I was listening to Adam Carolla’s podcast a couple of nights ago, and he said something I believe is true, but had never articulated inside my beleaguered brain as clearly as he did. Nick Offerman was the guest, and the two of them were talking about the importance of living a balanced life. Meaning: there should be something you’re passionate about, other than work and family.
I agree with them, and you’re looking at my outside o’ work passion. I’ve had some kind of ridiculous creative project going, since I was a teenager. Zine publishing… this website… the books… If I ever stopped doing that stuff, I’d lose my mind — and that’s not hyperbole. I’d literally lose it.
I know this, because I gave up my zine and quit writing for a few years, so I could focus on climbing the corporate ladder. This was during the early Atlanta days, after I’d landed what felt like my dream job. And when I got home in the evenings I was a basket case, wanting to climb out of my skin. I drove my girlfriend crazy, pacing around our apartment, tapping my feet all the time, sighing and staring out the window.
That sounds a little pretentious, I know. Like I believe I’m some great artist who just can’t hold back the tidal wave of creativity. But that ain’t it. I just needed some sort of outlet, other than beer, where I could refocus and use a different part of my brain or soul, or something. It could’ve been anything: bowling, Irish stepdancing, genital origami.
I know all this to be true, because I’ve lived it. But that’s not the part of the conversation that made my ears perk up. The two of them were talking about college, and both agreed it’s not the right path for everyone. But those years — ages 18 through 22 — are super-important, regardless.
Adam said the college years, no matter if you go to college or not, are either highly productive and put you on a path to a fulfilling life, or a complete waste that throws you down a hole that’s difficult to escape. I’d never zeroed in on those specific years before, but I think he’s right. The traditional college age is the first time most people are forced to make a Big Decision. And the way its handled is a pretty good indicator of things to come.
Yeah, and I took a pass. The Big Decision was too unpleasant for me to handle, so I opted for Elvis Costello records and Rolling Rock longnecks. And, like Adam said, I found myself at 22 down a dark hole. I ended up fleeing West Virginia in a fit of desperation, and didn’t get my shit together until I was in my early 30s. And even that’s debatable.
Decisions I made during the Reagan Administration haunt me to this day. The “college years.” Our oldest son is getting ready to enter that zone, and I’m going to do everything I can to help him through it. But most of it’s up to him. Parents, for the first time, are secondary. And that’s probably why it’s so indicative of future events.
What did you do with your so-called college years? Squander ’em on Van Halen, sex in cars, and Miller High Life like I did? Or were you somehow able to get it together? If so, I salute you. Also, do you think there are a more important five years in a person’s life, than 18 through 22? Give us your thoughts on this mumbo jumbo, in the comments section below.
And I’m going to work now, on my day off. See? Further consequences of bad decisions I made as a youngster. Oh well.
Have a great day, my friends.
I’ll be back tomorrow.
Now playing in the bunker
Use the Surf Report’s webhost: HostGator!
I wore a lot of camouflage, got up way too early in the mornings, and cleaned and polished everything. Everything.
I was in the military also. And then I worked in restaurants.
I know some people who are past the age of 22 – that still live at home – and don’t have a job or do much of anything. I can’t imagine that.
Wisey in Ttown says
Who said anything about being in the military? Kidding.
I’d go with 13 to 18 being a more important 5 years. Fuck those up too much and you’re not going to college regardless. I can see teenagers on my own family tree, who, from about age 14, were clearly heading for life in the mud. And they’re stuck there today, as barely functioning adults.
Parents are supposed to become secondary. “When you’re teaching them to leave you you’re doing it right” – Confucius, I think.
I pretty much threw my life away, I skipped college and spent those years in a horrible relationship that I wish I could erase fromy my memory, worked in various crappy retail jobs. Right now I am a married stay at home mom looking for part time work which seems impossible to find right now and my life is ok but I always wish I went to college so I can maybe have a half ass decent job right now. I totally agree that those are very important years in a persons life.
jim britton says
18 to 22? Joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. Learned to work on obsolete aircraft radar & missile guidance. Traveled all over the Pacific following F-4 J/S aircraft with VMFA 212. Worked with a lot of great people.
