The thing about Troy Heatwole is that he’s settled. He’ll be the first to tell you that. Not outright, mind you. Troy never says anything outright and never has. He prefers instead to take the long way around to the point he’s trying to make. So instead of simply saying, “I’m settled,” he’ll say something like, “I ain’t as young as I used to be an’ I ain’t as smart, but the world’s quiet.”
And really, who doesn’t long for a quiet world?
Not that life doesn’t pose any challenges. Troy’s like all of us in that he has bills to pay and ends to meet. That’s not what I’m talking about when I say he’s settled. What I’m talking about is that Troy not only knows his place in the world, he’s accepted it with all the happiness and peace one could ask. There is no striving in him, no longing, no unmet expectations. Just a nice, peaceful quiet.
I say this because I want to say that I envy Troy Heatwole. Not so much for what he possesses (which isn’t much aside from a small cabin in the woods, a battered Ford truck, and a coon dog named Bo), but for what he has. There’s a difference between those things. What you possess can be taken from you. What you have can’t. And Troy possesses a settled life. I do not.
But that’s not really what I’m getting at, either. I suppose I’m taking a page out of Troy’s book—I’m taking the long way around to the point I’m trying to make. How else could I bring myself to admit that I’m envious of a man whose life, settled or not and quiet or not, revolves around cleaning and draining septic tanks?
Oh yes, that’s right. Troy’s the septic man.
It isn’t that he loves his job. He does, however, find a purpose in it. Because just as Troy once told me that “Even the Lawd woulda had trouble lovin to do what I do,” he also said that, “Dis here world’s fulla crap, an’ somebody’s gotta clean it all up.” Wise words, those. Kind of makes you think.
I pass Troy on the road often. Our workdays tend to end around the same time and converge at a stoplight just outside of town. He usually gets the green while I’m stuck at the red. He blows by in his big pumper truck, windows down and long stringy hair waving in the breeze. And smiling, always smiling, because Troy has a quiet life and he’s settled.
Me, I’m not.
That’s not a big deal, I guess, assuming you’re not closing in on 40 and you don’t have a family and a mortgage. All of which describes me. If I’m ever going to be settled, this should be the time when I should get started. But I can’t. Even though I’ve been blessed with much, I can’t escape the feeling there’s more out there I should be shooting for. There are other lands to travel and other things to do and other Me’s to be. I want to settle and yet I feel I shouldn’t settle for less than I should.
That, in a nutshell, is why I’m envious of Troy the septic man. He has no need to ponder such things. He’s found his life. He doesn’t have to wander anymore.
But there are times when he passes me at the stoplight after a long day and I see his hair waving and his face smiling and I think differently. I think that maybe I have it all backwards. Maybe we should all be craving to be a little more than what we are. Maybe we should all be wanting to grow a little more each day.
Deep down we all want to be settled, but that may be more a trap than a treasure.
Maybe only as far as we’re unsettled is there any hope for us.