In a commencement speech at Kenyon College, the late (great) David Foster Wallace said that being free “means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”
A few weeks ago, my friend Marlyn gave me a pep talk of sorts. Or more correctly, she asked something that no one has either noticed or had the gumption to mention: “Why haven’t you been seeming like yourself lately?”
I tried the basic and easily-believed excuses like “seasonal depression” and “oh, I’m just tired.” Well, those could be somewhat true. But honestly, I’m not feeling depressed. I’m not even sure if “frustrated” could be the correct adjective, but let’s assume that this is the closest word I can summon to describe my state of mind right now.
It’s like this: Right now I feel as if I’m on the verge of something. I can’t help but think that a fork lies ahead on the road. I have no idea what the options might be. I guess I’m just wishing I could walk a little bit faster so I could reach this theoretical crossroads sooner. I’m impatient.
Okay…wait. “Impatient” is definitely a more accurate description. I can exhibit an almost embarrassing level of patience with people. But waiting in lines, sitting on an airplane on the edge of the runway, daydreaming my way through dull work meetings…these situations just kill me. Ugh. Waiting. I know it’s a skill we were all supposed to learn in kindergarten (along with shoe-tying and crayon-handling), but it’s definitely my weakest area.
So what is coming? Why can’t I wait? I’m not sure. Yes, I have to finish this BOOK. So much hinges on that. Either I can convince someone to publish it (which would hopefully force me to change my geographical location, job, day-to-day routine) or I can toss it aside and get serious about managing the Open to Buy (buying lingo). Or go to nursing school. Maybe try to get someone to actually hire me as a copywriter. Who knows?
But right now (get ready for something that will either depress or annoy you), it’s easy to let all of the current world turmoil make me feel as if I’m in a holding pattern. Like, I’m definitely at this point chronologically where I should be making some huge leaps forward. You know, “grown up” things…like buy a house or acquire a car payment or marry someone upstanding. At the very least, I should be moving up at my job. Making more money, taking on more responsibility, really saying “I’m committed to this career thing.”
The economy sucks. Most companies are putting a freeze on promotions and raises. Everyone I know–even those lucky enough to have a job–are terrified about what looms on the horizon. So it’s impossible to make any big decisions. And that’s when freedom starts to disappear. Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people are sad about that their inability to buy lots of shoes and/or take tropical vacations. But when they look beyond their stack of missing “stuff,” they will finally realize how dire everything is becoming. Because our freedom to move around, to make decisions, to obtain the non-material things we want…this precious commodity is shrinking with each passing day.
As spoiled Western perma-adolescents, we’ve become accustomed to the idea that we can do anything we dream. Open a store? Sure, get a loan. Travel the word collecting stories? Get a few credit cards. Grad school? Fill out those financial aid applications.
And if this were 1995, I would certainly be living off credit cards until I finished this book. Because I could. Now I realize the only way that I can make this happen is by working really, really hard after I finish nine hours of working really, really hard at my actual paying job. Quitting my job and devoting myself to writing is not an option right now. I have three cats and one child to feed!
I’m not bitching. I’m glad to get paid. I have a pretty sweet life, actually. Yoga, a car, too many clothes, and some awesome friends. Vacation every two-ish months. Hell, we have INTERNET at our house (this seems like a HUGE luxury to me).
My favorite professor in college told me something that will stick with me forever. “Being a true artist means not seeing all of the new movies, missing a lot of the fun parties, and going on very few dates.” That’s the choice I’m making right now. Sure, it’s frustrating at times. I like fun. But I love writing. In a world where everything has become a little bit more difficult…in a time when we’re all forced to give a lot of attention to things that really don’t interest us…in a state where survival requires a higher level of fearlessness…the best thing any of us can hope to have is the opportunity to do something we love…even if it’s after a long day of stupid meetings and mind-numbing emails. Or folding t-shirts. Washing dishes. Whatever it takes to give us a food and a roof over our heads.
Okay, maybe I’m suddenly feeling a little bit less frustrated. The patience, on the other hand, will require a lot more effort/development