Didn’t take any official college courses until I was 26 or so. Became a Man in Dark Blue when I was 27. I still have no idea what I’ll be when I grow up.
Went to a Community College for 2-1/2 years to get my Associates. Started the rest of my college education for a year, then got a full time job in a law firm. I took a year off but my dad was always on my ass to finish so I started going at night. OK, so it took 4-1/2 more years. Most of that time is a blur.
I know exacty what you mean by having an outlet. Mine right now is comedy – I’m an Improv actor in a small little troupe but I love it. I’m at it for over a year now with 4 shows under my belt. Before that I was a Literacy Volunteer teaching people to read. It turned mostly into “English as a Scond Language” and I lost interest.
Most important years I think are 28 – 33. By that time you’re hopefully gainfully employed and somewhat have your shit together. I think it’s a good time to make the big ass future plans like children, buying a house, etc. Shit, when I was 18 the biggest “dream” was thoughts of buying a Trans Am, which colored Candies shoes I’d wear and which bar to hit on Friday night.
I can’t say for sure what 5 year period is most important, but I accept your hypothesis.
I went to college for the major my father picked. It worked out OK for a while, but ultimately it wasn’t me. The flip side is that I was too gutless to try and do what I wanted to.
The irony is that my dad and I were both wrong. I was a month short of my 40th birthday when I started my current career which I enjoy immensely. Had you suggested it to me or my family when I was 18 we’d have thought you were nuts.
Ultimately though, those college years were formative and had value. They helped me ease into adulthood. Otherwise I suspect I’d have ended up in retail, moving from job to job. I can’t imagine how that would have worked out for me.
I’d probably be the worthless brother-in-law living in my brothers basement.
So to sum up: five years spent in a moderately worthwhile way.
Can you clue us in on what the current career is and father picked career was? I’m thinking Reptile Specialist and Accountant.
Weird, I just read some of your blog. Both the brothers basement thing was there and the superhero stuff from a few posts ago but all written 3 yrs ago.
Steve in WV says
I went to college and I don’t regret it. What I regret is the 25k in student loans that I racked up. I’ll be paying on those bitches until I am buried.
My career isn’t a huge success but I have always done what I enjoy doing. I’ve been in the same line of work since I was 16 and still enjoy coming to work.
Squandered. And squandered every five year period following it. Trying not to squander my 40s, but it’s looking inevitable at the moment. Yay me.
I’d tend to agree with those years. I spent that time trying to figure out what career path I wanted to persue.
Having way too many interests and hobbies, I didn’t make my final college major choice until the last minute. My only regret during the college years is not getting more social time in. I just wanted college behind me (5 year course, high workload, ridiculous class time hours a week (usually 44-49 hours, lightest semester was 38 hours) no way I wanted to have to drag that out longer than necessary).
18 to 22 sounds about right, although you could argue that the crucial period is more than five years long.
I’m not sure I exactly got my shit together by age 22, but it had at least started to coagulate. I did go to college; majored in engineering, and learned most of the tech of radio. That bachelor’s degree program normally take four years, but I managed to cram it into seven.
Hmmm…18 to 22, I changed my major from Administrative Office Systems (Secretarial Science) to Music Performance. Do I regret that? Nope, even though performing scared the total shitfuck out of me–just thinking about my audition causes my blood pressure to rise, but there’s no way I’d ever regret that choice. Well, okay–if I could not get paralyzing stage fright, I’d be fine.
If I could go back in time, I might change the job I had for the past year and a half–if I didn’t take that transfer, I’d probably still be employed–batshit crazy or in the hospital with heart failure, but employed!
I think “regrets” is a corollary topic to the QOTD here. I regret that I didn’t join high school band when I had the chance. Kudos to you for doing the performance thing. Courage is another name for “you were scared and did it anyway”.
I am not a manager.
