Dinosaurs Run Wild

Once again, I’m sharing chapter illustrations from Shot Across the River Styx. Did you know that I’m working with Michael Swearingen and Benjamin Stasny on a pitch for an animated series with Adult Swim? Our concept is funny. Disturbing too. Pray that it gets picked up. What a fun project that would be.

Anyway, that’s the illustration for chapter five above. Dinosaurs run wild. I found those words etched into a desk in my classroom one morning. Back when I was a high school teacher. There was a picture of a dinosaur next to the phrase. Presumably, this was the dinosaur that was running wild.

In the book, I write about things that are dead coming back to life. Like dinosaurs. I like the idea that energies run wild, even after the thing that created them is gone. Seemed fitting in a book about losing a friend. Once something is conjured, I wrote many times in the book, it never goes away.

Like dinosaurs.

***

I’m busy right now. Overwhelmed, even.

Things that are dead coming back to life?

I agreed to direct a production of Seussical the Musical this spring. In a high school. It goes up in a week. I thought I’d left that part of my life behind. Directing high school plays. I guess not. It’s been lots of fun. Lots of work. Lots of time.

I’m a co-founder of an improv theatre company. Happy Valley Improv. There’s that link. It’s a cool website, curtesy of my friend Nate. HVI keeps me busy. My weeknights are clouded with all sorts of commitments. Again, I thought I’d given up a job on top of my job when I left my position as a high school teacher and drama director in the Twin Cities. Once something is conjured, I guess.

I shouldn’t complain. I don’t mean to. It’s my choice to be so busy. And I’m doing things that I love. I’m even getting paid for them. So that’s good. But my attention and energy keeps getting diverted from my family. I don’t like that.

It’s funny. I remember thinking, when I was a teenager, how wonderful my working life would be when I was an adult. At the time, I was working 40 hours a week at Subway on top of being a high school student. I was only 16 and I was already exhausted. Oi vey.

At least when I’m older, I thought to myself during those late closing shifts, I’ll only have one job to focus on.

My dream, at 16, was to be a high school English teacher. That turned out to be the case. For a little while. I never planned on also being a high school drama teacher. And helping wit extracurricular theatre programs. I improvised and those sorts of things opened up. It’s felt like I’ve at least two jobs ever since. Graduate school, directing plays, improv, writing, etc. There’s always more than my day job as a teacher or a professor or a whatever.

It’s funny. I look back across the last twenty years and can see that I’ve found a million ways to get consumed with work. And the same continues to be true. My calendar is full of commitments. One after another. And I’m a lazy guy! How did this happen? If I only I were independently wealthy. Or an economist. I’d make enough money to quit working. But would I?

I guess that once something is conjured, like the energy that fuels my work, it never goes away. Still, I’m 38. I’ve got a family. Gray hairs, too. I ought to start managing my life a little more carefully. Find some time to be a lazy guy.

Really, all of this rambling reflection might be fueled by the end of another busy semester. It feels like I’ve been in a million places at once over the past few months. There’s always email to respond to, papers to write, and classes to plan. It’s been a frenetic spring.

***

I write about adulthood in Shot Across the River Styx. The book felt like it was, in part a farewell to childhood. I write about how my friend Nick opted out of adulthood. Didn’t want any part of it.

Sure, Nick missed out on some of the commitments described above. And please realize I know how trivial my complaining is. I’m fortunate to have the opportunities I do. To be alive. I get that. But the childish part of me, a part that was close to Nick, would kill for a weekend in front of a Super Nintendo, playing Final Fantasy III in shifts, drinking coke and eating pizza. With no responsibilities in the world. That’s not happening anytime soon.

A deeper part of me understands that there’s good in adulthood too. My family. My sons. A quieter, deeper consciousness. Softer wisdom. A more fluid relationship with the world. As I wrote about last week, life in its growing complexity.

So dinosaurs keep running wild. And I’m happy that I recorded that strange little saying in my book about my friend. And I’m happy that chapter illustration at the top of this blog exists. It makes me smile.

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