Taking Aim

Writing these blog posts is right up there in my list of “aimless activities I have undertaken.” 🙂

The way I grew up, things had to have a purpose. “Why?” had to be answered in an acceptable way, showing a serious line of rational thought leading to an explanation. In short, the formal definition of argument — a line of reasoning leading to a conclusion.

Even when I was a kid, nothing was aimless except running in the woods, sledding between the trees, oil painting in the basement, novels read in the shade of the house, sitting on the floor of my room with a typewriter writing “poetry.”

All the stuff I really liked was aimless.

Flash forward to being a grownup. During the years I was teaching everyone all the time, employing a relentless attention to the way things had to be done for my students and on the odd chance I’d get tenure, I was grateful for the Sundays when everything was done and I could just…

Do whatever I wanted — running in the hills with dogs, painting in the garage or shed, writing novels and reading history.

After godnose how many years, I finally got a summer off and found that all I wanted to do was, uh, whatever I wanted to do.

As time passed, and I failed to achieve the markers that illustrate success in reaching life’s purpose — long-lived marriage, children, TENURE — my philosophical perspective began to shift. Life no longer looked like something that would “get me somewhere” but something of its own, something in its own right. And what was that?

By failing to get get the brass rings strewn along life’s way, I’d achieved the right not to answer any more “Why?” questions, even from my own conscience. There’s nothing to “get.” The trophies are bits of screwed together metal and plastic. The people who got tenure had to go to a lot of meetings, even if they taught less and made more money. This isn’t sour grapes, though I can’t deny I’d have liked tenure and the money that went with it; it would have made my life easier back in the day. Still, I have a hard time imagining how it could have turned out better for me because now I get to do whatever I want.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Epicurus


17 thoughts on “Taking Aim

  1. how can something be aimless when it brings so much delight to others? and it’s a good bit of therapy too! 🙂

    • 🙂 Yeah, but I’m not TRYING to delight anyone. That’s the point. Nonetheless, I’m very happy that happens! That’s pretty much the point of everything (I now know…).

  2. My parents never spoke about aims, I think there only aim was to pay the bills, and tell me what was right or wrong. I was never really encouraged in anything except to do what I was told to do, go to school, go to work. In the meanwhile I devised my own aims, leave home, discover the world etc. etc. I don’t know about the rest, it just happened.

    • I don’t know if this was a thing my parents instilled or if it is just the way I was/am. No idea. Maybe school did it. But I’m over it now, that’s for sure!

  3. When I was in grammar school, my parents were always told by my teachers that I was not working up to my potential. That always bothered me. Maybe their aim was for me to have potential (whatever that was!) but I was quite happy with how I was. Still am.

    • Reading this, I thought about grammar school. I was always trying to draw pictures and teachers were always trying to get me to work up to my potential. I think there’s always been a conflict in there…

  4. Thought-provoking post. I read somewhere once upon a time that in life we get what we need but that little adage seems to apply to a small number of humans. There is extreme poverty, cruelty, disease, etc. I’m sure those folks are not getting what they need but anyhow I have digressed and the bottom line is, I really had no idea how to respond to your post. 🙂

      • What I’ve found to be true is the great law: You reap what you sow. I’ve seen it too many times for it not to be true. Now . . . don’t ask me why bad things happen to good people. I haven’t got that far. I just know that when I look back on all the bad in my life, I clearly see where I ordered it up. It’s the same with the good.

        • Yeah — same here. When I look back (and I tried to say it in this little essay but I don’t think I quite managed it) I see that the reason certain things didn’t happen to/for me was because I was really not trying or putting my heart into them. I was really doing something else. But the earning money part of life is definitely distracting…

          • Yeah. Who the hell decided we needed money anyway? I spent much of my life sucking smoke in the bowels of power plants 7 days a week 12 hrs a day to set myself up to do what I wanted. I had a year of living the good life before the heart attack.

            • There’s something really wrong with that system, Rob. I’m truly one of the luckiest people I know because I actually loved what I did for a living. For most of the 35 years, I got up every morning excited about going to work. It didn’t feel like work. It didn’t wreck my health, either. What I did for FUN, now that was damaging… But I wouldn’t have missed a second of that, either.

            • I’m just glad I lived long enough to not have to do it anymore. And that I didn’t do the purple polka on some dirty factory floor, like my dad did. I saw nine guys killed at work (one every four years), and I was always saddened by the total waste.

  5. I encouraged my kids to make careers out of what they loved doing since work would consume a large percentage of their waking hours. The result – an artist, a writer, a model (now an administrator) and a journalist (now a lawyer). I think their teachers were rather appalled (they all had lots of conventional ‘potential’) but none of them regret their choices.

    • You absolutely did the right thing. My mom wanted me to be a TV journalist which is really not that weird of a career choice for her to make on my behalf.

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