What’s a year, really? 12 months? 52 weeks? 525,600 minutes (or, when I asked Google, 525,948.766 minutes)? Does the earth wake up as it’s hurtling around the sun at a dizzying 67,000 miles per hour (that’s 107,000 kilometers per hour for my metric friends) and think, “I say! This looks awfully familiar. Haven’t I been here before?” After all, it doesn’t have much else to think about. It’s cleared its orbital zone, except for the occasional stray asteroid or comet that waltzes into its path that occasionally crashes into it.
This is nothing compared to how fast we’re hurtling around our home galaxy. The sun (and therefore the earth as well and all that’s on it) is moving at an incredible 483,000 miles per hour (792,000 km/hr). We orbit once every 225 million years.
225 million years ago (Mya), the earth was in the beginning stages of the Mesozoic Era, in the middle of the Triassic Period known as the Carnian stage; with the continents having just formed into one massive supercontinent known as Pangea. There were no ice caps as the continental mass was centered around the equator, and earth was hot and dry. Tiny dinosaurs called archosaurs were beginning to evolve, along with the ancestors of the first mammals—tiny shrew-like creatures called adelobasileus that appeared about 225 Mya.
That should give us some perspective on what has happened in the past galactic year.
The primates (our direct ancestors) appeared about 65 Mya. The genus Homo didn’t appear until around 2.5 Mya, and even then, Homo sapiens (modern humans) didn’t evolve until about 200,000 years ago. Putting that in terms of mean solar time, if we were to set a timer for 60 minutes…
- 5 minutes after we hit “start” (when the earth began its galactic “year”), the first mammals begin to appear;
- 15 and a half minutes later, North America separates from Africa;
- 42 minutes later a meteor crashes into Chicxulub, in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, resulting in the mass extinction of 80-90% of marine life and 85% of land species, including the dinosaurs;
- 43 minutes later, primates appear;
- With a minute to go, at 58 seconds, upright walking hominins appear;
- At 59.81 seconds, Human and Neanderthal lineages start to diverge genetically;
- At 59.85 seconds, Heidelberg Man develops speech;
- Modern man appears just milliseconds before the timer goes off.
We’ve barely been on this earth. We can trace our first modern male ancestor back to about 60,000 years ago, but in terms of the galactic “year,” all of recorded history is but a fraction of a millisecond.
If that though doesn’t fill you with awe, wonder and amazement — nothing will.
Then there’s an illustration on Wikipedia of the Earth’s location in the known universe, which is equally awe-inspiring. As Douglas Adams wrote, describing the horrific torture device known as the Total Perspective Vortex,
When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, “You are here.”
All that is to say that 2011 was a pretty awful year for many of us, and we weren’t sorry to see it go.
I did have hopes going into 2011:
- By now I’d have at least gotten more established in musical theatre;
- That I’d have found a day job that was enjoyable and would be more financially stable;
- That I’d be in a serious relationship by now;
- That come early summer I’d have a home church in SafeHouse, and possibly even a relationship with Seth;
- That I’d have achieved more success with my compositions.
Looking back on it now, none of those hope and dreams came anywhere close to being met:
- I started a temp job in February that I ended up loving; that seemed like it might lead to a career until it abruptly ended at the end of November;
- I had a horrific experience music directing Sound of Music where I had little support from theater staff or production crew (including the director); was constantly undermined by a number of key auxiliary cast members (my principles and orchestra rocked though); and subsequently never wanted to direct another musical again;
- I had my heart broken by Seth in the worst possible way on my birthday, which led to becoming an atheist and losing that community I was looking forward to being a part of in SafeHouse, along with my faith (although in a way, my coming out as an atheist was as inevitable as my coming out a gay man—that is to say, both should’ve happened much sooner);
- I had a string of unsuccessful and very disappointing dates, flings and relationships, all of which left me feeling less desirable, more defective and unlovable, and less hopeful of ever finding a guy who wants to commit to me as much as I do to him;
- My trumpet sonata was premiered in Tacoma in June, but sadly that performance hasn’t led to more opportunities like I thought it might. I’d sort of hoped that trumpet players might hear it and want to pick it up to learn it, and maybe even commission new works for trumpet from me, which would lead to more visibility, more musicians knowing my name and my work, and commissioning more and more work. But no.
Add to that that at the end of this year (on Christmas Day, to be precise), I gave my dad the last $225 dollars that I owed him for my car, whereupon he gave me the title to said car; and I told him and my mom and that I wanted nothing more to do with them again— at least so long as they hold their fundamentalist beliefs about homosexuality.
- So, to close out 2011, I divorced the family that I’ve had for twenty-eight years.
That’s heavy stuff.
I feel even less sure of myself going into 2012 than I did going into 2011. That beginning was similar to this year’s: with not knowing what my job prospects are; waiting to hear from the temp agency about job possibilities while sending out resumes in the chance of striking gold; and generally feeling miserable, lonely and depressed.
I’ve said this before, but I feel as though I seriously fucked up in college. Majoring in music composition seemed like the perfect idea, and the future seemed so certain. Everyone thought that I showed great potential and talent as a composer. I’d be a working composer by, well, twenty-eight.
What I didn’t factor was that I had no business sense or training. That I’d had my head in the clouds during high school and college, focusing so narrowly on the Arts, on music and writing. That I’d failed to develop any Real World skills. And the economy drying up.
Then I’d graduated with said degree in music composition and…
… now what was I going to do?
Most of the people I know who are successful figured out fairly early what they were good at and wanted to do, and started doing it. They got the education they needed or cultivated the skills and the experience. And I feel as though I realized too late that I started down the wrong career path, and it’s a dead end. I’m not even good enough at what I am trained at. I’ve worked a variety of office jobs. I do okay, but always seem to find myself in situations where opportunities to impress my supervisors arise, and I try, but quickly find myself in way over my head.
And I crash.
So I don’t know what to do. A few hundred years ago I could’ve found gainful employ with the Church directing a choir, or with the nobility as a court musician, or even as a writer. And I’m apparently barely passable as any of those. Today you have to be extremely good and extremely clever (or lucky) to make it like that. I’m detail oriented, yes; but I lack the organizational and strategic-thinking skills that are needed to be truly successful.
This is normally where a manager comes in: someone who recognizes that an individual possesses talent—but not necessarily savviness. Often that means just being in the right place at the right time. And I’ve no clue how to make that sort of thing happen. Ira Glass randomly discovered David Sedaris reading his diary in a Chicago club in the early ’90s—a discovery that led to the publication of the SantaLand Diaries, his account of working as a seasonal elf in Macy’s SantaLand during Christmastime in New York City.
He got lucky.
Artists have a somewhat symbiotic, commensalist relationship with society. We don’t really contribute anything tangible to society, aside from making it more aesthetically pleasing perhaps. Kind of like remora fish and sharks. We provide “valuable services,” but the shark could get by just fine without us.
So while hurtling through the universe at 483,000 miles per hour, circling a nuclear fireball at 67,000 miles per hour, at the bottom of a deep gravity well, I’m looking hard at myself and must conclude:
I feel like a failure.