I’d be tempted to push the re-set button to redo 18-22 if I could; I squandered those prime years and was in a tail spin till I was 25 and was very lucky not to wind up in jail. I was able to get myself together enough to spend a couple of years at Community College then on to get a four year degree and wound up with a decent career in a professional field. I’m 51 now and have always felt half a dozen steps back from where I should be and I suppose I’ll always feel like way. It’s kinda funny because no one who knows me down would imagine what a disaster my life was till I was 25 and no one who knew me prior to 25 would ever guess that I pulled my shit together like I have.
Spent the years from 17 to 21 engaged in my distinguished military career. And managed to only get arrested once, totaling my car at 19 on the way back to the base after attending a Hunter S. Thompson lecture in downtown Washington, D.C. The next ten or twelve years are pretty much of blur of motorcycles, drugs, cheap booze and cheaper barmaids. And a couple more DUI’s, which resulted in a couple more arrests. I remember telling a friend in a bar somewhere in the upper Midwest that everyone expects to live forever, I just didn’t plan to live past next week. Also said during those years that I was retired, and I’d work when I got old. Figured old people must like to work, since so many of them seemed to do it. But I didn’t realize I’d get old so fast. I kind of got my shit together in my early 30’s, and started working in construction. I left that for a job as an electronic technician about 11 years ago. Better money than anyone with my past should be making, but if my job shits the bed, I’m back to square one. At 58 I still haven’t decided what I really want to be when I finally really get it together. Maybe I’ll get lucky and either win the lottery or die of something before the time comes that I have to figure out how to grow up.
I wanted to be a trumpet player since about the age of 13. (13-18). My folks may have started feeling secondary at about that time too. They never stood in my way. 18-22 would have seen me in the Cincinnati College Conservative of Music enrolled an education degree program to become, of all things, a band director. At my audition I nailed Hayden’s Trumpet Concerto in Eb. But…two things happened. My trumpet teacher/ mentor/ guru told me…if you have something to fall back on…you will. I also realized I’d have to be involved in marching band for the rest of my live. Me? I’m a big band high note lead trumpet/ jazzarenio hep cat. And…I’d probably get myself in trouble with a majorette or a pom-pom girl anyway. So I turned down their offer and hit the road to play. And play! From 17-40 I played. Showrooms, stars, lounges, the road. That’s what I did/. That’s what I was. It was a blast. A trumpet player. Not one regret. I continue to have a blast.. Over the road truck driver and now highway worker for the State. I write, I still play my horn. I’m still unstable (always will be it seems) but I am balanced. Now I can only hope 60-65 turns out OK so when I’m 90 I don’t look back and wish I’d done something different 30 years ago.
I went to college during those years, but I wish I could do them over. I started out on a full scholarship, but dithered around and couldn’t nail down a major. It took me 6 years to get a 4 year nursing degree (and most hospitals around here pay 2 year RNs the same salary as 4 years), and now I have a truckload of student loans from those last two years–and from that 3 years of fugue state I call law school. I feel like I’ll be paying on them forever.
It was the path of Van Halen, boys, and living for Friday and Saturday nights. Mostly going to see boys in garage bands playing Van Halen.
Fast forward 25+ years…..Always interested in creating in some way, I fell into the antiques business and designing and altering vintage jewelry, which turned out to be my passion.
Everyone needs an outlet. I prefer mine to be full time. Up until Monday, I was with a plastic surgery office, for 10 years, that literally sucked the life force right out of me. I was becoming so depressed I quit designing, stopped going to my boot camp classes, and became so miserable, my boyfriend was losing *his* mind.
I decided it was time to make a change. I wanted to focus on my designs too. I started interviewing. Then I thought maybe I could stay at my current job but go part time, continue to interview just in case they wouldn’t go for it. I spoke to the office manager (the doctor’s wife). To my surprise, they agreed.
