AmbitionThis topic has come up in several different ways in the last week, so I guess that means I really have to write about it, to explore my feelings and the indications of what God/Fate might be trying to tell me by placing this particular theme in my path on so many occasions.
The first time it popped up was when I was reading other blogs and things, in which people have mentioned various dreams and ambitions that they harbor, realistic or otherwise. In many of the 100 Things about 100 Bloggers lists, I encountered several statements of "I want to..." or "I dream of someday..." or "I one day hope to..." — and there were no such statements in my list. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the things that is wrong with me right now is that I have no dreams: there is nothing that I specifically want to do in the future, nothing particular at which to aim. I began to wonder if that is the genesis of this listless, floaty feeling I've had for the last year... it seems that not only do I seldom think about the future, I am in a deeper sense completely futureless.
Earlier this week, when I was talking to Fred on the phone, I was laughing about a mutual acquaintance of ours (whom we did not like) who had once puffed himself up with big plans to be a great computer programmer and software mogul... the laugh stemming from the fact that he appears to still live in his mother's house (which is why I still see him every now and again, since his mother lives near my Grandmother) and that the world is filled with poor computer programmers. From there we talked about all the high-falutin' dreams that people had when we were all young together, and how drearily those dreams failed to come to pass. There was a boy who was going to be a great couture fashion designer, and when last heard from he worked for Levi Strauss, fine-tuning and reinventing Dockers. There was one who intended to be a great stage actress, and who is now a mother of two and runs an unlicensed daycare center out of her home. And there was Fred himself (though I didn't mention this during the conversation), who had intended to become a multilingual interpreter, visiting countries all over the world and living a generally glamorous life... and he works for a cell-phone company in Manassas VA.
But I didn't really have those rich-and-famous glamorous dreams, myself... my only desire was to be comfortable and free... and I've already pretty much achieved that (though I could certainly do with more money, and rather more independence). I had some pipe-dream fantasies in my youth, but I never really tried to do anything about them. It all seemed to be so much work. I guess that was my only real ambition: to be a dilettante and not have to work very hard.
Then this theme came again when I was watching a movie on TV, which was set in college and had a few interesting discussions of Future Plans and Career Ambitions; one of the characters was a Latin major, and people were always asking her "and what do you plan to do with that?" She didn't really have an answer, and that was one of the things that was bothering her... eventually she was talking to an older woman who asked her that question, and when the girl replied that she didn't know, the woman told her not to worry about it... she herself had taken a degree in Victorian Feminist Literature, but now owned her own advertising agency (or some such). I thought that was rather funny, both the repetition of that painful and almost pointless question of "what are you going to do with that (apparently useless) degree?" and the answer that your college major seldom has anything to do with what you end up doing in your later life.
Then, this morning, Grandmother tackled me on the subject of furthering my education... I was talking about how I had run around to all the campuses delivering flyers yesterday morning, and how much nicer it is to be on campus in the morning when there are students all over the place, rather than in the afternoons when I usually deliver fliers and the campuses are fairly dead. She used that to tie into my former enjoyment of being a student; then she pulled in my fascination with houses and architecture and decoration, and combined the topics to ask me to think about what it is that I want to do with my life — and to suggest Architecture or Real Estate as possible careers for me. In her usual manner, she launched this very sticky frame of conversation just as I was leaving the house, so I had to cut her off in the middle and head to the office, but I have been thinking about it ever since.
So I've been thinking about it, and trying to figure out how I see myself in ten years, or what talents and fascinations I have that might be translated into a career, and I come up pretty blank. I mean, more than one person has mentioned that my love of domestic architecture and my ability to find hidden charms in abused homes would certainly suggest a career in real estate, but there's something about "sales" that makes me shudder... much in the way an 18th-century aristocrat might shudder at the suggestion that he involve himself in one of the trades. Architecture is simply out of the question, it's far too nuts-and-bolts to hold my attention for very long... the amount of math involved would, all by itself, unsuit me for such a career.
Then of course, there is my writing, but I don't really see how I could use that to much advantage as a career... I mean, there are millions of people with good writing skills. As a novelist I am too non-mainstream to make a career of it, I am too floridly verbose and disinterested in facts to do anything with journalism, and I have no idea how to go about finding work with a magazine or whatever where I could write articles or criticize things. And then there're my drag skills, but I know I haven't the energy or the drive to make a career of that. I have a certain talent for interior design, but there again one needs a lot of drive and a lot of luck, not to mention a mind for nuts-and-bolts detail which I lack; I also have a certain talent with clothes, but the same shortcomings apply there, too... not to mention the shortage of dressing/designing/personal-shopping jobs in Northern California. I really don't see what I could do, much less what I want to do.
