Even from a young age, I have always been ambitious. At 4 years old I elevated my sights far beyond those of my peers. When other children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, they said things like an astronaut, or Superman, or a professional basketball player. I, on the other hand, wanted to be a buffalo and go out in the backyard and eat grass.
Now here I am years later, striding through the prime of my professional life. By the measures common to my people, to my family and others I know, my professional accomplishments have been reasonably successful. Yet when it’s quiet and drowsy in the evening I reflect that there’s very little grass in my diet, and I almost never buy shoes more than two at a time. Clearly I am the most abominable sort of pathetic failure.
Despite great amounts of retrospection, I can’t chart that point at which I strayed from the path of my true ambition. I just drifted off course like a drunken conquistador who lands in Inverness and insists on converting the Loch Ness Monster to Catholicism. Sure, it’s a lofty goal and a hell of a challenge. But somewhere along the way the point of the whole thing was lost.
My professional life is doing okay. I’m not bitching about my job. I’m just perplexed by the disconnect in my aspirations that has evolved over the years.
I went to work for myself when I was young. I’d like to observe something about working for yourself. It absolutely ruins you as an employee who works for other people—especially in a corporate environment. I am in no way kidding about this. You will forever be comparing your boss’s decisions with the decisions you would have made instead. If you’re an arrogant ass-jacket like me, you will usually think that your decisions are brilliant. You will always struggle between your conviction that your decision would have been perfect and the reality that it was not your damned decision to make.
When I went to work for myself, that would have been the perfect time for some ambition realignment. Yet I did nothing of the kind, and I can fault only my own weakness. I had allowed myself to be intimidated by the measures of my people. You see, when you’re four and want to be a buffalo, it’s charming. When you’re in fourth grade and want to be a buffalo, it’s an unacceptable life goal that raises concern and derision. I tend to learn things quickly, and I learned this lesson pretty darn snappy. From that point onwards I understood that my life would be a lot easier if I provided a more acceptable answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
My acceptable answer became, “I don’t know.” That remained my answer throughout my entire school career. And interestingly, that answer was invariably considered to be acceptable by everyone who ever asked the question.
Now if I were a bitter sort of person I could claim I was the victim of a certain prejudice against the buffalo lifestyle. I could also claim that such prejudice is anti-God, or at the very least anti-religious. What’s true for lilies should be true for buffalo, correct? Matthew 6:28 says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” I’ve never seen a buffalo toil, although if I had to chew cud all day I’m pretty sure it would be an ass-whipping. Nor do the lovely beasts spin, and so what if they’re not dressed like Solomon in all his splendor? I’d like to see Solomon stand around all day in a blizzard on the Montana plains without calling on the Power of the Lord to keep his dick from snapping off like a popsicle.
But in the end I’ve fallen back on more conventional work that doesn’t require skills such as Comanche evasion and advanced grazing strategies. Because if I were to be completely honest, at some point between the ages of 4 and 20 I realized that not only do buffalo “toil not, neither do they spin,” but also they, “drive not, neither do they have dental care.”