Tag Archives: what will I be when I grow up

The Penultimate Peril

Story of my life

I registered for NaNoWriMo for the first time. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which occurs annually in November. The goal for participants is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

But I’m not planning to write a regular novel. I’m entering as a NaNoWriMo Rebel, so basically I’m just writing 50,000 words and adhering to no one’s rules but my own. While I do have ideas for fictional projects, they are rather nebulous and I’d rather dive into my memoirs idea that I’ve been kicking around for years now.

Novembers are historically bad months for me, hence my lack of participation in NaNoWriMo during previous years. This November will probably be no exception, but I’ve got nothing but time and I’m willing to push through it.

One of my dearest friends once told me that my life was like that of the ill-fated Baudelaire orphans, the main characters in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Not surprisingly, those books are among my favorite books ever, even though they are children’s books and I was about 21 when they were first published.

I imagine my memoirs to be a bit like A Series of Unfortunate Events only more outlandish. And more depressing. With less mystery.

Now is as good a time as any to begin writing this, even though I have no idea how the story will end. I believe I’m in the second-to-last chapter of this saga, or the penultimate peril, if you will. When I am done, I will have either blow-by-blow documentation of my demise or a charming feel-good story where I somehow come out of this with my dignity and sense of self intact. The latter is possible, right? Right?

 

P.S. Happy Halloween! I hope you all are doing something fun. I will watch horror movies online with my lights out. I don’t feel like being social and I don’t have any candy. Yeah, like I’d waste my food stamps on fun-size Kit-Kats.

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Filed under Home Life, Uncategorized, writing

Impasse

The Impasse by Stephen Adams

A friend asked me “What would you be doing if you could get any job you wanted, right now?” To my surprise, my mind went blank. Two months ago, two years ago, six years ago, even ten years ago, he could have asked me that question and I would have described my career goals in striking detail. I was asked that question all through high school, college, graduate school, and even while I was working at crappy low-level jobs and I always had an answer. Now I don’t. I can only guess that something in me snapped during my most recent of many awkward interviews.

I’m still not looking for a job. I don’t think most people understand why. I’m not even sure that I do. I only finished my master’s degree in June, so it may seem like I am giving up on my job search early. Master’s degree or not, this has been a fruitless search since 2003. My last two jobs (crappy as they were) ended abruptly and in the same fashion. Those weren’t the only times either. I have simply lost the ability to handle certain types of tasks. I also struggle without proper healthcare. Without my medication, my ability to function in the workplace is limited, and without decent pay, my access to my prescribed medication is also limited. And I am far beyond frustrated with working at low-level, low-pay jobs outside of my skill set. If I hadn’t had one job in my career at a well-known and reputable company, I would probably just think I was a moron. But no, once upon a time, I was given a chance, and I did a good job and I was well-liked. And then my job was outsourced. That was the only brief glimmer of success in one very long and dark period. It wasn’t a great success, anyway. I was still low-income and stressed about money, but at least I felt accomplished.

I have been battling a rather bad respiratory infection for a while now. I’ve complained about it, I know. When I lie in bed I can hear my chest creak like an old staircase. Sometimes it sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Sometimes it makes both of those noises at the same time. I cough and choke until I see stars. It’s difficult to laugh. This may be difficult to believe, but I really do laugh a lot.

My landlord has still not taken action against me. It’s confusing, but it’s a relief. It’s also a source of much anxiety. I have not made much progress in packing or purging my belongings. I’m sick and exhausted.

I am currently working with the Department of Social and Health Services to find out if I can get some medical attention and possibly a case worker. It’s all downhill from here. I have also re-opened my food stamps application, and I hope I can get something on that end within the next few days.

I’m getting a bit frustrated because I am lacking some basic items that most people (including myself) often take for granted. I need dish soap. I need pants that both fit and don’t have holes. I want fresh food and a new toothbrush. I have decided to sell my car once I move into transitional housing. Unfortunately, my car insurance got canceled and my car is likely to be repossessed for the second time this year. I can’t do anything about that right now, but I can maybe find some clothes. There is a community clothing closet in the next town over, and I may try to stop by and see if I can find something. I also have some clothes that don’t fit me anymore, and I would be glad to donate. I don’t need much, unless I get a job. I really just want something that isn’t falling apart. The soles of my shoes are halfway off, and every time I walk outside I have to stop periodically to shake out the gravel and other debris. I was able to buy toilet paper after selling some things online. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to sell online because I do not get paid until the items ship (at least when I sell on Amazon.com). If I have no money, it’s a bit difficult to ship things.

I was able to get cat food during my last trip to the food bank, so my little feline friend will be well-fed for the time being. She’s not a terribly picky eater as long as I give her dry food.

I can only hope that my situation is temporary, and I will find my hope and drive again. It’s not like me to be a leech, and I’ve lost the energy to be a good scavenger.

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Filed under Depression, Food, health, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

A heart that was full and unbroken

I’ve been going about it all wrong.