And it's not entirely true that I had no ambitions in my youth... rather, I relinquished my dreams at the first sign of resistance. I wanted to be a fashion designer, I also wanted to be an interior decorator. So I took classes to learn about these things, pattern drafting and dressmaking and color-theory and what-have-you, and discovered pretty quickly that I was a mere dabbler with no practical talent... I was fond of clothes and of decoration, but I only had taste and no technical ability, and I didn't want to do the things required to attain those upper brackets — the education, the risks, the competition, the push and drive, the plain old hard work — and so I simply didn't dream those dreams anymore.
When I started back to school, it was not with any particular goal in mind, it was just something to better myself and make myself more suited to live in the world. The process of Learning came very easily to me, and I really did enjoy being a student. While I was there, I developed my love of Academia, and so decided on a career therein... and that, no matter which way you slice it, means Teaching. So, inspired by my interest in literature and the English language, encouraged by enjoyable and sometimes successful remedial English tutoring, and with a desire to make up my mind about a career of some sort, I focused on English Literature as a major and planned to become a college English instructor, most likely in a Community College, though I might consider high-school or four-year colleges as well.
Well, unfortunately, I burned out on Education by the time I managed my Bachelor's degree, and so I had to take a break before tackling my Masters and Doctorate. I got a job at a teacher's union, and that cured me forever of the desire to teach as a career.
Aside from the generally shoddy treatment that teachers receive from their employers and their students, and aside from the sheer level of competition and over-population of people who want to teach, there were certain facets of teaching that had never occurred to me until I started hanging around with a lot of teachers: aside from the Public Speaking aspect and the Relating to Young People problem, the foremost turn-off for me was the difficulty of Repetition. I hate repeating myself, and teaching classes involves a great deal of that particular phenomenon... not only do you have to teach pretty much the same thing over and over every semester, year after year, but you have to answer the same stupid questions and read all the similarly poorly-written papers and make the same comments in the same margins over and over again. I don't think I could take much of that. And so I relinquished that dream as well... though teaching wasn't really a dream so much as an "intention for lack of anything more obvious" at which one might aim.
So here I am with a job that I rather like, but Admin Assistant isn't generally considered as a "career" with much future, and certainly isn't one of the glamorous "professions." I would like to have a better job, something that paid more and had more diversity of tasks, something in a company that had more opportunities of advancement. But really, I would still rather not have to work at all.
So here's the question I ask myself: if money were not an issue, if I didn't have to work, what would I do with myself? What passion do I think would motivate me to get up in the morning, what would I do with my time to make my life worthwhile? And nothing comes to me. I know I would continue to read, to write, to watch films, to spend time with friends and family and to find places to donate my time where I think it would do the most good to my fellow man. But none of those things transfer into a paying career. Nobody is going to pay me to read books or watch television or write a blog or self-indulgent novels or lay around in my jammies and entertain my friends.
The way I see it, I can make a career of Admin Assistance... not at my current job, certainly, but there are lots of other places. Sure it's not a glamorous high-powered kind of deal, and it doesn't pay the big bucks — but it's something I'm good at, it's steady work, and it doesn't require me to give up much of my life outside of my regular working hours. I don't really need a lot of money, just enough to pay for my little entertainments and a place to live and food to eat and a car to drive. And it gives me plenty of time to indulge in my favorite activities: thinking, reading, writing, staring into space, and shopping. It doesn't require much ambition, which is something I really don't have.
But that taken care of, there still remains the question of Passion. I don't have a thing that gets me up in the morning, I don't have a dream to carry me through my trials, I don't have a thing that makes me light up inside. And that lack strikes me as a serious handicap in this pursuit of becoming a Complete Human Being. A dilettante's mentality towards the arts and professions is all well and good, but there must be a uniting Passion that makes all the dabblings worthwhile. And I can't think of anything I feel that strongly about, anything I especially and vehemently want to do with my life, no particular achievement or object that beckons to me from tomorrow.
Yes there is... I want to write a novel. Or two or three or seventy. And I don't give that enough of my time, and so I am beginning to worry that it's not really an ambition anymore, it's just one of those pipe-dreams that has shattered against the wall of Reality. And performing on stage makes me light up inside (or is it just the applause?) Maybe it is Performance that requires my focus, a theme around which I can build my life... not necessarily as a paying gig, but as a Thing That I Do. Writing, is, after all, a form of performance art. Jewelry makes me light up inside, can my calling be as a Collector? Or maybe photography is my true talent, something that I haven't even explored yet, though I love pictures of things.
Anyway, something to think about. What do you think?