Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Let The Smackdown Begin!

So it's begun. We launched a political blog and so far, we are our only readers (that's how these things go).
It's called Atlas Chugged.
(we think we're clever)

Generally speaking, "we" are all coming from leftist perspectives, but with very different opinions and voices.

I, for example, want to stop scaring those people who come here looking for, you know, uterus poetry with my shrill political diatribes. But also, I am thrilled to have a vehicle for which I can freely discuss why I am liberal, what that actually means to me, why the current Democratic party makes me want to scream, and why I remain a registered Democrat anyway. I do not intend to always be shrill.

Nate, on the other hand, wants a space where he can inspire real, actual, bipartisan discussion, since so many other spaces online are devoted to partisan ranting and raving.

Anyway, I have no idea how it will go or what it will look like, but please consider checking it out and adding your $0.02.

* * * * *

I love Google and I don't care who knows it. Yes, they are taking over the world, but they are also going to be offering San Francisco free wi-fi.

What? What's that you say? The wi-fi is actually just the candy the scary strangers offers us before we all get into his van?

Well, maybe. But that's some damn fine candy.

Anyway, in case you haven't played with it, I am a HUGE fan of the new Google Spreadsheets and its new word processing beta, Writely. It means I can have spreadsheets and word docs online, accessible anywhere at anytime from any computer. They work and are cool. And Writely even lets you publish to your blog. (I know that Blogger does, too, but Writely has a better wysiwyg interface.)

* * * * *

I just discovered this blog entry I never posted. Started it a few weeks ago. Who knew?



When I was 26 and reeling from the fact that I was already getting divorced, blinking into the bright shiny light of The Rest Of My Life having no idea what to do with myself, Hakuna directed me towards an episode of Oprah. It was the one where she profiled people in their mid-twenties who were going through what amounted to quarter-life crises.

There's a book and everything.

Now, if I were older, wiser, someone maybe in my 50s, I would hear about the "quarter-life crisis" and roll my eyes so far into the back of my head I'd fall over backwards.

Oh, the poor dears, I'd think. How HARD it must be to be ALL OF 25 and ready and able to DO ANYTHING YOU WANT. HOWEVER DO YOU COPE? And then I'd probably follow my pint of sarcasm with a Xanax chaser.

But. Pity-worthy or not, this is the new reality for young twentysomethings (and I daresay many of us in our thirties and beyond). We can pretty much do whatever we want.

[Of course, there are still great and grave disparities economically, socially, racially, nationally, between genders, with regard to sexual orientation, etc.; certainly not everyone is afforded the same opportunities. But regardless of how I feel about these disparities and inequalities, the fact remains that I am a single, white, educated female living in the US and I have no idea what to do with myself.]
The whole point of the "quarter-life crisis" is really that many of us have more opportunities (read = decisions) than generations before us ever did. Indeed, it is something to be grateful for. And I am.

It's just…there is so much choice. There are so many options. How do you ever decide? Especially when you know that every decision you make to DO something means making a decision NOT to do something else.

I could be a wife and mother. I could be a single mom. I could decide not to have kids. I could live in the city or the suburbs. I could abandon the corporate lifestyle. I could move to a different country. I could go back to school to be a writer or teacher, or maybe I should just get my MBA or what about law school? Didn't I always want to be a therapist? Well, and a hair dresser? And lounge singer? And comedian?

Because really, this isn't just about how many options we have available to us (if we're willing to put in the work), it's also that we're somehow supposed to find fulfillment.

Am I fulfilled?

I mean, I get up and go to work Monday through Friday at a job that is really quite fine. But all the while I know it is not my life's work. I know it is not nourishing me or my soul or even my mind. Sure, it pays the bills, but so do a lot of things.

But um, before you think that this post is about how I'm deciding to up and quit my job and move to New Zealand to raise sheep or something, I should tell you, it's a lot smaller than that.

All of this bluster is just a long-winded way of me saying that lately, I can't seem to get a damn thing done.

I announce that I want to write and so. I have written one book proposal, outlined (vaguely sort of in my head) and written the first 20 pages of a comic novel, written the beginning of a short story about five times, and spent approximately a gagillion hours wondering if this is really what I should be doing. Not liking sentences or ideas or structure. Worrying about how I'm not good enough. Knowing that even as I write it, no one will want to publish it. Except then knowing that someone SHOULD want to publish it because look at all the venues there are for getting published and certainly I'm at least that capable, right? Right? So why aren't I? Why am I so incapable of getting going?

