You might have seen this cartoon dog and these flames before. The artwork has become popular on “memes” which satirize people who are oblivious — or in denial — that their world is falling apart around them.
I feel like the little cartoon dog. I feel as though the world is on fire around me. The economy seems to be collapsing. The political system is in a dangerous shambles. The broader culture is a dysfunctional cesspool which is driven by idiots who are out of touch with reality.
But it’s not just the broader outside world. My own life is burning down, at least by the standards of what I expected and what I wanted — and even by the vision of what I believe is possible for my life.
I’m sitting here passively — in the metaphorical sense — and I’m watching the chaos play out all around me. I’m not doing anything about it because I haven’t figured out how to fix everything. I keep functioning as though everything is normal.
But inside, I am painfully aware that this is not fine. Something has to change.
I can’t fix the economy. That’s true. But I’ve understood for many years that the crisis — the potential collapse — was coming. I’ve known I needed to put aside enough money in a safe place to weather the storm.
I’ve seen the growing possibility of political and social collapse. I’ve seen how things could turn ugly and dangerous. I’ve known that I needed a safe place to go to escape the changes which I can’t control.
I haven’t set aside the money I need. I haven’t prepared a place to escape.
I came to an understanding years ago about what I needed to be doing with my life. I realized that I had a strong internal need to create art which expressed myself on a wide array of related ideas. Even if the work never made me wealthy or famous, I knew it was possible to live that way. I knew I could find a way to be congruent with my emotional needs and philosophical values.
But I haven’t done that yet.
I’ve understood for years what kind of family and love I wanted. As I set aside my early-life notions which I simply adopted from my culture, I came to understand what I wanted in a partner and in a family.
But over the last 20 years or so, I’ve squandered the opportunities I’ve had for love and family. I’ve fallen in love with women who were always going to be emotionally unavailable or I’ve mismanaged relationships in which I might have had lifelong love.
And now I find myself alone in life.
I find myself working five days a week on a job which I detest. It’s not a terrible job. The people I work with are good and decent. It’s not difficult work. But I spend each week praying for Friday afternoon to come so I can leave the office — and then I spend the weekend dreading having to return on Monday.
It’s not because the job or people or duties are awful. It’s simply that I desperately need to be doing something else — and having to do anything else has become deeply painful to me.
So I feel as though I’m passively sitting here watching the chaos of the world — watching a lot of things burn down — and I’m not fixing the things I could fix.
I tell myself I’m not sure how to fix the things I’ve left undone. There’s some truth in that. I’m also afraid of things I might have to do — risks I might have to take — in order to become who I need to be. I’m afraid of being an imposter as an artist. I’m afraid of failure. I think I’m even afraid of what it would feel like to succeed.
I don’t know the path forward, but I know that things have to change.
I might be sitting here passively. I might look as though I’m going about my life as normal. I might act as though I don’t know that my life and my world are on fire. I might seem as though I don’t know that I need to take massive action. But none of that is true.
On the inside, I know that this reality isn’t fine. I feel a sense of panic about a clock that’s ticking faster every day.
I know this isn’t fine.
I know that everything has to change.