The End of Ambition

I took this summer off. I vowed I would make the most of the season. I believe I have done that. I believe I can make the dreaded sojourn into the cold and gray knowing I bathed in every drop of sunshine each day had to offer.

“You’ve gotten quite a tan,” my son remarked.

This gave me joy. An affirmation of time well spent. Skin cancer? I could care less. My ancestors spent their days outdoors tilling the soil. They didn't use sunscreen. They survived.

Though cash starved, I managed day trips to scenic destinations. The North Shore. The Mississippi Valley. The urban canyons of Chicago. I gave myself permission to linger without purpose. I took long walks with my mate and drank in the humid air - not shunning it as so many do - welcoming the heat of the day as a friend that refreshed me with my own sweat as I cycled and jogged for miles.

I have no regrets. I stopped doing the things I thought I should do. I blew off deadlines and social engagements. Beside a campfire of my own creation, I sat under an expanse of stars so clear that, for the first time since childhood, I saw the Milky Way.

In July I turned 55. I figure I have 25 good years left. I am inclined to believe our lifespan is largely predetermined. There is a genetic fuse, so I'm told. A string of genetic code that is the harbinger of one’s final descent into mortality. Once consumed, our remaining days are few.

After the responsibilities of adulthood rode me, broke me, and left me needlessly sober, I am now convinced the conclusions made in my youth were the right ones.

The last time I worked at getting a tan was the summer of 1985. I remember lying in the bathtub looking down on my perfect body with my perfect tan thinking to myself, “This is as good as it gets. I am at my peak. I am as physically desirable as I’ll ever be. Relish this moment. Hang onto this moment. Soon it will be gone.”

Now - a voice warns of idol dissipation and vanity.

I tell the voice to go straight to hell.

I will buy a Kayak. I will maintain my bicycle. I will encourage myself in the cold of winter with thoughts of kayaking and cycling across an expansive country crisscrossed with ribbons of asphalt and water. I will appreciate the quiet conversations with my lover after love is made and again try to slow time. This time marveling at her body instead of my own. Time has been kinder to her than me. I don’t care. I found love.

This was the great quest of my youth. This was the only goal that mattered.

I will put to bed the vain ambitions of middle age. Tuck them in with stories of better things. I will speak of thunderstorms and sunsets. Untether useless dreams from desolate moorings.

I will occupy the moment.

I will laugh again.

1 Response

  1. In 1985 I remember spending inordinate hours in the summer sun to get a tan. Not out of the typical vanity of the young, strong, and healthy, but because it temporarily cured my acne. I never did think of myself as being good-looking or in a physical prime. Life is so odd. My life goal in 1985 was "to have fun." Now at age 55 it is subtly, yet significantly, different: "to be happy." I don't have any regrets, either. (Liar.) There are a few very pivotal decisions I made along the way, but I have never wanted to go back and redo any part of life. And now I am just rambling. Brent, I read a few of your posts and admire your courage, fortitude, intelligence, and most of all, your love.

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