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You all didn't think I would leave without another long post, did you? This is probably too long, but I haven't posted in a while, and it has been relatively quiet so...

In the poem “The Road not Taken,” Robert Frost says: “I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence: / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”

What kind of sigh do you think it is? A sad one? Or a sigh of satisfaction? I've been thinking about this since 1990. Still haven't decided...

For those of you who aren't aware, I am off to London later tonight. I will be taking the first steps toward the realization of an 8 year dream: to go to graduate school at the London School of Economics. Where this dream will take me, and just how it will end, I have no idea. In a way, that doesn't matter. What matters is that I am doing it. All the doubts, all the “Get Real”'s, and the “Be Serious”'s, have been laid aside and I am doing something I always wanted to do with my life.

I received a card the other day that had the following quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience…” And that is sort of how I am looking at this. But as excited as I am, I am not without fear.

Not long ago we talked about our fears. Some serious, some not so much. I believe I mentioned something about airplanes. I love flying. The take-offs and landings are the best part. I just think it is so neat that the plane can take off like that. However, I cannot stand up in a plane. I just can't. Which is fine, except on long flights. I've never used the 'facilities' on a plane. I also hate having too much room. Some people like to sit in the bulkhead, where the doors are. There are no seats in front of you, so you can stretch out. Not me. I want to feel snug, almost claustrophobic. What all this comes down to is I like my comfort zone. I like to feel all snug in my seat, belt pulled tight. And at times, I get that way with life. We all do, I think.

Since moving back home from NYC a year ago, I've gotten used to my little suburban life. When I was working, I would leave the house, drive to work, drive home, and hang out around the house. And that's about it. I don't have to deal with the elements, I don't have to deal with other people, like I might have to if living in a crowded city taking mass transit. It may be boring and predictable, but it was safe. I know there is more to life than commuting and the drive-thru lane and multiplex's at the local mall. I spent three months in London in 1992, and I lived in New York for 4 years. It's just that going outside of that comfort zone can be a bit scary at times.

As I type this, I'm listening to the soundtrack of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The words to one of the songs go something like this:

I never thought my life could be
Anything but catastrophe
But suddenly I begin to see
A bit of good luck for me
'Cause I've got a Golden Ticket
I've got a golden twinkle in my eye

I've never had a chance to shine
Never a happy song to sing
But suddenly half the world is mine
What an amazing thing
'Cause I've got a Golden Ticket
I've got a golden sun up in the sky.

I never dreamed that I would climb
Over the moon in ecstasy
But nevertheless it's there that I
Am shortly about to be.
'Cause I've got a Golden Ticket
I've got a golden chance to make my way

(Hold your breath, count to three, come with me...)

Sorry. I love the song, and it kind of fits. I tend to see London as my Golden Ticket. That's not to suggest that my life is full of catastrophe. Far from it. But I just feel like that letter of acceptance was my ticket out of here, and into the beginning of my life. You don't have to be from a small town to feel trapped in your surroundings. Going to grad school was MY choice, and I WORKED for it. Most everything else in my life up to this point was either expected of me, or done to please others. Now's my chance to make my mark. And I can't wait. (How naive can I be? I'm 28 for crying out loud!!)

But there's the fear factor. I'm leaving my comfort zone. I'm too old. I'm not smart enough. It'll take too long. (All my friends are getting married, buying houses, and talking about kids already. And I'm going back to school.) Or worse, I won't like it.

Which brings me to the fish part of our story. One of my favorite movies is JAWS. After seeing the movie several times, I started having some fun analyzing it. (Let me preface it by saying this is in no way meant to suggest that this is what Benchley or Spielberg had in mind.) I've told some of you about this, and I think it is in part of my interview. But here's my take:

The movie can represent how I view life and society. First, the people on the beach. These are the regular Joe's. The people I grew up with and who are still living in this town. The people I used to see in New York, taking the train to work at 9 and leaving at 5, hardly realizing they are working in a city at all. They get up, punch the clock from 9-5, go home and pop some popcorn, drink a beer, and watch the game shows or whatever. They have no clue that the shark is out there. No clue that there is more to life than what they have. They are just having a good time on the beach. That's all they care about, because they know nothing else. Ignorance is bliss, so to speak. They are, what philosophers call, the unconscious. I've spoken of this before, I think.