To make a long story short, she reneged on the part time agreement when I asked when I could start ( I had turned down a job offer at a spa to stay); they blocked an opportunity with another plastic surgeon after I had 2 great interviews and all 3 references were called…”a conflict of interest” and the position was suddenly filled; she posted my position on Craigslist (not the first time she had pulled that move). My boyfriend and I agreed, enough was enough and I gave more than two weeks notice. The doc said I could work out that time or leave earlier. The wife told me to leave that day. Good cop, bad cop.
So here I am. And although we know we are going to have to tighten our belts a little, I can tell you that the diarrhea has stopped (always a plus), and my stomach isn’t nauseated anymore. I feel a weight has been lifted off of me allowing me to breath again. I am going to use the remainder of the year to work at my craft and make the most of it as I possible can. I will continue to look for something part time, but I’m not going to take just anything.
I continue to get up at my regular time, 6AM, and begin work at 8. I am very focused and motivated. I am 50 years young. I guess this is the beginning of my “formative” years.
EXCELLENT BIKERCHICK! You finally got out of that job oyu hated. BRAVO!
(everyone get up and give the chick a standing ovation!)
hot fuzz says
Part of me always stands up when I think of Bikerchick …. and her red FM pumps.
Congrats! May your new life bring you joy.
Happiness is so under-rated.
I hope you had a few choice words for the wife when you left.
STANDING OVATION! Congrats! It was clear from your posts on here that your job was killing you slowly. Glad you did something about it and are following your dreams. Good luck!
I had a job for about 4 weeks earlier this year. Everyone there was miserable. The machine operators worked 12 hr days 7 days a week. 6 to 6 (two shifts per day). They got paid 12 bucks an hour and OT but is your sanity worth that? I left when I got a much better job, better pay, better hours, better job. Glad you got out. You should have left her some of that diarrhea in her coffee.
Thank you all for the supportive comments!! It really means a lot to me! This is a tough but honest bunch. I figured your comments would be really good or “wtf are you thinking?!?” So I took a deep breath and logged on.
I did ask the Mrs how she could live with herself before I left. She couldn’t look me in the eye the entire time. She was more worried about the parking pass being returned. So much for ten years of loyalty. Oh , and by the way, your husband had affairs with two patients an gave them thousands of dollars in free surgeries. Have a nice life.
Did you tell her that?
Miss Q says
Good for you!
PLEASE tell me you told her that! I would love to see her face if you told her “The procedure was called the stickadickinme”
Congratulations! I always liked your stories about what a bitch your bosses wife was, but it’s good that you finally got out. You’re my hero.
Your mental health is worth more than that paycheck, congratulations!
WB in OH says
She already knows. She is being passive-aggressive by reversing every decision the good doctor made. You were just collateral damage.
hot fuzz says
I’ve “known” some of you for a few years. I know that some of the posts you wrote were either cathartic or hurtful to write. Either way, a big brotherly e-hug.
Living with regrets is like holding a grudge against yourself. Don’t do that. Don’t dwell or even think about something you obviously can’t change. All it does is let’s smart asses like me go all Dr Phil on you and tell you things you already know as if I’m some Gandalfian Yodameister… and how’s that workin’ for ya?
Big hugs, big laughs, don’t go so hard on yourselves, eh? (Canadian).
Yeah, what he said, eh.
Ehhhh. I’m not sure here. I’ve squandered and had some good years. My outlet is thinking about projects I’ll never finish.
I was doing stand up for a minute (Tony the Worst Comedian in St. Louis) and want to do that. My problem is that I’m not a good stand up I’m more of a commenter, like a MST3K type of situation.
hot fuzz says
I live my life in MST3K… constant smart assed comments. I try to show it to someone else and they all “meh… funny I guess.. I don’t know…”
Yeah. Usually I say something hilarious and someone didn’t hear it so they want it repeated and it’s lost. Or they repeat it and it’s just not funny.
hot fuzz says
The did a short that had a circus as the theme… I lost it when they did::
E is for elephant so big and so strong
E is for electrode to prod him along
so wrong but oh so right.
hot fuzz says
Meant this in reply to T-storm’s post
I apologise for nothing.
