In olden times, say, when I was in high school, such schools still had Guidance Counselors who evidently thought it genuinely helpful for students (or at least, highly amusing to the counselors and their pals) to give “aptitude tests” to predict youths’ futures. These assessments were ostensibly meant to help us kids find our true paths in life and, more importantly, to steer us somewhere in a job-like direction when we graduated. But of course, they had more than a tiny whiff of the whimsical, as most students knew that giving fanciful answers to the quizzing garnered some pretty fantastical career proposals for them. I was too much of a Goody Two-shoes in those days, apparently, to opt for that form of entertainment. Pity.
You would think I’d’ve been right there on that artistic bandwagon, given the inspiring leadership of my father, who was known to send excuse notes to school after any of my illness-driven absences that led to Public Service Announcements on the school intercom system detailing my kidnap by Green Gremlins, among other purported adventures, and filled my classmates and teachers with glee. But instead of following Dad’s fine example, I answered the Aptitude Test questions with the dull and timid truth that was my safety net at the time, and was assessed as having correspondingly dreary potential.
That was how it sounded to my young ears, anyway. My best option was listed as joining the military, not the most obvious choice for a deep-dyed pacifist. I certainly was no Daughter of the Regiment, born and bred to the military life.
Future Me #2: working in a funeral home. Now, lest you think I’m denigrating funeral professionals or that I consider them or their work boring, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I want minimal fuss, maximum simplicity, when it comes to disposing of my corpse: recycle any usable parts for medicine and science, burn the rest without flourish, and throw out the ashes as compost ASAP. But funerary services aren’t for the dead, are they. Those who offer care and consolation to anyone in need, especially in grief and loss, have my highest respect. It’s tough and complicated work, and tremendously important. I’m just not the person for the job. I haven’t the knowledge, the skills, or the selflessness that doing that admirable work requires. It would take a more creative and positive approach than I can offer.
I don’t lack for imagination, and I’m not wholly without empathy, I hope. But perhaps my peculiar kind of imagination—the surreal and byzantine, the cheerfully macabre—is not the very best sort to be exercised in most funeral counseling and service arrangements, let alone in preparation of a person’s remains for a dignified viewing and memorial service. And there are the added complications of my being easily overwhelmed by others’ worries and struggles, never mind my being horrendously squeamish. If the High School guidance counselor thought it’d be a hoot to see what happened when he put me into the parlor with a grieving family and I suggested they convert Grandpa’s remains into a friendly robot to keep them company and tend to their housekeeping, following that recommendation immediately with a fit of hysterical cackling and a dash out the nearest door to vomit, then perhaps he had the right candidate. Green Gremlins in my future as well as my past.
The military option was at least in one way more realistic: part of me does crave order. So many other characteristics (dare I say it) militated against my joining any of the armed forces that it was an obvious non-starter for me, but all of these years later I still find myself wanting to bring more order to my daily life. Starting a daily blog was a good step in that direction, when I did it four-plus years ago. Now I need to extend that discipline to other areas of my day-to-day occupations so as to maximize both their productivity and my pleasure in them. I expect both better health and more enjoyment as payment for the new commitments.
What elements of life would I like to habituate more fully by regimenting them with a slightly rigorous daily schedule for now? First, sleep. Yes, I know that you know I sleep far more than average, and I relish long, uninterrupted nights. I would rather sleep less but more healthfully, to be honest. Be more dependably, deeply asleep, and a bit earlier, and then more fully refreshed and alert when awake.
Hydration is a higher priority than ever, too. It seems small enough, but the good doctor who just shot down my kidney stone assures me that no matter what my geological analysis reveals, I had better start drinking more water to stay healthier, and I know that if I don’t just plain schedule it in for a while, I’m unlikely to remember to make it a habit. Exercise is another such thing. I have no desire to become an athlete. That’s neither in my inherent character nor on my wish list; I do, however, want to be set up for as long and healthy a life as I can manage, and the sedentary nature of writing and making most kinds of art is both antithetical to physical movement and so engrossing that I tend to forget to merely take breaks to move. If I schedule those breaks for a while, just like any old-school union employee, I hope I may train myself to improve in that regard.
I’ve already become slightly more regulated in my dietary ways, since my spousal-person and I successfully navigated our post-summer month of rehab-style eating (low carb, low sugar, no processed and junky foods) and both feel better. Good encouragement to continue the process with diet and otherwise.
The most important piece of the newly regularized itinerary for my average day is to shift the focus of my writing and artistic discipline gradually away from being dedicated to daily blogging and toward a new, more personally fulfilling version of my creative output. More books for publication, probably, on the relatively near horizon. A reduced blogging schedule, something more like three days a week, will certainly help me in that regard. But I think I’m just getting a little hungry, whether it’s more from four-plus years focused on that daily post or from merely getting a little older and more constantly aware of my finitude, the ever-increased nearness of my own need for funerary services from somebody who took the career path I didn’t—it doesn’t matter why. I’m just feeling ready to ramble in a new direction, and the only way I generally get used to such things is to build them into a Plan, for starters. To regulate and codify and systematize them into a semblance of order.
I never did join the military, but it turns out I tend to do fairly well in my own regiment.