The mediocrity that is me
2003-05-04 03:14:47 (UTC)

El Fin

I am a college student. I live in the dorm rooms. I stay
up too late and eat food that is not nutritionally sound.
My parents no longer know what I’m doing, where I am or
who I’m with every day, and suddenly, in spite of our past
relationship, or maybe because of it, I find that the
occasional phone call home stretches out into hours. So
one lonely Wednesday night, I found myself surprisingly on
the phone with my father, the man who always seemed to be
emotionally absent to my self-absorbed teenage eyes.

“You know, we’ve got the annual Saint Patrick’s Day party
coming up this Saturday.”

“Yeah…great.” I stretch out the words to maximum length
for the expected sarcasm.

“We’ve been doing those things for, what, twenty years
now? I was twenty-three or twenty-four when we started…”
His voice trails upward, but I can’t tell if it’s due to
uncertainty or reminiscence.

“Holy cow! That’s about how old I am.”

“Yeah, I was talking to Timmy and he said, “I think I’m
going to put the volleyball nets up this year. We’re
going to play.” We haven’t played in years…”

“Jeepers creepers,” I reply, trying to understand, but
unable to grasp what it means to him.

“It’s strange how those things have changed. I mean, they
used to be…”

“Pretty wild, I’m sure.”

“Well, yeah. We didn’t have kids back then. And now…
Well, now all of our kids are getting older. We’re
getting older.”

“That’s crazy.”

“That’s life.”

“That’s depressing.”

A short silence until I try to turn the conversation to
happier thoughts, avoid thinking about time passing by,
how life will inevitably end with death. “Hey, are you
still hanging out with the old people on your route?”

“Yeah, I was talking to this woman today. She was telling
me about how she used to picnic up in Showlow every year
with her family. Then, her son got older, and he went
away to college. Her husband, well, he got sick and
couldn’t breathe up there anymore so they had to move down
into the Valley so she could take care of him.”

“That’s sad.”

“Yeah, well, her husband eventually died this past year.
And now she lives here.”

“That’s depressing.”

“That’s life. She told me, you know, it’s just the
different phases of life.”

“That’s depressing.”

“That’s life. We just deal with what it gives us, I
guess. I mean, what more can you do?”

I signed up for this class in a fit of lost depression,
hoping to find some inspiration, hope, friends, but most
of all, hoping to find The Answer.

There is no answer.

I met many interesting people, heard many interesting
stories, but I never found that single answer I was
looking for.

I still remember the words of our first guest, Johnny
Gibson: “I am eighty-one years old, and still ambitions.”
Whether or not you liked the man, agreed with opinions or
life choices, it is impossible to deny the fact that he
has lived more in his life than most of us in that room.
And at eighty-one, he is still looking forward to the next

The rest of the guests continued along in the same
pattern, sharing portions of their lives with us. Like
most life experiences, some, like Miss Cleo, were
uplifting while others, like John Russell, proved only to
augment my own aimless outlook on life. But each told
their own story. Each story seemed to be defined by the
people they knew, those that they had loved and those that
they had lost. In the end, I while I did not come away
with anything new, I was able to see a common thread
appearing in each life. To me, each story seemed to
highlight three things:

(1) Life is incredible and beautiful and terrible and
painful and absolutely beyond definition and amazing in
every possible way.
(2) Each person we meet holds the potential to change us
permanently. Our lives are affected by the people we
meet --- more than by the things we do, the things we
have, or the places we may live.
(3) Finally, to use a quote by Robert Frost, life can be
summed up in three words: It goes on.

There will be pain, and there will be sorrow, and everyone
often feels alone in the world. There are moments for
being self-involved, dwelling on the past --- mistakes
that have been made, regrets. But it doesn't matter. When
it comes right down to it, there is no other choice except
to live. And everyone dies someday. After all, life
would not be nearly as precious without death. But people
will go on living. Death will happen, and new life will
rise up again from the ashes, because nothing is finite.
Get up every morning, continue when you think you can't,
when you're ready for death, when you're too tired and
beaten down to deal with anything. Get through the day
even when you have the metallic taste in your mouth, you
can feel your finger squeezing the trigger, and the
gunshot echoes in your mind and you see the blood spatter
on the white wall, drip down to stain the carpet, and
you're done, finished, over, gone. Still, you wake up to
see the day pass by. Still, you live to see the next day,
and the next, and the next one after that, until once
again, you're laughing and living, because that's life.

It goes on.

And it will go on. Happy, sad, mediocre, whatever. It will
go on. And in that lies all the beauty and the perfection
of life.