Friday, April 13, 2018

The Other Side

Today's post is thanks to our son, Chris Flaherty, the one who says it's not that that grass is greener on the other side, it's that it's the other side. I'd love to say I always understand that, but I don't. I do understand the part about not fitting in--writers often don't, poor kids often often don't, Democrats in Indiana often don't. The idea, I think, is to get comfortable in the round hole you don't really fit into, but saying that is much easier than doing it. Chris's words--and the eloquent ones of Robert Service--touched me and made me ache. But sharing's a good thing, I'm convinced, even when the sharing is sad. 

Robert Service's poem, "The Men That Don't Fit In" used to make me feel better about myself. When I read it the first time, I realized there must be lots of people who share my struggles. I've always experienced terrible bouts of depression associated with unfulfilled wanderlust and adventure-seeking. I change jobs much too often and as a result have enjoyed very limited professional success. I've basically started over a dozen times. I currently live on a beautiful mountain retreat and have a great job (to most people) with benefits a congressman would envy, yet every single night I dig out my maps, stream national geographic, or browse Zillow or Instagram to see where I want to go or live next. I'm never content. I don't ever need MORE.. just different.
Well, my life is quickly reaching the final stanza of Robert Service's poem and it doesn't make me feel better, anymore. It's actually pretty damned depressing.
So, for all of you who have repeatedly punched happiness or contentment in the face in search of something else, this is for you.

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest. 
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake. 
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last. 
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in. 
Robert W. Service


  1. As a grownup, I learned to embrace not fitting in, but I've always wanted to be where I'm planted--just growing in my own direction. However, success can be defined in so many ways and we need to not be so hard on ourselves in the process. Thanks for letting me use this on the Window today. Love you.

  2. That is a sad poem and I'm not convinced of the truth of the idea that fitting in makes you a failure. If you've lived a life that's made you happy, even if contentment isn't in the cards because you're a naturally itchy person, I don't think you've failed--just lived differently. Chris, never worry that you long for something different--it's what makes you uniquely you.