Monday, March 7, 2011

From here to where?

One of the hardest parts of trying to move myself forward toward something better, or at least different, from where I am at now is knowing where I want to go and what I plan on doing when I get there. I mean this both literally, in terms of where in the world I want to be, and also as a metaphor for where I am trying to get to in life.

And sometimes I think, for me, those are actually the same thing.

It has been a long, long time since I had any clear career goals. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was around 7, and kept at it until I was 15 or 16. At that point, I was working on the school literary magazine, and generally getting a lot of positive feedback, along with some helpful criticism.

Then several things happened, one after another in a short period of time, that stopped me in my tracks:

My parents got into my private journals, which were not for public consumption at all-- not everything written, even in a diary, is true. Sometimes there's a lot of debris in there as you excavate the truth from the dark places you've been hiding it from yourself. Also, my frank descriptions of my early sexual experiences freaked my parents out. My father, in particular, was quite nasty because I was writing things that he said were inappropriate for a young lady to even be thinking about.

Then I attempted to write something that was more like what my peers were writing for the literary magazine, as a sort of experiment in writing what I thought they might like to read. My dad read it and called it tripe, lecturing me on how bad it was and how much better I could do. I was crushed. I could take an honest critique, but what he said didn't feel like it was about my work. It was really about me.

Kids know that their parents will say everything they do is wonderful, and that sometimes the praise is a loving lie. That doesn't mean they don't want to hear it. But that wasn't my dad's way. Even when we were very little, he'd never let us win a game, and he wasn't about to let me write crap. If I had a reason for writing that way, he didn't want to hear it. I suppose he expected me to rise to the challenge, but instead, I simply shut down and didn't write another word outside of a (well-hidden) diary for years.

And then The Bad Things happened. I was shattered. At first I was a lunatic, raging against God and Fate and myself-- myself more than anyone-- but when the rage in me went quiet, when it was over for everyone else, I was still broken on the inside. Despite the image of the suffering artist, I didn't find anything to draw on in all that misery. I just found emptiness, and nothing ever came floating out of the void. Perhaps I just felt like I didn't deserve any success or happiness ever again.

I have talked to people (friends, loved ones and paid professionals) about The Bad Things, and at this point, I don't want to do that any further. I've made my peace and it is only now, 24 years later, that I have been able to give myself permission to move on. I was shattered, and now that I have all my pieces in one basket, I'd like to concentrate on the gluing and not so much on the breaking. Don't ask about The Bad Things. I only mention that time as something that came between me and writing.

Now, when I am looking backward and forward, trying to find out who I am and what my part in this world will be, I feel like I should want to write for a living. I just don't know if I do.

On the other hand, my aunt took me to France and England when I was 12, and every single second of every single day since then, I have wanted to leave the US again, to be among people different from what I've always known, not just to drop in for a tour, but to live, maybe for a year or two at a time. Even longer than that, from my first discovery of Spanish when we were in San Antonio when I was 6 or 7, I've wanted nothing more than to know other languages from the inside out, which begs for travel. These are passions that have never ceased to burn inside me. Unfortunately, this is an end that needs a means, which brings me back to the career question.

So where do I go from here? Obviously, the ideal thing would be to build a movable career, something that can travel with me no matter where I end up going. Writing would be perfect, if I could figure out how to make money doing it. Or perhaps there's some other portable career I haven't even thought of. While I am figuring that out, I will just write. I will sit down and write something every day. If writing isn't my thing, perhaps I will gain some insight from the exercise anyway.

I will also spend some time researching what kinds of other careers might allow me to work from wherever I might find myself.

As far as what locations I might end up visiting, I think the best thing I could do for now is to be a tourist in this country and Canada, to see what there is to see. I've never even been to New York City. And I'd like to dip my toes in the Pacific. Those are things I could perhaps do even as I work on a career and try to save up every penny I can for more distant adventures.

I thought perhaps a couple of months in Quebec as a visiting tourist might be good for a trial run at living with a different language and culture. I am pretty confident in my ability to learn passable (survival) French, as I've studied it before. Quebec City is within reasonable driving distance of our home base here (~14 hours) and our families in Delaware (~12 hours).

But that is all so distant. The first problem, the most immediate problem, is how to earn a living. That's the first step on the path from here to there.

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