Do your ever wonder “So what happened next?” I would. My blog is full of cliff-hangers. I write pondering posts questioning whether I should take some action in my life. Some are written just as I take on a new and positive activity. At the crest of a life-change. And then I never mention it again.
I’m home sick from work today. Shouldn’t I be asleep? Yes, I should, but I got a great night’s sleep last night, so I’m riding the couch all day with a headache. Every time I get up my hips and knees ache. I’ve got weeks of sick time saved. I’m taking a day to myself. I watched a movie. Deep Impact—a comet hurdles towards earth, and Téa Leoni searches for truth. Don’t judge; it was on a bookshelf in my basement. I’m in the middle of a book, but I don’t like it. The Testaments—the sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale. The writing is fair, the plot is dull. I don’t have anything to do today, but there’s always my blog to play with.
I was poking around my stats today, wondering why I’m getting so much traffic on an eighteen-month-old post linking in from Facebook. This is when I noticed my cliff-hanging tendency. I started gratitude journaling, Susan began running, I applied for a grant. And so on. I thought these topics were important enough to blog about, but where’s the follow-up? In all of these situations, no one knows what happened.
Gratitude journaling: Stopped. The day I wrote my post was the last day I journaled.
Susan running: She’s still at it, building stamina and speed. We run together two or three times during the week, and she usually goes out on her own over the weekend.
Grant application for a new laptop: Nope, never heard a word from them. I checked their website after they made the decision. They gave my grant money to some do-gooder organization offering arts programs to urban kids. Pfft. I bought myself a new laptop a few days ago. Lots of hand-wringing on this one. What I wanted was unreasonably expensive, and what I wanted was pretty basic. I simply no longer want to wait fifty-seconds while Chrome opens. I settled for a refurbished model. It works well, but it’s gigantic. It’s 2012 gigantic. Twice as heavy as my last one.
Recently, I wrote a post weighing whether I should coach Eli’s mountain bike team. Reader after reader advised that yes, I absolutely should—good for me, good for Eli, good for our relationship. And then last Sunday, without prompting, Eli also said I should. So, I’m committed. I’ve already put in my name, no backing out now. Step one is to buy myself a mountain bike.
As a family, we’re not poor. We live a comfortable middle-class life in a three-bedroom house, and we take an annual vacation. But our cars are pretty old, we avoid restaurant meals, and last month we bought new furniture (replacing the stuff we bought in 1998) on a credit plan. So not poor, but not wealthy either. We get by. More hand-wringing for me. Like laptops, a good-enough mountain bike costs some money, more than I have lying around anyway. Plus, I just bought a laptop.
Twenty years ago, I could ride. I was fit, I had skills, I was fearless. Now, I’m just sort-of-fit. If I’m going to be coaching these kids, I need to keep up with them. I need to get that bike and start riding it. Now. At lunchtime yesterday, I poked around the internet looking at bikes. Pricing bikes by Specialized, Trek and Cannondale, the big three in mountain bike manufacturers, I learned that I can spend up to twelve thousand dollars on a bike. I also learned that I’m not going to spend less than five hundred. Nothing under that price point is actually made for rugged trail riding. I don’t know why this surprised me. I bought my last mountain bike in 1995—replacing the one I broke colliding with a minivan on my way to work—and that one was more than five hundred dollars.
Arriving home from work yesterday, my sticker-shock still spinning in my head, a piece of mail awaited me. A 401(k) statement from VIDA Charter School. VIDA is another of my cliff-hanger blog stories. I began my job with pomp and fanfare and a handful of blogposts talking about all the positive changes happening in my life. I was reinventing myself, and I let everyone know it. Three months later I was unemployed, and not a word about what went wrong.
Here’s the short version:
The job was completely unrelated to anything we talked about in my interviews—which was accounting and financial analysis. What I did was volunteer management, and bus scheduling, and ordering and assembling furniture, and spending an hour a day interacting with little kids. My boss was abusive and demeaning, and one day I watched her scream at one of my employees until he walked out the door. I was just three weeks behind. I quit my job with nothing lined up, and I spent the next two months freaking out. I thought I ruined my entire life, and Susan and I haven’t felt settled since. Until now, two full years later.
I didn’t remember I had a 401(k) at VIDA. In all this time, I never received a statement. This fell from the sky. Providence. It’s not much money, I only worked there for three months. But I’m fully vested so it’s mine. After taxes and penalties, it’s the right amount of money to pay for a decent mountain bike. I’m not a religious guy, but it almost seems like a higher power bestowed this upon me. Like Job in the Bible, I took the abuse, never lost faith, and now I’m getting my reward.