Have you seen ads for Rifftrax? Apparently they are doing live MST3K type things at theaters around the country. They are doing Night of the Living Dead next Thursday. I can’t go. I have to go to parenting classes with my girlfriend and her ex-husband. I should start a blog about that.
Miss Q says
Yes. Yes, you should.
I went to college like I was supposed to, but just dicked around and took courses that seemed interesting. Eight years later I backed into a nowhere degree. Luckily, I fell in love and decided I needed to get my shit together if I wanted to tie someone’s life to mine. I got a masters and treated it like a job and haven’t looked back. I enjoyed those years and don’t regret them, but I wish I had a bit more direction back then. I wasted a LOT of money.
Lew in bama says
I spent 18-22 in a smoky fog provided by my pot-head friends. SKipped out on my acceptance to Auburn University for a loser boyfriend and my loser friends. Drank a lot, smoked a lot, didn’t really work or edcuate myself much. Also got myself into a HEAP of financial ruin. I quit hanging out with them around 22, but didn’t fully get my act totally together until about 29-30.
I managed to get in 2 years at community college, but am now 37 and still haven’t finished. I have a pretty good government job making decent money, but it by no means inspires me in any way.
I’m currently seeking out that which DOES inspire me and also offer a chance to make money. I’m getting married in a few months, and would like to be able to be the one who raises our children with as little day-care as possible. I’m hoping to find my “passion that pays” and quit spending 50 hours a week chained to a desk in a cubicle farm with no windows and more government red-tape than you can shake a stick at.
I spent half of my formative years drinking, smoking and chasing girls. The other half I just wasted.
WB in OH says
First off, many thanks to those of you who spent time in the service.
I pretty much squandered the first two years out of high school but got a real job in the third year. That really wasn’t the beginning of a great turn around but it at least gave me employment I enjoyed. But even with gainful employment I pretty much flopped and floundered away every penny I earned, finally at 27, my Dad, tired of my drunken ass at home, helped me buy a house. 56K, I think he figured it would instill some responsibility in me. It would take a year and a $2,700 dollar credit card bill but it finally dawned on me what a huge dumbass I was being. So I quit going out every Friday and Saturday night, started working every Saturday and Sunday I could get my hands on, paid off the credit card debt and started to put money in the bank.
Fast forward nearly 20 years to today, I took a management position with the company 13 years ago that is sucking the ever living life out of me but everything is good on the financial end. I just tore down the house my dad helped me buy and am in the process of building a new just behind where the old one sat. Once the house is finished and the bank tells me how much they need from me per month, I will tell my boss I no longer wish to live the life of the rich and famous and can I please have my service van back.
And for those of you with kids who are not sure about college? If they have any mechanical aptitude have them look into skilled trades, plumbers, pipefitters, electricians (mine) and welders and lord knows how many I forgetting. Robots aren’t going to be taking these jobs. No or vey little college debt and you’ll cashing a check every week while you learn your trade, maybe other parts of the country are different but we just can’t seem to find enough youngsters to fill the holes.
Sorry for the novel.
At the factory I work at we have robots.and some skilled people to service those robots. So there you go!
WB in OH says
Good point, until they come up with robots to service the robots, robotics is a pretty good field to be in.
If you don’t go to trade school, the robots win. They’re jealous of our freedoms.
WB in OH says
I’ve seen enough movies to know, trade school or not, the robots win.
28 to 33. ^ years of passion, broken hearts, and a dead fiance. Lost a big fortunes, and got back on the road to making it back. Had a cool old house, a great wife, and was about to start a cool, yet not too high paying job. I was writing a lot, even was published a few times. 25 years later, it is still good, but I’ve slowed down..
For folks in their 40s and 50s the 18-22 was probably the most important. Considering people in their 70s and 80s were married and with kids by time they were 18 & 19 I would say the important years were 15-17.
Today those important years have probably moved up to 23-28. So do not put too much pressure on the young man he has more time than we did.