Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Vacancy

I sat on the bed this morning, intermittently tinkering with my hair and applying my makeup, getting ready for work. Billy left HGTV on when he went to the shower, so I heard Bob Vila's replacement detailing the renovation of somebody's old house. All of the guys doing in the work in the home caressed the old hardwood floors lovingly, sanding out the grooves and stains of a hundred years, making it all new again. When they ran out of time, a gardening show came on. A plump woman in her forest of roses talked about being a prize-winning gardener, chatting with the host of the show about how to grow your own menagerie of flowers, finding the species indigenous to your area instead of the ones you want to grow. She held out her little hand and grasped the head of the rose closest to her as she spoke, fondling its petals with her stubby fingers, the pride evident in her voice. Last night, Billy's cousin was over, and we sat in the kitchen over a grilled dinner and talked about work. He feels guilty, he says, for getting paid for what amounts to what feels like playing with computers all day. He's actually doing something he loves, so much so that it doesn't feel like work.

I don't love what I do. Not enough, anyway, to feel guilty for getting paid to do it. And I can't refinish ancient hardwood floors, and I don't get my manicured hands in the dirt, I don't dabble in flora and fauna. I don't have anything I'm passionate about. Besides this.

And events in my recent history have stifled my ability to talk about it. Bragging about my blog, as silly and self-absorbed as it is, has only gotten me into trouble. So I don't talk about it. Better to not mention it than run the risk of yet another person reading it and getting offended.

So that just leaves me with work. And I think: Do I want to do this for the rest of my life? Writing out paychecks and enter bills into a computer? Looking forward to managing payroll? But then what? What is it that I'd rather be doing instead? The sad truth of it is, I don't know. There's nothing that captures my attention, my passion, my soul. Nothing that I can actually see myself doing. And if I have no clear designs of something else, why rock the boat?

I go through this a few times a year. I look at my life, my 25th year, take stock in all I have and what I do and decide that it's not enough. That I should quit work and go back to school. Find something, some career that challenges me beyond logging checks properly into the computer. Go and learn something. I loved school. I could meet people. I could better myself. And at least then, when someone asks me where I went to college, I wouldn't have to hit them with my well-rehearsed speech about going part time to West Point Military Academy, where Mount Saint Mary's college offered courses on post, taught by West Point professors, accelerated courses that saw me through my technical junior year, where I finally quit because I was going to get married and couldn't juggle classes and planning a wedding. I wouldn't have to say that I took a year off and never quite got back into the swing of things...All just to avoid the half-truth that I really didn't go.

I know I'm smart enough to do whatever I want. I lack no faith in my mental capacity for knowledge, for learning, for comprehension. The problem with all of this second guessing and worrying and thinking about change is that I just can't give it up. I can't give up my free time, the extra money in my checking account. The feeling of independence I have. The fact that if it doesn't work out with Billy, I'll have my own funds to fall back on. The fact that I may need a new starter on my car, and I don't have to worry about how I'll pay for it, or worry about asking someone to help me. I guess, more appropriately, I don't want to.

Perhaps the problem with quitting now and diving back into school would be admitting that I made the wrong choice all those years ago. It would be me saying I was wrong. That I should've gone straight to college from high school, as scared of it as I was. That I shouldn't have dropped out when I was planning to get married. Or, at the very least, I should've gone back. Leaving what I do now behind and moving on would be tantamount to saying I'm not happy with the way things are, that I've made bad choices. That I'm not proud of who I am. And it hurts too much to say that, out loud or implied.

What I'd like to do, all I'd like to do, is this: Write. And I'd like to be allowed to be proud of it, to talk about how thrilling it is to write something really good, to get comments, to find a site that's linked me. I'd like to write about posting my new Perm Picture, about my borderline funny entries, my sad ones, everything. But I just feel like I can't. Because this is such a source of controversy. Save for my mother and a few friends, I leave this blog out of my conversations entirely.

