Superselves 101

My most distinguishing characteristic is that I never seem to stick. I’ve drifted through jobs, cities and relationships with only the briefest sense of commitment (but with plenty of anxiety). And through all the years, I’ve imagined that I would find the one great big fulfilling thing that would give my life structure and meaning.

Several years ago, I lived in Alaska, where I worked at the public broadcasting station and hosted a weekly radio show called Trashville. The format of the show was me reading a script and playing music that either related to the theme lyrically, or set the mood, like a soundtrack. I loved music, but never committed to learning to play an instrument. What I really wanted to do was sing, but had no talent for that. I did have some ability to write, though, so I wrote scripts for this show and they more or less amused me.  I was on late on Sunday nights, after This American Life.  I received few calls, other than from creepy cab drivers, and played all the characters myself. Someone once called just to say that I had the worst fake Southern accent he’d ever heard.

It was fun. Kind of. There were a few times when my name was recognized by random people in town and I felt like a minor celebrity. I entertained the idea of improving the production value of the show and trying to get it syndicated. Several people told me they wanted to work on it, but when the time came to actually do the show, they all wanted to stay home and be warm on Sunday nights. So after a while, I just faded out of it. I resented having a weekly obligation to host a show, just like I used to resent having to go to school, or have a job. Or call a family member.

This is just one item on a list of things I’ve almost done with my life. The truth is, the mental activity of always figuring out what I should be doing with my life is what I’m doing with my life. And when I ask myself what I should be doing, what I’m really asking is, “who will I be?” Will I be a quirky radio host? A quiet but witty playwright, always elegantly dressed and probably sipping something boozy? Or should I accept my need for financial stability and embrace the idea of being a business woman? This, of course, would entail the purchase of several business-like accessories.

At times I get all mystical and imagine myself as a pastor, or a nun. I put hours of work into researching what I would have to do to get the training and credentials, and how admirable it would be for me to volunteer in soup kitchens. I could single-handedly revolutionize the Catholic church by being brazenly feminist yet traditionally devout. I would start a group, I would be a leader, I would write books and schedule speaking engagements.

The problem, or course, is that none of this is real. These fantasies of who I might be end with me still sitting at the computer, having accomplished nothing of substance. It’s a little like when you dream that you’ve woken up and taken a shower, and then you really wake up and realize that you overslept.


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Filed under Creativity, Culture, Education, Uncategorized, Work

Lightning Strikes the Tower

I wish the government would stop making feeble attempts to patch up a sick system. Let the old institutions die, and maybe we’ll be forced to come up with creative new ways to live. If technology has made everything faster and easier, I don’t understand why I still have to sit at a desk all day. Unless it’s to let my spine warp, my arteries harden, and my tunnels carpal so that I’m forced to spend money on health care. That must be it. Not everyone dreams of having a marriage, a mortgage, a baby and a car. Some days I want nothing more than fresh air. I want to walk barefoot through a forest and spear a fish for dinner. I want to be so grateful for each new day that I’m up to watch the sun rise. I have civilization sickness.

Sadly, I missed a rare opportunity to slip off the grid. Years ago, I was on Greyhound from San Francisco to Chattanooga and met a Blackfoot Indian chief returning from a ceremony in Utah. He was carrying the skull of a buffalo wrapped in a sheet, and explained that he had just performed a ceremony in which the enormous skull was hooked to his back on chains while he pulled it around in a Utah desert. It was a ritual of sacrifice, an offering of flesh which is the only thing one can really own. He told me about his home in Missouri, where he had several breeder wives working to repopulate his tribe. I told him I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but that I often felt pulled toward Tennessee. He said he knew of some kind of commune there started by a guy named Sun Frog. I never did knock on Sun Frog’s door. I was too shy, and besides, I felt like I had done the communal living thing with my anarchist friends in SF. Group showers aren’t for me.

