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5:22 p.m. - 2005-09-17
\"200 More Miles of Rain Asphalt in Line Before I Sleep\"
Well, here it is, September 17, and I'm just now getting around to writing something that I have meant to for a week. Ironically, this remembrance also hedges on being late....

It was September 11, 2001, and as usual, I was having a difficult time getting my ass in gear. I hated my job with a passion. I didn't make enough money, one boss was an asshole, one was a pussy, and my favorite people there had just quit under less-than-pleasant circumstances. I had begged for a raise, and been told to wait. My car was on its last legs. As in, overheating if you so much as idled the engine for 60 seconds. It made stoplights fun, and drive-thrus (which were and probably still are a major source of nutrition for me) an excitingly good time. I was supposed to be to work at 8:30, but it was 8:15 and I was just tooling along the road near my house. I turned on the radio, which was only working on AM stations at this point. And I heard something about the World Trade Center.

Not having had all my coffee yet, I wasn't really awake, and I didn't quite comprehend at first. Then I heard that a PLANE had crashed into the building. And I wasn't even to Interstate 35 before I heard the second plane hit.

My first instinct was to turn around and go home. But I didn't do that. I was too chickenshit to skip work. I always felt, even though my rational head knew better, that I was going to get fired for the smallest of mistakes. You see, one of the people who quit was my BFRB. It's a long story, and it's not my story. But she is the reason I took that job in the first place. She sat in on the interview, and I knew, within 5 minutes, that we would be friends. Within a day of working there, it was like I'd known her for years. And three years later, I was absolutely not even remotely happy about going to this job when she wasn't there.

I digress. Anyway, I drove to work, and it was surreal. The office was very small. One co-worker was very young, and didn't really have a clue what this meant. The other was a few years older than I was, and had MSN pulled up on the computer. That was the first time I saw the images that are now burned into everyone's brain.

This was only four years ago, and I feel like I have lived three lifetimes since then.

Four years ago, I had never bought a car by myself. I didn't have the balls to quit a job I hated because I was afraid I couldn't get another one. I had just come out of yet another "being used" kind of relationship. I had no faith in myself.

However, I was taking steps toward being more assertive. I had a very frank talk with my boss when BFRB quit (the pussy, not the asshole), and said some things that I never imagined I would have the nerve to say...about my own value, and about what I could and could not live with. I had actually gone and test-driven some cars. But I was still a child, inside. I was afraid. I lived afraid.

Most people did not know that about me, but my closest friends did. They knew that no matter how much I bitched about my job and my car, I didn't think I had the power to change those things. I put on a good act, gave good advice, but didn't believe myself and didn't follow the words I said to others.

I'm not trying to say that September 11 was this watershed moment in my life. I think it did really drive home the point, though, that the world can change in a heartbeat.

What I've realized, since then, is that changes always seem to happen FAST.

Part of my duties at SuckJob involved driving my bosses and their clients to the courthouse, because their lazy asses didn't want to park. We usually took Boss #1's car, because it had room. So Boss #1 and the clients and I are motoring down the road. We were a block from the stoplight, driving the speed limit. An SUV was ahead of us. The light was green. Out of nowhere, another SUV barrelled through the opposing red light, struck the one in front of us, both cars flipped and turned, there was crashing metal. The whole sequence took less than 15 seconds.

What's weird is that I had been in a few minor fender-benders before that, and when I was involved, the collision seemed to take so much longer. And when you see a crazy driving maneuver on the highway, and you think that the cars in front of you will surely collide, it seems to happen in slow motion. But near misses and fender benders are not really life-changing. Scary, a little, or annoying, but not the kind of thing that profoundly changes the way you look at life.

But when you think about a tornado, or a hurricane, or a tsunami, or an earthquake...even with a little warning, the lives of each affected individual change in a heartbeat, a rush of water, a howl of wind, a shake of the ground.

Almost worse than the sudden changes are the ones you have time to anticipate...the dread in your stomach when you're giving notice at a job you've had for years, the sleepless nights leading up to a breakup, the tension headache from knowing you can't pay your bills but your car is going to die any day, the knowledge that someone you've always counted on has betrayed you, the diagnosis of a friend or relative's terminal illness, the sickness of a pet...the stress and havoc these wreak on your life is all the worse because you've had time to mull over the worst things that can happen.

Four years.

Four years, filled with changes we saw coming and ones that never could have been predicted.

Four years ago, if someone had told me that:

  • I would be able to walk into a gym and know what to do;
  • Turn down a job I knew was wrong for me, no matter whether I "needed" it or not;
  • Buy a car by myself, and manage not to have it repossessed;
  • Go camping and actually kind of like it;
  • Move away from the little nest I created when I left home;
  • Date someone without completely becoming a doormat;
  • Survive and prosper, and start learning to take care of myself, just a little...

I would have thought they were crazy.

But then again, if four years ago, someone had told me that:

  • I would still sometimes worry about money;
  • I would still be a completely shitty housekeeper;
  • I would still not always be able to finish what I started;
  • I would still feel insecure in the face of those who I perceive as more beautiful or successful or smarter or funnier...

I don't think I would have been surprised.

The more things change....the more they stay the same?

This has been my 200th entry, so I guess I'm just feeling a little reflective. When I started this diary, I suppose I was a little desperate for attention. Not because I had no friends, not because I wasn't seeing anyone romantically...just because I felt very insignificant, that my life was too small, that if I had to spend one more day stifling my creativity and spirit and pretending I was just another cog in a machine, I would explode.

I still sometimes feel that way. But a year ago, I didn't really realize that I couldn't just spout off my two cents and have people tell me I'm wonderful and funny and all that rot without networking. That's the part of Diaryland, of online journaling, that I didn't realize I needed. I didn't realize that I was not being challenged enough in my daily life. I didn't realize that there were so many writers that could amaze me with the sheer depth and beauty of the pictures they paint with words.

At one point in my life, the knowledge that I wasn't the absolute best at something I tried would have killed me. Now, I think I have reached a point where it makes me stronger. Where I can appreciate that there may be a level I cannot reach, but that if the people who have reached it somehow think I'm entertaining enough to catch up with once in a while...that is enough.

So, to all of you I have met so far, and to all those I have yet to discover....thank you. Thank you for helping me realize that it's not just about being a smart ass....that the point of writing is far deeper. In the movie Shadowlands, which is a favorite of mine and makes me cry big snotty suffocating tears every time I watch it, one character says "we read to know we're not alone."

We also write for the very same reason.



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