And that thought right there is when it hit me. I mean, freight train to the brain pan powerful.
I've spent a lot of time writing about how The Fall has affected us all. Like snowflakes, each of us has been uniquely shaped by the forces around us, every survivor (and marauder, and every other convenient label you can think of) finding some personal way to cope and some point of reference to hold on to. We see and do many terrible things--our minds need a stable handhold to keep us from breaking down.
Generally speaking, mine is work. Doesn't really matter what kind of work so long as it's useful. I've always had the attitude, even before the zombies rose up against us, that doing a good job really is its own reward to a certain degree. I know that sounds hackneyed, and it is, but for me it's also true. My purpose in work was never to do anything glamorous or ground-breaking. I took great joy in being able to provide, and to do the absolute best I was capable of. I loved testing that boundary and trying to expand it.
For a long time, that was true. In my early twenties I began to see the stupidity in the world around me as I worked for bigger and less personal companies. The more money I made, the harder it was to make those above me understand that the people doing the labor had good ideas. When I worked at the factory, that meant using processes that could have been made vastly more efficient even after explaining in excruciating detail to my bosses how they could be improved.
After, as a nurse aide, that aspect wasn't so bad. I really liked that job, but the physicality of it was so brutal and damaging that I found myself in constant pain. My back and shoulders hurt all the time, often to a point where I'd be at work counting the minutes until I could leave. Not because I hated the job itself or the people I took care of--I loved both. But because I was being physically broken down. Nursing is hard business.
I'd go home and sprawl for a long time, trying to relax enough to get the worst of the tension out of my muscles so I could fall asleep. Then I'd wake up and do it all over again. I loved making those folks, my patients, smile. There's something magic about being the person that helped them when they needed it most. I could go on with the examples, but the short of it is this: the pain and injuries were more than worth the satisfaction the job gave me. If I spent energy hoping for time to speed up, it wasn't to get away from the people I cared for on a nightly basis, but to get home so I could rest enough to do it again.
The realization? I'm happier now than I've ever been.
Not in the overall situation, obviously. If I could choose between the world that is and the way things were, it's no contest. I've lost most of my family just like everyone else has. We've all been through hell a dozen times over. I'm saying I wanted any of that nor would I choose the struggles we'll face down the road.
But see, that's the thing. We don't have a choice. I didn't ask for this world or these circumstances, but I'll be damned if I let guilt keep me quiet. I'm happy with my life as it is right now. I work my ass off trying to make our home a better place for those that share it with me. I work as hard if not harder than any time in my life, and I feel joy. Because I'm doing a job that has clear purpose, that creates tangible and measurable good.
I can't change the circumstances we're in. If I could magically kill all the zombies on earth I'd do it in a heartbeat. But I can find pride and happiness that in these awful times I'm one of many who strive for better. There isn't much call to kill time anymore. Instead of watching our lives tick by like we're waiting for something better, we instead lose track of the hours in our frenzied efforts to continuously build and improve.
This fight that's about to happen--that is creating good, adding to the total positives in the world, just as much as anything. Removing threats to living people in battle is something to be lauded. It takes bravery and commitment and will give the people of Louisville a chance to thrive. I've been in those kinds of fights before, so I can say with absolute assurance that if I were there waiting to charge in and kill the New Breed, I'd be looking forward to it. Not waiting nervously for it to be over.
Just as important? I'm completely okay with the idea that I can be happy with my life, even as bad as things are. Much like the man who fell over the cliff and dangled from the single strawberry plant. The roots could not support him and were tearing away from the earth. He couldn't climb up. He was doomed, but he smiled when he snatched that strawberry and ate it.
An old story, one I've mentioned before, but never more apt than now. God, it feels good to be alive. To be living for more purpose than simple biology. Most of us search for meaning and some of us find it. Turns out mine was obvious and present all along. Almost scary how blind I've been.