too small to fail

by s.

Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately; I climbed into the car this morning and disappeared into the mountains for much the same reason. A few hours later, I found myself sitting in the dirt with a beer in my hand watching indie rock jam bands in the Catskills. It is occasionally easier to find yourself when surrounded by others, and when a tremendous amount of greenery gets involved it can be more or less perfect.

We drove back just a few hours later after watching a band with a stellar album destroy their creative work on stage with a thick layer of obvious schtick. On the way, we contemplated the reasons we couldn’t stomach the talk as well as those that keep us from living as close as humanly possible to the waterfalls we continued to pass. In trying to make a point, I used Chris as the high end of our hippie barometer, and he took offense immediately.

“Chris, did you or did you not once quit your job with the intention of walking across the country?”

“I did that because my job sucked and I was bored.”

“All I am saying is that you are probably the most likely of the three of us to fall off the grid.”

“What about me?” Catie asked. “I’m the one who spent three days at a reggae festival in the desert.”

“That makes you the most likely to become a rasta, which isn’t quite the same. I don’t know what any of this makes me,” I replied.

Chris started laughing. “I think it makes you most likely to succeed.”

Later, we talked about the pitfalls of our professional lives and the reasons why a straightforward nine to five job filing papers occcasionally seems wildly appealing. I mentioned a plan from my not-too-distant past to quit everything and work in a Starbucks or a bookstore or anything to regain a connection with people and lose track of the bullshit.

“The problem with that,” Chris said, “is that you’d be so good at your job at Starbucks that they’d promote you, and then you would start moving up the ladder until one day you found yourself back in the same place again.”

It seemed ridiculous but also true, and we agreed that it was the problem with all three of us; we might in fact continue to fail upwards, not because we are geniuses but because we work hard and because it is just what we do. There is something about this that feels particularly depressing.

And so even as I go to the woods, I am there at a music festival in a hammock with a beer laughing at my friends as a band plays in the distance. I get on a chairlift and ride to the top, thinking about the impossibility of launching myself past the peak and into the trees on the other side. But somewhere on the other edge of that forest I imagine there is another music festival and another beer to drink and another friend waiting by the car to drive back home into real life, where we will all continue to fail up no matter how many times we gleefully run down those mountains.

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