Friday, November 9, 2012

Wasted Time

Remember that Eagles song about love ending and one lover feeling it has all just been wasted time? You go along doing something for a while--being in love, working at a job--hardly thinking about putting one foot in front of the other, and one day you wake up and think: Where am I? Is this where I was going?

Dancing Through Life
Meg and I had dinner recently with a couple who are the kind of friends you can talk to the way you did in college and they won’t laugh at you. Are there alternate universes? What is the meaning of life? You have to have time on your hands to have those kinds of conversations. As I said, not since college.

My own college days of existential angst were unsatisfyingly brief. I had barely sobered up from celebrating my liberation from my father when I found myself married with a son of my own. I chose what I wanted to do--practice law--but not really. I didn’t want to be a doctor, like my father, and in a family of doctors, lawyers, preachers and academics, the law seemed a respectable alternative. I was semi-idealistic at first. I refused to represent air polluters.

Soon enough, though, I fell in with a fast crowd of finance and merger lawyers and got hooked on Ferragamo ties and Ritz Carlton suites. My group of fighter pilots flew cover sorties for investment bankers and went to closing dinners in silk flying scarves and bragged about our kills. It was fun and exciting, but one day, like that wistful lover Don Henley sings about, I began to wonder if it wasn’t all just wasted time.

When I turned to writing, one of my practical friends said: Mac, many are called, but few are chosen. Maybe I should have listened.

All my fiction seems to be father-son stories. I think what’s happening is I am writing the same story over and over again until I get it right. Meanwhile, out of necessity, I’ve come to love the process of writing, the way it makes me think about who and how we are, the quiet place it makes for me.

At that dinner with the friends from the alternate universe, after a couple of glasses of wine (that sweet lubricant of epiphanies), I said I thought the most important thing any of us can do in life is make a difference. Not everyone has to develop dwarf wheat to feed the world. It is enough to write computer code that makes life easier for some or work on education programs for children in need, as my friends do. It is more than enough to write stories, as Meg does, that let women see they have one another’s backs in the struggle to find their places in a world that is slowly opening up to them but remains unwelcoming and even hostile in some quarters.

For myself I harbor the hope, renewed daily, that I will write a story that helps a father see that he is not alone in his self-doubt, a son understand that sometimes the only thing you can do is love and hate your father at the same time. If I can do that, I think I will feel I have not wasted time.


  1. You may think I'm being tongue in cheek when I suggest this, but I'm not. Why don't you get into politics. I bet you'd make a great Mayor, for example. You'd provide a good combination of idealism and business acuman. You're a good man, and a good role model.
    Don't quit writing; you're great at that. But your gifts really shine in the limelight.

  2. :)

    It is more than enough to write stories and essays, as you do, that cause us to stop and consider what we think is important, and what we ought to think is.