Thu, 21 Jun 2012 15:32:31 +0000

My barber snipped away at my hair and, for the first time in a long time, I felt completely at ease with how it would turn out. Mark makes people feel that way. He's 59, grew up in Detroit, wears his hat backward. Usually I talk about myself in that chair, but yesterday I asked him the questions; it felt more natural, me being a journalist and all.

He riffed about things that fill the silence, and not much more, but then he had one of those moments I think many of us have — the moment when we begin our sentence with, "I think my life is..."

He wants to retire but can't. He can't raise prices, but his expenses constantly go up. He's working to exist. The other day I thought about my parents — whether they look back at the last 30 years and wonder what they've been doing all along, and whether they've been spinning their wheels in mud. I concluded they haven't because they've been through quite a journey, which moved them from Korea to California to Kansas to Vietnam. They haven't been working to exist, but rather working to live. There's a difference, I think: Living versus existing.

I was scared at some point because Mark, a cheery fellow, had a hard time turning the corner. I think finding meaning can sometimes be difficult. He cuts hair, it grows back and a few months later he cuts it again. It's a cycle that only stops at the end.

As he finished up, I put on my glasses to see the result. I'm sure he knows when the customer likes what he's done. So Mark said, "It's not bad, this gig. I work with my hands, I get to talk to people and, you know, it's nice to make people feel good about themselves once in a while."