So then my mind wanders to the million other things that maybe I should do instead. Hey, if I can't finish this story right now, maybe…maybe I could be inspired to write a one-woman show. Yes! I should! I could totally write that. Or wait no, no, stand-up! I should start with more stand-up! Unless, hey! What about sitcoms? Screenplays?

And I work myself up into this ridiculous, mind-cluttered frenzy wherein the only thing I can eke out is a blog entry. Or an occasional email.

It's not just me.

I look at Ish. He is going through this tremendous life change now, where he's taking a huge step back, or off, or away from the path he'd been on his whole life. He is putting himself into a position where he can choose just about anything. He can do just about anything he'd ever want, without trying to meet anyone's expectations except his own.

And thus I think he, too, spends a good deal of his time freaking the hell out.

Forgetting the big, major life stuff, it surfaces in the simple day-to-day. Any time he signs up for a new class – say, an improv class that meets every Wednesday – there is both an immediate trade-off (well, if I'm in class on Wednesday, that means I can't do that show in case I'm called and asked to go on) and a longer-term one (do I even like improv? I do, but how will I ever get better at it if I'm also spending all my time on stand-up? Maybe I should just do one or the other...Oh hey, here's a cool acting class...).

So great. I have identified (sorta) the problem. But what is the solution?

Do you just go on, trying different things? (Of course you do.) But what happens when it's a year later and instead of 20 great pages you have all of 25? And instead of having lost 75 pounds you've lost 6?

Or what if you ignore all the "arbitrary" pressures and just go along, fiddle dee dee, and then wake up and you're 35 and unwed and childless and planless still?

Will a few extra blog entries be enough?

I don't really know what the solution is, but surely there is one...

21 comments:

  1. thanks, that made me want to kill myself.

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  2. K, I swear, you always read my mind... I have been mulling very similar thoughts for a while now...

    One thing I'm doing is participating in NaNoWriMo.org, and hopefully that will help me focus on writing. I figure it's just a month, and if it's a failure, well, I can change directions pretty easily...

    Though I think it's also pretty hilarious that the novel I plan to write focuses on the quarter-life crisis...

    Anyway, I love reading what you write, and look forward to every new post. Hope you keep up the blogging!

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  3. truly, i am freaking the fuck out.

    sometimes, there are so many choices that one tiny, insignificant decision breaks the camel's back (so to speak) and i find myself crying the appliance store because i don't know if i want a black fridge or a white one.

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  4. Uncanny. Or, to look at it another way, the power of IIFs. Because I have just been lamenting my difficulty in making a decision that will likely change the trajectory of my life (or at least job). And someone (older) pointed out that I could consider myself lucky to have so many options... Mostly I too just want to cry about it.

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  5. I was going to suggest NaNoWriMo myself! The whole point is to write without self-editing, with as little thought about quality as possible. So, even if 80% of what you write is garbage, that's still 10,000 words that aren't!

    And everything you're saying is probably true of most 20- and 30-somethings these days. I think the big difference is that there's no incentive to stick to one thing because there's no job security. Whether or not you like your job, there's still a high likelihood that you could get canned even after staying at the same job for decades.

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  6. Bipartisan discussions?!?! Nate does know that I'm gonna be posting on this thing, right?

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  7. So...email me when you find the solution, OK? Or at least publish the answer and make millions while you are at it, because I know there are at least that many of us out here! :)

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  8. Just the other day I was talking to a friend who said she expected to be where I was (meaning, early 40's, married, two teenagers, career), but that she just didn't get there--as if it were a destination.

    Yet she's been a teacher who tired of the lack of advocacy for special needs kids, who instead of whining actually went to law school and became a lawyer who spent years advocating for kids who had no other real voice, and now works for a non-profit to help urban students in failing systems. Amazing.

    She looks wistfully at my life and I look on hers with such respect (and envy of her singleness, to be honest). And yet she could still end up married with two kids-who-grow-into-teenagers, and I could theoretically become a lawyer.

    I'm thinking (and hoping) that it isn't so much what to do as much as when to do it.

