Unlisted.

January 28, 2011

I don’t know what it is that compels me to make lists of everything, but it’s a habit I have yet to break myself of. Whenever I’m feeling the need to organize my thoughts, a bulleted, segmented, thrice-written inventory has always been my preferred methodology. The end result of my list-making varies on the purpose of said composition. Lists work great for “To-Do” and “Shopping” but I think I take it to a whole new level sometimes…

My most recent list was penned out a few days ago in hopes of ascertaining some semblance of linear progression in my life. That is to say, I was trying to boil very complicated ideas down to the lowest common denominator. The lists were as follows:

“Things I want out of life”

“Things I stand for”

Easy right?

Wrong.

I wrote these two headlines. Traced the letters thoughtfully. Asked myself to be truthful, candid, and self-aware when responding. I doodled in the margins as I debated response; these two simple inquiries, staring me in the face.

I wrote half an answer. I scribbled it out. I closed my eyes and tried visualizing myself being/ doing anything I wanted. I wrote another half answer. I scribbled it out. I realized: I had no fucking clue. On either count, really. I didn’t feel confident in any of my responses enough to “solidify” them on paper– even just for my own reference.

I then spoke, out loud, to myself. “Come on, Kat,” I coerced. “This isn’t that hard.”

But, still, the swirl of uncertainty flushed my mind. After about half an hour, I had the same stupid cop-out answers I always give to what “I want out of life,” and– and it’s not with pride that I confide this– absolutely nothing in the “Things I stand for” section.

Nothing.

On the verge of tears, I gave up on my list and ingested half a benzo before I experienced a full-on anxiety attack. I felt utterly confused. Helpless. Stupid. Staring at a blank page where my fundamental beliefs should have been proudly staring me back.

Goddammit.

Days later, I still have no good answer. To the questions I wrote down, to what my problem is, to any of it. I’m thinking, more than anything, I am having a commitment issue– the plight of the college-educated journalist. I can’t stay interested in one thing. I can’t pick a side. I have a hard time putting myself into the story. But what do I do about this?

Stop making excuses for myself, as step 1. And step 2 would probably be JUST PICK SOMETHING. There is no gun to my head, no life or death scenario here. In fact, the only one expecting me to answer these questions is myself! Just pick a passion and roll with it. I can change my mind tomorrow. The next day. Or next year.

Much like standing before the pasta selection in my local airport-hangar sized grocery chain, the world is presenting me too many options. Too many ways to not just make a decision. Bowties or Elbows? Capellini or Rigatoni? I wish I were joking that these decisions stress me out, but I’m quite serious. Apply this indecision to my entire life.

So instead of drawing some faux conclusion, which I am always tempted to do when I write such entries– make it seem like I’ve got it all figured out just because I’ve broken it all down– I am soliciting advice…

How does one make the hard decisions in life without their hand being forced? How can one decide, with no reservations or doubt, what they stand for? How does a person follow their passion when they can’t even be certain what that even IS??

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Pomp and Pride

January 24, 2011

One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from William Shakespeare, and I have used it on here before. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

Since reading “As You Like It” many years ago, this phrase has stayed with me as a fact. It resonates strongly with my life paradigm, and reinforces my suspicions about most people I meet. It has inspired me to fill my life with fools, and to recognize my own incapacity to know it all.

I love to learn. As a child, I enjoyed school, devoured books, and relished tales from my grandparents. New knowledge is like food for the brain and spirit. It can change your whole perspective on things.

What I have come to realize, however, is that this seemingly insatiable desire for information is, in fact, hindered by my reluctance to be taught. My distinct inability to surrender the platform of knowledge upon which I stand, and simply go with the flow.

Human ego is a two-sided coin; both our species’ best and worst quality. Ego allows us to be self-aware, motivated, and conscious of societal concern. On the flip side of that, our egos are fragile little pieces of ourselves; parts we work hard to establish and then militantly protect. When creating– whether it be visual art, music, poetry, performance, food, software, whatever– the ego is in it’s glory. As humans, we tend to take some level of pride in the things we do: this is ego.

Throughout my childhood, I recall being asked by nearly every educator to provide two copies of a body of work– one copy of the finished product and, the other a “rough draft.” I presume that this rough draft would provide our teachers some sort of insight into the creative process, thusly ensuring that our spongey little minds were, in fact, the ones producing such masterpiece analyses of “Lord of the Flies,” US governmental structure, and the first world war. I assume the other benefit of such documentation would be to chart a student’s progress between initial thought and end result.

It is only in retrospect that I’ve come to realize that I never handed in a legitimate “rough” copy of anything. At least, not that I can remember. Instead, I wrote (as I do now) neurotically working my way through, obsessively analyzing every word the first time it was used, and created one copy of something I was very proud of. I threw away the scribbled-upon pages of college-ruled note paper as garbage– never something I would consider handing in with my name on it. Once finished, I would carefully contrive some “rough draft” to hand in alongside the final product.

No joke. I just couldn’t bring myself to hand in the real thing– the roadmap to my thoughts. Something about this seemed to violate my creative process; seemed a voyeuristic request on the part of my educators. Nope. What my teachers were handed was an even more carefully crafted version of my final– they read my “raw thought” and, in my mind, were perceiving exactly what I wanted them to. Move a comma, switch a sentence around, draw a few arrows– yes, dear fifth grade teacher, look at all I learned between the first time wrote this and the second time. What a good job you’ve done!

