It’s the end of the year and it usually brings an overabundance of introspection and reflection and for me it’s not just “what did I accomplish this year” but I find I’m looking at the big picture. Is my life shaping up the way I want it to? Am I having an impact on things that matter to me? Am I positioning myself to be able to influence things that are important to me? I’m approaching the big 5 0 and that may have something to do with it.
I can remember being a fresh-faced lieutenant and looking at what seemed an endless dark tunnel of training and hoop jumping to get where I wanted to be. It was great to finally get through that tunnel and into the daylight again. It took years of hard work and dedication to see the light at the end, but I made it through. The thing is, once I got over the fact that I had achieved my initial goals, I found that I was sitting on a knoll looking down at several more tunnel entrances. It had opened up possibilities and I had choices but I was going to have to go through more training and learning if I chose to come down off the knoll. It was nice sitting there for awhile, basking in the sunlight, but eventually you want more challenges. You find that you are not fulfilled for whatever reason. Maybe you aren’t doing what will really make you happy or have the impact that you want. You have to choose a new tunnel and start the process all over.
I’ve come to the point in my life where I’m sitting on the knoll and I’m ready to come down. I tell myself I know where the road ends up going through, because I want to write fulltime at some point. The other options I have will likely pay a lot more and be positions where I can have an impact on some aspect of either military or federal service. The time I’ve spent training and working has made me eligible to make the leap to the next level if I want to take it. The question is which one is the right one for me and my family? I pray for an answer regularly.
I think we all aspire to be consequential or to have some sort of validation that what we are doing is meaningful or has value. At what point do we except our fate and stop trying to make a difference? Or do we ever reach that point? Can’t we always have an impact on those around us? These are concerns of scale or scope. It is also a choice of balancing personal happiness versus fulfillment or whatever it is we get from doing something meaningful. Is there a way to get everything in one basket? One wonders if even Gandhi was satisfied that he had done enough with his life.
I recall seeing a piece on William Holden the actor on Biography. He had achieved the pinnacle of the acting career. Here is a guy that could have had just about anything in life he wanted but he was still unhappy. He was heralded as a great actor with many accolades but he didn’t feel like being an actor was a life of consequence. He decided to cut back on acting and started getting involved with wildlife preservation. He was never satisfied with his life and ended up dying, drunk and alone. That story stuck with me for some reason. I don’t want to turn into a bitter alcoholic later in life because of choices I may make now.
I know that I want to continue writing. The ideas keep coming. Faster in fact than I can keep up with. I am not sure when it will become my fulltime gig, but it has a great deal of weight in my decision making process. It will depend on many factors, some of which relate to the impact I’m having in my current paying job and the satisfaction I am getting from it in whatever form that will take. I also wonder if being a genre writer will be fulfilling enough. I think all writers have in the back of their mind the idea that they might actually have at least one great novel in them — one that will be consequential, whether commercially successful or not. It can be done in any genre I think. Time will tell.
I walked outside last night and it was crystal clear. I love the night sky. Seeing the constellations and the Milky Way really puts things in perspective for me and it also lights my fire for writing science fiction. Something about the vastness of space that just enthralls me. It begs the question: is there really such a thing as a life of consequence? Maybe someday I’ll have that answer; in the meantime, I will just keep plugging away trying to improve my craft.