Welcome to The Great Sleep.
I really have no idea who I am or how I got here. Well, that’s not quite right. I know my name and can account for every year (or so) of my life; I know my family; I have some memories (but surprisingly few, with little vividity). But in another sense, I have no idea how I got to where I am now.
I’m almost 30. I’m married. I have a baby girl on the way in the spring. I’m a lawyer.
I can’t figure out how much of any of this I actually chose. I know I didn’t choose the becoming-a-lawyer part.
For the last several years, I have struggled with depression — sometimes mild, sometimes rather serious. I loathe my career and most of the people in my profession. I live with the very real sense that I have missed my calling, and I’ve spent the last couple of years thinking almost exclusively about “how I got from there [promising young man] to here [miserable lawyer].”
This approach has not worked. Tonight, I decided — I actively chose — to take a new approach. The Scott Bakula Approach.
If you don’t remember the show Quantum Leap, the premise was simple: the main character (played by the incomparable Scott Bakula of Necessary Roughness fame) was basically stuck in this time warp. At the beginning of every episode, some very early-90s-style special effects would transport Bakula to a new place and time in history where Bakula would take on a new role. (One of the most memorable aspects of the show was the inevitable “mirror” scene in every episode, where Bakula would see himself in the mirror and realize what he looked like — a woman, a midget, whatever.) Almost always, Bakula would wake up in the middle of an intense situation. If memory serves, the whole point of every episode was for Bakula to figure out why he was there and what he was supposed to do. Once he served his purpose in that role, he would be transported to another time and place. The overarching theme of the show was that Bakula was trying to get back to “himself,” in his time and place and role.
Well, I’ve been doing a lot of “purpose-searching” myself lately, so I’ve got that part down. But here’s the difference with the Scott Bakula Approach: he didn’t spend a lot of time trying to retrace his character’s history. He didn’t bemoan the bad decisions that had led his character to whatever awkward situation he found himself in. No, Bakula’s focus was very limited: what do I do now? He knew he couldn’t do anything about where he was or who he was or why he got there. He knew that wringing his hands over such things was a waste of time and energy — that the constant navel-gazing and self-reflection wouldn’t get him home any sooner. He knew that the only productive thing to do was to be productive.
I’m basically Scott Bakula. (I call myself “Jack Burden” and the blog “The Great Sleep” for a reason.) I’ve awakened from my Great Sleep to find myself in a life I hardly recognize. Did I choose it? Some of it, kind of, I don’t know. But if I backed into this life — a truly sweet and beautiful wife with a child on the way, a nice house with negative equity, a good job in a prestigious career that I truly hate — I could have done worse. But that’s beside the point. The only thing to do now is to get over the “how did I get here?” and get on to the “what can I do with this?”
I know what Scott Bakula would do. He’d look at that UVa law degree on the wall, the nice, big office, the salary, and the prestigious law firm, and he’d fake it ’til he made it.
I can do that, too. It’s the only reasonable thing to do when you wake up from The Great Sleep.