fifty-word lament

You were right. I never should have followed my heart. I should have been a doctor, or a nurse, or a dentist, or a teacher. Doing what you love means nothing in the world of commercialism. Proving you have talent is impossible when no one will give you a chance.

A moment of discouragement. I’ll be back soon with happier thoughts. Promise.


Image: Berkeley Walking Bridge. Mine. All rights reserved.



51 thoughts

  1. Been there. Still there, sometimes, actually. I’d say something stupid like “Keep your chin up,” but I find that doesn’t mean very much most of the time. So, I’ll just say I’m rooting for Jess. And I am… :0)

    • Thank you, Vance. Means more than you know. I know something will come along. It’s just hard because right now timing is off the essence… Don’t want to end up on the street!

  2. Doing what we love is sometimes a luxury, but the big opportunity will never happen if you’re doing something else! Keep at it Jess :-)

    “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
    – Friedrich Nietzsche

    • That’s a good point, Lianne. Mostly I want to work in an area I believe in, and that doesn’t totally bore me to tears. I need challenge and meaning to be content.

      Love the Nietzsche quote!

  3. I thought of “fity-word” as in the gang-banger dialog when I came to your title. The lower case giving further impetus to the allusion of a disrespect for language as a disgruntled reference to the powers that be.

    And then I read you, standing with you on that bridge looking out over the effects of man on the world: Dusty, dirty, polluted view of the bay at Berkeley, a delusion of true beauty, only one of form, perhaps, a bit like a beautiful druggie or a prostitute, who carries the truth of her pollution inside, a body that eventually tells the truth.

    I contemplate this diametrically opposed awareness, the heart bundled in the clutter of bushes under an overpass, and holding a blanket. I see that the heart is well-intentioned, but with everything it seems that we are stripped of our personalities, fractionalized, and eventually changed.

    Doing what you love does not exist, except for the fraction of time you can give it. I was at a party the other day and a publisher said of my complaining that my job provides the misery I needed to write and that I should embrace it. Another friend said that I needed to buy a 4-plex to assure that I would survive in the future. But, this implied that I would be trapped in the job at least for the next 10 years.

    But then we are always trapped aren’t we?

    We can be led into the bushes where our teeth fall out and if a woman, you get raped, if a man arrested, nomadic, no longer relevant in a world that uses bodies to carry out menial tasks, or we can go to work and experience the same demise, where our teeth fall out and our bodies disintegrate and we are pushed aside, and perhaps there is no control in either course, but perhaps there is some dignity in not asking another person to help you along the journey, that you take care of yourself, do the best you can.

    I don’t know it as needing a chance. People just get lucky. Even the well-intentioned and practiced artists (musicians) I know have day jobs because of the realities of where music is played.

    You have talent. We see it over and over again, but ask yourself would you pay for my uttering of a poem in the subway while you were late for an appointment with an employer, who really didn’t feel right?

    You could also start to charge for your expressions of self. Do poetry on the corner, make lemonade out of the lemons you have been given. I can tell you that who you are is the stuff of doctors, lawyers and all the other ones.

    • You are right, Mario. More and more I am seeing my enjoyment of writing will come from what I do on the side rather than something I do as a career. Right now I feel pigeon-holed, though, because my degree only gives me so many options for jobs I can apply for. Of course I can get an office job in which I find no meaning, but ultimately that will tear me apart.

      Making lemonade out of lemons is something we all can strive to do, though. I am trying to use the time I have now to do more freelance work and make my own opportunities — difficult, as I have never thought of myself as an entrepreneur.

      I like what your publisher said. In many ways, he is right. The lemons of life give us things to write about — and a way in which we can relate to others.

      • I promise you will succeed. I knew it when I read your work. There is a character of utter mathematical perfection in your writing. The correlation becomes one where the amount per word equals a lifestyle you can live with always mindful of the variables of taxes, health insurance, retirement plans, and surprises, which most artists/writers forget. I have worked for the second largest newspaper in the world and made $750 after taxes with no benefits, as a graphic designer for the second largest opera company, I made $300 per design job that took two weeks. I remember reading about what writers who get published in The New Yorker make, which is what I aspired to do and it wasn’t very much, except I hope Joan Didion made money (See her work After Henry) because she changed my life as do many writers over the years. Reading, as I know it is for you, is a necessity. Oddly, I was in the bookstore the other day and, I tend to read established authors and might go back to old standards like the works of Homer, et. al. I am currently reading The Basic Writings of Kant. I think we read so that we can write, but what we read says a lot about our market. Maybe we will be valuable to those in the future, which does not bode well for the present. The comfort is, as writers, no matter what happens we will find the time to write. I’ve vowed that I will not work two jobs that are not like me. If it gets that bad, I might just say that I am not welcome here and move away. The best thing you can do is take on a job, whereas the article said, you can save 70% of your income for at least 10 years, maybe 20, you are young and buy something that provides a revenue stream. You are going to live longer than previous generations given medical science breakthroughs. Plan for a long life.

