Years ago, I knew what I had to do with this life. It was very clear to me. It wasn’t even instinctive; it was something greater than that. Divine is too much, but natural? Does ‘natural’ say it? I guess so. I just never considered that I was meant to do or be anything else.

I was meant to be myself and laugh and love and look in the mirror and be proud. I was meant to play and write and show off and, by being other people, learn to be more myself. I was meant to empathize and categorize and memorize. I was meant to create, on paper and in the air. I was meant to be Ken, and I knew how. It was all very clear. It was natural. I just had to do it.

But I didn’t. Not really. Spits and sputters, sure, but not in earnest. I was scared, I guess. Scared to make a wrong move. So I didn’t make any. And then one day, I looked up and a hand was coming toward me and I grabbed it. And it led me to a place where I wasn’t terrified anymore – over well-documented paths involving financial security, job, house, car, paid-back student loans, patio furniture. I calculated my retirement requirements using unforgiving web tools. I scoffed at middle-aged dream chasers. I bought a juicer.

I went along, because when you live in fear, it is easy to confuse “unafraid” with “safe.” But doesn’t “safe” mean secure, taken care of, nurtured? I was none of those things. I was as vulnerable as I ever could be, given that I had put myself on a shelf while I lived someone else’s life. And it wasn’t anyone I knew even, not anyone I looked up to or aspired to be. I was living a mail-order, home-shopping channel existence. Number 362B. Large. Shipping extra. Call before midnight tonight. Get ‘em while they last. Thousands of other people had ordered the same life. Nothing wrong with it, but all the while, Ken lay on a shelf, shrinking in dust-gathering silence, my own forgotten knick-knack of myself.

And then one day I realized that I wasn’t safe, I was merely numb. In a career I didn’t want, in a job I didn’t want, going through the motions until the direct deposit kicked in.

Then fate trembled my snow-globe and knocked both the Me I Knew and the Ken Tschotske to the floor. I embraced the knick-knack, dusted it off, burned the shelf it had been on, and realized with painful clarity how tired I was of taking the interstate highway through my own life. While it was well-mapped and got me from point to point, I never saw anything interesting or unexpected and the rest areas all sold identical crap. And now, looking back, the routes I chose were actually tougher to travel – less scary, perhaps, at the time – but more difficult ultimately than the ones I am currently on. I guess because falling into yourself is natural; it’s the resisting that requires work. So now I’m going to do what I was meant to do, rather than what I am supposed to do. And if it doesn’t work out the way I want it to, I’ll just revise what I want. I’m allowed.

Nice to see you again, Ken…now, where were we?

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Moneytubes - my first film, a short absurd-comedy written and directed by Nick Carlisle.

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