It still haunted me. Nine and a half hours later, still doing the tedious work that had made me miss it to begin with, it was still on my mind. That gorgeous color painting patterns across a textured sky; just a hint of what was to come as the sun neared its emergence from the eastern horizon.
And all I had time for was a crappy iPhone photo as I ran to my truck and raced to clock in.
It hasn’t been a fun summer, but one that I had to do. That’s part of life. You work jobs you don’t necessarily enjoy, you take classes you’d rather avoid, you do what’s needed in the hope of putting yourself and your loved ones in a better position for the future. I can live with that. What I struggle with is the necessity of devoting so much time to daily arduous tasks that have so little to do with future goals that in effect, they stand in the way.
I’m at a stage in life that all I want to focus on, career wise, is establishing myself as a writer and a photographer. It’s now or never, I’ve put it off long enough. But it takes commitment. Lots of time. Lots of devotion. Lots of practice. It takes sitting down and writing the moment inspiration strikes. It takes hours behind a lens and then many more at a computer, trying to get your edits right. It takes staying up until 4:30 in the morning working on a story that no one will read- only to realize a few hours after that you don’t blame them. And it takes more than a cell phone camera while on a dead run when the sun is starting to rise.
By last Wednesday afternoon, nearing the end of a ten hour day, the work seemed to be running dry. The rest of the summer help had been released from their shackles in days and weeks prior, and I competed with the full time guys to claim any task that might pass the time. My wife had been on me for awhile to throw in the towel. She knew that I was frustrated, annoyed with how little freedom I’ve had lately; by all I had hoped to do, but couldn’t. Now injury writhed with insult as I was unable to keep busy on the job, but for a few bucks an hour needed to neglect true ambitions and hand over my time. I knew we could use the money, though. I’d decided to hold on for as long as I could.
“So when do classes start up again at Iowa?”
I ran into my boss as we were calling it a day, and must confess, the question came as a relief. This was it, I thought. The season ending talk when he spills the heartbreaking news that they don’t need me anymore for the summer, but would be happy to have me return to my part time capacity once classes resume in the fall.
I told him classes begin on August 20, and as hoped he asked if I could continue to work part-time in the evenings. I agreed, and braced myself for the keynote address.
But that was it. There was no mention of plans for the week that lied between. As he began to walk away I searched for solace in the rationale that I would only have a few extra days to endure. Then a co-worker spoke up, resurrecting flickers from the dawn.
“Are we going to have anything left for him to do next week?”
My boss looked at me, asking what I thought.
“I wouldn’t mind having a little time to catch up on some things before school starts, but if you need me I’ll come in.”
“We can scrounge something up for you to do, but nothing that absolutely needs done right now. It’s totally up to you.”
The colors of that morning’s sunrise resumed their dance through my mind. I thought of how, if given another chance, I’d compose my shot and savor the ability to do so while regaining my sense of purpose in the cool morning air.
“You know,” I said, “I’ve got some other things I need to catch up on. I think I’ll take the time…”