Rohit's Realm

// / archive / 2003 / 04 / 15 / closing-doors-and-opening-windows

April 15, 2003

Closing Doors and Opening Windows

For the last few months, the notion of my apparent future has depressed me to no end. I looked upon my life at the age of 19 and knew what was there. Nothing. A college degree. A professional degree. A job. A marriage. Kids. Bills. Mortgage. House. Suburbia. Materialism. Meaningless life ending in uneventful death. That must sound morbid. But when I looked upon my future a few months or a few days ago, that's what I saw. For as long as I can remember, my goal has always been monetary success. Amassing as much wealth and power as I could possibly amass. But in the clarity of post-adolescence, I see what this accomplishment can bring me. My best-case scenario is nothing but mediocrity at the height of success. So what if I get rich? So what if I get a fancy car, a fancy house, a fancy wife, some fancy kids? What does that all mean? What is it all for? And how does that distinguish me from all the other rich pricks out there with everything I have? More than this knowledge is the depression arising from the acute awareness of all the closed doors in my past, that I myself have slammed shut in the interest of "success."

When I was younger, the future was unpredictable. Undefined. Whatever I wanted it to be. I could imagine myself as anything I wanted. Famous trial attorney. Despicable politician. Reputable doctor. CEO of a Fortune 500 company. A sneaky spy or a crafty criminologist. Or perhaps, something even more distinguished: a famous author, an award-winning actor, or an accomplished athlete. My past is marred with the doors to these distinguished careers slammed shut and bolted in the ever present pursuit of monetary success. And now, looking back and forward, I see that so few doors are left, that the only guarantee life offers is that of mediocrity. Perhaps not in terms of education or success, but in terms of accomplishment and variety. I can think of no fate worse than looking into the crystal ball and seeing the rest of your life. Gone is the unpredictability and undefined quality that makes life interesting to live. Gone are the dreams of childhood, to be replaced only by the nightmares of adulthood. Worse yet, I am to blame for my own doomed destiny. I chased my goals so hard in the last few years, I made sure that I could do nothing else. And with every academic or professional decision I make, I inch closer to that unsurprising result, closing door after door to the proverbial "road not taken."

But then again, what is this obsession with the Bohemian culture? So what if I'll never be an athlete or an actor or an author? Who says that doing this is the path to happiness? Probably no one. Who says the road not taken is the right road in the first place? I don't know. I never took that road, and probably never will. All I know is that the reality that these doors and avenues are closed to me, forever, is hard to accept. Acceptance of this fact entails acceptance of the mediocrity that awaits me in later life. Toleration of being average. Recognition of my future, in all its misery. And this, beyond all other things, has plagued me for the last few months. My romanticized concepts of life prevent me from accepting what all sensible portions of me know to be the undeniable truth. I guess, in the end, no one wants to be mediocre or average. Some may argue that being wealthy and successful is not mediocre. But I must counter with the fact that life isn't about money. And believe me, I've tried very hard to pretend that it was for as long as I was alive. What it eventually boils down to is that, however much money I earn and whatever success I attain, it won't bring me satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment. Money isn't my criterion for accomplishment. This is an earth shattering realization for me, because it completely blows away all notions of success that I have always maintained for myself. And in looking to redefine this criterion for myself, I find nothing worthy enough to replace money. I can think of nothing that can establish in me a sense of accomplishment except the very Bohemian pursuits that are firmly unavailable for me, whether by talent or by fate.

And so would be my state of affairs, had I not had an all important conversation with a complete stranger only a few days ago. I was waiting in line at the airport, in order to fly to Southern California, when the one of my coworkers mentioned her brother, who was in a band and worked in the dotcom world as a day job. I mentioned something about how I would probably never, ever have the opportunity to experience that lifestyle and something about how I knew what life had in store for me. We were interrupted by a man standing behind us, who said "Life is very unpredicatble. You have no idea how your life will turn out." He turned out to be the Head Track Coach at Cal, going down to Southern California to "blow smoke up the ass of a high school senior," by his own admission. What the coach (whose name I never got) mentioned was how he was a PEIS major at Berkeley, and ended up the coach, and how many of his friends ended up in lives completely different from their college pursuits. He gave examples of a lawyer friend, who having finished law school and taken the bar, decided he didn't like it, and now does real estate, a doctor who works in hospital administration because he doesn't like practicing medicine, and an mechanical engineer who now designs golf courses. This turned out to be a very, very important conversation, because what I learned through this encounter was the fact that despite all the closed doors that I have in my past, open windows still exist through out life that allow you to escape the brutal mediocrity that awaits us all.

My life isn't plotted out, day by day. I don't have to end up in an Office Space style job. There still exists unpredictability. My future is still undefined. And while I may never be an athlete, actor, or author, that doesn't mean I will end up in misery either. The doors to Bohemia may be sealed but the windows are still open. So, in the end, what is in store for me in the next few years? I don't have the slightest clue, but that sure as hell beats the alternative.


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