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  9. ****

    every now and then, you write an entry that feels like it came out of my own head. That is exactly how I feel.

    I love your writing! Maybe what you need is a kickass editor to tighten up the book proposal and actual book. Its not like published authors just write and it comes out in its finished form. Someone else (the editor) has gone over it a million times - even though all of us like to think that brilliance just flows straight from our brain to the paper through our fingertips, that is never the case. Just a thought :)

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  10. I'm 35 childless, unmarried and planless. Except that I'm really happy about the first two things.
    The plan - well, you know the joke about how to make the gods laugh, right? Make a plan?

    I lost my best friend this spring to a terrible illness. After I lost her, things crystallize for the first time. I realized, no, I didn't want to get a Master's degree. I didn't want to find a job that everyone would approve of. And I didn't care if I was less "successful" than everyone else in my graduating class, no matter which of the standard measures of success you use - marriage and family or career and money. Suddenly, the things that did matter became much clearer, and the noise was turned off. I want to live in the country. I want a dog. I want to keep chickens and bees. I want to feel connected to nature. I want to write, even if no one reads my writing. I want to paint and make prints, even if no one wants my paintings and prints. I want a job that does something important in the world, particularly, I want to promote and support local, sustainable agriculture.

    Now, trying to figure out how to get to all that is not easy. I haven't found the new job. But I've learned a lot more about the field. My one submitted article was rejected. But I've written. My last two woodblocks have come out badly. But I've made them. Ultimately, I may never succeed at anything. And I will be just as dead at the end of it all - which, oddly enough, I don't find depressing. I just want to find enough peace in my life, enough connection to the world that when I come to die, I can feel living was meaningful. That's really the only success that matters at all.

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  11. The answer is.....let me know when you figure it out. I have no idea!

    Actually, no, that's not true. This is a stream of consciousness comment, because I just remembered the advice I was given when I was going through a hard time with a divorce and my family members were dying like flies. I had a child and I didn't know what I should do. The advice was, do what seems right for right now. The rest will follow. Not that you have to have a plan, but maybe the plan will come after you've taken a few steps for the sake of Right Now.

    Or not. I mean, I don't know. I'll let you know when I'm 65 and can look back with some perspective. And, that's what really pisses me off about it, that you don't KNOW the answers until after you've done all this living! God! I just want to know NOW, thank you. I don't want it to be easy, necessarily, I'm just sick of all the g-ddamn confusion.

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  12. It seems to me that the people that are happiest are the ones that do all the things they want, as many as that may be, with full force, equally, with no regard to the burn out they may face.

    They take their whole pot of noodles, throw them against the wall, and try to make them ALL stick.

    I can't do it, I like to focus, but I'm also not someone that most people would say "There goes the happiest guy in the world."

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  13. Ericha2@yahoo.com4:22 PM, October 11, 2006

    K-

    God you read my mind sometimes. I know I'm not where I want to be right now. I want to break into a new field but no one is hiring right now so I'm biding my time at a job I actually enjoy (lucky me) while waiting for an opportunity in the new field. It's difficult and frustrating to wait but I know the new field is the right match for me...so I wait.

    Check out www.jenniferweiner.com for tips for new writers. She's a wonderful author, if you haven't read her novels you should.

    Regarding the political blog (cute name btw) if your group of outspoken progressive liberals hasn't read this article they need to!

    http://www.sanfran.com/archives/view_story/1282/

    I'll post that on the other blog as well. I'm assuming most of you have read it but it's a great piece.

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  14. Well, here's the deal. Or the deal as I see it. You are a writer, right now. You even have readers, which puts you ahead of about 750 million other writers. And, whoa, you submitted a book proposal-bam ahead of about 900 million other writers.

    And your job, the fact that it supports you financially and doesn't suck your soul away, means that it IS nurturing your soul (albeit indirectly) by allowing you to do the things that you love when you're not there. You are able to live in a cute apartment in one of the world's best cities. You can go out and karoake with your friends. You can laugh with your boyfriend.

    To me, that sounds like a pretty good plan. And, after reading your blog (which includes old journal entries from your previous life) it's YOUR plan. You're one of the intuitive planners, you're making a plan right now and it will happen. You just won't know what it is or how you got there until because part of the planning process is engulfing yourself with possibilities.

