For most of my life, I thought I envied people who were on a mission: the ones who were seized by the desire to paint or to build stuff or to cure malaria.
It was only very recently, maybe as recently as last week, or the week before (time has been playing tricks on me this month), that I realized what what I was really wishing for was to have some kind of defining passion that easily translated into a verbal business card at a cocktail party. I hated being in advertising for most of the years I was in advertising; I didn’t even particularly enjoy telling people it’s what I did. But man, did I not begin to appreciate how easy it was to tell it.
All of the things I’m passionate about, talking to people about of stuff, telling stories, figuring stuff out, are squishy and weird. The closest I’ve ever come to a defining thread that connects them all is “creating order out of chaos”; a former colleague once said I excelled at “coming up with creative ideas,” which, once I got over the metal-on-metal grind of a well-intended but gratingly redundant descriptor, I decided was not half-bad as summaries went. Ideas, I has them. Maybe I could be the Lucy Van Pelt of idea vendors: a nickel a shot; a buck, perhaps, given inflation. But no, because I’m even less tolerant than Lucy.
As I close in on six months (!) of self-imposed sabbatical, I’m both predictably alarmed and oddly nonchalant about my inability to define what it is I do in a way that is pithy and truthful. What I have been answering of late in reply is either “Nothing!” or “I’m on self-imposed sabbatical!” I will also occasionally just lie and say, “Marketing consultant,” if I don’t feel like engaging at all. It’s a lie, but a relatively harmless one, as lies go.
To my creative intimates, the fellow strugglers in writing workshop, or elsewhere behind the scenes, I share the only thing I know for sure: that I want to write, and that I am doggedly pursuing it, placing structures where they need to be to support it, addressing what obstacles I can see that might be getting in the way of it. (I’m also actually writing, and not just what you see here. But I’m not quite ready to talk about what.)
One thing I’m considering is slashing my expenses to the bone and taking another Stupid Day Job. There are all kinds of issues with that, too, of course. I may be romanticizing it, for starters. Also, absent the singular focus a definable driving passion provides, I may outright hate it: when I had my last Stupid Day Job, I was pursuing acting rather ferociously. What happens when you just want to live your life, figure out some shit and write a little? Does a Stupid Day Job even work under those circumstances? Can anyone even get a Stupid Day Job in this economy?
And who do I think I am, anyway, wanting to live a life and figure stuff out and maybe write, freakin’ Thoreau?
Ah, well. I have no reason to believe this, but somehow I suspect I will look back on this time when I am old, if I am fortunate enough to grow old, and in the same way I now smile at youthful me for wasting time cataloguing minor imperfections of flesh and character, I will shake my ancient head at my foolish former self for not appreciating the goodness, the greatness of even these sometimes baffling days.
Every day is a gift, even the ones that don’t come wrapped in pretty paper with a bow on it. Even the ones you want to send back to the store. My bands of interest and utility are slender enough not to have crossed in any obvious places, but that they haven’t is no reason to wish for this day to be over any sooner, or any other.
Hello, ridiculous day of this tedious month of my difficult year.
Hello, and welcome. Let us see what we can do to each other, shall we?
Image by fpat via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.