So I’m sick. It blows. I got sick somewhere in the evening two nights ago. I began to feel really run down and slightly dizzy on my way home from work. My thinking (which is usually flawless) was that I was gonna buy a nice bottle of whiskey, go home, have a glass, sleep really soundly and then wake up feeling top notch. Well, the part about getting the whiskey and having some went totally according to plan. The next part, however, was where shit started to go off the rails. I started getting really cold, then sweating and then getting cold again. I started feeling vaguely sick. The whole thing wasn’t fun. I woke up yesterday feeling the fairly standard “not that good thanks to a bad night of sleep. Need better sleep tonight.”
However, I went to work and as I sat there I just started feeling worse and worse. By the end of the day, I was ready to barf. It literally took all my strength not to puke all over the evening commute. By the time I got home last night, I was fully sick, with white lips, double spouting fountain syndrome and constant freezingness.
I went to bed around 830 and didn’t sleep well. Being really sick is delirium inducing. So, between running to the bathroom and shivering I started thinking about my life in the way that only someone in the grip of something unholy can.
Having a job is weird. I used to be SO stoked on just being in a band, (which is an amazing job for anyone to be able to do, but especially a young single guy) but then when that no longer became something I could fully commit to, due to tons of mitigating factors, not the least of which include burnout, lack of interest, the inability to convince my wife that leaving her at home with our kids for weeks at a time while I get out there and party is a solid investment in our future etc, I started working at a bar. Suddenly, I felt like a goddamned loser. I had friends who were still making money playing in bands, and they’d come in after their shows to this bar (this really lame bar) that I worked in, or they’d just come on the radio and I’d sit there and think, “what the fuck? Why can’t I still be doing this all the time? Why am I stuck getting hot wings and Blue Moon’s for assholes while other people out there are telling expectations to fuck themselves and living the dream (mind you, this thought came often at extremely selfish and myopic times in my life where I ignored the truth of what I’d been doing and exactly how well it had been working out and all that). I hated that bar, and I hated working there.
Then I got fired for going on tour. I got fired right before my daughter was born. I got all my shifts covered and told everyone where I was going, but they fired me anyway, one week before I became a father for the second time. Suddenly, I had no job at all. It was a brutal dick punch, but we adjusted with a new paradigm. Namely, that I’d stay home with the kids, since any money I’d make in a service job wouldn’t really cover a nanny in any meaningful way that would justify not raising my own kids, and we’d regroup in a few years and see what was up.
That’s when I learned that being a full time stay-at-home dad was/is brutally rough. Not only is it just emasculating in terms of every day gender roles, but it’s thankless and it’s relentless. It never ends. You put those kids to bed, you clean up the house, you pass out for a second, they wake up, it all starts again. It’s a goddamn grind with no breaks. I’d talk to people and when we’d get into what we do for a living, and they’d say what they did, I’d reply with “man, I wish I had a job like that” almost regardless of what they’d say. I wanted to get away from my kids enough to get stuff done and get perspective and make a little money and feel like a contributing member of society (and I know that there’s nothing that you can do that’s better for society at large than raise some decent kids, but it doesn’t FEEL like that when you do it) but I was stuck. I had no job experience other than some freelance shit and a bartending job that would be a bad reference from years before. There was no escape. I began to feel trapped and useless and even my friends with shitty bar jobs seemed to be on ten zillion times the track I was to success.
THEN, I got this job. Now I get up, shower, shave, put on nice-ish clothes and cram into a tube with a zillion other shaved, showered people about my age and we all ride downtown to big towers where we all go into our clever little firms and do clever little things and think hard and work late and talk about billable hours and clients and shit like that. We all get paid well and none of us have to answer anything too embarrassing when someone asks what we do for a living. It’s great. It’s just what I wanted, except for here’s the secret (that most of you, especially those of you in cubes) already know:
It’s no more rewarding than raising your kids or being a bartender. If being in a band is ‘having fun at the expense of your family and future, and raising your kids is being around your family at the expense of being yourself, and being a bartender is being at a party at the expense of fun, then working in a cube is…well, it’s just working in a cube. I feel just as trapped and distant from “what’s important to me” (which, for the record is my art and my family, two things that I’ve so far not been able to synthesize in any sort of situation where I can operate and interact with both) as I ever did. I don’t feel worse. I have more money. I guess technically that’s way better, but it’s weird. No one ever asks me if I want to do a shot of whiskey, for example, and I can’t nap during naptime if it gets to be too much. And beyond that, just like with everything else, there’s no way out.
Happiness, it seems, is something that you’re born with. My kids are happy. They’re excited by life and the world and trains and planes and ice cream cones and fish and, fuckin A, man. You name it, they’re stoked. As they get older, they’ll probably hit a pinnacle of stokededness, most likely in their late teens or early 20’s where they’re doing something they really like, and they don’t care that they have no money because life is still fun and exciting and the people around them are fun and exciting and they’re getting to do all sorts of grownup shit for the first time. And then it gets old.
Then, suddenly, you’re in your band and you can’t stand the idea of being gone/being in a band with some asshole/getting up on the stage and having to entertain people like some kind of fucking clown even if you’re in a bad mood/etc. Or you find you’ve stagnated in your career and you’ve been passed over for promotions and you’re stuck in a different but similarly unsatisfying rut. You have kids and your house gets smaller. You wake up and realize you’re 40 and still work in a titty bar. And there’s no way out.
I feel that shit pulsing on the train, the crushing malaise and the impenetrable masks of resigned doom are pervasive. It’s wild. I thought it was just me, but it turns out that none of us are happy.
Of course, there are exceptions and even ways out. Seems like a lot of people get to a certain age and decide to become a baker or open a boutique or something like that and that seems to work out nicely for folks. I know a couple who was vacationing and they fell ass backwards into running the resort in Mexico they were staying in and now they just live there. But man, as I was sitting there in my disease riddled putrescence last night, I realized that every time I thought I was doing the right thing, it was wrong. Now I’m old and broken and shit’s done fucked, son.
Of course, that’s just how you think when you’re sick. I woke up at 5 am today to my kids banging on the walls and I felt nothing but white hot rage. Then I went to target and, after dicking around for an hour and contemplating what to buy, left with just $2.05 worth of lunchables.
So maybe it’s just me. I’m obviously a moron. Thanks to everyone who came out to my NYC show this past weekend. It was truly one of my most favorite experiences I’ve ever had on a stage. There are also still a very few tickets left to our metro show with Banner Pilot on the Saturday after thanksgiving, so don’t sleep on that either. Great. As you were.