Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interplanetary travel

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus according to some author, but if you want to really feel like you're on a different planet; you have to look beyond gender differences. This has nothing to do with the final space shuttle launch or NASA's shutdown or whatever is happening there. This is about the last 12 days that I've spent back up in NY and NJ.

Two days ago I had my 8th Air Force anniversary, so visiting home is old hat. However, in recent years I have been making my way home only around the holidays and my visits have been short and chock full of yuletide visits, leaving very little time to soak in the area, mentality and subsequently reflect. Additionally, I've been absorbing all I can from the Air Force, as a person. I have used my career in camouflage for personal and professional growth, both of which have greatly increased since I first laced up combat boots. I've now hit the second skinny part of the bell curve and the law of diminishing return has kicked in. With each passing day, I take away less from the Air Force than I did previously and most certainly less than I put in. As many of you know, I've decided to separate and move home. I've served my country and now I'm ready to serve my bank account and I want to do it from within a close proximity to my family. Father time is not kind so waiting another 12 years (or more) is not something I'm willing to do. I'm a mere 20 months away from being promoted to the rank of Mr. and I'm mentality ready for it.

I know this and you see it in me. I've curbed my disdain for waiting and my impatience by relying on the intrinsic value of the Air Force and all the positive experience I've had, but the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is nearly blinding and I'm ready. I feel it in my life every day, as alone as I am in Mississippi. As I've said before, I have friends, some more wonderful than others, but they are a part of my life rather than actually being my life. And they have lives of their own. I need a life that is one I can truly embrace.

This week it became even more evident than ever. I felt more like my old self than I have since I can remember. Every day brought about more melding of my person with my area. I was able to recharge my batteries. If you're in Mississippi and you're reading this, consider what is expensive for home ownership. Now realize that I'm looking at condos that have 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and are about 1,100 square feet in the neighborhood of $430,000. I don't bat an eye at that. It's a lot of money, but I'm far from surprised. How many people have ever been on the 44th floor of a building? Have you ever been in a city where the women outnumber the men and more are beautiful than not? Would you consider giving a gift of $100 to someone because you haven't seen them in a while or is that an astronomical amount to throw around? The culture in New York City and its outlying areas is different from any place else in the world. I always thought my life was normal and the rest of the country was weird. As it turns out, I'm in the minority (despite the 8 million people floating around Manhattan at any given moment). Most of the country cannot fathom what we do.

It took me years to realize that people don't pay what we pay for homes. People don't go to Broadway shows on a random Monday night. $173 for lunch in Trump Tower is not commonplace. The thing is though... it is for me. That's MY life. I own suits that cost what I take home in a paycheck now. Nearly everyone is college educated and physically fit. There are so many people that the essence of Darwin surrounds us. There is no room for the weak and lazy. The stupid get eaten alive. And if you like to rock the boat and cause disturbances, you'll end up on the street. It's a well oiled machine of hustle and bustle and it makes me feel alive.

To the contrary, I look at most of my confederates in Mississippi (pun intended) and I see backbiting, undermining, high school spats, improper English, general disregard for life and success. And then I vomit up a little bit of happiness and hope for our country. I got an email on Facebook from someone who deleted and blocked me for no reason then unblocked me and requested I help her ruin someone else's career. The intended target is someone who behaved in a way everyone expected yet the email initiator ignored the warnings. Another isolated themselves from everyone they know and then cries out miserably when the fun of others is witnessed, yet keeps some of the old group within purview. People are constantly attempting to drag others into their pools of despair because misery loves company is not just a cliche to them.

Then I look back here. Everyone owns a home by 30. One friend is enlarging his home for a price tag more than the average Mississippian makes in a year. They travel. They vacation. They read. They're in touch with the world and culture. Four of us discussed at length the reasons for the demise of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and the success of Goldman Sachs as well as the roles of Hank Paulson, Dick Fuld and Jamie Dimon.

Do you see where this is going? This is not the arrogant "I'm better than you speech" you're claiming it is in your head right now. This is the exposition and exploitation of inexplicable differences between here and there. And to think that in less than 2 days, I'll take a 3 hour plane ride and arrive in that world. A world of complacency. A world where people would rather drag competition to their low level instead of rising to the high level of the competition. A world where laziness gets you everywhere and hard work is shunned.

The duality of this trip is that is motivates and demotivates me simultaneously. I cannot wait to get back and it makes me happy to know that it will be soon. I'm excited and pumped to jumpstart my life in less than 2 years. At the same time, all of the wind leaves my sails and extreme disappointment sets in when I admit that I have to return to Dante's 7th circle on Tuesday.

There is *some* solace in my return there. There are people who will be genuinely glad to see me; and I them. They take the edge off the lousiness that is Mississippi. They make it all just this side of bearable. The aloe to my geographical sunburn. But that doesn't make that lifestyle fit my persona.

Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone with a Mississippi address, but this is a general culture that is promoted down there. I will no longer be a party to any of it. My business launches in three weeks (hopefully, vacation has gotten in the way of checking with my two lifesavers who are planning all of this) and I have bigger fish to fry.

Anyway, over the last 12 days I've seen just how far apart my life is compared to where it started. I really truly feel like these two places cannot be collocated on the same spinning orb in the sky sometimes. The best view of Mississippi is in the rear view mirror.

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