Dan Turkman

Vince Vaughn, Julian Edelman, and the Recognition of the Infinite Possibilities of Emptiness [Part One]

It’s a warm spring day in Austin. I’ve got to the top off the new Jeep. I’m wearing a hat to protect my head from the Texas sun. In the last year, my receding hairline has gone from orderly retreat, to running away from a burning building with its ass on fire.

As my rolling mid-life crisis pulls up to a stop light, I’ve got some Dylan playing. It’s kind of loud. Loud enough to make the mom in the Infiniti next to me at the intersection visibly uncomfortable.

It was hard to tell if she was concerned, or annoyed. I thought about for a second, then I moved on. I wasn’t going to let anyone else into the moment other than me and Bob Dylan.

I stared up at a clouds as I listened to Dylan telling a story about a person I’ll never meet. It was a perfect moment. I’ve been appreciating moments like this lately.

You can change a lot in six months.

Here’s the Hollywood version. The plot goes something like this. There’s this middle-age-ish white guy. He’s been successful by most standard measures. He’s built a business that has supported his family, still loves his wife, and has two healthy kids.

He lives in a safe, middle-upper class neighborhood with good schools (probably in California). His lawn is as green as a frog’s ass, enough to make his squirrely neighbor envious.

It’s a story we romanticize. It’s something we all want to believe can happen to us. That’s why they make movies about it. It’s a compelling narrative. It’s like the director wants to us to say, “Wow, this guy’s really got his shit together!”

Okay, let’s take a closer look. His eyes reveal the weight of his existence on his mind. He has many commitments, most arise from his own expectations but he’s quick to forget that he enlisted in this fight. He had a choice, he wasn’t drafted to face his responsibilities.

The burden has weakened him. He’s empty, but now fear, envy, and resentment are increasingly gaining mindshare among his thoughts.

He’s isolated. He’s unaware, and he’s also unaware that he’s unaware. He’s a spark away from starting a blaze that takes out Yellowstone.

We watch the story. It’s a beautiful morning in southern California.  He’s got the big meeting today but still finds time to drop his kids off at school so that his wife can make her yoga class.

The meeting doesn’t go well. He wasn’t prepared for the result. An unexpected crisis unfolds. His business will not recover.

He gave his life to the company he built but now it had little to give to him. Turns out, his sense of self was tied up as equity in dying asset. He had no idea.

“He’s isolated. He’s unaware, and he’s also unaware that he’s unaware. He’s a spark away from starting a blaze that takes out Yellowstone.”

He feels his value has been stripped away. He finally looks at himself, bare to the world. He doesn’t like what he sees.

He gets angry and starts to blame others for his pain. Why did my son have to go to a private school? Why the fuck did we do the addition to the house? Why do I obsess over my lawn?

Why am I, always taking shit from people? When was the last time anyone thanked me for what I do every day?

The selfless soldier turns into a selfish asshole. He needs to have everything back. Right, fucking, now.

Things likely end well for our imagined protagonist but not before a depressing hotel room, lots of whisky, and several adult encounters with a barista named Jade who has a tattoo the size of a hubcap on her lower back.

Okay, I got a bit carried away. I know, it’s getting a little dark in here. My story turns before all the bad shit. I didn’t have the meeting that ruined my life.

Things began to change for me when I realized that a meeting could ruin my life.

I founded a technology startup in 2012. For three years, I thought the voice in my head was on my side. I believed we wanted the same things. I was convinced that the millions of ideas and thoughts it would spin up were needed to reach our goals. I listened to every one of them.

Through this veil of thought, I didn’t notice as my relationships gradually moved towards my periphery. When you stop noticing other people, it’s impossible to maintain self-awareness (not that I had all that much to begin with). Not to mention these were the people I believed was doing it all for.

I had slowly let all of my interests drift away, about all that remained was sports, and craft beer. Neither could be considered an enriching experience.

I created unrealistic expectations for myself and my business. When I fell behind meeting those expectations I quickly began to doubt myself. I was a master at both inventing pressure, and leaning into it. I wanted it to be hard.

Amidst this suffering, I slowly began to build resentment towards the people I loved. It was my burden. Like our fictional character, I had no idea any of this was happening. That was until I saw myself on screen.

In part two I’ll talk about the really bad Vince Vaughn movie that changed my life.

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