(Have you read the Introduction of Morse?)
It’s not so much the achievement of a goal that matters, but the winding path you take in pursuit of completion. And I know all too well the unfulfillment of success. The disgust and self-loathing at the bottom of a bag of potato chips; or, in this instance, at the letter sitting on my desk nestled in the confines of my three-walled prison, sorry, I mean cubicle (because four walls and a door would mean I could do whatever I want, and I’m not enough of an adult to have the responsibility of a computer monitor facing away from the Oberführers–all four or five or however many now had dominion over my menial realm).
And they would and will never know that disgust because they’re all incompetent sociopaths who rose and rose to the level of their undeniable incompetence. But then again, incompetent people can’t do much harm, can they?
Whereas I, being somewhat competent at least in avoiding too much scrutiny, remain, wholly and completely, as a prideful peon. But now I have something to show for my toil: the sleek, crisp, alarmingly white envelope from State Standard Financial, topped off with a “No Return Service Requested” stamp.
I know what the letter will say: “Balance: $0.” The succinct and appropriate end to 15 years of 11.99% APR student loans from the generous, faceless corporate overlords at State Standard Financial, who so selflessly offered their hard-fought money to this naive undergrad when he wanted to pursue a B.A. in, drumroll please, English Literature from, second drumroll please, Some-Tier-3-No-Name-College. If I had taken to heart Avenue Q, I might have majored in something dull and employable: accounting, electrical engineering, biology. But I followed my “dreams.”
Those dreams ended at Some-Faceless-Corporation in Some-Better-Practices-Based marketing department that always follows the cutting edge and never dares to set a new trend. No, trying something new would require having faith in the abilities of an employee, and nothing could be further from the corporate culture at Some-Faceless-Corporation.
But they pay me. So I’ve got that going for me. And because they pay me, I can pay State Standard Financial. That’s pretty much the extent of my existence and effort. I can’t pursue a Master’s or a PhD because that ship has sailed–any thoughts of taking out more loans or living in poverty for Assistantship wages vanished with the reality of my first $800 per month payment. Apparently deferring loans does not defer interest accrual–who knew that interest could add up?
Reality unemotionally quells dreams.
But reality also forces action, and today my actions have ended in an unemotional end to 15 years of monthly payments. I came to work to make money to pay my loan to keep from sinking further into debt. That was me. But now who am I? I’m the same person with extra disposable income.
I’m too old to use that money to go back to school. I’m too–
“Hey bud, can you get me the numbers on the new elec–” One of the Big Brothers is at my cubicle. No mention of “Do you have a minute to chat?” or concern at all whether or not I care to listen to his drivel. I can see his mouth moving. His spit is thick like cotton and I’m fairly certain some just hit my face. I’m not going to blink, blinking would mean I’m not listening or that I’m confused. I’m nodding. He’s still talking. His breath is as heavy as his spit and it’s all I can do to maintain the illusion of focus. He’s done talking. “Hey, boss, just to be sure I got all of that, can you shoot it over to me in an email and I’ll get right on it?”
“Oh, of course. That makes sense. Thanks, bud.”
He slithers away. Another meaningless conversation avoided. If I were anything like the zealous ladder-climbers in this cesspool of anonymity, I would’ve brought up my recent achievement, “Hey sir, guess what? Well, gosh golly I just paid my last student loan payment! Yep! Free at last, free at last. Haha! Drinks are on me this Friday I guess, right? Maybe I’ll buy the wife that necklace she’s been looking at. But then again, diapers aren’t cheap and maybe I should just hold off. Oh well, such is life! Haha! Yep! See you later, big guy!” Suck, suck, suck like my life depends on it. With any luck, I’ll get his table-scraps in the form of a 3% cost-of-living-adjustment at the end of the quarter.
I don’t have a wife. I don’t have any children. I don’t have any will to live. Or rather, what little will to live revolved around the goal of paying off my loans. Now that the loans are gone, I’m empty. Not in a depressed way. I’m empty like a fuel tank, or a battery. Rather appropriate metaphors for me, at any rate. Fuel tanks and batteries are lifeless but provide a means of motion. That’s me: the world’s perfect drone.
But now, a drone without a purpose.
I have no debts, no family, a lazy cat, and an inherited house. As far as I’m concerned, at this moment job security is a non-starter. I could be let go tomorrow and not be any worse for the wear. The only looming horror has left the building.
(Continue to Chapter 2 of Morse.)