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🦋 How did I Get Here?

Part II of a project to assess my current situation in life. Part I is here.

And you may tell yourself,
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself,
This is not my beautiful wife!

David Byrne, "Once in a Lifetime"

I'm going to try to figure out how the past moments of my life have led up to this one. This may take a few tries.

Let's take college as a point of origin. Which college? Well let's take Columbia — though I was only there two years and have no degree, I still tend to think of myself as a Columbia student when my mind turns to thoughts of education. I think from my first day at Columbia, a clear chain of causalities can be woven which lead inexorably to the present moment. If not causalities, at least coincidence.

At Columbia, I was studying German Language and Literature. I did not have any clear plan for what I would do after graduating with such a degree except that it involved somehow being in the academe. — "I did not have any clear plan" is understatement in the sense that I was actually vehemently, elementally opposed to the notion of developing a plan. This willful lack of preparation haunts me — I cannot understand it. But its end result is quite straightforward; when I realized that my trust fund money (the upshot of an insurance settlement after I was severely injured in a traffic accident in 1982) was not going to pay for more than two years of Columbia, and that my parents were not going to come forward with the difference (that should be phrased "were not able to" — that is not how I understood the world at 18 though), I was faced with a choice between going deeply into debt to finance a degree which I had essentially no use for, and leaving. It was no choice.

While I was at Columbia I had met Ellen. We decided we would move in together, and that I would use the few thousand dollars left of auto accident money to pay for a culinary education, to prepare for my life's career of being a chef. Wait... what? This is an item that just strikes me as really weird in retrospect, it seems so arbitrary and abrupt. Hmm. I can't glide effortlessly into a comfortable life as a linguist and intellectual. [Looks around, scratching head] ...I've got it! Culinary school! I can pay for that out of pocket, and when I'm done I will be ready to earn my living, and best of all I will be interesting! — This is a drastic oversimplification, even a caricature — at the time I had a decent rationale explaining why I was doing what I was doing, almost believable, at least to me.

So I see my conceit of a clear chain of causalities (or even of coincidence) is unraveling right at the outset; the first two links are miles apart and seem to have no intention of joining up. I think I can come to understand this decision but I will need to go back to an earlier time to do so — and this seems like a critical task to me. I want to make it clear how closely the decision to go to culinary school is related to the refusal to make a plan at college. This is something that has held me back all my life, and I think is holding me back now. I will talk about this in my next post.

posted evening of Friday, June 13th, 2003
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