I am sitting in my car in the parking lot. It is pouring rain out and I have to get about 100 meters to the front door of the building where I work. I look behind the passenger seat of my car, where I usually throw my umbrella -- it is not there. I'm pretty sure that I left it on my desk yesterday when it was only threatening to rain. Figures. Now it is going to rain for 2 days. Well, at least I will have my umbrella going back to the car, right?
So what is worse then forgetting your umbrella when it rains? Combining it with a senior moment. I exit the vehicle and attempt to run between the rain drops, which are the size of a Buick, and of course reach the office soaking wet. Just before I go to open the door, I remember where the umbrella is. I grabbed it yesterday on my way out the door and threw it behind the DRIVER seat in my car.
My mother, siblings, and I waded through the multitude of boxes that contained the life possessions of my deceased uncle. We were simultaneously moving some stuff to the driveway for the ongoing estate/garage sale taking place, and discarding the rest of the stuff that no one would ever want. Sifting through the boxes, I vowed not to leave so much behind “junk” for my surviving loved ones. It is amazing how much we accumulate over the years. There was some stuff that didn’t make sense to me, like receipts from 1975; there was other stuff that seemed a bit ridiculous, like 20 bags of 100 rubber bands. There was also the stuff that was unrecognizable and no one had any idea what it was.
There was a box of items from all of the various jobs he had over the years, including, electric hair cutters and barber equipment, and surprisingly a Flowbee (gasp!), items from the retail career, and even a nameplate from the casino floor days. His final job was handyman for a condo complex, so there were a lot of tools that at least be put to good use.
The old phrase “you can’t take it with you” rang true that day, as we moved and sorted box after box. It made me think of all the books I have had on my shelf for years that were unread – would I ever read them before I die? Maybe I should just ditch them now. What about all the stuff I saved “just in case I ever needed it”, how much should I keep? I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet I could put everything I really need in two medium size boxes. It would be an interesting exercise to attempt.
As the day wore on and the crowd lessened at the estate sale, I started going through some of the remaining items, and that was when it hit me; my uncle and I were very similar in a particular way. He was a dabbler. I too suffer from this affliction –and yes, it is a malady. I was always jealous of those people who had a single passion and focus of interest, and thus became incredibly proficient at it, whether it was a sport, piano, math, or skateboarding. I had too many interests to count, I was into everything. I loved it as a kid, but as an adult I now see the downside.
I saw my uncle’s guitar sitting in its case. A very nice Martin with a cherry wood fretboard. I saw a whole box of tablature song books: the Beatles; James Taylor; Bob Dylan. I remember him playing a few Beatles songs when I was a kid right after he learned to play when he got back from Viet Nam. Moving along to the next box, I saw a dozen books on various money-making ventures. These included mostly real estate investing – which he never did as far as I know—and the ever popular Think and Grow Rich. There were many more books on money, all touting some quick way to riches du jour. There were tools from the time he took up creating stained glass lampshades. I saw a few years editions of the Writer’s Guide to Publications. If he ever attempted to write I’m not sure, but I know he talked about the great American novel once or twice.
I taught myself guitar in high school as well, and purchased quite a few books on tablature. I dabbled with that on and off for 8 years. I also spent a lot of time reading about money, and especially a six year period where I learned all I could about real estate investing. Unlike my uncle, I actually did get involved with actually investing and becoming a landlord… I lost my shirt. I read Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill – twice. I never attempted to make anything out of stained glass, but, I have a copy of the Writer’s Guide to Publishing. I have always thought I would be either a scientist or a writer when I grew up; I am neither. I would love to write a novel, and I love writing, but I hate editing. Unfortunately, writing a published work is at least 80 percent editing and re-writing.
I wonder what items will be left over in my, hopefully few, boxes of possessions after I leave everything behind. The evidence of my dabbling will be easy to spot: stamp collection from age 9; coin collection from age 12; guitars; books on writing; books on photography; notes on attempts to build various businesses; etc.
Honestly, the world has a lot to offer and there is so much to learn and to explore, I will never give up my dabbler ways, and I am okay with that. Maybe it is not the way to riches, or to mastery, but it is entertaining and interesting and I believe that it is infinitely better than being interested in nothing. I hope my uncle was content with his choice as well, to poke the big toe in many pools and occasionally take a quick dip and test the water. I still believe that I have a lot of life in front of me, and who knows, maybe that box of final possessions will contain copies of my great American novel – but not in hardcover, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s back.