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Thursday August 17, 2000, 01:53

New York commands a lot of attention. I never really noticed this until I was driving back from Philadelphia and looked out the window to my right just before I thought to call my parents to figure out what the best way would be to get home. I looked out the window and there, off in the distance, but not too far off because, well, we were just over the river in New Jersey (and there's so much to be said about New Jersey that is just better left unsaid) was the city of New York. Just on the horizon, and covering just about all of the horizon. Out through the haze you could see the skyline. Empire State. Twin Towers. All that. And I couldn't help but stare. There was just so much to look at. So much to take in. So much City to look at.

And everyone else around me was doing the same thing. Well, not the drivers, of course, though I caught them stealing glances as well. But the passengers in surrounding cars were all staring at the city. Why is that? Is it just the pure size of the thing? That it just keeps going? That you have to crane your neck around to actually see where the city starts tapering off into what locals like to call "upstate" and what those who live there defensively call "suburbs?" Or is it something more?

The city is alive. I found that in living there, and I've said it many times before. The subways are always moving. The buildings are always lit. Cars always fill the streets and people always fill the sidewalks. The city is full of endless possibility and I think that is what people are thinking when they look out over it. They can't help but to place themselves in that city, to be able to live that life of endless possibility. Especially given that most of those people looking at the city from that vantage point were most likely not returning to the city but were in fact driving right past it. Never getting to experience that life. Never getting to live it. Only hoping, for a moment, to dream about it.

So what of that world of endless possibility? It exists in New York, to be certain, but does it exist elsewhere? Actually, does it exist in New York? Or is there just that dream there, but the reality is that there is no more fantasy world? That world where you can go off and be who you want and do what you want has been replaced by that one where you go off and do what you're told and your identity is defined by what you do, not what you think?

I talk to so many people whose lives are defined by work. And now before you get all worried that I'm going to go all Fight club on you, well, I might just do that. The thing is that I'm afraid that there is a real problem out there. It's not so much the "oh look at me and my materialistic world and I hate Ikea" and all. No, it's not that bit, because really, I'm a fan of materialism. Whatever makes you happy, and if buying things in pale wood and chrome make you happy, then more power to you. But I'm really concerned about the lack of options.

Too many people today are graduating college and getting jobs. "But," you say, "that's the way it's supposed to work!" Oh, I suppose that there are people who have to go out right away and get work and support their families and themselves and start to get out of debt. In fact, I guess I'm categorizing myself as a bastard now by realizing that most people are in that situation and because I find myself in the unique position of feeling like i have options in life that I might want to feel guilty about myself. But I won't. For the sake of argument, I want to say that most kids out of school could go off and do what makes them happy for a little while.

There's plenty of time when you grow up to grow up. My friend lives in New Jersey and rents a condo in a big strip of houses. I met some of his neighbors. They've lived in the same house since they were little girls. Once is an out of work hair dresser and the other does some things that I don't remember. I don't think she was a prostitute. Anyway. We're going to ignore those people for a minute, because we can, and we're going to look at my friend. He lives in this house. His house is too big for him. It has a living room with a carpet that's straight out of the sixties (or is that seventies?), a dining room, a kitchen, a full basement, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. He spends most of his time in the bedroom. He has an entertainment center and a couch. And a love seat. And a dining room table with chairs. He works in the middle of New Jersey where there is nothing to do, and he goes home to his house where there is a lot of room and nothing to do.

He doesn't really go out too much because there is nothing to do, and he doesn't have many friends in the area because he doesn't particularly connect with the people with whom he works. Does he like this life? I don't particularly think so. In fact, I can't imagine that this is anywhere remotely similar to anything that he should be doing right now. I remember when we were growing up, working in the theatre. This is the person who took a 50 foot lighting cable and ran out the theatre doors, around the theatre and back down the other door, just to "take the cable for a walk." I don't think that it is time for this person to get a job and have no friends. But that's the course that his life has chosen.

That's bullshit.

In this booming economy, and dare i say that what I'm really talking about is this booming technology economy, there is nothing to do but make money. Personal happiness has been replaced with the promise of what could be. Stock options. Could be. IPO. Could be. Happiness? It'll come when you make a million dollars. I mean, I've certainly been told this. Golden handcuffs. You can't leave, he said. You'll love us when we make you a million dollars. And these are peers. Never had it crossed their minds that what might make me happy might be not working. That it might be finding myself. That while so many people are finding glory in the fast track to the top of that corporate ladder, they are losing precious time that could be spent finding out that what they really want to be doing is throwing pots. Or writing. Or taking pictures of squirrels in the park.

But there is no room for that today. School is the springboard for life, and life after college doesn't really change until you retire. Or that's what it would appear that some have been lead to believe. What is the point of life? To make money to be happy in life. To make money to do the projects that you want to do. Money does make life a lot easier to handle. Really. It's shitty being poor (or so I've heard because we've already established that I'm a bastard who doesn't really know what he's talking about). However, I imagine that there's a line somewhere down there where you can make enough to survive for a little while finding out what you want to do rather than struggling to make money doing something that will sap your will to live.

To be able to just one day say "fuck it all I'm moving to Canada" might be irresponsible or childish. But knowing that the option exists somewhere inside of you. To know that there is a bit of that child left inside that is not dead, that has not been consumed by the adult that is, like it or not, slowly eating your sense of adventure, is a feeling that just might help break through the monotony of life, the path that we've been instructed to follow, somwhere along the way.

Finding that inner rebel might just be enough to rediscover that sense of endless possibility.

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