The truth of it is, writing is the only thing I’ve ever felt very confident in creating and, as mentioned before, creation is the physical manifestation of our egos. Inviting another to assess this creation is, in and of itself, an invitation for open season on this prideful sector of self. While this strange unwillingness to subject my thought process for review may not have negatively impacted my word-smithing, I’m able to note increasingly how it has affected other aspects of my life.

For instance, as someone who is almost constantly surrounded by musicians, I have only once, and only for about 3 hours, earnestly attempted to play guitar. With much anxiety, I sat in a room of my friends, most of whom were paying no attention to me whatsoever, and apprehensively took my first and only “lesson.” After a while, I thought to myself “nobody wants to hear me play bad guitar for hours” and never played again. I’ve spoken several times since about purchasing my own instrument and teaching myself, but I’m fairly convinced music is something I am simply not good at– especially in light of how incredible some of the people I know are. It sounds like a defeatist attitude, and perhaps it is just that. But I’m coming to realize that maybe it is my insane inability to forego the preconceptions that I’m supposed to be prideful of something before I allow another to bear witness to it. The old “rough draft” problem.

In light of all this, I suppose it’s high time I at least make an attempt at reforming this aspect of self. Pride and ego stymie creativity, not encourage it, and the more we put out into the universe, the more we are to receive. I know it’s no simple thing– old habits die hard, and my writing will always be a soft spot– but making a concerted effort to be more absorbent of the vast information available to me can only be beneficial to my worldview. Regardless of what value I determine something to have, there is no harm in allowing another to exert their egotism and “teach” me.

I mean, who knows, I might actually learn something?

This experience is not a costumed run-through for some well-polished performance of Life.

This is it. The real thing. All we get. Right now.

This is life, it is short, and we are using it up more quickly than we realize. Our ultimate non-renewable resource.

The seconds, the hours, the weeks, the years. Every moment of every day, humans are providedopportunity. We need to stop waking up in the morning and giving that opportunity to someone else. We need to stop worrying about judgement, or repercussions. The future always seems so far away until it’s the past– then all we want to do is hold it closely, whispering of all the ways we could have done it differently. Foregoing our “right now” for another glimpse at yesterday. Reveling in a bittersweet nostalgia while more opportunity slips away. Slips away. Slips away.

From where I am standing, that is my biggest fear. Regret. Remorse. A perfect view in hindsight of a life I could have had.

Somewhere along the way, it was planted in my fertile little mind that I could be anything I wanted to be. After 24 years of going through the motions, I’m realizing that it’s no longer a matter of “what do I want to be *when* I grow up;” the question is now “what do I want to be *since* I’m grown up?” And it’s a pretty legitimate question, no matter what walk of life you are in. Are you who you want to be?

In a world where comfortable survival were guaranteed, monetary pressures were irrelevant, and society passed no judgement on you: what would you do?

In my mind, whatever answer you provide to that question is what you truly, deeply desire for your life. In asking others this question, I’ve noticed several things. Firstly, many people cannot even fathom existence without money as their motivator. In contemporary culture, money = survival.

Another observation is that many people turn, then, to procreation. They would, in a simple world, expend reallocated energy on family. This led me to conclude (perhaps obviously) that our species understands survival. Without the concern over making it another day, I think many would feel a sense of purpose-less-ness.

Which brings me to my second point– that feeling of purpose-less-ness is what I experience every day. Money motivates me only insofar as doing what I’m “supposed to do” is concerned. It keeps the collectors from calling my mom to pick up my tab, it keeps my dog fed, and having a job gives me something to talk about at social functions. I went through the education system, the higher education system, and now I’m working in an office. It’s all very linear and logical. I get a gold star on my chart, cultural approval, and I get to pat myself on the back every other Thursday, while standing in line at the bank.

As far as breeding, it just doesn’t feel right for me. It has never felt as though a family could be my “purpose,” nor has it ever been my desire. Perhaps some women *can* do it all– the career, the kids, the social life– but I don’t think I want to try the balancing act. I am not a jack-of-all type of girl; I’m something of a perfectionist, and feel disappointed in myself if results are anything short of praise-worthy. I get anxiety over starting something I don’t have confidence in my finishing well, and raising kids is a complex objective art. Time-consuming, to say the least.

In a world without any necessity for labor, I would travel and write. This has been my answer for as long as I can remember. I would see the world, learning as much as possible, then synthesize and regurgitate this information with others. Words thrill me. They always have. Thrilling others with my words– bringing them to a time and place where  I stood, and trying to share a feeling– that is the greatest gratification I find in life.

I’m realizing that I am my own biggest roadblock. I have created the wall of “what if(s)” and “but I could never(s)” that separates me from the life I want to live. I adopt a defeatist attitude before I even enter the ring and face my opponent. I am excusing away my opportunities, as though the ship set sail long ago. No more.

It’s time for me to take action on a number of things. First and foremost, giving myself credit where it’s due. I am living one version of my dream. In little bits and bites. In fragments every time I post a blog, and x-number of people intentionally digest the contents of my mind. I am a published author; even if it’s one tiny corner of a vast sea of information. I started something from nothing, and I am getting back what I put in. It may not be the most monumental “something” of our time, but I’m not finished yet. And I AM learning about the world. Every single day, I encounter a new person, place, or bit of information.

So what more do I want?

That has become, for me, the most essential inquisitive. Who do I want to be? That’s step one to getting there.

Something spectacular. That’s my answer; the only thing I will settle for. I have this whole life to get there, and not starting today is inexcusable. More and better tomorrow. More and better the next day. The only thing holding me back from possibility is myself– pride, ego, and fear. In the end, I am realizing, it is better to have a long track record of phenomenal failures than to have taken no risks at all.