Man, It’s been a rough week.
I did a little complaining recently. I called a few people who are close to me and vented my frustration about the goings on of our world. They politely listened for a while, but both came to the same conclusion. They said, “Well Jay, things could be worse. You could be doing this or that, etc…” I guess that’s why I call people, so they can tell me to shut up and put things in perspective. I need that every once in a while.
I still think about life way too much.
Sometimes I just sit here with my head in my hands. I would just like the answer to one question: when did it all change?
In 2000, right after a graduated from Binghamton University for the second time, I had a plan. My plan was to release myself from all attachments with the real world and walk the Appalachian Trail. I was going to set my school loans on auto-pilot with my bank and fly as free as a bird. All I have ever really wanted was freedom; freedom from thought, freedom from today’s world, freedom from being dragged down by anything and everything.
I figured that walking the trail would really change my life. I was not interested in repeating the 9-5 job I sat through the year before while living in Atlanta. That was painful. All I was looking for was a way out…something different that wouldn’t trap me in the good ol’ American way of living day in and day out like the rest of the population.
Did I ever walk the Appalachian Trail? What do you think? Considering the fact that it takes about 10 months to complete and I never mentioned it before, I think not. I have actually walked a few miles on it here and there, but towards the end of each hike, I looked forward to driving back to the house, taking a nice shower and drinking a glass of wine. I don’t think I am exactly wired for growing a beard down to my waist and sleeping with the bears. The thought of a bear picking my tent up and eating it kind of freaks me out.
Let me tell you what bothers me about life as I know it – worry.
Every day, I concern myself with each and every thing that probably concerns all of you. I think about money and security and politics and friends and life and everything else. I walk around in a fog, trying to make sense of every decision I make. It’s rare that I break out of that fog to have a clear thought. Maybe that’s why I like tennis so much; because I don’t think about anything else besides having fun. Although, I do like mowing the lawn for the same reason.
So, when did I change from the care-free Jay to the constantly worrying Jay? I can tell you the exact day.
I have mentioned the fact that I moved to Atlanta a few times in the past. I lived there for a year, but the way I talk about it, it’s like I have a “Braves” tattoo on my right arm. Really, it was only a year, but it was a fun year.
I moved down when I was 24 years old. I packed up my 1989 Honda Accord with all of my belongings and hit the road. Basically, I just repacked the same items that I unpacked about a month ago after graduation from college.
I remember that drive down. I had one of those luggage containers strapped to the top of the car. It was packed to the gills. Everything else I owned was spread out inside…on the back seat, on the front seat and in the trunk. There was no room for anything else.
On the highway, I remember the pleasure of wondering what my new life was going to be like. I didn’t know one person, the area or anything else about the entire state of Georgia. I usually do my best in these types of situations. As Rob always says, “You need to be like an Chameleon. Just change colors and fit right in.” Well, I did that and started off having a very good time.
Upon arrival at Morgan Falls Station, our awesome apartment complex, I was very excited. While I was waiting for the folks to finish up the apartment so I could move in, I walked around a bit. I visited the 3 swimming pools, the work-out centers, the tennis courts, and the nature trails. It was nicer than anything I had expected. I recall wondering how $800 per month was paying for all this. Then, I remembered that things were a little different in the South. Up here (in the north), you get a tiny apartment above some old lady’s garage for $800 a month, and that’s a good deal. Down there, it’s like living at Club Med.
Needless to say, I was pleased. After I got settled in and had the phone hooked up, I called Rob. I was a non-stop talker. I told him about all the cool stuff that was there and about all the things we were going to do. I could tell that he was getting fidgety because he kept asking questions. We even got to the point of discussing what time it got dark in Atlanta. There is about a half hour difference between down there and up North. We used the scientific method of, “Is it dark now? What about now?”
After a few weeks of driving around at midnight (because there was so much traffic during the day) and getting to know people, I had really gotten used to it. I had a few friends and was playing tennis like it was nobody’s business. I didn’t have a job, so what else was there to do? I felt like I was living in a resort.
At the same time, my parents were planning their big move to Wilmington, NC. My sister Laurie had her first child and I guess my parents thought that watching water drip off their cars in the morning was a better idea than scraping ice off of them, like they did up north for all those years. The stars were aligned and they made the jump. They broke out of the New York shackles and started moving to North Carolina.
