Half my life ago

In exactly 30 days I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. That’s a lot of birthdays.

In 1989, I turned 25 years old. Half my life ago.

In 1989, I was working at a near-minimum wage job, in a shopping mall, selling games. The store was, in fact, called Endgames, which was supposed to be a Samuel Beckett reference, one I’ve never bothered to look up. Minimum wage in Oregon back then was $3.35 an hour. According to my annual Social Security letter, for calendar year 1989 I earned $11,391. Assuming a full-time job, that means I worked for around $5.47 an hour. Considering how lazy I was, I doubt that I worked any overtime at all.

With that money I paid for my car, a nutmeg brown Porsche 924, ate a lot of fast food, and bought comic books and gaming stuff. Maybe some clothes now and then. I still lived with my parents (I wouldn’t move out until the following year, into an apartment I would share with two high school friends, Andy and Rod). I had no steady girlfriend and went on, maybe, one or two dates with women I met at the mall. I had no ambitions at all. I just wanted to keep working at the games store, playing D&D, watching TV, and eating delicious food that was terrible for me.

As I look back, I think I took the idea of not having any ambition to undreamt of levels. The entire concept of dreaming of doing something else didn’t even cross my mind. It feels alien to me now, just thinking about it. I had a vague sense that my mom, dad, my sister, all of them were frustrated with me, but for what I had no idea. My friends all seemed to accept me as I was. But if you’d asked me what the future would hold for me, I would have just shrugged and changed the subject, or talked vaguely of having more money at some unspecified point, without any real sense of what I could be doing to reach it.

If someone had suggested I go to school and get a degree, it felt like an unreachable goal to me. The money I made flowed through my hands like water and I rarely had anything left from one paycheck to the next. School costs money, and I was working 40 hours a week already; if I took time off to go to school, how would I earn the money I needed?

I was ignorant, and I think, now, that I was ashamed enough of being ignorant that I didn’t ask any questions that might have cured my ignorance, or even led in that direction.

I had a whole lot of failure ahead of me before I would ever learn to plan ahead.