        Here is a link to a response I wrote to the question of whether or not getting a Master’s in English was a good idea:

        I believe in you whole-heartedly.

  4. Today this sounds like you are preaching to me. I wonder at times if any of us will ever leave this space. For me, the question comes down to how I define success. Not how others define it for me. My definition. What can I live with. The problem is that at some point, once we achieve our definition, we want more, we push, and push, creating goals at a new level of defined success. Always people are judging and comparing.

    Thank you. I wish you a day full of joy in doing what you love.

    • Thanks, Matt. Glad my post resonated with you. I was pretty discouraged yesterday. I’m not so much worried about success or what others think of me right now as I am about paying the bills. I’m also scared of getting stuck in a career in which I find no meaning. I *have* to be doing something I believe in — and in which I’m not bored to tears!!

      I guess pushing ourselves is better than not pushing ourselves, no?

      I hope you’re having a great day, too, friend.

  5. Hang in there. I feel this way from time to time (some times it’s all the time). The talents we put value on as society is often misguided. And some days, no matter what you’re doing it’s impossible to feel happy and satisfied. It’s good to get it out at least.

    • Thanks, Chris. You’re right. We all have to hang in there, and it *is* good to get out. We never know what’s around the corner. We just have to keep on trying.

  6. don’t concede to others! Your soul knows the path you’re meant to be on and I hope you listen to your soul instead of any naysayers.

    • Thank you, Carl. To be honest, it’s too late for me to listen to the naysayers. I couldn’t afford to go back to school to get a degree that would give me a more “reliable” job now!! So I will hang in there. You never know what’s around the bend… Thank you for your encouragement. It means more than you know.

    • You are SO right, Francis. Hence the fact that I am now looking for office jobs, lol. Then I can do my writing (for fun!) on the side. Thank you for the perfect comment! I hope you’re having a wonderful day. :)

  7. I am cursed. I had a lot. I also worked for a company that did terrible things to the employees. They let us run with the ball. They were organized. They did not believe in limiting people by a silly job title.

    I look back at all my great contributions and sigh. Now I work for people who do not know I exist. They do not listen and the line crew members just want to go with the flow of mediocrity.

    It is sad to once be part of something bigger and now to this.

    • I hear you, Steve. I know I want to do something for my career that I believe in. Not necessarily a writing job — though that’s what I’m good at — because, yes, when you *have* to do something you love, it really does take the fun out of it. But I *do* want to do something that doesn’t bore me to tears… And where I am given a chance to grow.

      I’m sorry for your twist in luck. I’m sure things won’t be this way forever. At least we have our blogging friends to commiserate with, right?

  8. Oh dear, I hope all is okay with you, Jess. “Proving you have talent is impossible when no one will give you a chance.”. I don’t want to make you feel bad but I really don’t agree with this sentence at all. I don’t think there is a need to prove our talents or gifts out there. If we choose to live this way, I don’t think we’ll be very happy and it seems like we’re living according to someone else’s standards.

    You write very well, Jess, and you’re so good at engaging your readers. You don’t need to prove you can write (or maybe it’s something else). You are a writer already and keep doing what love doing. There are endless ways to share our talents and it’s sort of like a means to an end. Our biggest critics are always ourselves. We always forget to give ourselves a chance when we are thinking of others.

    Apart from that, hope you are well. I’ve been stuck with an office job that is boring me to tears but at the same time been writing more than ever. Will post about it soon :)

    • Hi Mabel. Thank you for your comment. I know: I’m not even sure I agree with my the sentence you pointed out. The people who succeed in life are those who keep trying and trying and try some more when things don’t seem to be working out. I will never give up, but right now I am very stressed because I need to be bringing in a steady income but am not having any luck with job applications (for “real” jobs, haha). I am going to be looking at office jobs soon, too. Anyway… You are right that there are endless ways to use our talents. I will always be a writer and have missed my blog and blogging friends immensely over the past few weeks. I will find my new rhythm soon.

