Friday, November 25, 2011

Ecclesiastes Revisited -- A Modern Take on an Old Search for Meaning -- Chap 6

I heard once more from Linda. It was an unexpected birthday card.  She simply wrote, "Happy Birthday."  Then she added, "I'm sorry, but now that this pursuit is over, I want to focus on me."

I was angry.  What had the last five years been if it wasn't Linda-centric? She saw the goal of winning the bronze as something separate from herself, like she was doing it for America . . . but of course he was for her self and her own search for meaning.  Sophia smiled and nodded in agreement.

So damn her, I thought.  I will make the decade my thirties as a decade about me.  I wanted to focus with the same level of tenacity, which she had taught me, on what I wanted. But did I want?  I wasn't sure.

But I reasoned, that whatever I figured out that I wanted, money could eventually buy it.

I re-enrolled in graduate school, but this time, rather than science, I was working towards an MBA.  I had a first cousin who worked in a major investment firm in NYC.  I talked to him, and he was confident if I finished a good MBA program, with an interest in investment banking, they he could find me a coveted position in the pit on Wall Street. Once there, it would be left up to my talents . . . but he assured me that the sky was the limit.

Since I was use to waking up early and working hard, I continued the same mindset.  Rather than making a hot meal of proper protein and carbs, I was studying. I went to class and studied until I fell asleep at midnight.  I wanted to finish first in my class, even if it killed me. I had nothing to loose but my own life, which was meaningless as it stood.

I did much better in reaching my goal than Linda had.  I did finish first.  My cousin Louis (Lou for short) indeed got me a job as an "trainee" in the pit.  I had six months to prove my worth.  It was ruthless.  The drama on and off the floor was beyond my wildest expectations. It was mentally exhausting, but I was determined that no one would be working harder than me.

When I turned 38, my annual income surpassed one million dollars.  The money was in a secure investment, almost every penny.  My focus was on earning, not spending . . . yet.

By 39 I had over five million in the bank and my job was secure.  I knew that it was time for me to go after the things that would compete me.

Rather than a Lamborghini, I bought myself a brand new, $85,000, Land Rover Defender with all the options.  I bought a six million dollar condo that looked down on Central Park.  Now my neighbors included Yoko Ono, Bono and John Lithgow. I saw many more big names at parties. They became to me like Joe Smo from down the street.

I still was working almost eighty hours per week but I rewarded myself richly.  I bought a beach house on Long Island, another one in the Caymans.  I traveled the world, in the short breaks I took.

By the time I was forty, I had any wish I could make.  I even put my name on the list for being one of the first space tourists.

My income kept going up.  I spent money like a drunken billionaire, but I just couldn't out-spend my income. But I had no time to enjoy my treasures.  My Land Rover collected dust.  My Condo in Zurich sat empty.  My life felt empty.

Each new purchase gave me a euphoric feeling . . . for a while. The "whiles" became shorter and shorter following the laws of diminishing returns. Finally I stopped buying.  My things couldn't help any longer.

My money became my chains.  My job was too important not to give it eighty hours per week.  The responsibilities grew and sucked the oxygen out of my lungs.  I had billion dollar accounts, that pivoted on my choices.  I could make, or loose a hundred million over night. I was constantly haunted by my call.  There was an endless line of men, each ready and eager to take my place, in queue.  If I stumbled even one step, I would loose everything.

In the late evenings, just to escape the grind, I would take a stroll in Central Park.  I would see couples holding hands and I envied them. They had love.  I had all the mistresses that money could buy, but did any of them love me?  I was confident that they would be gone within minutes if I lost everything. They loved my worth not me.

My friends were also whores. They "loved me" as long as they were within smelling distance to my money. But where would they be if I had nothing? They would scatter in the wind like dandelion seeds.

I had everything. The decade of "me" was coming to an end. I was exhausted.  I was alone, more alone than anytime in my life.  I would give all my wealth for one close friend, a soul mate, a child.  I realized once again that it was all in want of the wind.  Sophia tried to tell me, but I threw her out with all other considerations.

I sat on a park bench and cried.  The tears dripped down my $4,000 suit and the water-resistant wool caused them to bounce off as if they were pebbles.

Before I had even the chance to decide what to do, it was decided for me.  The market crashed. I lost everything. I could have stayed on and fight for my position, hoping to ride the next bull. But I just walked out of my office one day. I threw my smart phone in the dumpster in the street and climbed into my Land Rover and drove across the Brooklyn Bridge.  I felt a pain in my soul like a bottomless black hole . . . a hole so big that all the wads of $100 bills in the world couldn't fill.  I looked in my rear-view mirror to see the city fade away.  I caught a glimpse of my face. It looked sad, hollow . . . and old. I was now forty three and I had never been more lost. It was all vanity.

1 comment:

Anna A said...


I just want to say thank you for this series. I had never studied Ecclesiastes, and only knew, "Vanities, all is vanities".