It's the goddamn bubonic plague of the soul of my generation. Growing up, we were all mostly taught that we could have anything we wanted. Our parents did, for the most part, and we were expected, as with previous generations, to exceed our parents' success. Problem with that is this: How the eff are you supposed to exceed a Superior Court Justice or one of the country's most accomplished vascular surgeons? Who knows, but I grew up, like so many others with some minor sense of destiny for my life. For me, that came into focus at 16 when I decided I wanted to be a high school English teacher. And I dedicated myself to that pursuit for ten years, culminating with a Bachelor of Education at 26.
And then I changed my mind. I realized that I might not have the patience, the diligence or the simple get-up-and-go to work in such a frustrating line of work. There were extenuating psychological factors, but mostly I wimped out. And I think that was the first manifestation of GIG Syndrome: Grass is Greener Syndrome. I started thinking that anything was better than where I was, I had no sense of satisfaction from the here and now. I had a lovely, if mismatched, fiancée; I had a fairly challenging (if routine and underappreciated) writing job for the feds. But I wasn't happy because it wasn't new.
I was also too afraid to change drastically. So, I stagnated and drank. The fiancée left, the job stayed for 10 years until last year when I finally moved into a Public Servant gig that will lead to better things (although the professional grass is still pretty green on this end).
But I've come to realize it isn't just me. GIGS is everywhere, because we're still thinking that there's a perfect life out there somehow. I know at least one Houdini of self-reinvention, because trusting happiness at face value just isn't in their psyche (just my opinion, of course). I know others who book it as soon as there's stress of any kind in their job, relationships, whatever.
And Lord knows, GIGS isn't always a bad thing, because sometimes that grass really is greener... At least until winter comes...
June 7 2010
Bill was your average suburban shlub. He worked in tech support for a local company, helping morons figure out that there isn't a coffee cup holder in their PC. He didn't like it much, and dreamed of a better life out there. Beer rep always seemed like a perfect job. One of the guys he played poker with, Jeff, was a rep for Mill Street and was so cool, always cheerful, and appeared to have the greatest life for himself.
Maybe it was because Jeff didn't have a wife and kids, he was a free man. Free to date any hot girl he saw (and he always talked about them), free to stay up till dawn on a weeknight, free from changing diapers, heating bottles, picking pre-schools, driving to soccer practice.
Bill often wished he could trade places with Jeff.
It wasn't that he didn't love Angie, his wife, nor his son Mitchell. He loved them fiercely, with a true sense of honour at being there for them and living like a man should. It was just that he never really dreamed of this life. He thought he'd have worked his way up to corporate ladder young, that his talent for programming and administration would dazzle the powers-that-be. As it turns out, there were a lot of 'dazzlers' out there.
There's not much more defeating a feeling than seeing what you thought was your special talent, YOUR niche taken and handled so much better my someone else. It killed his ambition and he settled in to a lesser job. He had to pay the bills after all.
As time went by, he married Angie, they had Mitch and he convinced himself that this was a good life.
But doubt would creep in every day, some days worse than others, but it was growing. There were more and more late nights spent at bars drunkenly flirting with women, stumbling home at 2 am to an increasingly resigned Angie. Resigned to what, he didn't know, and feared.
There'd been fights, but she mostly kept quiet. She knew what was going on. She'd seen her father go down that road and he'd only been satisfied after finding a mistress. She didn't relish having to put up with that from Bill, but it was better than a divorce.
And Bill knew she knew he was starting to think of other women, he knew that she'd do nothing to stop him. he was wracked with guilt over it, but the impulse that his happiness lay outside this life couldn't be shaken.
So it came that one night, after a few beers, Bill decided to really make a go of picking up a girl to go to a hotel with. He'd told Angie (lied) that he was staying at a buddy's place. He couldn't look at her nor Mitch as he said it. Once in the bar, he drank quickly, getting his liquid courage on. After a few hours, she walked in. Kristy. He'd known her for a bit. Cute, saucy, and obviously libidinous. She'd flirted with him before, knowing he was married. She'd purred in his ear once that she didn't care that he was married. She was perfect.
He sidled over to her, determined to finally get the free man sex he'd been missing for years.
Jeff's hand grasped his shoulder hard.
"Bill, what the fuck are you doing?"
"Seems pretty clear to me buddy, I'm trying to get me some tail!"
"Alright, let's go..." Jeff gripped Bill's shoulder and led him out to the patio, where he lit a cigarette for himself and then Bill.
"What is it Jeff? You don't like a 'normal' guy getting some action. You want all the girls for yourself, that it?"
"Not even close buddy. I just wanted to tell you not to do what you're thinking of doing. I know your family, I know Angie. Buddy, not a day goes by where I don't wish I could trade my life with yours..." He exhaled a huge billow of smoke. "I'm fucking miserable. I'm 35 and no prospect of a wife, family, or job that would allow me to be stable enough to get those things. You have everything a decent guy could ask for. You going to ruin because you're a little bored?"
"Give it a couple of years and being in my shoes wouldn't be so admirable."
"Maybe, but who's ever content for that long?"