EXCERPTED FROM "THE NORWAY DIARIES" - which happens to be my Applied Project (equivalent of a Masters Thesis) due December 2012
May 13, 2012
It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks, and I thought the
worst – that huge pile of work - was over. But today rocked me back on my heels
Putting it in reverse: I finished the semester strong. I
completed all assignments ahead of schedule, posted my practicum collection –
now titled YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE – to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu
with days to spare, and turned in my final two research papers with a week
still to go before the due date. I’m not going to do that “humblebrag” shit; I
kicked complete and total ass. People started buying the collection and
enjoying it. I started enjoying making their money. It really felt like the
payoff I needed after working so damned hard for so long.
This was not all.
In between doing everything else, I had been collecting
together a best-of from my work at my comics and pop culture website The Comics
Waiting Room. Once everything else was settled, I wrapped that up and went the
self-publishing route with it. That came out about a week ago. Yesterday, I did
a book signing at a local store. It is incredibly validating to meet people,
talk to them, and see them find enough value in it to spend their hard-earned
cash on it. I was mentally flying by the time it was over, my self-esteem
levels showing green. All felt right with the world. Hell, I even got an email
from Eurail telling me my pass was on its way. I woke up this morning 27 days
away from wheels up for my journey. Glorious.
Today being Mother’s Day, I woke up and called mine before
even getting out of bed. Good boy, right? Had a great chat, caught her up on
what’s going on: trip preparation, potential new job, traditional life stuff.
She had received her gift in the mail from me on Thursday, so I didn’t screw
that up, either. The good feeling from last night carried over into today. Then
I got online.
My high school was not a large one. Our graduating class had
fewer than 150 kids, and we all knew each other pretty well. Most of us spent
at least the last eight years of school together. Even being far away, thanks
to social media, I can keep up with a lot of them. So it was a slap in the face
to see the news that Matt Schuster had died this morning, taken down by brain
cancer. 42 years old. Are you fucking kidding me?
To my knowledge, Matt is the third one of us to make an
early exit; if there have been more, I’m in the dark about it. This, though, is
the first one to really get to me. I knew Matt pretty well when we were kids,
and he was as warm and generous a soul that you could imagine. We had also been
in contact through social media, and we discussed getting together and catching
up if he ever had a decently long layover as he came through Phoenix. What I remember most about him: he
had a heart filled with kindness, and like me, he left our small town roots and
set out for adventure. His career as a flight attendant took him all over, and
from reading his Facebook posts, he made friends everywhere he went and had an
absolute legion of people that loved him. There is no question in my mind that
his life was wondrous and amazing. Whatever afterlife he arrives at is in for a
treat; the parties there just got a lot more fun.
Still, I am stricken by the entire idea. I, of course, am
about to turn 42 myself, and am heading off for a new adventure in less than a
month. But now my little midlife crisis suddenly feels as though it has more
urgency, more need behind it. It’s a traditional response to death, I know, to
question the direction of your own life and what you are doing with it, but
dammit, I’m okay with that.
What it boils down to is that it really can be taken from you at any time. Matt was flying all over the
world and being happy when fucking cancer came along and took it from him. Like
he was a tiny obstacle in its path of terror, it ran him over and consigned his
existence to memory. It is horrific just to think about it. But it could be
anything, really. Car wreck. Aneurism. It doesn’t matter; Death is a random
bitch, pointing her bony finger and gazing us into the abyss when we least
I grieve for Matt, and I feel sorrow for all those that
loved him. But I also must take from this the feeling I have today and use it
going forward. Am I living the life I should be? Am I pursuing happiness and
love? Am I making the most of my moments?
This isn’t something I can put off for twenty-seven days;
it’s something I need to be more aware of right now. Time is precious, and I am
agonizingly conscious of the fact that it is running out.