately because my prayers aren't answered, I get no response in job after job that I apply for, and I see friends I've met when none of us had money find success in career and family and what do I have to show for my life? Not a damn thing but self indulgence. Sure, I've traveled all over the planet and met a lot of great people. When I see the way the world is, I want to use my International Politics degree by making a difference in a career that matters. Why I'm stuck in a job that doesn't match my talents and passion, getting paid poverty wages is the biggest mystery of my life. Something needs to change soon because my patience has long run out.
My class motto was "If we can't find the road to success, we'll build one." I thought it was lame, but now I can't help but to ponder it. I haven't found the road to success and I don't know how to build one. All my hopes and dreams keep failing. All I'm left with is heartbroken failure. If things don't change soon, I don't know what'll happen. I've been in this job too long. I knew it was a dead end when I accepted it, but I thought it was a temporary thing I'd easily get out of after I settled into a life and routine in Portland. August will be two years and that's another anniversary I dread. Truth is, finding a government job in Afghanistan is the only thing that excites me these days. It's looking to be more of an option for me as I fail to find another job in Portland. It'll bring me closer to my dream of an international career. All I'm waiting on is for the next president to be inaugurated. I guess I'm still holding out hope that Portland will deliver me a dream job in the months remaining of the Bush era. A part of me believes that Bush is the accidental president, that Gore was meant to be president and that's why I haven't found success, because I was meant to be an aide in the Gore Administration. Since that didn't happen, my life has been a nightmare these past seven years as I face the failure that my life has become.
Sorry this post is such a downer, but that's where I am today as I face an important anniversary date in my life. Every year, I go through this and I can definitely feel a creeping sense that my life has been a complete failure to meet the objectives I had set for myself at 18. I know that nothing is permanent and that change can happen instantaneously that will completely alter your life in ways you can't imagine. But when nothing has changed for the better in 20 months, you have to wonder if it ever will. The eternal optimist in me has faith that it will, but that faith is dying a slow death as the months trickle by and nothing changes. I don't know how much longer I can endure this crisis of despair. I have much to offer this world, if only to find the organizations that value what my experience and knowledge would bring. That's the only thing that keeps me going, a hope for something better, but the time for deliverance is N O W!