Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Persuading



I'm having a hard time persuading E to move to Colorado. And it's not that it's a hard sell, or that I'm not motivated, but rather that I'm wondering if it's the best thing for her. It would be the best thing for me, if I were her, but, err, she's not me, and so my usual model for suggesting how to make people's lives better by pretending to be in their situation just breaks down. We value very different things. For her, stability and security are paramount. She seems quite content to hold her 9 to 5 receptionist job that provides a living wage and lets her put a little in the bank. And E's moments, her enjoyment of life, are different and quieter than mine. I can picture her now, holding a mug of hot tea in front of her window, warming both hands, looking out at the crab apple tree in her back yard, her mind drifting through the imagery of her life, before she goes off to work. She's happy like that, and it's very safe, in its way.

I can appreciate those moments, but they're not the ones I seek out. And I'd chew off my own leg to escape a job where I had to punch a clock every day and warm a chair. Time is the only thing of real value I have, and I have so precious little of it. Too little of it to burn behind a desk doing work that doesn't capture my interest. So, rather than seeing a job as safety and security, I see it as a trap, depriving a naturally free spirit of its prime resource, a resource better spent on things like play and creative endeavors. And the safety seems false, since it doesn't save one from death in the end anyway. I'd rather see E chasing her dreams. I'd love to be sitting behind my computer screen, in my Colorado house, and look over to see E curled up in a chair, writing -- weaving metaphors with language as a painter crafts images with pigment. E's talent is as a writer -- that's her love -- and so, it seems to me, she should be writing. But, to her, that's a trap -- to spend the time writing and not building a career. To end up five years down the line without financial security, still working as a waitress to get by, with nothing but a pile of words going nowhere to explain where the time went. So, that dream, of E as a writer, is perhaps more mine for her than it is hers, and it's an unjustifiable risk for her.

And who am I to say what is the inside and what is the outside of the cage? In my own way, as a wandering surf bum and physicist errant, I'm trapped by the lack of effort I've put into making money. How do I know I won't look back and regret it, with nothing to show for my time but stacks of physics notes and papers that led nowhere? I'm happy with the choices I've made, I think they've been the right ones for me. But I shouldn't impose those choices on E. Maybe, for her, I should just be this odd fellow who shows up on her doorstep to visit every now and then, for a while, when she's not at work.

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gar@lisi.com