Wednesday, June 30, 2010

success in a handbasket

There’s an old adage, probably at least 20 years old, that, roughly quoted (from a song by the Smiths), goes: “I was looking for a job and then I got a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” I bring this up because I’m used to complaining about having too much time on my hands, and I just started a perfectly fine (in the future, I foresee thinking it’s even great) job, so if you are unfortunate enough to be in earshot of me this week, you will probably hear me complain about being overwhelmed instead of the recent common complaint of unerwhelment. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, with some people (me!).

Anyway, I was thinking about free time. Do only single people and Buddhists enjoy free time? Single people spend their free time doing all these great activities where they might just run into someone to fall in love with (dj’d pool parties on the roof of The Standard, artwalks in Chinatown, blah blah blah), and Buddhists know how to chill out: with their free time, they draw out all the daily rituals and relish in the simple acts of doing them…. Brushing teeth could become mind blowing and take an hour …. Laundry can be done while simultaneously chanting under one’s breath, etc. I have no Idea what ambitious single people and Buddhists do with their time but this is life as I imagine it for them. Who else might enjoy having lots of free time? Drug addicts? Cats? Loafers? Obsessed athletes? I dunno. I’ve never known what to do with too much free time, myself. Not including living things, writing is what’s most important to me, but I have a strong love/hate relationship with it. I don’t like talking about writing, and often, I don’t like writing – it’s physically painful to me, often. It’s so frustrating to have an idea and to try to translate it effectively into words, it gives me physical pain when I’m in the midst of trying to write a story and failing at it. Also, I almost never write. I write in short, quick bursts, usually, and when I’m done, I usually only edit for grammatical errors, not for content. So, maybe I can’t legitimately call myself a writer, maybe just a fiction-lover. Anyway, whenever I’ve had long stretches of unemployment, like the one I just wrapped up last week, I always kick myself for not taking advantage of the time to write. But I only get inspired when I’m out in the world a lot, and when I have free time without free money to accompany it, I’m not likely to go out in the world more than necessary. I wrote my first novella on scraps of paper I kept in my pocket when I was a janitor, and the novel I just finished writing was written in my car during lunch breaks from a job that made me cry all the time. Sitting in my apartment watching all the Harry Potters in order, in a row, at least once a week, for at least 2 years, didn’t provide much life-based fodder for short stories. I did part time tutoring in English Language Arts with children from underserved communities during the last 6 months of my CA unemployment period (so I guess I wasn’t actually unemployed during that time, but I’m pretty sure I lost money on that ‘job.’ But the time spent with the children I tutored was, while a bit heartbreaking because it was so easy to get emotionally attached to them and I had only a limited amount of hours to spend with each of them, such a relief to me because it was something productive for me to do with my time. I realize that at least the past couple months have been spent watching movies (like I say, many of these movies were Harry Potter) and crocheting, with some IM’ing and the occasional face to face socializing thrown in.

So, am I a workaholic? No. Am I lazy (meaning, could I have spent all my recent months free time training for a marathon or writing more?)? – sort of, yes. I don’t know why free time makes me as anxious as it does. I know I’ve always relished being the passenger in car trips, and I think the two are related – being a passenger and being bad at enjoying spare time. Maybe I just genuinely enjoy watching movies and crocheting and it’s not as dumb a pastime as it sounds to me.

Maybe I just need to have a full-time job like I just got to force me to interact with the world at large. The whole issue of having had too much time on my hands vs. feeling overwhelmed now (but so relieved to be having a regular paycheck soon) makes me consider the meaning of life in the modern world. What is one supposed to do with a life. A person lives their life and has experiences and learns lessons whether they choose to or not, just by dint of being alive. But, you know, there’s the popular bumper sticker that reads “Follow Your Bliss.” What do the people with those bumper stickers on their cars do with their spare time, or for a career? Do they procreate and take bike rides on the weekend and own their own bakeries or what? What is “success”?

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