October 10, 2009

An interesting life takes effort

The other night I went to have dinner with my good friend Nemo who was in town working. As I was sitting in the lobby of his hotel waiting for him I recognized the doorman from when I stayed there 17 years ago when I was Nemo's photo assistant. I had been to that hotel frequently in the early 90's and had many conversations with that particular doorman while waiting for clients or location vans. Nemo came down and as we were walking out I stopped and reintroduced myself to the doorman and said "Remember me?" He smiled and said "Of course I do" and asked how I had been. During our brief chat I noted that it had been 17 years since we had last seen each other. He stopped for a second as if having a "holy shit" moment, mentally questioning my claim whether it actually had been 17 years since we last spoke. He paused for millisecond, shook his head in disbelief and said "Wow...I've been doing this way too long." Was he having an epiphany? A moment of profound clarity? Did he mean this? This made me start thinking...HAD he been doing this too long? I couldn't stop thinking about this doorman, his job and his life. Which made me think about my own life and chosen vocation. Now, I have no idea if any of this is correct but let me do some hypothesizing here: He probably lives in Queens, probably has a wife and a few older kids in their late teens, probably has a 3 bedroom house and a 10 year old Toyota (or similar vehicle). Again, I'm obviously guessing. At any rate, he goes to this same hotel everyday and basically opens doors for people as they check in and check out. He holds umbrellas over people's heads in the rain, escorts them to the curb, hails cabs and helps to load luggage into trunks. Afterwards, he discreetly extends his palm expecting a few dollars for doing these tasks. He's a very nice guy, always smiling with bright welcoming eyes and always appears to be sincerely happy. But is he? Going through the same routine day after day, year after year. From a working standpoint, is there any difference between him and some guy living in Indiana working in a factory? Or another guy in West Virginia working in a coal mine? Similar lives perhaps? They probably all get up fairly early, have some toast and a cup of coffee, kiss the wife on the cheek and they're out the door. They all more than likely live with varying degrees of anxiety, hoping to keep their jobs and praying the company remains stable and they don't get fired or laid off. They wish they could trade in that old Toyota for a newer model but are concerned about the payments. Now the dilemma... Are they actually happy, merely content, or maybe even miserable? Do they even care about doing anything else or are they happy living this daily routine? I wonder if there's contentment in repetition. Will they have any regrets after they retire? Do they even desire something more stimulating, fulfilling or meaningful from their jobs? When they're old and sitting in a rocking chair will they look back and wonder what their life would have been like had they run off to Paris to write that novel they always dreamed about? Was that dream ever even there? Maybe they get all the pleasure they need from a few yearly vacations and being with their family. The job is just a means for providing their homes, those vacations and that old Toyota. Personally I'm terrified of getting old and having regrets. I've always wanted to live in Paris and I'd love to create a book of some sort. I want to travel and photograph everything I find interesting and beautiful. A few weeks of vacation per year is simply not enough. Sometimes I wish I had the mentality to go to a job where I did the same thing every day and not be concerned about what I might be missing out on in life. In my final years I want to sit in that rocking chair and look back and know that I had an extremely interesting, fulfilling life. And, that I had seen and done everything I wanted to do. I think someone like Rosanne Cash or Shawn Colvin once said, "An interesting life takes a lot of effort." I've had a pretty rewarding and interesting life so far but I really need to put forth even more effort.
Or, get a job in a factory making biscuits.

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