There was a time in my life, a painfully misguided detour into the depths of insanity, during which I lost my way. A term which I have used more than once in this column, “quarter-life crisis,” could be used to describe what I experienced, but with one catch: for most people, this is the time in their lives they spend staving off the impending doom of adulthood by avoiding responsibility and commitment at all costs. For me, however, it was just the opposite. Fearing that I would be doomed to a lifetime of poverty, meaningless menial work and ramshackle group houses full of musicians with bad hygiene, I decided, against my better judgment, to get in line with the rest of the lemmings and become a productive member of society.
So at the ripe age of 24, I marched into my community college and registered as a “Mental Health” major. A lifelong fascination with the perverse workings of the human mind coupled with (outwardly, at least) a collected, objective and receptive temperament seemed to make me a good candidate for counseling or social work. And for someone with a pathological hatred of authority who’s incapable of holding down a job, the idea of running my own practice, setting my own schedule and my own pay rate was quite enticing.
But that was only one side of my reasoning; broke, homeless, and literally sick with stress, I saw where my fuck-everything attitude was getting me, on both a personal level and a larger karmic one, and I was starting to feel repentant. I wanted to make good for a change. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could reach a few troubled people out there and make some small contribution to the greater good of the world.
A rookie mistake.
The first semester felt like a breath of fresh air; my classmates were driven, focused, humble, filled with earnest conviction and compassion. It was a stark contrast to the aimless wastoids and self-important pseudo-anarchists I had surrounded myself with for most of my life. Impassioned classroom discussions and exhaustive research papers centered around how we could best serve the underserved, the abused and neglected, the mentally unsound, the sick, the addicted, the elderly, troubled youth, those who, for whatever reasons, had been left behind and lacked the resources to improve their lot in life without a helping hand.
The wide-eyed optimism was infectious. I began to believe, even though it ran counter to every value I had held up until then, that there really was hope. After an impressive attempt at indefinitely prolonging my adolescence, it was finally time to grow up and take my place in the larger scheme of things, and I was determined to carve out the most meaningful and helpful niche that I could.
Having already made the first standard perceptual mistake of youth, self-centeredness, it was now time for me to make the second: the belief that there are simple solutions to complex problems.
But that’s gonna have to wait until next time. Same Bat time, same Bat channel. Seeya there.
Image by Mike Lake