In This Place We Learn To Wait

September 25, 2012

ImageSometimes I get so mad, mired in the mundane. Lusting after adventure while I feel my knees, under my desk, degenerating long before their time. Wondering if, by the time I make it to Maccu Piccu, I will be able to even climb it any longer. Wondering if I will ever fucking make it to Maccu Piccu at all.

On the other hand, I’m not positive that I want progress, anyway. I seem to dig my heels in as everyone marches forward, and I’m just tied to this life. Maybe dragged behind it like a sleigh, or a dead body. Bumping along with minimal resistance.

I know it’s my choice, but I can’t slow anything down. All I really want to do is stop it for a while because these are the best years of my life. Or so I have been told. I wish I could enjoy them, each one of them; savoring slowly, lingering in seconds, reveling in the moments in between. Instead I am watching life out the window of this train– it’s happening to me, but not really. Some snapshots, an occasional stop at a station; eventually, I’ll just get to the end with everyone else and shuffle off. I know people who have toured Spain with the same passivity I am living my life.

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The train’s not moving that fast, but I can’t jump from it, either. Hop off into the brambles and hope my barrel roll is up to snuff.

Or can I? Maybe I am simply afraid of the future.

Okay, I am afraid of the future. But it doesn’t feel all that simple.

I am afraid of what comes next; while the people around me are getting married, making babies, settling in for a life of mortgage payments, and biweekly paychecks, and I don’t desire any of that. I wonder if it’s just me. Should I be so quick to judge their happiness in complacency? Should I want that? Am I broken?

Twenty Five years, and what do I have to show for it? Student loan debt, a few creature comforts. I’ll be the proud owner of a 2003 Subaru Legacy this coming winter. Where am I going? Not in the car, just generally.

It’s so comfortable to maintain the status quo. I imagine it similar to the feeling Himalayan climbers have as frostbite sets in during a major storm. You just go on ahead without me, I’ll be fine. I’m just going to sit here and warm up for a while.

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??

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.

Once upon a time, our country experienced a depression so great that the middle class disappeared entirely. People stood in line for hours to procure moldy bread and meats. Children shared bathwater, people mended their socks, and hovels became coveted homes. The opulent lifestyles of the wealthy shone like homing beacons in the midst of the unwashed masses.

In modern America, not quite a century removed from these desperate times, we find our country in a much different mindset. The end of the second world war, and the years of fear-fueled war economics that followed, seemed to relieve America of it’s “depression.” The government injected the market with occupational programs, social services, and military-related vocations. Women were not only common in the workplace, but now expected to be there: half due to necessity, half due to the social push for independence.

Two working parents meant that people could now afford toasters, televisions, and cars– the middle class was experiencing a heyday unlike any generation before them. Disposability became a mainstay of our culture– single serving dinners, disposable diapers, and plastic ballpoint pens. An entire generation was raised on processed foods, aerosol hairsprays, and prenatal vitamins that caused deformities, as this country strove to be at the forefront of a cultural evolution. They were told that new was best, fast was convenient, and concerns were for “squares. ”

This generation, although instilled with a sense of disposability, maintained some of the previous generation’s sentiments. They had seen their parents clipping coupons, saving pennies, and creating nest-eggs. They had been warned, by those who had lived it, of a time when people fought rats for food. This was Gen X.

As this segment came of age, in the seventies and eighties, they rebelled against society, then embraced it. They hated their possessions, then fell in love with them. They were told they could feel how they wanted to feel, and damned if they weren’t feeling angry! At what? Their parents? Cultural expectations? Global unrest? It didn’t matter. This generation felt it was their right and duty to be expressive.

As Gen X begat Gen Y, a new era of entitlement was born. Since the days of their youth when Gen X had first “stuck it to the man,” many of them had become “the man.” They put in their 40+ hours a week, ingrained with the promise that this was the formula for success. Gen X wanted, more than anything, to spare their children the faux pas social struggles, and the fear of the past.

Gen X promised Gen Y a better world.

The result of this promise has been a twisted sense of entitlement to that world, and a whole generation left dazed by reality. I know I am not the only one feeling slighted.

It was all there, in every message our school teachers delivered us, that we could be anything we wanted to be. That we were all very full of potential, and that hard work alone was the key to unlocking our dreams. It was all there in every feel-good self-esteem-boosting book, poster, and mantra: the world was our oyster. There was even a roadmap– graduate high school, go to college, get a good job in our chosen fields. We could, then, feel professionally satisfied; could then live the comfortable lifestyles we had always known.

All we had to worry about was “being true to yourself,” making friends, and the pursuit of happiness. My generation invented MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, massive multiplayer online games, and YouTube. Being popular doesn’t even involve leaving your computer– which, by the way, now fits in your pocket. Our social lives are infinitely more complex than any generation before us. We’re so cool!

But, in the meanwhile, the global marketplace has become saturated with goods– shipped from overseas– and it’s not only the manufacturing sector that’s become outsourced. America is only beginning to understand the true nature of economics, only now realizing that we are by no means immune to “depression.” Only now realizing that the diploma-mills which comprise most of our “higher education system” are producing well-educated waitstaffs and sales reps in a country that can’t employ more philosophers, journalists, or music theorists. It’s no wonder my generation is so damn frustrated. If we held out for the jobs we wanted, a vast majority would be unemployed.

I heard a statistic the other day that really hit home. The talking head on PBS informed me that 81% of college graduates last year graduated without a job offer. So I did a little research on the subject.

According the a 2009 Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 40% of graduating students who had applied for jobs received offers; less than 20% had secured a job for after graduation.  These statistics are contrary to everything we were told. So what do we do? Keep going back to school? According to this survey, that’s precisely what 26% of my peers are doing. Why? Because it’s “the next step,” obviously, and we take immense comfort in linear progression. Some of my contemporaries live with their parents well into their twenties. We like our hands held; we’ve been well-sheltered from anything dismal by cable television, pop music, and the illusion that we’re working with unlimited resources. According to these statistics, 41% of graduating seniors EXPECT to rely on their parent’s financial assistant after college. WHAT!? Well, I suppose someone has to carry the burden of our shattered expectation. We certainly weren’t prepared for this.

… Everything is going to be ok, right?

I recently posed the question– after a long overdue ah-hah! moment of my own– Do all good ideas sound silly until they make someone rich?

Like much of my public speculation, this question was partially redundant. The more I think about it, the more I am actually positive that is the case. At least in the modern era of Snuggies, Slinkys, and Social Media Experts.

It takes a lot to come up with something truly revolutionary, and I’m not sure I will be reinventing the wheel in my lifetime, but we live in an era where doing anything on a large scale has become extremely difficult and time consuming (that’s surely not to imply its impossible). Niche markets are on the rise, our economy is on a slight upswing, and I’m thinking that none of us are getting any younger. So I made a list of things I have to offer the world. And the ball started rolling there. Gears clicking. Pieces falling into place.

Of course, I’m not quitting my day job any time soon. And I don’t actually have any solid plans… But Rome wasn’t built in a day.

…And I think I have a good idea…

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it. [[AlbertEinstein]]