11.23.2011

The faintest idea

I’m sitting down in the near-future to talk about my distant-future with a trusted, older co-worker of mine.


This appointment came up by accident, after gathering in a small room to discuss a list of projects (momentous things transpire in small rooms, I’ll have you know.) We both agreed that it was not the conversation we intended to have. The thing is, if I’m being totally honest, which is how we roll here in Aubergineland, I don’t pay much heed to my future. I understand that I should. I acknowledge that I, at twenty-six, should probably know what I want, have a plan of attack as to how to acquire it, and be ready. But I spent my early twenties in college drinking too many pints and sharing stories with my classmates and reading a whole lot of books, and mostly I figured that things would just work themselves out naturally, that it was somehow inevitable. I imagined that one day I’d have a career, whatever that happened to be – I think I wanted to be a book or magazine editor at the time – and that someday I’d find myself in a long-term partnership, possibly marry, own some kind of property, and have children. Although all of that seemed fairly abstract, too. Hell, it still feels lofty to me.

The thing is, nothing magically works itself out. Nobody tells you that. They certainly don’t tell you that during hours-long debates at popular grad school public houses. Most pursuits necessitate some sort of process and intent. And I am especially poor at marketing myself. You wouldn’t think so, seeing as I have this shiny blog here and all, but I am terrible. I haven’t the faintest idea of how to package my misfit list of skills and interests into something even remotely compelling. And most importantly, I am petrified of acknowledging what would "make my heart sing." I have no concept of what that road might look like and I am awful at forging my own path. Mostly I flail around and try to look decent doing it.

I am a writer – that’s the truth. I’m pretty sure I have always been a writer, because before I could write I painted my thoughts, and before that I would tell myself stories. I’m pretty sure I will always write the way I’m sure singers feel they will always sing and painters feel they will always paint. For a few odd years I was reluctant to call myself one because I didn't write often and I thought perhaps I should be published first before I went around advertising myself as this writer person. But at any rate I am of a generation and live in an era that every day denounces the critical importance of real, engaging content. Hand-written letters and telegrams were replaced by email and the phone, which have since been replaced by social media and text messaging. We want to read our newspapers without paying for them and we make a fuss when they go up in price. We want to watch television and the news online without paying for cable or satellite, and we find it absurd to pay thirty dollars for a hardcover non-fiction title that the author may have spent one, two, three years researching and writing and who may very well be living below the poverty line. Who attends poetry readings anymore? How many publishers are pushing good books over best sellers? Who wants to be a writer now? I don’t. What do you do when you are a writer who likes learning and writing about food and who is concerned with the state of food security in North America? Who is passionate about local recipes and culture? Who gives a damn about humanitarian causes and some vague notion of sustainability? Who wants to hear from you? Who will listen? What do you have to say that is so different and so much more insightful than what the next person has to say?

This isn’t related to food, I know, and so maybe I’m cheating a little here. I’m used to having the answers; I don’t know that I’m comfortable with open-ended questions. Because the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. I don’t always know what I want. I don’t have a five-year plan, or a ten-year plan. I don’t know that even if I did know what I wanted that I’d have the chutzpah to pursue it single-mindedly, the way I’ve always pursued everything else. I don’t know that I would want to. I don’t know that I am sufficiently self-assured in my convictions to realize them fully. I don’t know that I have the guts for that. I don’t know that I am ready.

Which is scarier: not getting what you want, or standing at the precipice of it?

3 comments:

Samantha Angela said...

I've never had a plan. The most dreaded interview question is always "where do you see yourself in XX years". I've never known how to answer that honestly (or even not-so-honestly).
I've always pursued exactly what I want with gusto and most of the time I get it. But I guess I don't know what I want next so my 5 year plan is a big "now what??"

Kathleen Quiring said...

Well, if it means anything, you're a damn fine writer, and I will listen. I applaud you for caring when it seems like so few people do, and for having the courage to share it, even when it feels like no one is listening.

Andrea Paterson said...

I can completely relate to what you're saying here. My own career aspirations have crumbled in the past few years and I'm beginning to realize that perhaps a typical "career" is not what I want anyway. I am a writer and perhaps and artist, but no one reads my writing or buys my art. I look at social activists, successful artists, and writers and think "I should be doing something to change the world." I'm currently reading a book called "Pandora's Seed" which outlines the detrimental environmental and genetic effects that the rise of agriculture has had in the past 10,000 years. I'm concerned about food security, chronic diseases, and environmental policy--yet I don't feel like I'm doing much in my life to address these issues. Sometimes I don't even recycle every item that could be recycled! Am I a hypocrite, or just another person staggering under the weight of global problems so huge it seems impossible to make a meaningful contribution to the solutions. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm with you--I don't know what I want or how to get to a place where I feel as if I'm fulfilling my potential as a human being. A feeling of helplessness appears to be widespread in our generation who were told that a university degree would somehow catapult us to high powered careers and personal success. I think the key thing is that you obviously care deeply about something and are working to communicate what you are learning to others. That's a valuable thing whether you're officially published or not. Keep at it!

P.S. I recommend The Woefield Poultry Collective if you're looking for hilarious fiction about a naive young woman who inherits a farm on Vancouver Island. It was really wonderful.

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