Friday, June 6, 2008

Successful young people make me angry.

It's true. And it's nothing new, either. It's not some result of me turning the corner of the decade trifecta and becoming bitter over active twenty-somethings. No, this is actually a lifelong affliction.

When I was a kid, I'd hear about child prodigies and I'd think, well damn, I'm useless. I should probably just give up. I mean, I'm already nine and I haven't earned a degree, written a novel, become a chess expert, composed a symphony - nothing! But nothing! I'd think things like, well if I don't have at least one sonata under my belt by the time I'm 18, then I might as well just forget about it. All of it. Everything. A worthless child I was, indeed.

And it didn't help that there was Dougie Howser, rubbing it in all of our faces. Ooh, look at the big shot - ooh, he survived cancer and became a doctor. Well ain't he special.

I of course had secret plans to become a pop star, but unfortunately I didn't exactly have the kind of mother that would primp me up and bring me out for Mickey Mouse Club auditions. I was going to be a writer too, except for that part about writing stuff down and letting other people read it. I was going to be an artist, though the parts where I would make art didn't really come to fruition; I mean, there were kids in my art class that drew so much better than me! What was the use in even trying?

So there went my adolescence: another decade gone. And I still wasn't magically a famous... something! What the hell was going on? And why would I even bother trying, since at twenty I still hadn't gotten anything done, but 14-year-olds were producing albums and starring in movies and writing doctoral theses? That I was useless was painfully obvious.

Through my twenties, it was just the endless parade of... not graduating. People around me graduated. My friends who'd been one grade below me in high school earned their bachelor's degrees... and then master's. So did friends that had been two grades below. Me? Seven and a half years for one completely useless B.A. It's not even printed on nice paper.

And there's now. Ok. Fine. I'm 30. And I don't have a career. I still haven't directed a movie or earned a Nobel prize or become an internationally famous recording artist. Duh. Do you have to keep rubbing it in already? Jesus. At least once a week, I meet someone who's at least five years my junior (and often significantly more) who's doing something that I would like to be doing but still don't have the skills for. Yeah, I can sing, but I can't write songs. Maybe I can paint, but no one cares yet. As far as writing goes, I chose to major in Geography (which at the time seemed more practical than English), so any real employment in, say, editing orcopywriting is right out. And I'm too chickenshit to submit anything to journals or publishers, so I just blurt it out here on the internet hoping that someone will stumble upon it. Pitiful, no?

I could curate an art show, I swear! But I don't have an art degree. I could do a lot of things, if given the opportunity. I have done a lot of things, actually; they're just not things that I actually want to do, save the artisan work. (By the by, I can wire a chandelier, gild, apply faux finishes, and do any number of things... I just can't give you a reference for the work that I did because I worked for a crazy lady.) I'm somewhat crippled by the fact that I still haven't picked upPhotoshop or InDesign or Quark; that's a whole other ball of wax. I tried! My school drowned! It's not my fault...

One of the main problems that I've run into is this: you can have time, and you can have money, but you sure as hell can't have both. Basically, if you have enough money to, say, go back to school, you only have that money because you're working like 60 hours a week. But in a classic catch 22, if you're working 60 hours a week, you can't possibly entertain the notion of going to school, even if you're healthy, which I'm not. Contrariwise , if you're, I dunno, working three nights a week at a coffee shop, you may have enough time to think about school. But you're not making enough money to even pay rent, much less health insurance and rent on your studio and then tuition on top of it.

At times, it feels like I will pay for the poor choices, disadvantages, bad luck, and yes, sometimes sheer laziness of my past forever. I've spent a hundred hours or more since I moved to New York trying to figure out how to go back to school for something, but in the end it always comes back to the same answer: if I don't want to go into serious debt with loans, it just isn't going to happen. Living in the black is extremely important to me, and there's the very real possibility that even if I do take out loans and get another degree, I'll end up exactly where I am now - jobless and borderline unemployable - only with major debt to show for all my hard work. Frankly, that's not exactly where I'm looking to be at 35.

Anybody have a magic solution? In lieu of a solution, I'd be willing to consider a time machine.


Thomas Peri said...

No magic solutions, but one thing sticks out. You say, "I'm too chickenshit to submit anything to journals or publishers..." That strikes me as the obvious problem to address first.

What do you mean by "too chickenshit"? Do you mean that your writing is good and might be published, but you're afraid of rejection?

Or does it mean that you know for a fact, for measurable reasons, that your writing is so bad that no one would publish it?

Or does it mean that because you know that your writing isn't good enough for a certain publisher, you don't want to bother submitting to anyone else either?

Also, if your lament is that you're not successful at anything, then you're just wrong. I bet if you stop concentrating so hard on the things you *haven't* done, you'll be able to count more things you're succeeding at than you've got fingers.

Success is an ongoing thing. Put your failures aside. Put your disadvantages aside. What *have* you accomplished? A lot. And you can keep doing that. The key to being happy about it is to notice when you do succeed.

jinx. said...

i know it, i know it, i know it.