Wednesday, September 30, 2009

all the words in my head tonight, apparently

I smoked my last cigarette Sunday, sitting on the back steps of my apartment building during the one sunny morning we've had in this (so far) grey autumn. A friend asked me the night before if I were nervous about running out, and I won't deny there was a slight pang as I neared the end of the pack but really I felt good about it. I was smiling when the last butt went over the railing, and it's been two days and I haven't even wanted one too badly. So hurrah.

This month is a series of endings and beginnings, really. Last cigarettes and meetings with the many friends who are leaving for warmer climes; first rehearsals, concerts, and cold days. Most of it's neither good or bad, really. Every story can be told in an infinite number of ways, and the way I tell them to myself changes from moment to moment. I can be simultaneously happy for loved ones heading out for San Francisco and Texas and sad that I won't be seeing them as regularly, happy to stop smoking while still being nostalgic about my back steps in the sunlight.

I think the reason I can't pull this together in a nice little package is that life isn't like that right now. It's messy. There are roasted chickpeas and Beethoven symphonies and glitter, long days and longer nights and bone-deep exhaustion and fierce joy, and all of these things are wonderful and beautiful but so divergent that I sometimes feel like my life has exploded like some sort of celestial body and all the different parts of myself are getting farther and farther apart and hence harder to connect. That sounds a little uncomfortable, and sometimes it is, but I'm trying to be all Pollyanna about it and focus on the positive: I'd far rather be scattered and happy than focused and miserable.

As I get older, I'm feeling more pressure to figure out what exactly it is that I'd like to do. It seems that society would like there to be one singular thing that becomes my career, the thing I do well enough to get paid for that hopefully doesn't make me want to scream and curl into a ball on the floor. This hypothetical career should be upstanding, something my mother can talk about without wincing or making excuses for, and it should pay enough that I can someday become a solvent old person who doesn't have to eat cat food to survive. None of this is stated outright, but I think that's the gist of what my parents--who I am totally not snarking at: their tolerance of my lack of path is actually rather outstanding--and various other concerned people are getting at when they gently ask me what I'm doing next. I have, I like to point out as I sweep the floor at work, two college degrees, so what happens now?

The problems with all of this are many. My two degrees are a) in a field that I no longer want to pursue professionally, and b) in a field that is practically useless when you try to apply it towards any other sort of career path. A master's in music performance won't even get you a job at Whole Foods, and I know because I tried. (Actually, it won't even get you an interview. It feels really awesome to finish your sixth year of college and then get rejected by a grocery store.) And beyond the whole "college degree" issue, there's the fact that, really, I'm much happier doing several things part of the time than one thing all of the time. My metaphorical closet is very full of hats at this point, so why wouldn't I want to put as many of them as possible to use? Sure, it may be tiring, but it makes for some really great stories. But still, sometimes I wonder.

When I was walking through the Minneapolis airport six weeks ago on my way home from Alaska, jet lagged and probably still a little drunk from my stint at the Anchorage Chili's the night before (I mean, what else could I do before a hellish overnight trip except get drunk by myself at a horrible chain restaurant at the airport? Christ.), I had what I might have considered an epiphany had I been solidly in my right mind instead of jetlagged and mentally devastated. I was walking around, searching desperately for a bagel--the only craving I had at that early hour--when I looked out a window at the sunrise and a voice inside my head, clear as a bell, said "Go to grad school again." Because I was, frankly, kind of fucked up, I laughed and said to the voice "Oh yeah? For what? Do tell." But I think that sums it up. Something needs to happen. Is it grad school? Is it not? Is school a total pack of bullshit and should I dedicate my life to reading and liminal ill-paying jobs? So many paths, and what do I choose? Absolutely no clue.

I don't know where I'm heading with all this, either in life or in this too-long and unfocused post. What is this about, anyway? Smoking? Being busy? Life goals? Odd interior voices? I don't know. But it's time for my next rehearsal, so here I go again.


Mug-z said...

I'm going to run with the clothes metaphor and say there's no problem at all with having more than one style, no matter how confused it might make other people. As long as you're happy, of course. An exploded celestial body just means you have a whole galaxy to explore.

Anonymous said...

I'm going through some stuff in my own head lately - nothing I could or will talk about with anyone, although I can't seem to stop cryptically alluding to it (ugh) - and I came across this post. This particular post really resonated with me for two reasons - (1) it has a lot of similarities to how I've been feeling: that some change needs to happen, but that in so many ways I am still blessed (though I wouldn't call myself a supernova as of yet - I do a lot more hiding than living/exploding) and (2) the writing here is much more focused than you think it is; in fact, it's quite beautiful. I just felt the need to say *something* in response. I think what you need will come to you as long as you continue to fumble toward it with all your might...and it may be a clear path or several diverging roads.

hannah said...

hi! we had a telephone run in last night. It was strange and nice to collide in a new medium.

I'm writing because like the above I fully support all that stuff about wandering (I just learned that the word tortuous actually doesn't apply to being tortured at all, just to winding, like a path) but I also would say that if you're using the word liminal in a blog post... well liminal is not a word to be used lightly. I looked it up and it means, not just the in-between space, as I thought it did, but "the threshold and the initial stage of a process." I don't know anything about you. But if your words are on the threshold, it might be a good time to follow through.

Rosiecat said...

Of course I have to throw my two cents into the pot on this post! This piece seems very tightly focused on the larger issue of not being focused in life. You wrote it well, my dear! The celestial body line was awesome.

I would ask you the question my therapist asked me over and over again during our sessions: what do you NEED? Do you need to be more focused? Do you need to make more money or feel more secure? Do you need to have a job that society respects? Of course you can replace the word "need" with the word "want" as well, just to start getting a sense of what direction you might take with all these questions.

And about those cigarettes, I applaud your honesty about your feelings. At the same time, I'm so proud of you for quitting. Keep up the not-smoking!