Saturday, May 21, 2011

Head in the Sand, Part 1

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.

We are all prisoners at one time or another in our lives, prisoners to ourselves or to the expectations of those around us. It is a burden that all people endure, that all people despise, and that few people ever learn to escape.  - R. A. Salvatore Exile

A confession: up until 7 months ago, I hadn’t written more than two short stories in years. Why? I’m not sure how to answer that, but I’ll try.

There is one question that has hounded me since I graduated from university, realized that the party was over, and that I needed to do something in order to pay my mounting debts. The question is this: What am I going to do with my life? I’ve struggled with this question every day of my adult life. 

Over the years, I’ve asked a lot of people to tell me how they decided on a course of action. A few had a calling or had “always known” what they wanted to do, Fate took a hand in others’ lives, and some people, like me, seemed to bounce aimlessly from job to job without direction or destination in mind.

I’ve tried many different methods that were supposed to deliver me onto an appropriate life path. I've researched, interviewed, sought advice, taken tests - you name it.  In college, I filled out that Myers-Brigg profile (INFP!) and made appointments with career counselors. You know how these things go:

Councilor:    If you could do anything that you wanted, money being no obstacle, what would you do?

Me:    Anything? I’d be a rock star.

Councilor:     A rock star? What was your major again?

Me:    Cultural Anthropology. Oh, and I studied Spanish. Plus, I minored in dance.

Councilor:     Oh. Do you sing?

Me:    I was in choir in junior high. If I’m singing in a large group, I sound pretty good.

Councilor:    Oh. Well then, do you play an instrument?

Me:    I used to play cello.

Councilor:     I see. So, why do you want to be a rock star, then?

Me:    I don’t know, in my daydreams, I’m always a rock star. If I could do anything, that’s what I’d do.

These types of questions don’t get me far. Same thing goes for questions like: “What did you want to do when you were a child?” Answer: I wanted to be a ballerina. I even took ballet lessons for many years. After that ended in body dysmorphia, I desperately wanted to be an astronaut. Look at me now, an out-of-shape thirty-something. Obviously the Houston Ballet ain’t calling and neither is NASA. So these trips down memory lane don't help me.

When I went off to university, I thought that I was going to major in biology and become a marine biologist or a doctor. I knew within one semester that this wasn’t a good fit for me. If I had answered the counselor’s question with honesty, the answer would have been that I loved to read and write, that I spent every waking hour doing these things or thinking about doing them, and that people seemed to like my stories.  But, I wasn’t honest, because I was scared…

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