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Filed Under , , on January 7th, 2017

Shiny

By Seth Kabala

I imagine a big hamster wheel. I step onto the tread, move one foot in front of the other, feeling the sole of my shoe grip the inclined part of the curved wall, sunlight glinting off the shiny, metal-trimmed edge, and I press forward and down.

I bring my other foot up, plant it on the cycling wall, push forward and down, and continue the motion, each cycle generating more speed, until I am running, running as fast as I can. When I’ve reached maximum speed, someone approaches from my left, another from my right.

They extend their hands, both clutching the same thing: a big stack of papers, my work assignment. I feel it’s the gentlemanly thing to do, so I focus on my balance, extend my arms, and take the assignments from both simultaneously. I’m successful. I have both stacks of paper, and I’m still upright. No face-planting today. Leave that to some other younger, under-prepared rube.

I’ve got this shit. King of the fucking world.

Suddenly it’s hours later. I’ve managed to keep the wheel running while reading through the assignments. I feel I’ve accomplished a great deal. But no sooner than I’ve made paper airplanes out of each sheet in each assignment and flown them all to their respective mail slots (for that is the acceptable method of filing in this dream scenario), the assignment givers appear again. This time, in typical professional ironic fashion, they each reward my due diligence with a new assignment that is twice the size of its predecessor. But I passed the test, I think. What gives?

* * *

Last month, I finished an 18-month ordeal and passed the CPA exam. During that time, my Russian novel-esque study book tomes were almost constant fixtures in my hands. Though I’ve been a life-long reader, spending many nights and weekends buried in books years before I embarked on the CPA journey, 18 months is a long time, especially for kids. For them, it’s difficult to separate the act of reading a book from an equation that equals this: Dad is studying; Dad is busy; Dad is not to be disturbed (unless, of course, your name is Anna, and you can’t find your hairbrush).

I compartmentalize well, moving from project to project without remnants of past thought focus bleeding into my current project. For my youngest daughter, Ella, 5, though, that’s conceptually more difficult.

Case in point, upon passing the exam, I dove into a novel that’s long been on my to-read list: Dreamcatcher, by Stephen King. Ella noticed.

Ella: I thought you were done studying.

Me: I am. I passed my test. This is fun reading.

Ella: (Thinking.) When are you going to pass work?

Me: You don’t get to pass work, Honey. You’re always doing something. I’ll probably be going to work forever.

Ella: (Thinking.) Maybe when you get to heaven?

Life is a series of never-ending tests. Finish one–three others crop up. Finish those–you get the idea. What a novel concept, though: passing work. The closest one could rationally get to this would be retirement, but once you’ve retired, you can’t slow down. You have to keep doing something. Too many stories describe people who gave it everything they had for 40 years.

Retired. Died.

Not me.

I hope it’s not going to be you, either. I like to think of work as a gateway to newer, bigger, shinier gateways, and I don’t mean shiny in terms of money; I mean in terms of more satisfying, intellectually and visually and artistically and holistically.

I want to make money as much as the next person. I want to give my family the best of everything. But I want more than that. I want to matter. I want my presence on this planet to matter.

In sum, I want to create beautiful things.

I want to do great things, things that would make people stand back and say, “You know what, the world would be a darker place if Seth hadn’t been alive.”

Aside from cribbing the theme of It’s a Wonderful Life, I believe this is an excellent credo. Everybody doesn’t have to know your name (sorry, Cheers), but somebody should. For those fortunate few, I hope they stand at your funeral, look around, and say, “We miss you, friend. Thanks for leaving the place shiny.”

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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