Next, we have Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider). That's me. Chief Brody wants to be like those on the beach. He wants to fit in with the rest of the Islanders, but he can't because he wasn't born there. He wants to be able to relax in his unconsciousness. But he can't, because he is conscious. He knows something is out there in the water. He knows there is more to life than earning a paycheck. And he cannot sit on the beach knowing this. The only problem is, he's afraid of the water. He tries to pretend he isn't by moving to an island, saying "It's only an island if you look at it from the water." But
he knows he is kidding himself. He has to go out there and find out what's beneath the surface. He has to conquer his fears and try to see what else life has to offer him.

Next, there is Matt Hooper, from the Oceanographic Institute (Richard Dreyfus). Hooper represents all my friends that have gone after what they wanted to do, without showing fear or insecurity. Hooper loves sharks. He studies them. He devotes his life to understanding them. He thinks sharks are things of beauty. Like Brody, he doesn't fit in with the people on the beach. But unlike the Police Chief, he doesn't care. He lives his life the way he wants, without caring what society thinks he should do, or his family. (As Brody says to Hooper, who comes from a rich family, "It doesn't make any sense. A guy with all that money, chasing fish for a living.") He isn't looking for the “in-crowd”, or the well paying but miserable job. He does what he loves.

The other extreme is to be like Quint, the shark fisherman (Robert Shaw). Quint was traumatized in his young life by the sharks, and he has since devoted his life to hunting them down. He is cynical, he is strong, and he is alone. One could argue that he is doing what he loves, namely, killing sharks. He sees them as evil, and they must be destroyed. However, I tend to think that Quint got lost somewhere along the way, that his hurt was too great, and it overtook any plans for happiness he may have had.

Finally, there is the shark. The shark represents different things for different people. Truth. Beauty. Dreams. Goals. Love. Whatever. It's that one thing that we all want out of our lives, if we could have it. First, we have to discover that there can be meaning to our lives. We have to realize the shark is out there. True, the shark can hurt us. Often times going after the things we love and care most about can lead to pain and unhappiness. When we open ourselves up to our dreams, we leave ourselves vulnerable. But that is the only way to conquer our fears, to escape our comfort zone, and to be truly happy and fulfilled. We must seek out the shark.

It's weird and deep and odd, but I thought of it while on a Guinness and nicotine buzz, so...

So that's me. Sitting in my cramped airplane seat, desperately needing to use the bathroom, trying to adjust the vent blowing on my to a "comfort zone" level, clutching my Golden Ticket while I wipe away the cold sweat as I fret the sharks below. As scared as I am, I know it is something I must do.

But, like Chief Brody, I am very lucky in that I have plenty of Hoopers around here at TMF to help me. <g> From sharing and flirting with Ravyn over at GOLP to trying to convince Shannon that The Phantom Menace was NOT overhyped, from defining “Geeks” with Yef to defining “Chicks” with several, from learning about bikes from Catdaddy to learning about a very special naming ceremony from Kaiti, from some great face to face conversations with Susan and Cindy to some great IM sessions with Retirecom, from the wonderful ways I was received with my first few posts to the wonderful ways I was received at Murphy's, from B*Mann to FOOLOPATH, lisa6 to Trifle, Skibum73 to TheExpertNovice, and the others I can't think of right now because my brain is so muddled, I thank you all. You have all made my summer quite interesting and entertaining. I hope you have enjoyed some of my posts at least half as much as I've enjoyed yours.

I'll still be around, to be sure. Shannon informs me they have the internet in the U.K. as well. But you may have noticed that my posting frequency has dropped considerably as of late, and I suspect that trend will continue. I just wanted to take this opportunity to give one more long winded post about nothing, and to say thanks.

I came to this board 4 months ago because I was frustrated, confused, angry, sad, hurt, and just needed a place to vent. It seems so long ago.

Life is tough. So have fun, play hard, drink Pepsi.

-Brian (but you can call me b.)

“Undoubtedly the greatest obstacles have been overcome; but you still have battles to fight, cities to capture, rivers to cross.” – Napolean, April 26, 1796.

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