Two weeks later, I found myself in Alaska, and while I was moved by it’s wild beauty, I still found myself needing the money that came with sitting at a desk for eight hours straight. I’m caught in some hideous limbo between hating the dull routines of society but not being brave enough to be a full-time wild animal. If humans are the bridge between nature and spirit, what is the point of business? Why trade time for imaginary dollars and store the data on a plastic card? How many years before I figure out how to live in this world?

Anyway, if you run into a guy named Yellow Hand and he’s lugging a malodorous skull, tell him to email me.

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Filed under Capitalism, Civilization Sickness, Work

So You Want to Find a Job: 6 Tips

Some say that looking for a job is the hardest job you will ever have. This is a myth; working the coal mines of Harlan County is the hardest job you will ever have. I’ve been conducting extensive research in the field to help guide you toward being a productive, tax-paying, pillar of the community.

1. Impulsively quit the job you already have, even if it’s perfectly good, you like 90% of your co-workers, and you have your own office with a door. It’s clearly stifling your creative potential.

2. The internet has made the job hunt so much easier. Now you can instantly submit your resume with the press of a button, along with four thousand and fifty ambitious young candidates.

3. Try to find a job as a politician, so you can vote to give yourself a raise. These jobs are listed under the “government” section of craigslist.

4. Avoid responding to any ads from Harlan County, even if they promise the potential to work from home, making hundreds of dollars a week just by sending email!!! It’s a trap.

5. If you’re the humanitarian type, you cand find a rewarding career by getting an advanced degree in social work and eventually earning $12 an hour. Don’t worry about paying back your student loans. Karma will take care of it.

6. Try to marry a rich old man. This can work for men too, especially the kind of men who wax their ass cheeks.

If you still can’t find a job, you can live on love. Love will feed you and put gas in your car and pick up feminine hygeine products from Walgreen’s. If you can’t find love, listen to country music.

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Determining the value of dance in the universal equation.

One of the characteristics of my personal brand of crazy is that I am constantly conducting interviews in my head. It’s kind of like having a song stuck in your head, only it’s an extended Q & A session with say, Jon Stewart, or Charlie Rose as I’m driving to work.  And in the shower. And toasting bagels, and collecting the mail or any of the other maddening tasks that make up a day. It doesn’t have to be an interview, necessarily, just some situation in which I’m asked my opinion. I’m a self-proclaimed expert on everything.

The other night after watching So You Think You Can Dance, I was pretending to be one of the judges and imagining all the insightful things I would say to the dancers. I don’t know jack about professional dance technique, but the real experts tend to spew only drivel, so that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

What inspired my imaginary critique was a young break dancer named Legacy. During his audition, he spun all over the stage, fast light, and upside-down. And what usually happens when you a see a great break-dancer is that you ask yourself, “Sure, but can he foxtrot?” The competition will force him to do that and other antiquated ballroom traditions. Many a street dancer has wept in the face of the quickstep.  But as this season unfolds, Legacy has devoted himself to the art of dance like a true disciple.  He has mastered contemporary and bested Broadway. And this week, he used the Paso Doble to focus his passion like a laser. I envy him for knowing his purpose in life.

Legacy’s partner, Kathryn, was introduced to the television viewing audience through a montage of high-pitched sobbing scenes. Whenever she was asked a question, her voice would raise with emotion into a series of poodle-like yelps. My expectations were low for her. She was too soft, she would melt under Legacy’s laser beam focus.

That turned out not to be the case. Kathryn was the embodiment of female seductive power in the Paso Doble, with an emphasis on power. She swirled around the stage like a very pretty tornado. So what I wanted to say, in my imaginary critique, was that the two of them had succeeded in taking raw emotion and shaping it into something beautiful. Which is the very definition of art, in my opinion. I wish I knew people who liked to talk about this stuff. You know, the shaping of emotion into art as evidenced by hopeful dance show contestants.

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Filed under Creativity, Culture, Imaginary Conversations