Never any part of anybody’s zeitgeist…

I sit on the ridge over the wash, looking back over my home…

…thinking about this and that. I sometimes wonder if it shouldn’t seem odd to me that I’m so happy to live here – really it’s the only place I remember ever being happy. Ever at home.

But it doesn’t seem odd at all. For various reasons, some perfectly obvious in hindsight and some maybe not so much, I’ve never been a part of any society I found myself thrust into. Always on the edges: Looking in with envy and frustration when I was a boy, later just kind of wishing all these people would go away. Oh, the mistakes I made, all the embarrassing faux pas, the clueless improvisations, the memory of which will still sometimes make me cringe at an unguarded moment. I never understood what those people were doing – how they seemed to fit in so effortlessly, so thoughtlessly. You could be a real asshole and still get invited to parties, so what was so obviously wrong with me? It was clearly apparent to everybody else, but I didn’t understand it at all at the time.

One time I tried to make a list of all the common things I’ve never done, and never wanted to do. I’ve never watched a Fast and Furious movie, or seen cocaine, or had a birthday party, or owned a video game, or lied to a girlfriend about some other girlfriend – and what a mess I’d have made of that. I’ve never understood fashion: I once joked that the surest sign a fad had run its course would be me trying to get involved with it. Never got what was so great about Nike shoes. Never had a cool car. Never played team sports – when I was a teenager the closest thing I ever had to a longtime passion was archery, and there’s probably no more solitary sport.

Later I got good at scuba diving, and I think that was as close to ‘cool’ as I ever got, because the one-legged guy on a dive boat is just automatically the coolest guy there. But it never got me a date. Actually I rarely dared think in terms of ‘getting a date,’ because it was clear early and always that women were at the apex of the pyramid of things I was never going to understand. So I generally went for ‘cool and distant.’ But even then fashion interfered: That veneer of coolness required the latest and greatest gear and I was always too broke for that.

Didn’t help that I’m not exactly Henry Cavill. But I’ve known popular ugly guys. So it wasn’t that.

I did eventually get married, basically to the first person who ever agreed to have sex with me. And what a mess I made of it. I worked my way to a white-collar career – which I made a mess of. I could do the technical stuff just fine, but when you go from the shop to the office the people skills are paramount – I didn’t consider that till it was far too late to back out and my life became hell. ‘Professional’ people have ways of taking advantage of you that would get them beaten to a pulp in a shop, and I was just cannon fodder. Career counselors should mention that. But you know: When you’re in a trade where there’s a literal rule saying “don’t bleed on the customer’s car,” you look into an office and they all seem so comfortable. So clean. How could they possibly be unhappy? Well, there are ways.

The one thing that still seems odd to me about living here is that I was invited. By people who didn’t seem to find my oddness – odd. Maybe they grew up odd too. Except most of them seem perfectly normal, and had (and have) successful lives in the world, with families and careers.

Anyway, through desperation and luck (and freezing and burning and broken bones and quite a lot of hard work, but those things never dismayed me) I’ve found myself in a place I really love among a few people I really kind of like.

Somebody said to me once, “Joel, some guys are just born bachelors and you are the classic case.” At the time I took it as a challenging insult. If I’d treated it as wise life advice, I wonder how much more happy so much of my life would have been. The thing is, in hindsight I didn’t move toward happiness and contentment until, forsaking everything I had been told and really believed I was supposed to be doing for everyone else, I set out to do the one thing I had ever really wanted in my heart to do for myself. And to my utter shock, that brought success.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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15 Responses to Never any part of anybody’s zeitgeist…

  1. Joe says:

    Joel, this is another of your blog’s that guy way too close to home for me. At 51, I have never married. I am an only child from Midwest farm parents. I have worked blue collar jobs my whole life while buying into the stupid idea of a degree to move up either off of the line while welding or out of the rig while am EMT. At 43 the choice was removed for me. Blew 3 disc’s in my back and neck. I had to do PT for 3 years and get the balance back to walk normal and lose the weight from the depression. I started over in Retail Sales. You world is an ideal dream for me. My life is like The movie Through Momma from the Train. I promised my Dad on his deathbed that I would take care of Mom. That was 20 years ago next month.

  2. Judy says:

    And then, there is the female version of the story…

  3. Ben says:

    I guess that one can’t write an introspective essay every day, at least, not without getting repetitive. But when you DO write them, they always seem to hit home. 👍

  4. Mike says:

    It sounds to me that you have finally hit on the secret to a happy life. 👍

  5. Tsgtjoe says:

    There are a surprising number of us who go through life out of sync but with enough of a mask it isn’t apparent.

  6. Robert says:

    So, just be yourself, Joel.

  7. doubletrouble says:

    Congratulations are in order, here. Well done! (Writing about, & doing, life)

  8. Isn’t it nice to be home?

  9. Bo says:

    I’m with Freeholder, It’s great to be home. I feel a lot like you Joel, 53 and it sorta fits but on any number of days the fit just ain’t quite right. REALLY GLAD YOU FOUND YOUR HAPPINESS AND PEACE!!!

  10. Kentucky says:

    Expanding on Mike’s excellent observation . . .

    “It sounds to me that you have finally hit on the secret to a happy life” FOR YOU!

    Well done, Sir!

  11. bill says:

    I sure get it. Thanks for being Joel.

  12. Michael says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Joel. I’m not sure where life will have taken me in a few decades time, but once I’m there, I’d be happy to have your mindset. Here’s to good shooting, and happy living.

  13. Tennessee Budd says:

    My list is similar, except (a) I did all the coke, as well as all the other drugs, I could get my hands on. Had a great time. Survived it all, some-fucking-how, and (b) I did, and do, ride motorcycles. Don’t walk well as a result, but they’re the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Then again, they’re sort of a drug as well. Bikes for me, scuba for you. Being the gimpy fucker at any collection of bikers does NOT make one stand out, believe me.
    Far as I can tell, Joel, you did exactly what you needed to do to get to the place you are now–and I mostly mean contentment. That’s a hard thing. I did it, but it took me a loooooong time. Congratulations, and enjoy it!

  14. boynsea says:

    You sound like a classical Introvert, or, “lone wolf”.
    Nothing wrong with that.
    You’re not alone. It’s what we are, and what we do.

  15. Clementine says:

    Unlike you I’m still very young but I had a chilhood rough enough where I never really felt safe or at home – ever – and it stuck. I’ve been living in the same city for the past 10 years, the girl delivering my letters greets me on the street the people at my supermarket know me by name yet everything feels just as alien as if I was in another country I’ve never been in.

    My therapist told me to try to think of a place where that wouldn’t be the case and I told her that it would be outside, at like 3 am in a part of the desert where nobody else can see me and where nobody else ever goes. Then I would feel safe, maybe then I would feel at home. Your post justs made me realize that while not for the same reasons, you kinda feel the same and I’m hopeful that someday I can also be like you, not the hermit part but the part where you look over a part of nature and go “this feels like home”

To the stake with the heretic!