Wednesday, July 12, 2006

you do what you want to

Oh the hatred we feel! The hatred and disgust! The burning shame and the choking back of bile when we look in the mirror after a long weekend where we ... got nothing done! All this free time! And look what we've done with it!? We squandered it on videos and alcohol when we could've been (writing, reading, going to art museums, feeding starving children, calling our mothers, marching in protests, saving baby animals).

We think, "If only I could quit my job, I'd ...

* write a novel or screenplay
* make an important documentary film
* be a real humanitarian
* build my own house
* sail the seven seas
* become a kung fu master"

Guess what? I know a ton of people. A few of them have actually done some of these things.

Guess how many had to quit their jobs to do them?

Almost none.

Guess what else? I have quit various jobs multiple times with the full intention of doing one or more of these things. Guess how many I have done?


(well, if Mexico were a sea I could claim to have sailed one sea)

I'm not telling you this because I believe that quitting your job is incompatible with achievement. I'm telling you this because I believe that having a job is not incompatible with achievement.

John Trimble, a beloved English professor at UT, once told me something that made me want to knock him down and stomp on him.

He said "You do what you want to."

It seems innocuous enough, doesn't it? Not a stomp-worthy statement. Unless ...

... you're like I was, watching an average of six hours of TV a day.

I wanted to be a writer and a filmmaker but instead I watched TV. I sat immobilized in front of the TV for six hours or more everyday, either despising myself and thinking about all the things I could be doing instead OR, better yet, fantasizing about achievements yet to come.

And then John Trimble goes and says this to me.

I didn't actually pursue this conversation with him but in my mind it would've gone something like this:

Me (wincing): Are you saying I want to watch TV for six hours a day?

JT (shocked): Is that what you do!?!

Me: No! Three. Maybe four sometimes when I'm really tired.

JT (still shocked): Jesus!

Me: But nevermind about that. I want to be a writer, not a TV watcher.

JT: Well, do you write?

Me: (silent)

JT: Do you?

Me: ... for class ...

JT: (silent)

And that's when I knock him down and stomp on him.

The other thing I'd do ... this is dreadfully embarrassing to admit ... is indulge in paranoid fantasies about my then-boyfriend and his drugged out, oversexed, thieving, crazed friends. The guy was a cheater and emotionally abusive, but in my mind he was a rake and sadist on par with the infamous Marquis. And his friends! Well, supposedly one of his friends actually did steal cars and run them across the Mexican border full of cocaine and another friend had herpes and slept with a different woman every night. This same guy was also really into WWF, so much so that he started dressing like Nature Boy.

In other words, I didn't have to stretch my imagination too far to turn them into nightmares.

It took me years - ten of them, actually - to realize that I was writing ... just in my head.


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