Every morning I wake up, scrub the gunk off my teeth with my Oral-B electric toothbrush, shower the sleep from my fogged mind, put on a nice button up shirt with work-casual pants, get in my mid-size, foreign, fuel efficient sedan and drive to work where I spend my day under soft fluorescent lights working away at a computer. I go to meetings. I have lunch with co-workers. I talk to people who lean casually against my cubicle wall and discuss what was on television the night before.
At the end of the day I return to my split-level at the back end of a cul-de-sac in a bedroom community of a respectable but largely harmless Midwestern town. I walk in the door and greet my wife and two kids, settle into my recliner and watch the local news — mostly for the weather — followed on most nights by Wheel of Fortune where I laugh at the folly of people not so remarkably unlike myself. I fix dinner two or three nights a week, demand that my boy eat his vegetables when he turns his nose up in disgust, complain about those bozos up on Capitol Hill and read Goodnight Moon to my son.
In the immortal words of Joe Walsh, I’m just an ordinary, av-uh-rage guy.
Am I a cliché, an anarchist’s nightmare of conformity, the poster boy for teenage paradise lost? If so, God help me if I’m not pretty much just fine with the whole damn thing.
My life may well be a cookie cutter replacement for 50 million guys pretty much just like me, but even in its achingly simplicity I find it strangely noble and proud. In an age where everyone seems to believe they are destined for greatness, and inevitably go around moping for the middle two decades of their short life when that dream pops like a pineapple-flavored chewing-gum bubble on a teenage girl’s lips, I feel oddly content with being somewhat ordinary.
I know that I am eyeing on-rushing middle-age like an asteroid falling from the sky, but rather than fearing the crushing blow that strikes with galactic force, I am standing in the street arms outstretched ready to be enveloped into the cleansing fire of predictability.
Navel, prepare thyself to be thoroughly gazed, but in just the handful of years since I first entertained the bizarre notion of asking people to give me money for playing and talking about games, most of the rest of my life has settled like the sand on a beach at low tide. Was it not just a couple of years ago that I ran my own highly unsuccessful small business, bucking convention and breaking the mold as an entrepreneur? Yes, and what kind of special torture the uncertainty and heavy burden of launching that small business on the eve of global economic disaster turned out to be.
As I sit here at work, confident of the timely and predictable wages I gratefully gather, I feel a bit like the Indiana Jones of the working world, having slid under the ominously closing stone door, snatching my fedora from the fetid floor the moment before the gateway to gainful employment snapped shut. As I sit and ponder the grand normalcy of it all right now, it feels less to me like a burden and more like a luxury.
Is it so wrong to work just to be content, to succeed, to support a family and be a cardboard cut-out of the Classic American Family™? I feel like I should be wanting more, like there is some sentiment of judgment from too many generations told that they were special, when the reality is that being a unique snowflake is great until you realize that from a distance it all just looks like snow. I realize this is sacrilege to those who hold the unique sacrosanct and that to many it may seem like I’m wandering comatose through a life that could have been much more just clocking time with one foot in the cultural grave, but you know “Comfortably Numb” was always my favorite Floyd song anyway so that probably means something.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I — I took the road less traveled by. These words are propped up as the slogan for individualism, but every time I read that poem it just sounds to me like taking the road less traveled by turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. You take the road that “was grassy and wanted wear”, I’m going to take this one here that’s paved and has a McDonalds on it.
When at the end of days I take stock of this life, I don’t need to have cured cancer or flown to the moon. It will be enough to know that I took care of my family. That I lived honest and true. That I had fun and played games and found joy in the simple quiet of a satisfied life.