A friend asked in an email "What do you want?" He meant regarding my job search, but that seemingly small question made me realize how big a question it truly is. The last time I was looking for a job was in 2003. I was getting turned down left and right for my schizophrenic resume: type 100 WPM, law school droput, assorted administrative jobs. I had no conception that I could actually get paid real money to write, let alone be offered the chance to edit books or write a column for one of the premiere alt weeklies in the country. I just wanted to be off unemployment. I was going to bingo and drinking lots of cosmos and pretty much frittering my time away, but also inching toward writing more and more short stories, which is how I wound up working at my last job. That job both rescued me from an extremely tedious typist job where I felt my brain atrophying daily and taught me infinite amounts about how to be a rigorous editor.
Yet now, I'm not sure exactly what I want. I applied for a job that would be stunningly perfect for me in every way, but I'm not holding my breath because I haven't heard anything. When putting together my resume, I realized that between freelancing writing, anthology editing, Sex Diary editing, running In The Flesh and cupcake blogging, I have a wider range of skills than I'd thought, and I think the through line is that I am a good connector and know a lot of people and can access them to write, perform, blog. I've been pushing myself this year with my freelancing to write for new venues, which has yielded pieces in The Root, Salon, and xoJane, and have welcomed the steadiness of my biweekly column for SexIs.
I do welcome a break after 7.5 years, and the question of what I want from a job is one I'm not sure of right now. It also feels a bit like it does regarding dating; it's great to know what I want, but I am clueless about going from knowing that to actualizing it. I can't twitch my nose and make a job or a baby or a clean apartment appear. All require time and dedication and focus, and most of the things I do want to do, like write a novel, require a seclusion and focus that I'm not sure I'm capable of, yet owe it to myself to find out. With 5 weeks left of being 35, I'm still hoping to resurrect this year from its worst moments.
When I think about what I want regarding my personal life, it's also a very challenging question. I am finally moving on from one of the most tumultuous, crazy relationships of my life, and for me moving on means weaning myself from obsessing in my head and online. It means recognizing that if I'm going to find someone who cares about me, I have to not focus on the people that don't.
It also comes with its fair share of atoning, because one of the worst elements of that relationship is that it brought out a side of me I wish didn't exist, but pretending it doesn't exist doesn't make it so. It brought out feelings that I wanted to put back somehow but couldn't, that ran so deep I could never seem to unearth them quite enough to truly destroy them. There's this line in Adele's "Someone Like You" where she sings, "I wish nothing but the best for you, too," and that to me is a goal, like my "Open" tattoo, a state of being I hope to someday get to.
I also don’t want to be someone so broken from her past that she can't move forward. The last two months have shook me in ways that I needed to be shaken, but also showed me that I need to work on myself so I can be in a strong enough place to resist the lure of people who don't have my best interests at heart, whether by nature or design. It was incredibly painful to be in a state where all I saw, everywhere, was, "She's perfect, she's perfect, she's perfect" and I took that to mean, "You're awful, you're awful, you're awful." She deserves 24/7 attention, you deserve nothing. I couldn’t see anything beyond that black and white thinking, and I just focused on the "you get nothing because you deserve nothing" part of the equation. And now I realize maybe I got nothing because that person had nothing to give me. I wasn't useful to them so I was forgotten. Either way, it forced me to focus on the things I can control, which will never been another person. I know and knew that but I let myself forget and fell into this dark hole, to a point where I physically recoiled when I thought about the perfect woman having her perfect life, because it felt so much like, "And this is what you'll never have."
I'm not going to pretend it still doesn't feel like that a little, even though I don't even aspire to her way of life, but I am starting to see that any pain was pain I walked straight into, like walking into a door, and not a clear glass one where maybe you mistake it for air, but a solid, heavy one I willingly flung myself against, thinking maybe, by some fluke, it wouldn't hurt. I'm still here, and as challenging as that was, I have no regrets. Wishes and wistfulness, but not regrets, not for following my heart in its highs and its lows. I think one huge thing 35 has taught me is to never apologize for my emotions, or for sharing them. I can learn from them and not let them control me, but to let myself feel bad for having them is a way to doom myself right from the start.
Instead of asking myself what do I want, I let myself go back to that place I've been trying to move on from, where the tiniest scraps of attention, even negative attention, felt good to me. I forgot somewhere along the way that I not only have to be self-reliant but I have to believe in myself before anyone else will, whether when I apply for jobs or look for dates. It is and will be a long road in that regard, but it's one I think self-employment, for now, will help me with, because every day I have to figure out what I will accomplish and what will make me able to live with myself at night. So many times in the last who knows how many years I've self-sabotaged to a degree that makes it shocking that I even have my name on any bylines. I've looked for ways to fail and talked myself out of every big opportunity that has come my way. Maybe that was my perverse way of forcing myself to seek out my own opportunities and believe both in my ideas and do the painstaking work of seeing them through.
So what do I want? I want to get to a space where I can say, "I wish nothing but the best for you" to everyone I meet and genuinely mean it, myself included. Along with that I want to acknowledge to myself what, essentially, Gretchen Rubin says in The Happiness Project: that "best" is subjective, and so is success. That what might look amazing to one person might feel like nothing to another. That I don't have to instantly compare myself to everyone I see and assume automatically they have a better life than me, are smarter, cooler, whatever. Life isn't about pitting us against one another, or shouldn't be. I have to set goals and then ignore every single other voice, well-intentioned or not, that might get in the way of them. Not ignore everyone altogether, but know that those are my bottom lines.
I'm pretty sure that whatever comes next in both my personal and professional life will again not be the result of some master plan, but fate or the universe or luck, or a combination of all of these. Not because I can't plan, though it's not my strong suit, but because everything I've achieved until now has come about in large part due to those elements. I don't want to get so fixated on "what I want" that I can't be open to things/people/experiences I never thought I'd want but that turn out to be exactly right.
Labels: the future