I’ve come to learn that life changes slowly but all of the sudden. Life moves in fits and starts. The drudgery of routine makes things seem static. Then something happens and changes your world.
A wake up moment. I’ve had several that were definitive. I remember one morning very clearly.
I was working in a factory as an engineering co-op student. It was near my University but my friends had gone home for the summer. I had a super shitty apartment where I would listen to the nightly drama of an eight unit apartment building. The couple living below me had a love/hate relationship that swung like a pendulum from loud violent sex to yelling and door slamming. I’m not saying the floor was thin but on occasion I slept on the living room couch to avoid the sound of sweaty nuts slapping like a broken screen door. The lady across the hall from me was a fifty year old alcoholic who would sit in a fold-up camping chair and talk to everyone who came and went. One unit to the left was a reclusive group of guys who would get raging drunk about once a month, always on a Tuesday.
This place was a real shithole. The rent was less than my car payment and I think the linoleum was actually the first production run of linoleum ever. People moved in and out so often the roaches didn’t even bother getting to know you. They just went about their business with little regard for lights or poison traps. Hardened poverty roaches.
The pool was the only amenity since the “gym” had been stripped of all usable equipment and the only remaining health equipment was a broken bowflex (bench with a cable hanging off it). The pool crowd was a creepy group. I remember the broken concrete and this lingering smell of old stale beer that was leaking out of the pores of all the middle aged sunbathers. Not the smell of someone who got drunk the night before but the smell of someone who hasn’t been sober in six years. Fifteen of those somebodies evaporating ethanol poolside.
Work was no better for my emotional well-being.
My daily schedule;
Drive to work half-asleep because I stayed up listening to the fuck/fight couple going at it all night
Scan my badge and turn on the computer to stare at an empty in-box
Listen as the intercom crackles and we all do morning stretches,
Take my fifteen minute break in the cafeteria drinking coffee and eating a pre-packed plastic bowlful of Frosted Flakes (where can I buy these in bulk?),
Walk around for eight hours hating life,
Drive to a friend’s house for beer and to watch Office Space (every day),
Go home at 8:30 and talk to drunk lady in her chair on my way in,
Cruise the internet starting at Facebook and ending at porn,
Try to go to sleep but listen to an argument over shutting the cabinet doors,
My routine had become a metaphor for my life. I was surrounded by dead people and trapped in a bubble of a life. Then one morning, five days from the end of my assignment, I sat in the morning traffic and noticed something on the opposite side of the highway. Someone had fallen asleep and ran off the road hitting a bridge pier and flying into the river. As the tow truck winched the battered truck out of the river I had the morbid thought, “That lucky bastard doesn’t have to go to work tomorrow. Maybe I should hit a fucking bridge pier too.” It wasn’t as much suicidal as it was logic. Stone cold logic.
Thankfully something in my brain slapped the shit out of me and said, “Holy Shit! That is crazy. You can just not go to that job anymore. Quitting is totally an option.”
I turned around and went to my apartment. I packed up everything that I owned, left a few pieces of furniture, and dropped the keys at the front desk. The manager of the apartments thanked me because apparently most people never gave any notice that they were leaving. I guess he waited until the rent was months past due or something started to smell. I drove three hundred miles to my home town and changed my entire major. I was a junior with three semesters left and it was the best change I could have made. Inside a thirty second thought my life was turned around.
Happy is better than shitty career any day of the week. And who knows? Maybe that drunk lady at the apartment was just living her dream but it was my nightmare. There are parts of that story that the responsible father of four I have become is envious of. I never get to drink beer and watch Office Space anymore but that is okay.
Have you ever had an epiphany moment? Do you need to have one soon?