Monday, July 31, 2006

Interview Answers for Kristel

She asked, I answered

1) What is your greatest fear and what are you doing to combat that fear?

I'm afraid of death, and it drives how I live my life.

I've always had a sense and dread of my own mortality. I remember turning 10, and realizing I'd never have a single digit age ever again. I remember when my dad turned 30, and I remember thinking he'd never be in his 20's again. Both realizations have at their core the notion that time moves only in one direction. Which, when combined with the fact that no one is infintiely old, means death is inevitable.

Our Town in highschool drove it home for me. When it's all gone, any moment, no matter how trivial, is precious. Given the choice of non-existence, or existence in any day in my life, no matter how tragic, I'd choose existence. At least pain is real.

So I live to suck the marrow from the bones of life. I try to fill every moment with something meaningful and worthwhile. Sometimes rest and tranquility is worth while. But most of the time, I'm pushing the boundaries of my own potential. If I get in bed and think that I accomplished something, learned something, moved in a positive direction, then I'm ok. And when I feel I’m slacking, I just meditate on my own mortality, that everyone I know and love will some day die, too, and that re-sets my priorities and makes me live better.

2) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in life to date?

Putting myself through college.

My parents divorced messily during my Senior year of high school. All through high school, I'd delayed a lot of gratification for the sake of "making it". Friday and Saturday nights I worked at, oh yes, Pizza Hut. I saved almost all of what I made. I didn't work school nights so that I could do my homework and do my extra curriculars. I got into a very good school. The kind with the money to meet my full financial need. I had enough savings to cover the official student portion of my bill for four years. I was looking forward to beginning to grow and explore.

Then my dad sat me down and explained that there wasn't any money for me to go to college. I'd have to cover the parental part and the student part on my own. Which meant all my college savings would be gone in the first year.

So I scheduled my terms on and off, not so much around my education as around my finances. When could I work? And while at school, I worked, too. Less social time. No spring break in Cancun. Spring break meant a week I could go home and work 70 hours at a few just better than minimum wage jobs.

I found one expense I could control was food. I ate one meal a day, at the all-you-can-eat cafeteria. I lived on cereal and PB&J's outside of that one meal.

I allowed myself to order pizza once per term.

It worked. I made it through in four years.

Had someone explained to me at the time that, within a year of graduation, my salary would exceed that of my mother, and that I'd be able to pay off my loans in just four years, I'd have taken out more student loans, and had a more comfortable life. Probably including a little more food. But I didn't understand. When you grow up in one economic strata, it's hard to imagine life on the other side of it.

I admit I got through on anger. I cultivated my resentment of my father, my economic circumstances, and my school's indifference to my situation. School policy seemed to say that I couldn't have been underprivileged in any way, since I was white and had a penis. They didn't seem to notice or understand that I couldn’t afford to avail myself of the "opportunities" that school provided, since unpaid internships and research assistantships were out of the question for me.

So during my leave terms, I'd get up at 6 to work grounds crew at the hospital, then come home, shower, and head out to the restaurant to wait tables till midnight, home at 1 am, repeat the cycle. I'd roll over, tap the anger, and give life a rousing "fuck you, I won't go down easy" and get up and go to work.

I don't run my life on anger any more. It's bad for my soul and bad for the people around me. But I can do it. It got me through college.

3) What motivates you?

Fear of death. A desire to be at the limits of my own potential. Sex. Loyalty. Sensual delight.

4) What are you running from?

Not much. I'm hard to kill. And I don't shy away from much. Even when I'm afraid of something, I can still find a way to turn into my fear. I'm still afraid to let people really know me. I haven't known much unconditional love in my life. I find it hard to believe people will love me if they know my flaws. There are parts of my life I don't even talk about here.

5) You just had the best day of your life. Describe it. What happened?

Every day in my life is precious to me for some reason. So I suppose the greatest day would be the day I can find what's joyful in every moment and be present with what is real.

My best days to date have been my wedding day, and a day in April in High school: I got in to my top choice college and then starred in the musical that night. A good day these days would be a morning with a great row (good conditions, good crew), some great sex and some good food.