art, career, creativity, libraries, money, psychology, writing

Rediscovering myself

Or: maybe getting degrees in Art and Creative Writing, weren’t unfortunate mistakes.

It has been almost seven months since I last set foot in a Library as an employee. With that amount of time away, it has become fairly apparent to me that Librarianship is not my life’s work. It’s a way to stay housed, fed, and clothed. It’s also a way to earn enough money to work on my art, have time and reason to read literature, and have enough resources left-over for a computer.

But it’s not my life’s work. It was never meant to be. It finances my life’s work, the latter of which, I was meant to get back to after I finished my degree.

Today, I did something (else) personally significant. (The first thing was to get back to my art, which required breaking through an environmentalist barrier [or alternately, excuse] which may have only been significant, to me.)

I began again to read fiction. Specifically, I’ve had Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides facing me on my bookshelf for months. I stopped reading it at the point I realized that the main character’s intersexuality was being blamed on an episode of incest. Yeah, that could be…rather insulting. I guess it’s what happens when an author feels the need to explain every point of the story logically, even when they don’t understand the situation or the mechanisms pertaining to it.

(I should disclose that I don’t actually know that incest is not the vector that leads to intersexuality, but I strongly suspect it isn’t.)

I need to be sure not to mimic, that.

Anyhow…I started back in on this, trying not to judge it too harshly. It’s been going relatively well. Cal is a sensitive-enough narrator that it’s easy to empathize with him and put the author’s construction of the scenario out of my mind.

I’ve had a thing against fiction ever since the English Department tried to initiate me into multiple doctrines I disagreed with, in Undergrad work. I think they were trying to prop up their opinions/value systems/historical illusions/current delusions with the use of Fiction, while seeming to forget that Fiction is usually fabricated of what many authors would overtly call, “lies.” Having been raised to be an extremely conscientious and honest person, this was incompatible with my outlook and with my ethics.

Well, I found something else that was compatible with my ethics (wanting to sustain a comfortable living while not charging money), and that was Librarianship. Or, so I thought.

I didn’t quite realize how extremely political the situation I was getting myself into, was. It’s not like I don’t consider myself left-wing. I’m solidly left-wing. However, I see people behaving as though they are left-wing, even with multiple layers of hypocrisy (and doormat) riddled over the top of that, because (it seems) they want to feel as though they are “good” people. And they seem to think that their politics make them, “good.” It’s as if they can’t have a positive self-image unless they believe something about themselves that is not only unhealthy, altruistic and unrealistic, but at its root false and untenable.

That is, politics can help lead people to places of inauthenticity, and lack of self-esteem and fear of self-knowledge, can bind them there.

The sad thing is that in my journey through both undergraduate and graduate work, I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between professors so conservative I’ve wanted to intentionally shift the ground under their feet, and professors (and some co-workers) so “liberal” that I had a hard time taking them seriously. Especially when I was living at my first University…I found it troubling when the University itself tried to be so “liberal” that staff made stupid decisions and seemed to dare anyone to challenge them (lest the challenger be seen as a conservative bigot; and not, for example, a concerned member of the primary University community, which should have been the students).

In any case: I did begin to read again, today. You could call it “recreational” reading, or you could call it study of the craft of literature. It’s probably both. I realized that if I did want to write fiction (and a lot of the ideas I have do suit themselves better to the provisional-belief model of fiction, rather than the cemented, well-thought-out, realistic [or, irresponsible] ideals of nonfiction), it would help to have some recent, real-life examples.

It would also help for those examples to be taken from published monographs, and not — for example — short stories of the type published in Literary Magazines. The latter are much less of a time and emotional investment, but they are also generally of lower quality than full-length books, due to the fact that many writers get their start in Literary Magazines. LitMags are designed more to show you the next new up-and-coming authors; not necessarily, finely-honed professional pieces.

I’m hoping that this time when I’ve gotten into fiction, I’ll be able to put out of my mind the politics of the authors. This is with the hope that I also will be able to put self-judgment out of my mind as I write my own work. A major reason I stopped writing: I had tried to analyze my own writing as I would analyze the writings of anyone else I had read…and I got a rather disturbing picture.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that my analysis was, “true,” or, “fact.” There are always multiple valid ways of interpreting the same text (though the interpretation often says more about the interpreter than the text s/he is interpreting — when both are the same, however…). It means that my then-self-destructive mind was able to weaponize it as something with which, to take me down.

