Nov. 19th, 2009

Huh

Nov. 19th, 2009 12:11 am
arguchik: (Default)
I seem to have fallen out of the LJ habit. I haven't been here for months. Haven't posted anything, haven't read anything, haven't haven't haven't. Coming here just now, I had to log in and I was worried I wouldn't remember my password.

I think I really need to write, but I can't seem to. I've been posting (somewhat sporadically) to my knitting blog, but I keep that one focused on knitting. This venue seems like a good one, but I feel stuck between wanting to just lay myself out naked on the subway platform at rush hour, and worrying that it's all just gratuitous self-indulgent bullshit so why bother putting it down.

I'm all discombobulated. I don't know whether I'm coming or going. My head feels thick. My fingertips are going numb and my knees are twitchy and my jaw muscles ache and I have a bad taste in my mouth.

Screw It

Nov. 19th, 2009 12:32 pm
arguchik: (Default)
I'm just going to indulge my negative self-talk, get it out here where maybe I'll be able to see it properly, and maybe deconstruct it or at least find some way around or through it to an "other side" that must be better than where I am. Somehow. It must. Be. Better. I'm starting to feel a gut deep panic that I am never going to finish my dissertation, that I will spend the rest of my life looking back on this as a fool's errand, a waste of time, money, effort, and emotional energy. That in itself is bad enough, but along with it I feel like I'll never be able to start up a different career, either; that I'll end up stuck in dead-end, low-paying jobs doing work that starves my brain--and I'm just vain enough to think that I deserve better (HA, "deserve"). It's not the money that really bothers me, though I am sick of living like a fucking graduate student, for fuck's sake. I'm sick of being a graduate student. I feel like an idiot, a slacker, a failure, a poser, an object of well-deserved ridicule and derision, unworthy of being taken seriously as a friend or a colleague, and I'm tired of feeling this way.

At the same time, I wonder why in the hell I rejected my father's approach to life. He had his day job, which was "just a job" to him. It ended up resembling a career, but only because he stayed at the same job for the vast majority of his adult, working life. He did not grow up in a time, place, or class that fostered a need to "love," to feel "called," or even to enjoy the work he did for money. It was always just a paycheck to him, a way to stay fed and clothed, and to feed and clothe his family--in short, a means to the end of security, and he was FINE with that. At the same time, because he stayed at the same job for so long, he got raises, he saved scrupulously toward retirement, and he was also able to afford his hobbies, i.e. his real career, which was entirely separate from his job. He always said that he didn't want to do the things that he loved doing, for money--that getting paid for, say, his woodworking, would take all of the fun out of it. There is something to that. I feel that way about knitting--I am extremely wary of people who urge me to knit on commission. I don't want to turn myself into a knitwear production machine--I enjoy knitting precisely because it is agenda-less; I don't have to knit anything I don't want to knit. Why are we so eager to turn our beloved activities, whatever they are, into wage slavery? Probably because doing work that's meaningful or fun makes wage slavery feel like something else, something other than what it is. And maybe that's not a good thing: just so much mystification and reification, and our direct complicity in that. At the same time, I would much rather spend my working life--since it is also the majority of my waking life--doing something that doesn't suck, that gives me something beyond wages, so there's that. It's a paradox I can't really resolve: in order to critique mystifying, reifying cultural practices, I have to work through structures that require me to avoid demystifying them.

Ahem. Where was I?

As a kid, all I saw was my dad's lack of ambition. I didn't understand, then, that he came from a socioeconomic class that was far lower than the one he enjoyed as an adult--and it's not that we were well off, or anything. But my father experienced real hunger as a child; real poverty and the social stigma and persecution that went with it, of a kind that I can only imagine--thanks largely to his efforts. Someone who grows up through something like that...sure, we all know the fairytale about the billionaire who came from humble beginnings and clawed his way to wealth, or whatever; but I think stories like my dad's are far more common. He made his way upward in the class structure, sure, but he remained acutely aware of how fucking easy it is to lose everything--because he was old enough to actually remember the Great Depression, having come of age in the thick of it. His focus was not on climbing further, flying higher, but rather on building a fortress for himself and his family, a foundation and 4 secure walls to ward off the constant threat of loss and desperation.

So in addition to feeling all manner of crappy described above, I also feel like...well, frankly, like I should have listened to my father, followed his example. What is this "something" we are all encouraged to want to "make" of ourselves, anyway? Why do we feel so compelled to do that through capitalist frames and structures? But I can't seem to move past it. I want it, despite wishing I didn't and feeling like I don't have what it takes. I turn to things that give me a quick fix of feel-good: TV and movies, because they pull me into a narrative that's going somewhere, unlike my own; knitting projects that test and stretch my skills; spinning my wheels on the internets. These are all leading me nowhere (except knitting, which gives me a real sense of accomplishment, albeit not the accomplishment of finishing my dissertation, which is what I'm really hungry for--in that sense, it is often mainly a diversion), and in their aggregate ultimately make me feel worse about my life and my choices. I don't drink to excess, I don't do drugs, I don't overeat...but all this stuff has a narcotic effect on me just the same, pacifying me and distracting me, however fleetingly, from feeling this emptiness and longing--and thereby sparing me from actually doing anything about it. And there's that voice hammering against the inside of my forehead, "I should know better; I have been down this road to nowhere before, and the only way I got off it back then was by crashing my "car" into a "tree" and chopping my way through the thick underbrush until I came to my current path." And that's the problem: what I call my "current path" really isn't, anymore. I left it a couple of years ago, and since then I've been standing next to my broken down car on this fucking main highway, my hazard lights flashing as I wait for some kind of roadside assistance that isn't forthcoming and probably doesn't exist, because I somehow can't comprehend, can't believe, that I have to go hacking through the forest again. (So it comes back around to egotism again...shame and guilt are twisted like that, I guess.) And yet, in truth I don't know why I feel any reluctance about diving back into the proverbial forest. The time I spent doing that, before, was perhaps the best time of my life. I felt alive and fulfilled. You'll probably think I'm romanticizing it--and of course I am, to an extent, because how does one not?--but I have pages and pages of handwritten journal entries to bolster my claim that, even when things were difficult and I was prostrate with grief, or whatever, I loved every minute of my life, and I was perfectly content to focus on the individual steps rather than worrying that they might not lead me to a place I wanted to go. I did not doubt myself because I loved what I was doing. Every day was an adventure, and I felt free. Now I just feel thick and slow, earthbound, static, MEH.

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