      I will catch up on your latest posts soon, as well! I want to know more about what is going on with you. :)

      • Hang in there, Jess. I know there’ll be a silver lining somewhere soon. Job hunting is very consuming. I’ve been there too and I know how hard it is. But what I’ve realised was that when I got a full time mundane office job a few months ago, all of a sudden I didn’t had to job hunt anymore. I had all this time to write. Which is bizarre but I guess life works in the strangest of ways.

        When life hands you lemons, make lemonade :)

      • People keep saying that! I really am looking for a mundane office job at this point. Having more time to write for personal satisfaction (aka blogging!) sounds wonderful right now!!

  9. Can’t tell you how much those words sound like echoes from me years ago…frustrated, but also knowing that somehow things tend to come together pretty well. The best thing about times like these is grabbing a coffee, connecting with life and enjoying this brief time as frustration is bound to return. Also, a good run helps with all the frustration :-)

    • Thank you, Randy… It’s good to know others relate. I’ve been here before, too… Just frustrated right now because the waiting game is no good when you need to be bringing in a steady income. Looks like it will be office or retail jobs for me very soon — if I can even find one of those. I know things will work out, and you’re right that exercise really does help!!!

      Hope you’ve been well!!

  10. This morning on the train I was listening to the song “Don’t Stop Dancing (featuring Haley)” on the train by Kaskade. I nearly started crying on the train (somewhat embarassing) bc it was exactly what I needed to hear. You might check it out as sometimes music can be very therapeutic. I mean, I don’t dance (other than in my living room :) ) but I took it metaphorically.

    Also – I have found sometimes I need to go in a direction that seems in conflict with where I want to go to end up where I need to be.

    Much love and support

    • That is excellent advice. Go in the direction where conflict seems to be… I will be thinking on that for the rest of the day. Thank you!

      You’re right that music can be therapeutic. Exercise is too for me. I will have to look up that song. I’ve nearly been on tears in public places for similar reasons, too…

      Thank you so much. Your words and support mean more than you know. Hope you’re having a wonderful day!!

  11. Jessica, don’t let a “job” define who you are. Let the “job” that you choose, or that chooses you be defined by who you are. Further, the writing that you do is worthwhile whether anyone notices at this time. Someday, someone will recognize your talent and, thanks to the wonders of technology, be able to see that you have the endurance to maintain something at this caliber for an extended period of time. It is actually best if your “job” doesn’t define you as the hopes and passions of your life should go well beyond where your paycheck comes from.

    • I fully agree with that, Jay. I guess my struggle has been the number of people who choose degrees based on income level and job security. Sometimes, in moments of doubt, I wonder if they are right. Really, though, I don’t regret anything. I would choose my English degree every time. And yes, I will always write no matter my profession. In fact, in some ways when you have to do something you love for a living it takes the joy out of it. Thank you for the good reminder and food for further posts. ;)

  12. I woke this morning and underlined this quote from Thomas C. Foster’s book How to Read Literature Like a Professor and thought about you: “By the time she writes her books, she has access to that tradition in ways that need not be conscious,” p. 85

  13. I am not sure it is a tradition. The question was asked: “Does he mean that?” when referring to an alleged total control of writing, where everything that is symbolic, for example, is put there by the writer. Foster said that yes, writers, especially Joyce and Eliot, were “‘intentionalists…who intend virtually every effect in their works.”

    So, like you when it comes to me, I try to sit down and take note, and like this thing that comes to me, it isn’t really me and so what symbolism and affect is not really mine and so I can’t say that I intended it, but if it is said to come from me and given all the writing and listening that we do, it may in fact be intentional. There is a level of synthesis that we allow to flow through us as writers and we don’t touch it if it makes sense. We often marvel at what we have written. I think as it comes to us, we sense its affect already. I can get just as excited by my writing as with others’. And I recognize great/greater writing when I see it. But, sometimes even my writing can feel as amazing as great writing, but there are things about other writers, like technical aspects that just blow me away. I tend to work from a purely emotional level. Although I do feel what’s happening in the real world and inevitably apply it. So, yes we flow with it and we intend it when we are editing what we have found if we even need to.

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