|"It is my nature. Would you love me if I was anything but what I am? "|
The above is a quote that was on my monitor for a year. I posted it there almost exactly one year prior to the day of my dismal from my job. The quote and the character, Calypso, were the inspiration for a costume I created and wore at a library event that year. She is a mythological creature captured and trapped in a mortal form to accommodate the lives of men and commerce. They imprisoned her, to better rule the seas that were, prior to her entrapment, full of wildness, unfettered ferocity and danger. In contemplating my word of the year, "clarity" in terms of my work, I recalled this odd and seemingly inconsequential activity and quote. I am seeing it in a new light.
It was suggested that I take this time of unemployment and job seeking to reinvent myself. Library work, which has been the lion's share of my experience in the last 14 years, is not a sustainable focus in these days of budget and service cuts. As I've said repeatedly, you cannot throw a dead cat without hitting an unemployed library worker these days. For the last few weeks, along with submitting my resume and applications to meet the requirements of the unemployment insurance program, I have actually been trying to gain employment and secure interviews. All the while, I am also trying to make some sort of sense out of my situation and create a strategy. Looking back over past year, especially the events surrounding my being laid off, I have have found it necessary to examine my work history and clarify the pattern.
I have always, like my family before me, moved with the work. I'm hard-wired that way. To have found work here in 2004 that I could do well in a place where I actually wanted to be living was nothing short of a miracle to me...perhaps even for my DNA! Moving to Bellingham and working at Wilson Library was the biggest move of my life as far as doing something I wanted to do rather than something I deferred to doing because of circumstance. I was raised to survive, not to live. I really thought I had found a place to work and live that wanted me as much as I wanted it. I was so secure in the knowledge that I was where I was supposed to be that I bought my first home.
Not to put too fine a point on it, there is such a thing as a misspent life. To my credit I have stepped up in a most earnest and well-intentioned way to meet my assignments and, in all, I think that I provided good service to my employers. The misspent part - the part that I have just become aware of in all of this - is that at times the choices that I have made have often been contrary to my nature. It should be noted here that many times I have been simply too dense, high strung or ill-fated to take advantage of the opportunities to change the course of my life that, in hindsight, presented themselves. As well, the only reason that I am able to recognize this nugget of truth now is because I've been laid off and have the time to contemplate these things. It is sort of a good news/ bad news joke in that way as I'm now too old to be anything but my beautiful myself. So this awareness begs the question of just how much truth do I want here? Or, maybe, how much can I handle under these circumstances and still keep my losses at a minimum?
As I wrote out my job history for the past 30 years as was required on an application that I submitted, it became clear to me that I had been quite blessed with opportunities that kept me surviving. I had even worked up a bit of a mojo around it by getting better and better placements one after another! I learned a great deal about the world and meeting other people's expectations, pushing myself beyond my idea of my own limits, making dear friends and enjoying an accolade or two in the process. It was not me, however. It took a while for the real me to get a toehold. The real me writes these posts, waxes philosophical and yearns to engage with those around me in an essential manner. The real me was out in the garage during off hours restoring my strength for that which I felt was my true loyalty: getting to work the next day. I was determined to keep my wild, creative and finer nature under wraps to survive.
Not very many people get to live the ideal lives that we set out to live when we were young and the world was our pearl. Precious few. What is true is that my time to dance on the head of a pin is over. The dancing is for my sons, my grandchildren and my young student friends. I do not feel shirked in any way by fate in this. I write it not in a fatalistic or negative way (though there is some melancholy in the reality of it, in truth) but I am relating this in a weary and exasperated way, as if I at long last turn to face a vicious, slathering demon that has hounded me all of my life - a beast that I thought with every fiber of my being was intent on destroying me and keeping me from gainful employment - only to find that the monster is just an unbridled part of myself that wanted to exist in the world so I could have something more than simple survival...so that I could have love and the pursuit of happiness in my life. I see that now.
This part of myself has obviously found niches and cheated my ramparts to access me and present itself. I have silently cultured it in writing journals, blogging, drawing abstracts, surrendering to music and the love of my family, taking photographs and filming. I will continue to do so but for being called out of my reverie and challenged by the need to survive once more. Artistic and creative pursuits do not bring home the bacon and it was never indicated on any map of the world that I have traversed that art and love would save the day or dinner. Still, I have never let my rumble-spark out of it's hiding place and included it in my quest for lucre before, so who would know? If it wasn't included the contract of what I was selling of myself, who would want to see it? It may be way too late for me to dance but it is not to late to stand up and it is certainly not too late to own up to my error and make adjustments accordingly.
What is clear regarding work is my challenge which appears to be to figure out how to remake myself in such a way that I do not loose more than I can afford to. I submit my applications as required but I yearn to lean into the ear of my prospective employer and ask, "Would you love me if I was anything but what I am...or would you like me to be something different?" Thirty years ago I just might have done it, had it been my fate to dodge a "good" job and the opportunity presented itself. As it is, now I champion anyone with the heart to do so.
Nothing under the sun that happens to a person is an untimely waste. I truly believe (and have good reason to believe) that every moment we are alive is a moment that holds great promise for anyone willing to stop and take advantage of it. Every breath is a gift. Even with my reflections on a misspent life, I do understand that there is no error in it, no sin and no waste. It is not mine to know how or why things play out the way they do. Mine is but to do my best and once I caught on to that fact, I have done so. Over all I have done quite well with what I have had to work with, in my estimation. As I age and become more acquainted with myself, I realize these other options that were hidden from me at the time. I know it sounds trite but every awareness makes itself known in it's own time and its arrival time makes it no less valuable a tool to be used to construct something new. In other words, it may be too late for me to step into my mythological self to grow 300 feet tall and create a maelstrom, but it might not be for someone who reads this.