I found myself potentially living a metaphor for my current existence in real time today. It was not in any way pleasant and made me think I’m not making the most expert of choices. However, there is always hope.
When I first started thinking about school, I made a spreadsheet and tried to work out how much it would cost me to live and school myself for ten months. The government worked out it would cost me about 5,000 less than I did, but I estimated high, they have no sense of reality, so the number is likely somewhere in between.
Through every fault of my own, I mismanaged my student loan and any extraneous earnings, I failed to find work at those times I wasn’t schooling – to be fair, I honestly didn’t think it would be so difficult, I figured there would be employers clamouring for the evening and weekend fill in set – and I find myself in a dangerous place. Less than three months until school finishes and at this moment, it’s uncertain I’ll be able to afford to. There is some stress, to be sure.
It’s really amazing how quickly things can snowball and suddenly I find myself staring down something that seems really overwhelming and dramatic in my near future. I get caught up in the stress of what’s going to happen and spend way too much time worrying about how things will work out.
Except that I forgot about now. And how it’s not later. Future perfect, future imperfect.. neither of those has much bearing on right now beyond what I dwell on.
Way back when I had first been accepted to school, my thoughts swirled around what it would look like when I wandered around telling people “I’m a heavy duty mechanic.” It sounded so badass and cool. I honestly didn’t give much thought to how it would feel.
(To be clear, I’m not an idiot. I completely understood going in that it would be dirty, wet, cold, hard, dangerous, painful, frustrating, greasy, exhausting and argh-worthy at times, regardless of how frequently I make noises that reflect an opposing view. That’s me trying to be funny to keep from crying because I’m so cold, greasy and in pain. But honestly, I love working hard at something and falling into bed, having earned my exhaustion. And a hot bath cures most feelings of meh.)
I do that frequently. I get caught up in the notion of future perfect and forget about the steps in between, which are way more necessary to focus on. I didn’t think about all the work that I would have to do to become a certified mechanic, I was too busy thinking about how I’ll have healthy teeth and be able to surf warm ocean for three months out of every year.
I didn’t think about the potential for injury if I’m not focused on what I’m doing, though I have a gimpy near torn off and thankfully reattached thumb which is the result of exactly that. One would think I would have an every day reminder of how important it is to focus on what’s happening in this moment!
But future perfect is fun to be caught up in. All the plans and schemes and dreams and potential awesomes and adventures that await! If only I can just get through today, a perpetual countdown to the thing I want to be doing, the place I want to be living, the existence I know is waiting.
Future imperfect though, that’s the one I hardly ever plan for and this is something that distresses me a bit.
I could use earthquakes, a major illness or injury, plague of locusts or zombie apocalypse as an example of a future imperfect, but it doesn’t need to be anything so major to compel a feeling of stress and near panic.
It’s a very difficult and humbling lesson to learn at almost forty that I’m not very good at adulting. Yet.
As part of the school curriculum, we are to spend a month as free labour (I paid for this?) for a company within the community so we can learn firsthand about the industry we plan to work in. While I’m not totally pleased with the school I chose to go to, for reasons I won’t go into here (this is about meeeee, damnit!) I am in many ways, feeling good about the shop I’m working at. Unfortunately, twice now, I’ve managed to fling bits of metal into my left eye while using a grinder on some delightfully rusty metal things. Yes, while I was wearing safety glasses. Apparently I need an astronaut helmet.
But it’s a good reminder that injury can happen in the blink of an eye. And while it’s not so dire as any day I lose to injury in this instance isn’t a day of paid work, it’s still an interruption to my status quo.
Which can create stress to add to a scenario that is already a little tight.
It was my intention to stop at the grocery store on my way home. Yes, my finances are bordering on non-existent, but I will never have to justify spending money on food. And so, because I had ridden my bike to the grocery store this morning, walked the rest of the way to work it was sitting there waiting for me, when I made my way there (after a quick stop at the hospital to have my eyeball fixed up). I thought about leaving it, as it was pouring rain and there are buses that run that way, but the “you don’t have any money to waste on frivolity!” voice demanded I act like an adult and ride my bike.
Now here is something silly I do when I’m sad or stressed. I buy terrible food because there is a part of my brain that insists a ‘guilty pleasure’ will cheer me up. Chocolate bar, fast food breakfast sandwich, overpriced brightly coloured grocery store chinese food, whatever. It’s a terrible idea. It makes me feel horrible, it’s money I can’t afford to be spending so I get down on myself for being so irresponsible and because it’s pretty much made exclusively with the trifecta of wheaty/soy/dairy food doom, whatever energy I have to fight the panicky thoughts of “we’re going to have to drop out of school/sell the dog/sell the piano/move in with mom/oh my god mom doesn’t live anywhere, we’re screwed!!” and they blossom in a spiralling escalation of bad thought/feeling validation to a place where they seem reasonable.
They’re not. Just to be clear.
So I found myself, riding home in a torrential downpour on a fenderless “all the rain that isn’t in your face up your back!!” bike with dodgy “i’m not fond of the rain” brakes, in the dark with no light because I wasn’t planning on having to detour to the hospital and getting home later than four, grocery bags balanced precariously on either handle bar, with one good eye.
(Hmmm….Wednesday. Odin’s day. Odin the one eyed all father of Norse mythology. Two wednesdays in a row I’ve managed to get metal in my left eye. Interesting… But that’s a post for another time.)
I found myself at one point during my “everything has to stay perfectly balanced in order for this to turn out well” sojourn home thinking, how the fuck did I get into this (particular and/or general) scenario? Bad planning + circumstance + forgetting to be goddamn present = it feels overwhelming and stressful and insane. And realized how easy it was to superimpose what was happening right then, with what’s happening in my life.
I knew it was going to rain and I took a fenderless bike with brakes that hate water instead of an umbrella. If that’s not some bad planning, I don’t know what is. At least I have the intelligence to recognize what isn’t working and make an effort to change. Right now.
So many moments during the ride I thought, when I get home I’m going to…
And then I stopped myself, brought myself back to, how about you get through this intersection without dying or losing your groceries or…you know what? Don’t even go there, just watch traffic and be mindful of your place in it and feel the weight of the bike balanced between the bags and keep moving forward. It will get better.
It always does.
And honestly. I have a home, heat, food, clothes, love. What reason do I have to complain about anything, ever?
None that I can see.
Out of one eye, at least.