This is my entry for Week Two of The Real LJ Idol competition, where the topic is "I Dont Care About Apathy: What I 'Should' Care About But Dont." I'll post an update about voting later in the week. If you haven't already, you might want to join The Real LJ Idol community, since some voting will be restricted to community members.
Though I don't usually mention it in polite conversation, I do have an opinion on most hot political topics. I can't help it, you see. I transcribe cable news programs for a living. I hear a lot from both sides of the aisle, so it's hard not to be interested in the debate. I write letters to my congressional representatives, for heaven's sakes.
What I should care about, and don't, is running the rat race. I should want a 9-to-5 job with a corner office and paid vacations. I should want the latest gadgets and gee-gaws. I should want bling. Maybe I'm defective, but I don't want any of those things. At least, not enough to do what I'd have to do to get them.
I guess I'm just more interested in learning than I am in achieving.
This tendency started early, when my school tried to move me ahead from second-grade to third-grade English class, but I insisted they put me back. I didn't feel comfortable with the older kids, and my classmates were looking at me funny when I returned for my other classes. The social alienation wasn't worth the "honor" of advanced placement, I reasoned. Besides, I was already reading at a fifth grade level, anyway.
Ironically, even though I was voted Most Studious in high school, I didn't do an exceptional amount of studying. I'm not saying I didn't work; but I certainly didn't work as hard as a friend of mine who was always up to her elbows in homework. Maybe she didn't look geeky enough.
By this stage in my life, I could have been a college professor teaching English. Penn State offered to extend my teaching position after I earned my MFA, but I declined. The whole idea of "publish or perish" makes my palms sweat.
For a brief time, after grad school, I lived on the road, taking an aimless trip up the Mississippi with my then-husband, The Seeker. But when our funds ran low, I insisted we go home, get jobs and find an apartment. Of course, he couldn't stay still for very long, which was one of the many reasons we divorced (and of course, his schizophrenia, but that's a story for another day).
Plus, living among hippies, as we were, brought its own set of expectations. They like music but disapprove of television; and especially of people who follow American Idol religiously. And do you know how much work it is sewing your own clothes from hemp?
My next job, after pizza delivery (which I loved, if it hadn't been so hard on my pick-up truck), was at a small local newspaper. My editor said it best during my annual evaluation. He noted that I put a lot of effort into the things I cared about, but I didn't bother with the things I didn't. The problem was, most of my tasks at the newspaper covering accident scenes and borough council meetings didn't interest me. I cared about exercising my creativity, both through feature stories and my weekly columns, where I got free reign to write both serious and humorous columns.
But much as I loved writing columns, the day-to-day newspaper business gave me migraines, so I exited stage left.
After the newspaper job came a thankless stint in the marketing department of a museum, with a boss who thought the way to draw visitors was to use the word "exciting" as often as possible. He also regarded us all as administrative assistants, regardless of our job descriptions. I'd be working hard on a project, and he'd tell me to put it on hold so that I could put together a binder of his personal art collection for an interested buyer. No kidding. When the museum went through a restructuring and laid me off, I was actually relieved. I took that as a sign marketing wasn't for me.
Since then, I've been working a transcription job from my home. At least it's flexible, even if I don't get benefits. I know what's expected of me, unlike my previous job at the museum. It's a way to pay the bills, at least until I finish my book.
The thing is, I probably could have gotten much farther in my writing career by now if I'd gone to literary events and schmoozed, or even avidly sent out my work. I preferred to do things my own way, to refine my writing to a point where I felt good about sending it out. I'm just now reaching a point where I'm comfortable with the idea of leaving my room and talking to the scary people in suits.
I think a lot of that John Lennon song he wrote after the Beatles broke up, "Watching the Wheels." The song talks about how he was stepping back from all the craziness and concentrating on the things that really mattered, like his family.
I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round.
I really love to watch them roll.
No longer riding on the merry-go-round.
I just had to let it go.
I just had to let it go.
So I guess what I'm really saying is I don't care if I have a fancy job and a big car or a Pulitzer. OK, I admit those things would be nice, but they certainly aren't my top priority. I just want to write the things I think need to be written. Hopefully, I'll make some people think, make some people smile.
You know, come to think of it, I probably would have made a good hippie, if I'd only applied myself.
Follow your bliss.