Stand

Zen

“Though I am alive now, I do not believe an old man’s pessimism [not to mention bitter armchair trollishness] is truer than a young man’s optimism, just because it comes after. There are things that a young man knows, that are true, and not yet in an old man’s power to recollect.”

– Richard Rodriguez, “Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father”

I’m in a rather unpleasant mood as I write this. So let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it. My mother cornered me when she was over for Thanksgiving and told me that I seemed to be lacking in ambition these days. Lest anyone forget the subtitle of this blog, let me remind you that my ambitions are as lofty as ever. I didn’t write this to whine about my family anyway, because I’m tired of doing that for the moment. I will blog about anyone and everyone who gets on my nerves. No matter who you are, if you do something that bugs me, I will shit-talk you here. Don’t like it? Door’s that way. Now that we’ve made that clear, let’s talk about just what my mother meant.

In high school, I was an overachiever. You know the type: straight-A student (mostly), active in student government, president of a bunch of clubs, generally well-liked, everyone talks about how he’ll be President someday. Except I always had a bit more of an edge to me. I got elected junior class president essentially by making fun of the campaigns people usually run. One year later, I almost got elected student body president by doing basically the same thing again. And I was always stressed out. Oh, I had my good moments as well, but one thing about that era that I do not miss at all is the indigestion. It got so bad at points that I was literally moaning out loud as I sat bent over on the toilet. Senior year, I came dangerously close to being happy at one point. But there was something in the way. It wasn’t the last time that happened.

My junior year of college, things were going okay at first. I wasn’t totally comfortable in my own skin, but I had friends, a decent apartment, was active in several extracurriculars and was getting pretty good grades. Sound familiar? Spring semester, everything came crashing down. Even to this day, it’s hard to pinpoint just what went wrong. All I knew is that getting a good night’s sleep became next to impossible, even when I had nothing to get up for the next day. Especially when I had nothing to get up for the next day. One day that summer, I stayed in bed until late afternoon just to get a handle on what was bugging me. Why am I telling you this? Simple: This time, I want to get it right.

My mother has always been something of a go-getter. She encourages me to reach out to environmental organizations and introduce myself. Even if they’re not hiring (or they just don’t want to hire me), it’s good to get your name out there. But I don’t think she’s quite right that people will become less impressed with my degree the more time elapses since my graduation. I serve coffee because it’s something that is worth learning about. I don’t drink coffee, but I order different drinks and try different varieties of tea because coffee is interesting, even if it’s not my thing. Before I got this job, I’d never even had a latte. Now I know what a latte tastes like. I even know how to make one. That may get me a job with the New York Department of Parks & Recreation, but it is knowledge worth having. Yes, I suppose I am complicated in some ways, but in others, I’m really not. I know what I want, more or less. Can you say the same?

Sometimes, I don’t know how to tell people what I really think of them. I guess I could just tell my mother that my decisions are my decisions and that I’m not interested in her opinion, but that’s not quite fair. The person I was in high school was brilliant, driven, ambitious, and terminally anxious. I think it’s kind of a miracle that I have made it this far without developing a caffeine addiction, which is an odd thing for a person with my job to say. The person I was in college took things a little bit slower. I wasn’t out to prove myself as much. I did things because they seemed interesting, not because I figured I could fit one more thing onto my plate. I’m not on a clock anymore. I’m not rushing to try a bit of everything before I graduate. I’m just trying to figure out how to make the world outside my head look anything like the one in it. And I don’t know how to do it, but I’ll be damned before I’m made to answer for it.

I’m not going to contact nonprofit organizations just to introduce myself. I haven’t figured out what to do next, but I know I don’t want to do that. Don’t judge me. I get up every morning and do whatever I feel like doing. Since I have a job, sometimes I have to go do that and when I’m there, I just try to figure out what my coworkers and customers want from me so I can give it to them. With any luck, somebody will start to give back, eventually. Because I don’t intend to stay right where I am forever; I just don’t see why I should have to move before I’m ready.

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