A life over

Any man that truly prides himself of being rational must come, if the situation arises, to the stage in which he can claim that he can analyze himself and his conditions in an unbiased way. A blind eye, the impossibility to look at data coldly, and any and all preferences must be eliminated if one truly wants to claim that his own analysis is logical. Eventually, any man that claims rationality as his coin must face the music. And that time has finally reached me.
My professional life is over.
The industry in which I have made a living for the last 20 years has simply disappeared. No more illusions about it being in a downturn can be accepted as explanations, as by now, the downturn has gone for almost 8 years. A slow spiral of a dying process has reached its final coil: there are no projects out there, and there will be no more. The industry, currently one of the most hated ones in the world as it is a main component of the world’s Climate Change crisis, simply cannot come back as looking for oil and gas is no longer fashionable.
But the issue is not about that. The issue becomes personal because of multiple layers of anguish that this brings to me. The financial issues are not trivial; a citizen of a country that has been devastated for 24 years, I have no social security nets to catch me as I fall. And, as a migrant to a country with a similar lack of protection for those that have fallen on hard times, I am not even entitled to the meager compensations that such a system could provide me. I am trapped in the worst of all worlds: a set of skills that are highly specialized, at an age in which I am deemed by others as too old to change industries (false), and too young to retire. The last position is the crucial one: a plan thought of decades ago, to save as much as possible until my mid-60’s was not achieved because the industry collapsed before I reached that stage. I did manage to save, but not enough.
The sadness also extends further than that. After so many years, this is what I do, this is what I am. What I do is a very peculiar way of earning a living, involving a lot of traveling and moving around the world. And now, as I can see that my life of traveling and roving is over, I wonder what can happen to me, and whether I can accept it as a natural process of growing old. And, you must add one crucial issue: I got to enjoy and like my lifestyle. I loved to travel (in comfort, yes) and I loved the thrill of a new place, a new culture to mingle with, new people to meet and landscapes to admire (I worked in the field, not in offices). Yet, that is now certainly gone and I am left wondering if not a trivial amount of sacrifice was for naught. For example, during the Xmas of 2019, prior to this demise and in what has become my last job, my entire family spent that holiday in Buenos Aires, gathered together with one exception: I was in the field, which allowed me to pay for their togetherness but unable to partake.
My lifestyle has allowed me to do some oddly private but enjoyable things. On one occasion, I found myself on a boat, a helicopter, two or three vehicles, two airplanes and two trains in less than 24 hours, a silly coincidence that simply made me giddy of being able to have done it. Had I been able to ride a motorcycle, I would have been in almost all known mechanical forms of transportation men have invented, in such a short time. I have been in places of immense beauty and meaningless pleasure and pride. A fan of the 1980’s rock band The Police, I was once able to have “Tea in the Sahara”, one lovely song that I lived in the flesh when I spent an evening with Tuareg smugglers-turned-workers deep in the Sahara Desert, the full moon so bright I could read my book under its light. I saw “Budapest by blimp”, another song I am fond of, floating over the plains of Hungary, sipping champagne with my lover and enjoying the rarified silence of hot-air balloon flying. And, the song that I have asked to be played at my funeral, was re-lived when I travelled Sri-Lanka, wondering if I should indeed “Save A Prayer” for myself; little did I know that indeed, around two decades later, I would precisely need to invoke such a tune. On and on, these little memories would come back, not to please me, but to haunt me, reminiscences of a life now gone.
Because it is not only that I am unemployed; the comedian Dave Chappelle recently stated, while performing, that if you take a man’s livelihood, you kill him. I never lived for my work, but I worked for my living and for my life, plus the support of those that I love. And together with a very silly and particularly hated Spanish saying, one that states that “nobody can take away what you already danced”, I find that this cosmic demise of what I am, what I do, is precisely a slow form of disintegration. I am not being ignored by an industry, together with many of my friends and acquaintances; we are ballast to be thrown overboard, dead weight that was useful once and now is deemed superfluous. The saying about what you have danced is particularly painful: no, indeed, I danced all that, but I don’t live in my past, I don’t live of my memories. I live here, now, and in days to come. So yes, they have succeeded in taking away what I danced, because now, when I remember what I danced, I don’t feel the joy of having done it; I don’t feel the Hungarian breeze in my face, the taste of the sweet tea in the desert, the polite peacefulness of Sigiriya. I feel not like a man that no longer plays a sport because of age, I feel like a man that no longer plays that sport because his limb has been amputated. The longing is too extreme, the memories too vivid and therefore too hard to contemplate. I am a man of an elaborate memory: a song, a smell, a combination of words can bring memories back, in vivid detail, and knowing that no more will be woven into my life brings me no pleasure, only the sadness of what I once was. Where I once was. What I once did.
Could there be some more work? Is there an option to return? One never knows; it feels very remote, very unlikely. And will I find some work, somewhere? Again, maybe. But it is the nature of what awaits that makes me sad. In the movie “Goodfellas”, the character Henry (Ray Liotta) explains why he wanted to be a gangster all his life: the thrill, the danger, the rewards, damn the legality of it. The power. But mostly, he explained that what he really wanted to avoid was the life of the mundane, the complacent nothingness of one tedious office day after another. In a reflection not in the film, he wanted to avoid being Sinclair Lewis’ “Babbit”, the ultimate middle class, un-inspirable simpleton conformist. And that is what I want to avoid, what I want to not be. My life was a business lounge, a 12-hour flight, an airport in the Far East or Africa or Central Asia, a ride into a jungle or desert of infinite flatness and weeks of very hard work, followed by rest, recovery and, most important, reflections of what I saw, did and felt. Heck, I once wrote myself one letter and sent it via regular mail, knowing that it would take so long it would be like receiving a letter from a stranger, the man that was me months ago but had, even if slightly, changed.
No, the world is declaring my personal, ultimate form of execution. Like Henry by the end of the film, standing in an incognito house, in an incognito place, no longer able to do what he did, I am being forced to vanish. Disappear. If lucky, become an 8-to-6 cog in some machine, a bellboy to other, metaphysically luckier men. I am being asked to become what Henry declares, with utmost disgust, he has become:
A schmuck. And I don’t know how to digest that.