For the years that I attended Binghamton University and up to the time I moved to Atlanta, my parents took care of my big beautiful Golden Retriever. I acquired this hairy beast a few years earlier, while I was attending Westchester Community College. It’s funny, because before getting a dog, I really gave no thought to what was going to happen to him for the rest of his life. I figured I would give him to my parents after I moved out and that would be that.
One day, while sitting on the floor (I had no furniture) of my Atlanta apartment, I received a phone call from my mother. “Jay, your father is driving a big truck down to the new house in Wilmington and he is bringing your dog with him.” she said. I replied, “Oh good, he will really like it in your new house.” “No Jay.” she said, “You are going to drive over and get him. He is your dog.”
Well, this came as sort of a surprise to me. Why in the world would someone want to hand over a perfectly good dog to someone as irresponsible as I was? As my mother put it, she couldn’t bear to see the dog lying on the kitchen floor looking up at her. His eyes broke her heart. She knew he needed to run in the woods and swim in the river. He was a Golden, after all.
The day my father arrived at the new house in Wilmington, I was there to pick up the beast. I made the 7 hour drive and was quite excited to see my dog again.
I remember pulling in and seeing him tied to a small tree at the end of the driveway, waiting for me to give him a big hug. I leapt out of the car and ran over to him. I untied him and we instantly became entangled in a long embrace. That was my dog.
After a few hours of hanging out and going to the ocean, we left to head back to Atlanta. Again, I hadn’t given much thought as to what would happen next.
After my new roommate and I arrived back at the apartment, we did a little hanging out. Things were great. We went for a walk and I showed him all the stuff he was going to do for the next chapter of his life. It really was a grand ol’ time.
That night, a friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to go out to do something. I immediately said yes. Then, I looked down and saw my dog looking up at me. I paused and said something that I am not sure I have ever said to anyone in my life before that moment…”Wait, actually, I can’t.” I didn’t offer any reason for not being able to go out that night, but I definitely knew that something big in my life had shifted.
At that very moment, while standing there talking on the phone, I think I actually became responsible.
I know that sounds like the strangest thing you probably have ever read, but it’s true. I feel strange writing it. The reason I didn’t go out that night is because it was my dog’s first night in his new home and I didn’t feel right about leaving him there all alone.
All of a sudden, I started giving all types of thought to how my dog would feel if I did certain things. I knew I had to take him for a walk in the morning and that I had to be back after work to feed him and take him for another walk, but what really struck me was how I was unable to go visit friends in other cities and stay over their houses or apartments. I wasn’t ready to say no to trips to fun places, like the one that Rob made down to the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. That one hurt because I really wanted to go there. I had to keep thinking about my dog and how I didn’t want to put him in a boarding kennel in a town I hardly even knew myself.
As it turned out, my consideration for everything and everyone snowballed from there. I began making sure more and more things were okay. I started saving my money and getting ready for the move back to New York to go to grad school. I stopped going out and doing stupid things that wouldn’t help me get to that goal. I never called in sick to work and I paid off that huge balance I had on my credit card. I don’t even want to talk about how much my soul had tightened up after I graduated from graduate school after the move back to New York. They basically train you how to become a herb.
I was most certainly becoming a worrier.
One might say, “Well Jay, aren’t those all good things?” I would agree, but I have to admit that once you grow up and become overly responsible, a little part of you disappears. How many times have you asked yourself, “Remember all those times we used to do that? Do you think we’ll ever do that again?” The answers are yes and probably not.
I was talking to Laura the other day about what I like to talk to my friends about. I told her my three top priorities are real estate, business, and personal finance. Can you get any more boring than that? What ever happened to travel, drinking, and where we are going to move to next?
At this point in my life, I feel that I am almost the opposite of what I wanted to be after graduate school. Sure, my little dream of walking the Trail may have been just a dream, but it was indicative of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live my life.
At that time, I wanted two legal associations. I wanted one bank account and my student loan. That was it. Currently, I have more associations than I know what to do with. I understand that this is what happens when you buy a house and operate a business, but I must admit, at times it’s smothering.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I could get back to my ideal self, about how I could loosen up and at least become a shadow of that fun guy I think I used to be. I think I have a plan.
While I won’t precisely lay my plan out here, I will at least tell you that it has a lot to do with seasonal weather, long walks on the beach, and campfires.
As you may have guessed, I gave Mickles a very good life and in return, he was a very good dog. I appreciate the fact that he spent the majority of his life with me. I would hope he enjoyed his time in Atlanta the most. He had the field, the woods, and the river. He couldn’t have asked for anything more.