I need a hobby. Something I'm good at that I can talk about. A writing class. A green thumb. A flair for computers. A sure hand with a sander. Something. Because that something is missing right now. And that emptiness is tangible. The space where some passion should lie is hollow, throbbing with its own vacancy. I need an occupant.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It took you a while, but you are finally realizing something we all realize, some earlier, some later. For me it happened a lot later, in my 40's....so YOU are ahead. Just look at it that way.....AND we all make wrong choices....how else are we supposed to learn the life lessons we are supposed to learn?Welcome to the grown up world of questions, wishes, hopes and dreams we are not sure of....
DNR

kate said...

i completely understand laurie. i feel like there is something missing from my life too. granted, i'm not in a relationship the way you are, but it's something more than that. i do the same things every day of my life and i'm bored. i need more stimulation. more challenges. just more.

now the question is what.

Cheetarah1980 said...

Laurie,
Where you are at this moment, I'm standing there with you. I too, had the epiphany that something was sorely missing from my professional life. Sure, I like my job, and the paycheck is nice, but there's no passion behind anything I do. I do my job, and that's about it.
The thing is, I started my "career" right out of college, and it turned out to be the wrong thing for me. So now I have all these attachments (house, bills, expenses) that are tied to maintaining the status quo. But the status quo is killing me, so I've got to have faith that making a change won't cause my entire world to topple in on me. I know what I want to do with my life now. I know where my passion lies. I want to write. Every time I blog, every time I submit an essay to my editor for my weekly column in a tiny small town newspaper, I know that this is what I'm supposed to do. It doesn't even feel like work. It's just joy.
You seem to love to write, and to be honest, you're damn good at it. So screw it and explore your passion. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that you went down the wrong path and want to back track. That's what life is about. You're only 25. Who says that your life has to be set already? PLEASE explore your talents and see where they lead. Even if it's only a hobby and not what you get paid to do, be proud and happy about it. Stop worrying about offending people and share what you love with EVERYONE. Some will love it, others will hate it. But that's alright as long as you write on your own terms. I absolutely love your blog and will now stop rambling.

Casey said...

I understand, Laurie. Maybe you could explore writing fiction? People seem to have a problem with your blog, not because you write, and not because you enjoy it, but because they're not ready to hear the truth about how you feel. In particular, about them.

All fiction is steeped in reality. The names and places change, but the stories - the feelings - are the same. Use your talent in a way that saves you the grief of other people's reactions - at least somewhat. Try a novel. Base it on your life. Take the chance to make different choices, and see where it leads you.

Tiffany said...

I'll just say ditto to all that was said before me and this... I started my "career" at 19 and I'm not sure it's the correct one for me. I've been not sure for several years but I'm afraid to give up the security, financial and otherwise.

If I had done something about it at 25 (even something small) I'd be a lot closer now at 27. Just something to think about.

reddirtroad said...

Laurie,
I was faced with the same crossroads when I was rounding 25. Having been working fulltime since I was 14, I was really scared to go back to being a student. I, too, was worried about "admitting that I made a wrong choice" when I didn't go back the following year. But I was also worried about being 30 and still in the same boat as I was in at that point. So, I looked at my support system, looked over my options and chose something that was challenging and interesting to me. I lived on a busspass, rice and cigarettes but managed to keep my own place. I ate over at Mum's once or twice a week. I never once woke up with an epiphany about my career but I can say that I woke up one day and was scared that I would be forever circling crappy jobs in the classifieds.

portuguesa nova said...

Stop the presses. I don't want to be a poop, but my last job was editing and writing and I came to the conclusion that the sort of writing that pays a living wage is of the variety that will squash any passion you have for actual "writing" writing.

That said, I say, find a job that you love just enough not to squash your passion and talent and motivation for writing.

Amber said...

I love the way you write, Laurie. You have such a way of turning a phrase, of describing something so perfectly.

And according to these comments, I'm not the only one who sat back while reading your post and wondered "Hello?! How about writing?"

While it's true that sometimes trying to make a living out of what you love can turn that initial adoration into obligation, I think your dedication to your blog shows that you don't necessarily have to fear that.

I just think it would be a shame if someone with your talent didn't try to take it as far as you could.

tumbleweed said...

why does it have to be all or nothing with school? I've been chipping away at a B.A. degree (not with any career goals in mind, but just because, like you I like school) for years...part time. And no one pays my bills but me :) And I have plenty of free time. It's hard work, but totally doable. Also, there's all sorts of classes you can take that aren't necessarily academic/college either...you can take community ed classes, art classes, dance classes too. just a thought.