What van Ogtrop may not realize, being a married and presumably faithful mother of three, is that this question appears in the "about me" section of pretty much every dating site worth its salt. No stranger to this genre myself, I usually put as my answer things like "running around without shoes," "making Brussels sprouts taste good" and "writing blog posts which nobody reads." As I haven't had a date in many moons, it seems my skills aren't worth the time it has taken to develop them, and it's been 6 years since I last wore running shoes.
Clearly I'm not very good at this exercise, so I've come up with a better question for my nonexistent reader to ask himself. Since a career change is really an attempt to find happiness - and happiness at least in America is associated with what you do, not who you are - then the more appropriate question to guide you in your quest for bliss is this: "When was I the happiest I've ever been?" Determine the answer, and replicate the conditions of that golden period of your life, and voila, joy shall spring eternal.
My happiest time was hands down the summer of 1990. This was just before my senior year of high school. I was 17. It was great because I was busy, but not overly so, challenged but not overwhelmed, and balanced, balanced, balanced. I had a good mix of physical, social and academic stimulation, plus adequate time to relax. And also great hair.
For starters, that summer I had to enroll in summer school. As a transfer student, there were classes I had taken in my former school which didn't carry over at my new one. So each weekday morning from 8 to 10 I was in Mr. Farmer's Music Appreciation class, and from 10 to 12 it was Mr. Thompson's Photography class. These classes were interesting and challenging. They involved class presentations but no homework, which left me free to spend weekends reading about metaphysics at my father's suggestion. And I got to sit next to several cute girls.
I also had a lot of physical outlets that summer. Two evenings a week I played summer baseball games with my varsity teammates, who were also my best friends. I also participated in a summer soccer tournament with members of the following season's championship team. And if that wasn't enough, my friends and I signed up for three-month memberships to Gold's Gym, where we'd pump iron every other day. And when I wasn't in Venice Beach bench pressing, my friend DJ and I were in Santa Monica riding waves, scoping chicks and eating Subway sandwiches in the sun. You can probably guess that come September I kicked off the school year with one helluva tan. Socially, in addition to spending lots of time with my guy friends, I had an impressive rotation of girlfriends. Nothing too serious. Just evening strolls in the park (with Bryn), french fries at Ed Debevics (with Shannon), cuddling in the lounge area of Bar One (with Nicole, or with Evelyn when Nicole wasn't looking), and a lot of kissing with them all. Yes, that summer was perfect, and with senior year on the horizon, life looked to get even better and did. Well, almost. Because if senior year had been an improvement on perfection, that's what I'd be writing about now.
These days my life seems much different from what it was when I was 17, but it's actually very much the same. I don't go to the gym or to the beach, nor do I play organized sports. But I do keep myself rather active with some combination of running, swimming, biking and weight training almost every day, in or around my house. Which reminds me: one thing I don't miss from the summer of '90 is the traffic. Back then I was always on the road - either going to the beach, or driving to games, or taking girls to movies, or making out with them in the back seat of my Jeep. While these days I hardly leave the house. And I use the extra time wisely. Since the house won't clean itself, the dog won't walk himself, my food won't cook itself, and the garden won't water itself. I had none of these chores to do as a teenager. For that there was our live-in, Thelma. Muchas gracias. And though my days of formal education are over, I still like to read books, many of them on metaphysics, and occasionally write essays on those books, just like teachers had me do during my days as a student. While things that are absent from my life, then as now, include alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, meat and a job. Proving that despite what Ogtrop and her ilk believe, a career is not the ticket to lasting satisfaction, which can only be found be being who you are, which is . . . if you've been reading my words for any length of time, you can supply the missing word. Hint: five letters, begins with a B.
As for social stimulation, I may not seek it out but I do seize the opportunity to schmooze with whatever friend might call or visit me. Today my neighbor Michael came over, and not long after he left I chatted on the phone with my old surfing buddy, DJ. I don't date nearly as often as I used to, and when I do expensive dinners are much more apt to occur than make-out sessions. Which is lamentable. Maybe my choice in females is to blame, or is it something in me that the wrong ones see? Perhaps I should return to that questionnaire and think of something I can do better. Or just remain focused on something better to do. You're looking at it.