Discover more from Midlife Anti-Hero
Am I in The Matrix?
#2: Where visibility is low
Hello and welcome to a FREE PREVIEW POSTCARD edition of Midlife Anti-Hero. Each week, I send a postcard like this one to paid subscribers, sharing glimpses from my memoir in progress. Follow me as I move to Vermont, consult a life wizard, quit a three-decade career, and test the adage, "It's never too late to be what you might have been."
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“I want you to overcome your need for clarity,” the self-proclaimed Life Wizard advised. Was she serious? I was hiring a life coach FOR clarity. If I was going to jump from the moving train of my career, I needed to be sure I’d land safely—somewhere.
I was listing potential new occupations—trying on professions like a royal wedding guest tries on hats.
“You don’t need to hire me,” said Diane, with what I imagined was a shrug. Then, cryptically, she added, “You already know your path; you just haven’t seen it yet.”
The line from the sci-fi film series The Matrix flashed through my mind. Morpheus, a leader in the battle of humans versus robots, says to his protégé, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
The White Mountains of New Hampshire on a clear day —the Presidential Range, Franconia Ridge, and Mt. Moosilauke.
On clear days, I can see Mount Washington in New Hampshire from the hill behind my house. At 6,288 feet, it doesn’t compare to the mountains out west, but the peak is formidable, nonetheless—famous for its weather extremes and a cog railway that climbs steeply to the rocky summit over wooden trestles.
I rode the steam-powered train once, not looking out the window but watching a dropped ChapStick whizz across the floor to the back of the car. The blood drained from my feet as we climbed into an icy fog, like a slow-motion airplane lift-off.
One person shoveled coal into the engine to keep it moving. Shovel faster! I urged the sooty man under my breath, my heart pounding. I was sure the train wheels would lose their grip on the rails and send us plummeting to the valley in a fiery crash.
Kind of like the last few years of my career.
The job engine chug, chug, chugged along, never stopping, but not gaining any real traction either. At first, I shoveled to make ends meet and for health insurance. I fed the fire for paid vacations, bonuses, and the atta-girl affirmations I craved like an engine needs fuel.
Even if I hated the ride, I couldn’t just jump from a moving train. Could I?
“When you look too far ahead,” she said, “everything recedes on the horizon.”
“I will help you open up to things you wouldn’t normally entertain,” she continued, and I wondered if I should try a different approach—even if she sounded a little woo-woo for my taste.
I agreed to Diane’s rate and paid in full when she offered a ten-percent package discount. We’ll talk again in two weeks. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and poked at the red coals in the wood stove.
When Felix ducked through the kitchen doorway, always mindful of how close the top of his 6’4” head was to any doorframe, he asked how the call went.
I moved the whistling tea kettle away from the heat and settled into the rocking chair. “I think I just hired Morpheus as my life coach,” I said.
What I wished I’d known.
The tracks weren’t as steep as I’d imagined. Or maybe they were the wrong tracks altogether. I was shoveling coal to fire the engine, but I wasn’t driving the job train.
Aswrites in The Shift, “100% was who I had spent my life being. I was so busy being 100% that I totally failed to notice my employers never gave me anywhere approaching 100% back….”
And I wasn’t driving the life train either. Not yet.
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“Love the questions themselves, “Rainer Maria Rilke writes in Letters to a Young Poet. “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”
As you look at the horizon (real or metaphorical) in front of you, what questions do you have?
Take a deep breath. Now ask them all.