Month: February 2017

Being who and what we are: privilege and responsibility

Back when the idea of retirement was just a distant glimmer, I often considered what it would mean. Like most, I usually thought about free time and how I would use it. Surprisingly, though, six years “post-career,” I’ve come to believe that retirement’s biggest surprise is also its most disconcerting: It’s the privilege, and maybe the responsibility, of finally being myself. I always knew I wasn’t especially suited for the structure of an organization. But I also saw myself as adaptable, a team player, a valuable contributor. It would be easy to rationalize now why my career played out as it did, why I didn’t rise higher, why my ideas didn’t last longer, why I wasn’t more respected. That would be the easy way but it wouldn’t be (in the words of Ranger Doug), “…the cowboy way.” Objectivity is difficult, but without it there is no understanding. I see only now how ill-suited I was to to the life I was living: I wasn’t a good field biologist, my ideas were not that good, and I didn’t belong in an organization. In fact, as much as I considered myself a team player, I was constantly struggling against the yoke of supervision and organizational hierarchy.   In retrospect, I used a system I wasn’t suited for to gain the benefits of that system: a secure job and salary, health benefits,...

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Living the blues…

For the last couple of months, I’ve been studying blues on the guitar, specifically delta blues out of the deep South…blues out of poverty, disenfranchisement, rootlessness, lonesomeness in the midst of others. It’s affecting me in ways I never anticipated, resonating… People make fun of the delta blues, because the themes are so repetitious…waking up in the morning, work, sex. But that’s the very point, consignment to a life that never changed, marking time. There is hypnotic melancholy throughout, and if my mood is right, it makes me cry. Because some days I just wake up lonesome, and stay that way all day. Thinking on this, I remembered a seemingly trivial thing: When I was in college, I would study late into the night. And at times, I would just have to move. I’d get in my car and drive for miles in the dark, alone out on the country roads around Texas A&M, going nowhere but always moving. I’d just get restless. And I realize now that the feeling has never left me. Despite having lived in multiple states and a half-dozen countries, having traveled thousands of miles by train and plane, in a car and on foot…I still get restless.   A dozen years ago, I began walking. I literally woke up early of a morning and heard a voice say, “You need to walk.” I began...

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