Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Some people call it the daily grind, that "nine to five every day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for the rest of my life, or until retirement," which I would probably get bored with. My "nine to five day" does not start at nine; it starts at 3 a.m. when I wake up exhausted, rushing to shower and running out the door, without even having a chance to eat to get to my 4:00 a.m. to noon Fed Ex shift. Almost every morning, unless my mind is just too tired to function, I will have the specific thought of how much I hate it, my life, and the way it is, yet I do nothing to change it.
"Take the shot," my father says to me, bringing me back to the here and now. "When I was your age I could take that, no problem." We are sitting at the 856 Bar and Restaurant. It's happy hour, and my dad felt like going out and drinking, and I, against my better judgment, decided to tag along. "Yeah, like eighty years ago," I quip. "You probably couldn't even take half of it now." And so it begins. I'm getting drunk with my father at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday. Sadly, I have nothing better to do. As the alcohol kicks in, I start to daydream and manage mostly to ignore my father's heckling.
"Later, much later, I will be happy," I think to myself. "Everyone is happy later in life. I just need to wait for something to happen." For some reason I'm picturing my house, looking at my living room as if it were in front of me. There's my chair-yes, my chair because it belongs to me-and also the grossly ornamented table that sits awkwardly in the middle of the room. The television sits in the corner with piles of movies stacked haphazardly on both sides. "This is my space, my life, yet I am not happy. What am I going to do to change this?" I say to myself.
"What are you doing with your life?" my dad interrupts, as if reading my mind. This is how he usually starts his probing, not very subtly.
"I'm not sure," I say. "Is there something more? I've been a little bored lately, and feel like I'm not really going anywhere." My thoughts continue to myself, "What am I doing with my life?" It's a tough question. Is there anything more to life than what I am doing?
I take stock. Clearly, I am unhappy. I'm a college dropout. My job is about the best I can manage without some kind of a degree. I'm working full time to support myself, plus one. While I was attending school before, it was fun, but I had no drive. My original thought about life was that all I needed to be happy was a spouse, a job, and a home. But these have not brought satisfaction: The spouse is demanding, the job is boring, and the home is slowly falling apart. I feel as if I am waiting for some kind of a sign, but I don't know what the sign is or what it would look like if I saw it. I have been playing the lotto religiously. It isn't that I actually think I can win; it is the dream of winning that drives me, the thought that perhaps one day I can change this situation. Slowly the dreams have become the driving point of my life. "I could do anything" is the thought. "I won't be greedy, just a couple mil." I will travel, enjoy the world, have a bunch of promiscuous sex; I could live the life of a movie star. But this never happened.
"Well, nothing will change unless you change it," my father advises me. He goes on, "I am happy how my life turned out, happy for you children, the house, your mother, but one thing that I was never happy about was not finishing school." It is the start of the "go back to school" talk; how typical. "I know you probably don't want to hear it," he says, and I don't, "but if you want something more, then you will need a degree."
I don't know why, but for some reason this time I listen to my father. It seems there is suddenly more of an air of concern in his voice, rather than the typical bossy and demanding nature that was my father.
"Dennis, at this point I'm sure you know that life doesn't go on forever. You need to figure out what it is that you want, and how you want to get there. Your mother and I aren't going to live forever-." He pauses.
At this point I am wondering how the conversation has drifted so much. I know that he isn't going to live forever. I closely examine his face. The fine lines that once showed his wisdom, grace, and strength, now show a fragile old man. His hair is grey now. His body looks weak. It is at this moment that I have the epiphany: he isn't young anymore. He is old, and getting older. For the first time in my life I see my father as the aging man he is now, rather than the younger, stronger man that I had idolized as a child.
We continue to speak of life and its changes. It hits me that this is the first adult conversation that I have ever had with my father. Listening to his worried words, looking into his tired eyes, I come to the conclusion that I am the only one who can change my situation. Dreams of grandeur and a lavish lifestyle have their place, but they are still just dreams. Only I can change my situation; only I have the power to make myself truly happy. This is the starting point, this conversation with my father in a bar at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday that sends me back to school and into English 1A, like my classmates, trying to make more of my life.