Saturday, January 06, 2007

Curses! Foiled Again!

Dear Annie,

Your bike is my desktop background here. I think about you now every time I see a motorcycle. I also think that there's a lot to take away from your lessons on building a bike. I see that these things apply in my own life a lot. Highlights include a conversation I had with my father just today about taking a step back and re-approaching your problem after a break or a from different perspective and also that there's a certain amount of "either do it right or don't do it at all" in my own work. But that can also haunt you, when put like that. Certainly, one shouldn't expect life to be friendly to permanence.

I think that it's been my turn lately to have life go flying past me. It seems that each day (today included) has had the following form: Got up for work--wanted to sleep in because I didn't get enough sleep--work was hectic and I was thinking about all the things that I needed to do outside of work so I didn't get enough work done, which will make tomorrow hectic as well. After work, the things that I needed to get done were doubled and I only got half of what I intended done, meaning my to-do list is now 50% longer than it was when I started today. By the time I got home, made dinner, and settled in it was midnight and I found myself exhausted. One of the things that is happening now is my application to graduate school, which is not only taking up a lot of my time and energy, but is also stressing me out so much that I can barely think. This is why I could never apply to graduate school before. Each time I attempt it, I end up in panic attacks. Even if I don't get in, having successfully completed the application is going to be such an achievement for me that I really won't mind deferring my application to the following year because at least I'll know that I can complete an application. The GRE is just too much for me to handle, apparently. I'm glad that this program does not require I take it.

Regarding the two Gen-X curses: I think that it's possible to be afflicted by both simultaneously. I don't think that the two are mutually exclusive. For instance, I too am constantly doing something. I almost never get a moment's rest. Celine makes me take days off from time to time because she thinks that I'm over-stimulating myself. TV? Forget it. I can barely take in a movie--my Netflix just sit there all month unwatched (by me, anyway). I'm so busy I have to do two things at once just to keep up. No wonder I feel burned out. But I still don't know what I want to do.

Maybe it's that I don't know what I want to do.

Either way, it's doing something and me not knowing. Or perhaps, as you said, it's not about doing something, but being something. Or maybe just being.

Did I tell you I built a sandbox?

Well, first a retraction--or rather, a modification--of a previous statement. I think that your point about the curse is a good one, so I wanted to better describe what I'm feeling, rather than just to accept that what I'm feeling is crap, which is neither what you meant to imply nor what I was trying to evoke. Much of the time I think that I'm seeking empathy for these feelings. I want to know that I'm not alone and that others also feel this way. Empathy is not hard to find--especially in the case of a generational malaise--but it's very difficult to sustain. Recently, however, I've come to think that seeking empathy actually only leads to disappointment and more isolation, rather than what I intended to find (the exact opposite). More important to my quest is seeking understanding of the curse.

So, I built a sandbox. I built a sandbox because I wanted a place to play and I often don't let myself do it. It's really difficult to maintain the thought that I built it in order to play in because the thought is so new. Also, I've covered over this idea (probably since I was originally playing in sandboxes) with the idea of needing to produce something. I remember even as early as high school having my friends over and telling that we had to "make something" today--even at that age, I wanted a product. It makes me kind of sick, when I look back on it. Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot from doing things that way. I learned how to feed my ambition, I learned how to let an idea grow to its most complex and beautiful form, I learned how to demand of myself things that I wasn't sure that I was able to do. I also learned how to punish myself for things over which I had no control, I learned how to let ideas get out of hand, and I learned how to take what could be a fun thing and turn it into work and drudgery. I learned how not to have fun.

Don't get me wrong; I have a ton of very big ideas for this sandbox. But right now, when people ask me what I'm planning on doing with it, I tell them, "I'm planning on playing in it." My first task with all of this is learning how to play. If I can't play, then I can't have fun. If I'm not having fun, then I can't immediately validate the process of doing anything, since the process, then, has no immediate value. It's very much like Thich Nhat Han's washing-the-dishes anecdote. If my mind is only on the outcome, then I will be miserable.

There's more to this, but it will have to wait for another letter. My sandbox awaits me.



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