A Precarious Life

Last night I played poker for the first time in four months. I play a reasonably big game, where you typically buy in for $500, and always have another $500 in reserve. When you play a couple times a week, like I was doing last year, your winnings and losses don’t mean much to you individually. You win a thousand bucks one day, and you tell yourself that you’ll lose some of it next time. You lose a thousand and you know you’ll win it all back eventually.

Yesterday, though, without the context of regular play, the amount of money I was playing for struck me. Winning or losing a thousand dollars isn’t really going to change my life in any way, but it’s certainly a meaningful amount to me. And something about that train of thought made me realize how precarious my life is in many ways.

I’m a pretty frugal guy. A thousand dollars is a significant part of my monthly budget. In one night, just a few hours, I could have a swing that would represent a big part of my budget. That’s pretty precarious.

I thought about my dating situation, which is nonexistent. What I’m most excited about in the future is having children, but there’s really no clear path to that happening right now. I’m putting all of my faith in my ability to conjour something up for WifeQuest 9000 next year. I think it will work out amazingly, but maybe it won’t. Maybe the critics of my approach are right and I’ve really shot myself in the foot. I don’t think so, but who knows?

And then there’s Sett, this project I’ve worked on constantly for four years now. All of my eggs are in that basket. Maybe it will make me a millionaire, or maybe I won’t make a dollar off of it. Things seem to be going really well, but I know how risky the tech world is. Again, precarious.

Even where I live, this parking spot that I pay for, could vanish at any time. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be asked to leave. And then I’m back on the streets, where I live at the whim of the police.

As I sat there at the poker table, thinking about all this, I asked myself why everything has to be so precarious. Most people’s lives aren’t like this. In every area of my life I’ve put up a big mountain to climb that doesn’t necessarily have to be there. Most people have flats or hills, but I’ve insisted on putting a mountain everywhere I can see. Maybe I can climb it, maybe I can’t. And if I do, there are still other mountains to climb.

I came to the conclusion that this is the price paid for living a different life. The beaten path is constructed with guardrails and bright reflective paint and wide shoulders. It’s designed specifically not to be precarious. But when you make your own trail, there’s not much safety. Sometimes you’re walking next to a cliff, sometimes you’re climbing a mountain, and sometimes you’re not sure if you’re lost or not. I feel all of those things on a regular basis.

Maybe I should be more stressed out, I thought. Just objectively looking at my life, it seems as though stress is the logical response. But I never feel stress. Every ball is in the air all the time, but I feel like a juggler. I put them there and I can catch them when they fall, even with only two hands.

People like me, we build our own security. I have no certainty at all on how anything will turn out, including those things most important to me, but I have complete certainty that I can handle it. If I think about all of the worst case scenarios, losing money, Sett failing, losing my parking spot, WifeQuest failing to unearth any girls I’m interested in, I don’t feel panic. I feel resolve. Okay, I’ll grit my teeth and make some new mountains, and start climbing them.

Or maybe this isn’t the price paid for living a different life. Maybe it’s the reward. When you go off the beaten path, scare yourself a bit, and then succeed, you get your first hit of certainty. Ahh, I can do this. And then you do it again, and find that you’re right. You can do it. Before you know it your life is interesting, and yours entirely, and you’re ready to tackle it. It may be precarious in that you don’t know how things turn out, but you know that you’ll be good no matter how they turn out. And with that part of the equation filled in, maybe things aren’t as precarious as they look.


Picture is a bald eagle in her nest on our island.

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