In high school, I was strange and artsy. I played music (viola, piano, saxophone, and guitar), I painted, and I wrote stories. I was better at writing stories than I was at painting or playing music. Although I was interested in biology (genetics in particular), I figured I would be doing something artistic when I grew up.  At some point my teenage rebellion waned and I began listening to people.

Once I started listening to “reason,” I never stopped. I became convinced that I would be unable to live on less than $60,000 a year. To settle for less would have been unfathomable. I also got the idea that if it was fun and I enjoyed it, that I’d never make any money doing it. I never pursued anything I really wanted.

Thus my fallback career choice became my primary career choice. Biology seemed to be more lucrative because I lacked the confidence to get by on my artistic merits. It’s not so much that I felt I was particularly talented as a scientist, but I didn’t trust myself in a career that required me to determine its structure. I felt like I needed a job that I would show up to, get paid for, and then leave to go home. It seemed (and still seems) far too nerve-wracking to worry about getting published or selling artwork or a booking performances or anything like that. I don’t want to pour my heart and my life into something just to find out that it’s worthless. I value stability.

My senior year of college I took a class about rhetoric. I’d taken many writing courses in college, so I’m not entirely sure why this one meant so much more to me. For class we were assigned to read Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams. I have always had a fondness for grammar texts, but I had not thought much about sentence structure as its own entity until I read this book. I was very excited about the class, and I did very well with little effort. For once in my life, my abilities did not go unnoticed, and my professor recommended me for a tutoring position in our campus writing center. I worked there for three full years, staying on part-time after I graduated until I got kicked out due to statewide budget cuts.

I became quite excited about academic writing. Academic writing has little use outside of an academic setting, but it came so naturally to me that I wanted to do something with it. I wrote a grammar column in our weekly newsletter. I wrote and performed workshops on sentence structure. I was happy to go to work every single day. The pay was low and I only worked part-time. I was poor, but I loved my job. During this time I began writing a book about the various levels of structure in college-level papers. I abandoned the book rather quickly because I did not see that I had nothing new to offer on the subject. Go to any bookstore and there is sure to be a shelf (or several rows of shelves) dedicated to books about writing. Aside from a few minor contradictions that can be attributed to either the author’s personal preference or the evolution of language, most of those books say essentially the same thing. Some do it dryly, some use humor. Some are very strict, and others more lenient. The truth is (or so I thought) that if you bought three or four particular books about writing, you would have access to every last iota of information you could ever possibly need about writing. Language changes, but it doesn’t change quickly enough to warrant the vast selection of books about writing that are available at any given time. If I were to create a version of what I felt should be in one volume, then it would probably alienate one group of writers or another. I thought about this a lot, and abandoned the project. And along came Mignon Fogarty.

I admit that I am bitter. If you don’t know who Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) is, she’s a woman who has made a lucrative  career out of stating the obvious. Now, I am 100% in favor of improving bad grammar skills, but this woman is ubiquitous and she hasn’t brought anything new to the table. How does this happen? How do people do it? Why don’t I do it? She has roots in Seattle and one day I heard her doing a radio commercial spot for a local grocery store, explaining the difference between affect and effect for the back-to-school season. She gets paid to reiterate what one can find in a dictionary. Or even what one could have seen during her appearance on Oprah. She’s everywhere, mocking me, and I can’t escape. And dammit, I would do so much of a better job. But I didn’t write a book–she did.

Good for her, though. I feel about Mignon Fogarty the same way I feel about my friend who packed up and move to New York City on a whim, then very quickly got a managerial job. She’s several years younger than I am with less experience and less education. While I am glad when good things happen to other people, it’s difficult for me to take myself out of the equation. I feel childish even admitting that. Every time I take a risk it comes back to hurt me. As a result of conditioning, I always play it safe. But playing it safe never gets me anywhere either. I have no more risks to take.

From Postsecret. I once sent a secret in and it made it onto the site that week. This isn't my secret, but I saved it because it spoke to me.

There’s also Frank Warren of PostSecret. PostSecret is a fantastic site based on a brilliant idea, and I know that Mr. Warren puts in many hours reading secrets, selecting secrets, making appearances, and speaking with publishers. But he doesn’t create anything aside from one secret per book (or so I’ve heard). He’s a well-known middleman.

I don’t mean to be dismissive. I know he puts a lot of work into it, and he really did contribute something new and great to the world. He also provides fantastic support for HopeLine and gives many depressed and troubled individuals an outlet to express themselves anonymously. I just become bothered when I see that it’s actually possible to be down-to-earth and live an unconventional life. If only I had figured that out earlier.

So I have come to the conclusion that I have been going about it all wrong. Perhaps I’m not cut out for a “real job” in the “real world.” I’m not inferior –just different. I know where I’m not wanted, and I’m not wanted in the cubicle down the hall from you. I’m not wanted in the corner office either. I don’t need to be rich and I don’t need to be famous but I need to be able to take care of myself.

The problem is that I never follow through on anything except my own self-doubt. Self-help gurus often advise people not to tell themselves that they “should have done this” or “should have done that.” I have ideas and I should stick to them, when all this time I’ve been sticking to my regrets.

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Filed under Depression, fml, jerks, Obstacles, Work