Your Own Private Obsession

Tried painting the Sistine Chapel. Got this instead.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. Not that anything in particular’s breaking bad, but I’m getting older and despite all my feverish efforts, I’m still a failed celebrity. Anybody remember Alan Thicke? Well, I don’t either, but I can tell you that he never had me as a guest on The Thicke of the Night.

First, I auditioned for the role of Jehovah. Never got a callback. I asked my agent for a new gig, maybe one a little less grandiose, and less desperate, than stardom. Where does my agent send me? I’ve been a lawyer, an actor. I tried to sell a screenplay about a goat that could predict the future to Hollywood producers from my law office in Chicago. I was a substitute teacher, then a teacher’s aide in a special ed classroom. I taught a little college and then I became a therapist. I flew around the country and did HIPAA trainings. I was even a hand model once, and a dancer, once. I’ve been an extra and a stand-in and an investigator of sex abuse cases for an Archdiocese. I was a case manager and a clinical supervisor. I’ve worked with the severely mentally ill, survivors of sexual abuse, alcoholics, addicts, and ex-cons. Man, I am getting tired just looking at my resume. All the while, I wrote, fiction and nonfiction, long and short. That’s the long of it and the short of it.

I remember years ago when I lived back in Chicago. I was early for a dental appointment. It was by O’Hare International Airport, a national park not known for its natural beauty. I had time to kill, so I went to this city park in a suburb, Schaumburg, a pretty ugly place. The park had evergreens, a rock garden. Nothing special. Just a lot of green.  I remember a winding path, a heavy canopy.

Then out of nowhere, a thought rang my bell. More like a conclusion, or a concussion, it was completely unexpected, and unconnected to any earlier thought that’d been rolling around in the bingo drum of my dome. The thought, more like an artillery shell, was this: Nothing that’s ever happened in your life has happened by mistake. Not from the smallest detail to the biggest event. It’s all happened exactly the way it was supposed to.

And then it was gone. It shook me, that thought did. Oddly comforting, it landed and left in a single instant. Soon enough though, the ordinary ruckus of thought and worry (for most thoughts are worries in disguise), returned like surf along with the background noise of the tollway a mile away.

You know what I did with that thought? I went to the dentist with it, that’s what I did. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Become a hand dancer? I recall nothing else remarkable about that day at the teeth cleaning. Oh, I got cinnamon floss.

And soon, my life stumbled on before me, a series of accidents again, a parade of unmet expectation.

I really did have an audition for the talk show; I nailed it but never got a call back, so I’m a substitute teacher instead.

I thought our date went well. When I dropped her off she said, ‘I’ll call you.’ It’s funny, but that’s what they said at the audition, too.

It doesn’t matter what the specifics are. We all have our private obsessions, our ‘if only’s’ and ‘shoulda’s.’

Yet that memory remains. Sometimes, especially as we get older, all we have to fall back on are experiences like that. To me, they’re reminders of what’s so. Cairns, markers along the trail that I can look back on if I get lost again in the random morass of my mind. Most undoubtedly, I’ll forget that everything happens for a reason. It’s in the nature of being human.

I live far away from Schaumburg, Illinois, now. My dentist has long since retired, though my new one in Durango grew up not far from where I did.  I’m sitting here in my office, watching out the window as snow roils in sheets, the mountains erased by the storm. The world a whorl of white. It helps to keep just a particle of that memory alive in times like these, when I can’t see the trees, and there’s a pandemic on, and I haven’t had much human contact in over a year.

Trust your process. There are no accidents. You are being led. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. How perfect it all is, in the end.

© 2021 by Michael C. Just

Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.

You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at

Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through Amazon at

Two of his short stories have recently been published online. The Obligate Carnivore has been published by the Scarlet Leaf Review @ Category: MICHAEL JUST – SCARLET LEAF REVIEW

I See You, Too has been published by the 96th of October @ I See You, Too – 96th of October