Of course, back then, I was very young. I didn’t know how not to overthink things. I also wasn’t at the age where I could set self-judgment aside for the sake of expression. There’s a point one reaches in one’s life where one realizes that there are always going to be spots in one’s character that one dislikes. That doesn’t mean one should stop living. To do otherwise is perfectionism, and perfect is the enemy of good.

Seriously. That kind of sums up everything of the place I’m at, right now.

So, I’m back into reading, which should help me get back into writing. I’m also back into art; specifically, painting and drawing. I feel…like this is where I’m supposed to be. And it doesn’t have to be a holy calling, like I dreamed it was when I was a youth. It’s just what I’m good at, and what I’m drawn to. It’s what I actually want to do; what I would do if money were not an issue.

When my XML instructor mentioned practicing with XSLT during all of our down time, I knew it was not what I wanted. My free time has been pre-established as creative time. My priority is creativity, not coding.

I don’t want to get into a place where I have to spend my entire life circling around computers, cataloging, classification, indexing, abstracting, coding, technical writing, etc., all of which seem to center around obeying rules. I don’t want the need for money to cause me to forget who I am and stop me from creating.

I don’t want, that is, to become a non-creative person, or to be pushed into that lifestyle because I’m afraid to strike out on my own.

Right now…I’ve just given myself long enough (two weeks) without too much pressure, to see what I really want to do. Of course…I have two classes going. I’m thinking of dropping the nonessential one — the one that ends in three weeks — and foregoing the technical certificate I had planned on obtaining. We’ve been talking at my house about how the threat of death that could come at any time, causes one to think about what one really wants to do with the time they do have.

Apparently, that’s entirely appropriate. My thought is that I don’t want to go out of this world having spent all of my life doing schoolwork; constantly preparing, never putting my skills to use. Even when I’ve gotten the chance not to do schoolwork, I’ve chosen to do it.

But…in reality, I may be better off using my skills at Writing and Art to piece together a living, than becoming an Information Professional. Without a doubt, the return is less. But I might actually be happy in aligning my interests and my activities; as versus compromising my values for the sake of income which I then can’t enjoy, because I’m too busy with my current work and Professional Development to develop my own set of creative skills.

Language. Reading. Art. Writing. Stories. These are themes I see which…I’m relatively motivated around. They’re things I honestly take pleasure in, even with the psychological risks. I’ve realized that if I can boost myself to the point where I am not afraid to make things from my own experience, and to say what I think; to depict what I wish, regardless of whether there is historical precedent; I may be equipped to take this path on. And, possibly, succeed at it.

The only reason I took up a job in the Library (besides the fact that I didn’t want to be constantly told I didn’t belong; little did I know how much the social difficulties of still being constantly automatically slotted would impact me) is that I thought it might encourage me to read, which would encourage me to write.

I still have neither witnessed nor ever taken part in a successful Reader’s Advisory interview. (Not that I didn’t try.) That is…Fiction collections in the Library in which I used to work, are relatively opaque. They never became less so. The best bet I have of getting into the modern literary world, is just to start reading. Middlesex may be as good a place to start, as any.

In this period of release…I realize how fundamental it is to me, to write. I realize I gain intrinsic pleasure from writing, and from painting and drawing — at least, when I do it in my own way. That feeling: of doing something I want to do, that I honestly derive joy from, that I’m better off for after having participated in the work; is missing in my career. I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do, without having extended time away from work…and being able to choose my actions, in reality. I’m aware it’s a privilege that most don’t get.

But this isn’t over, yet. I just need to make my own way. I hear that, as intimidating as it is, it’s not unusual…

1 thought on “Rediscovering myself”

  1. We all need to support ourselves financially. I read that the root of all evil is not money but the lack of money (I think it is from “Tai Pan”). To me, that is an important point of differentiation – survival vs. being able to move into more than survival. Like you, I was an English lit major, and I learned a lot from that degree. My favorite class was Shakespeare taught from a Freudian viewpoint. Eye opening for a 17-year-old!

    Changing jobs and careers is all part of life. Stats show the average person will have about 6-8 different career paths throughout their working lives. I have done graphics, teaching, banking, counseling, medical, housekeeping, and secretarial over time. I found teaching, counseling, and medical to be the most gratifying.

    So, plod on! Literature and art are great companions, as are writing and musing. ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

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