I'm Not Terribly Upwardly Mobile, Sniffing Compressed Air, Bad Pants, And W. S. Merwin
So, what’s so special about today? Nothing really, except that I am feeling super freaking happy. Why? Nothing in particular has happened to bring this about, I just am. We could label this mood swings due to whatever doctors have diagnosed me as (I’ve been labeled every old thing, but nothing seems to stick). We could call this an improvement due to my new efforts at eating regularly (and more than just bread and noodles), my upped dosage of St. John’s Wort, doubling my intake of the B vitamins, and sleeping more than four hours a night. I’m sure all these things factor in, but I prefer to chalk this up to finding a new level of okayness with the sort of person that I am.
I’ve been working through a lot of deeply personal issues over the past couple of months, and some of what I was dealing with was related to my employment / writing / making stuff. You know, everything I do. Generally, I didn’t know what was important to me anymore. I lost track of myself. I was trying to re-evaluate what was important to me, because although I like my semi-new job, it’s low-level and doesn’t offer much in the way of remuneration. I seriously couldn’t figure out if I was bothered by my low job status, lack of money, or how little my job seems to relate to me as a person. I can be so clueless about myself that I didn’t even realize that it wasn’t any of these things to begin with. I have been trained to focus on the wrong thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out with Friday and D having pints and fries. It was one of those times when conversation wanders all over the place from work stress to porn to sociopaths. D started talking to me about furthering his career in film, and then he asked me what my career goals were. It was as though my eyes grew to fill my whole head when the first answer that popped into my head was the thought that it was.
I realized fully and honestly for the first time that I didn’t have any career goals. I’ve joked about it before, but I never fully acknowledged it. Not only that, but I also realized that I have never had any career goals, I do not feel the need for career goals, and I am pretty much okay with that. I have spent years assuming that I must be wandering and lost without some clear career path in front me. This attitude has come fairly naturally to me, because my parents were always clear about the fact that I had to set specific goals for myself in a jobby sort of way so that I could afford vehicles and a house and holidays at a cabin at the lake. This was just how things were supposed to go.
When I answered D’s question, I told him that the idea of putting my energies into the pursuit of some career goal seemed insane for me, because all I really want is to write and glue stuff together and paint and sew and create whatever it is I feel like creating on any given day. That’s how I like it. I really and truly don’t want to work more than eight hours a day and bust my ass to get ahead, because I mostly work in office environments, and six months after you’ve retired no one remembers you anymore. If I figure out how to make a decent living with a bottle of wood glue, a scanner, and some jute twine, then I may consider pursuing it as a career path, but until that happens, I’m actually pretty happy working at a job I like and creating stuff in the off hours.
I have been busy stressing myself about my lack of job goals while completely ignoring the sort of person that I am, and the sort of person that I am actually doesn’t care all that much for job goals. My lack of proper focus has meant that I have created far less than I have wanted to and spent much more time stressing about feeling useless. That’s a little bass ackwards, if you ask me.
Now that I’ve written this all out, it all seems so ridiculously simple. Most things are ridiculously simple. We end up complicating things with minutiae because we have to make our way through the seconds, minutes, and hours that move us forward from year to year; it’s hard to plot the simple arc when we’re so busy hopping around in the middle. It’s like a game of Keepaway is being played with the simplest explanation being tossed over our heads between Past and Near Future, and we’re not even aware of it because we have to re-tie our shoelaces and remember if we packed a lunch and stop off to pick up some laundry detergent on the way home and feed the pets and wonder if we should procreate or not.
Part of me still wants to be that driven, goal-oriented person that people always seem to notice and talk about, but I can live with not being that person. I can live with that, because I can finally start appreciating the sort of person that I am. Tonight, when I go home to paint and glue and whatever, I won’t spend the entire time I’m doing it chastising myself for the things I’m not doing. I think I’ll enjoy the painting for once. Because today, I’m happy. For really and truly.*
*And realizations are creatures with terribly short lifespans, so stay tuned for more bemoaning of my fate and the like. It should come around again before too long. I can only keep up this looking-on-the-bright-side thing for so long at any given time, you know.
I was just using a can of compressed air to dust out my keyboard. I started wondering where the air came from that was inside the can, and then I started wondering what it smelled like, so I started smelling it. I kept smelling it, because I couldn’t decide if it smelled like a male cat’s litterbox or dead fish. After doing that for a while, I checked the cautionary words on the side of the can: “INTENTIONAL MISUSE BY DELIBERATELY… INHALING CONTENTS MAY BE FATAL.” I’m feeling alright now, but I’ll keep you posted. I’m finding my work environment to be quite hazardous to my physical well-being these days.
Okay, I am a little less happy now. See? I said it wouldn’t take too long. I was just standing in an elevator and caught sight of my reflection in the doors. My pants are too short in that way that housemothers in their thirties or forties wear their pants. The hem is sitting stiffly just about mid-anklebone. At least my pants aren’t purple and I’m not wearing white socks with ugly shoes. If I must be in ugly pants, at least I chose black socks and a stylish pair of men’s Fluevogs to go with them. I’m hoping that if I carry myself with a certain amount of confidence people will think I have a quirky fashion sense. I dearly hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, like heading into your thirties means you must succumb to fashion blindness. Just in case it is, I’m not going down without a fight. Immediately after work I am letting the hem down on these pants.
This poem got me with its last line: “like a finger in a world without hands”.
Beggars and Kings
– W. S. Merwin
In the evening
all the hours that weren't used
are emptied out
and the beggars are waiting to gather them up
to open them
to find the sun in each one
and teach it its beggar's name
and sing to it It is well
through the night
but each of us
has his own kingdom of pains
and has not yet found them all
and is sailing in search of them day and night
infallible undisputed unresting
filled with a dumb use
and its time
like a finger in a world without hands
Go to the Contemporary Poetry Review for audio clips of poets reading their poetry and discussing their work.
There’s still hope if you want to see your name on the Forbes list.