Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Take A Bite Out Of The Ass Of Life


It took me 26 years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

In 1997 I had just moved to Seattle and was temping for a contractor's office. I had spent the previous 11-odd years drinking my way through college and moving to a different state or house when I felt restless or uncomfortable. I waited on my fair share of tables, slung thousands of drinks across a bar, nanny-ed for the same family for three years. Once I got to Seattle, I signed on with a temp agency and was immediately hired by the company I was temping for. I may have loathed office work, but I was damn good at it.

A year passed, and just as I was about to quit, an opportunity to become a VISTA volunteer in Seattle Public Schools came up. I don't know why I applied; I hated school, quitting in my senior year.  I was not especially fond of kids of any age. I guess it was a safer step than the Peace Corps, so I applied, was accepted, and promptly fell in love with middle schoolers and teaching. Like, both-feet-in, crazy-in-love with kids and teaching. I got my master's degree in education and settled in to my calling.

And I was a damn good teacher. The hard kind, the kind that believed in you more than you believed in yourself. The kind that kids came back and thanked, not for throwing pizza parties and for hand-holding (although there was a fair bit of that) but for pushing them to do better, to be better, and to work harder. I put everything I had into this work. If I was a religious person, I was say that I was called to teach, and then again to start a school. The work was hard, the pay was shit, and the respect was zero, but it was all about the kids and changing the world.

Yesterday it smacked me in the face, right after I published the blog about inertia and vata conspiring against me and my motivation: I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. AGAIN.

If we are lucky, we find something in our lives that drives us, something that we feel so passionate about that motivation isn't always an issue. Sure, there are days where even the most passionate people want to blob it out on the couch. There were days when I desperately needed a break from teaching, but the drive and the motivation to do better and be better was always there.

But then there is the reality for the vast majority of people, I think:

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." (Thoreau)

Most people don't find something that really drives them. They get a job, get up, go to work, work, come home, drink a beer, watch TV, go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Maybe there is a vacation once a year or a weekend away. Maybe there is  a painting class or golf lessons. Maybe the kids play a team sport, so weekends are dominated by that. The job may not be the best ever, but it pays the bills and puts food on the table. For most people, this is enough. This paragraph is the point of life.

For me, that's not enough. And that is a blessing and a curse. In the movie Big Night, Angelo cries out, "It is never too much! It is only not enough! Take a bite out of the ass of life!"  A day job with an occasional night out or weekend off is not taking a bite out of the ass of life. Not even a nibble.

I think this lack of direction and feeling that what I am doing is not meaningful is causing my ennui. I blame Dane, 100%, which is not particularly helpful but super convenient. Most days, because that jackass had to go and die, it is really enough that I can keep everything together and continue to move forward. Teaching, giving so much of myself, is not really an option for me. So the calling that took 26 years for me to answer is a painful reminder of what I used to have, what life used to be like, not an uplifting and inspiring reason to get up every day.

I find myself muttering "fuck" every morning when my alarm goes off. I always knew that Dane was going through something, often before he did, when he would curse every morning when the alarm went off (we both favor "fuck" as our curse of choice). This feels the same. For now, I write (getting paid for writing assignments but also occasionally working on The Book That Shall Not Be Named), I docent at the American Visionary Art Museum, and I am in yoga teacher training.

I feel like a precious housewife, dabbling, a lady who lunches (although I don't really lunch). Some days are better than others. Some days are worse. Sometimes I get kooky and walk the dogs in the middle of the day or paint something.

And it is never too much. It is only not enough.

How many years will it take for the next calling to come? I am not the type of person to plod along and am liable to do something really, really stupid (I blame my dad for that character trait). I am still trying to say "yes" more often than "no" (failing at this of late), doing things that make me uncomfortable and exploring, but Christ on a bike. I just want this whole self-discovery bullshit phase to be over. How many times does a person have to figure out who they are in one lifetime?

Where do you fall? Do you have a passionate calling? Do you think that whole concept is a waste of time? What matters to you?

(image source)

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