I’ve been reading a lot of people’s “Happy Thanksgiving” stories. I thought about writing one myself, but I couldn’t think of much to say other than hello, I am thankful for my health and home, and for the health of my family. There is always much to be grateful for, and most of us spend relatively little time expressing gratitude on a scale equal to our blessings. That much is true, and I like thanksgiving for always reminding me of it. Also, I like the pies.
But all I can really think about is this: after a year and a half of unemployment and then self-employment, I have taken a job.
A real, full-time job with a marketing agency. They liked my healthcare experience and my track record managing clients, and I liked their leadership team and the fact that I would be doing roughly the same kind of consulting I’ve been doing, but for more money and bigger clients.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have some reservations. Loss of freedom (though I’m remote in times of pandemic), loss of time, loss of the complete and total freedom of expression I’ve enjoyed for most of the past 18 months.
The job is in content marketing, and as marketers know full well, what we do for our clients is tell stories. Not the full story, because, especially in healthcare, the full story is often pretty ugly — but a version of the story. Not the full truth, but a version of it that is true enough.
Of course, we all do this, and not just in our jobs. We do it with our partners, our spouses, our kids, our family. We do it with ourselves. But I have to say that is not what I aim for, except perhaps when I’m working on a screenplay. What I aim for, what I’ve always been interested in, is Truth, capital T. The truth. I don’t write the full truth here. Never have. But in my own mind, that is what I am working toward. A full and true accounting of who I am, where I am, where I’ve been, and where I want to go, plus the Truth of the world: what it is, why it is, and how it works.
I was in the wilderness, and now I have a job, which makes it seem like I’ve reached the edge where civilization now begins, although, of course, that too could be a mirage. Likely is a mirage. Or, I could just have mixed feelings about civilization (there are a bunch of ways to spin the metaphor).
I know I’m writing now only because I have the time, because the day after Thanksgiving is a vacation day. I have vacation days now, which are written down in an employee handbook, and also normal work weeks. A lot of this work is quite interesting to me, in that healthcare is truly messed up, and therefore I may be able to bring some kind of added clarity about why that is and how we might begin to make it less so. On the other hand, it is winter and my work day now ends after dark, which is kind of depressing.
I think I understand now the point of all those urban gyms with their neon lights with the people looking out from behind windows onto an empty cityscape. People go there so they can run, sweat just a little before going home. To me they always looked a lot like those Edward Hopper paintings: everyone on a treadmill next to each other, but alone.
This morning, I woke up before light and hiked Rattlesnake, the local 2.4 mile loop near my house. It goes up a steep and sustained wooded path, makes you sweat, gets you breathing, and then pops you out onto a rocky outcropping and a gorgeous view of the Baker River Valley. This morning I got there about a half hour after sunrise. It was extra glorious, with the fog carpeting the valley far below us and the just-risen sunlight angled into it, brushing against the far off mountains.
I suppose I could do that every morning, back before 8:30am, ready to work — but I probably won’t. More likely I’ll wake, work, then in the evenings go into the garage and slowly add to my home bouldering hut (thank God the renovation itself is nearly complete). I’ll run wood through my saws, and sand, shaping rails and edges and slopers to screw on to the plywood.
And that will be my equivalent of the Hopper painting. LED lights in the garage, and my son bouldering with me. So, maybe a little less alone.
Happy thanksgiving everybody.