    Oh, and I did up and move to New Zealand. I don't raise sheep and I still have about a quadrazillion fantastic ideas about what to do while I'm here. Too bad I don't have enough time to actually DO any of them because, ya know, waxing philosophical about them (and other people's blog entries) seems to fill my spare time.

    Five years ago I lied to my hairdresser that the reason I hadn't had my haircut in so long was because I'd been travelling around the world for a year. Three years later it was actually true. How's THAT for planning!

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  15. Time will march on, no matter what you choose. Only you can decide where that march will take you, and happiness is often hiding in the most unlikely place. I think, sometimes, we spend so much time looking at tomorrow, we miss out on today.

    Live, laugh, and love, every day.

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  16. I have actually thought a lot about this... Part of the problem, as you say, is job security. Our parents (and I'm speaking to those of us in the late 20's to middle 30-ish's) are the last generation of workers who have some chance at having "Careers" with a company. The mind set of employers is no longer getting Ward Cleaver to come to the office every day for 39 years before retiring in Florida.

    We are lost because there is no one ahead of us guiding the way.

    The advantage is that we get to set the precedent for everyone that follows us. We want to go to school and change our major four times, attend school for 6 years and still not have a degree (not that I know anyone like that...).

    We want to travel, explore, be firemen, ballerinas, and win the lottery.

    If you want to write, write! Your self critic will kill every meaningful idea if you give her/him the chance. Write past it, saying "Fuck Off - I'll write what I want!"

    Take every class that interests you, learn an instrument or a foreign language.

    If nothing else, when you're 75 years old your grandkids and every other whippersnapper you come across will think you're pretty fucking cool.

    There's nothing worse than a boring old fart.

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  17. Having choices is nothing particularly new. Females of your parents' generation really had all of the options that are open to you ("I could be a wife and mother. I could be a single mom. I could decide not to have kids. I could live in the city or the suburbs. I could abandon the corporate lifestyle. I could move to a different country. I could go back to school to be a writer or teacher, or maybe I should just get my MBA or what about law school? Didn't I always want to be a therapist? Well, and a hair dresser? And lounge singer? And comedian?"). And each time you choose one option, some become closed to you, while others suddenly become available. Options are fluid.

    I think a problem arises when someone tries too hard to find fulfillment (whatever the hell that is). You can fritter away days, months, years waiting for *the* solution. You might be surprised to know how few people have an "aha, *that's* what my life is meant to be" moment, followed by the circumstances and wherewithal necessary to actually bring the moment to fruition. In most cases, life's a checkered path of progress and setbacks, fulfillment and wanting, bliss and sorrow.

    Sometimes, searching for your life's "calling" becomes an excuse to not really commit to anything. Life is rarely *perfect*. For the most part, you must give (up something) to get (something else). That's true, regardless of economics, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The best you can do is prioritize the things that mean the most to you and then do whatever you can reasonably do to make those things happen. And if you've made your goals giving things your best shot, you can't lose. That seems much more positive than hoping for lightning to strike.

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  18. Here's an easy solution for the political angst and lack of purpose that so many of you twenty and thirty-somethings seem to be experiencing: be a volunteer. Helping someone else takes you out of yourself and can bring a great sense of fulfillment.

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  19. unmarried, childless and lovin' life12:57 AM, October 13, 2006

    Live each day to the fullest, try to always do the right thing and things will just happen the way they're supposed to for you. What's wrong with being a certain age and un"married" and childless if that's where you are in life. You can be in a great relationship or not be in one at all and be happy without being "married", you can have or adopt children if that's what you want. For those of us who are happy in our lives, not married and without children, you're kind of insinuating there's something wrong with that. There are millions of people who are married with children and are miserable. Those things should not be equated with happiness, satisfaction or success in ones life.

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  20. You can see inside my life, can't you...

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  21. gotta tell ya, i am 35, unwed, childless, mostly planless and ALL kinds of happy. life is too short to "should" on yourself (i should do this, i should do that). i enjoy doing what i feel makes me happy. when it no longer makes me happy, then maybe i won't do it. but until then, i'm enjoying the ride on this amazing adventure called life. (oh, and when all else fails: breathe in, breathe out. repeat.)

    try not to put too much pressure on yourself. remember, we can be our own toughest critics and you are a talented woman.

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