When I was in high school I wanted to be a fine artist. I dreamt that I could do any job at all as long as it gave me enough money to live and buy supplies. However, the longer I studied art, the more discouraged I became. According to the history books, what do the founding fathers of art all have in common? That they are primarily fathers, are primarily white, are primarily wealthy or charming enough to make benefactors of the wealthy elite. And, I felt inept and uninspired in their shadows. I felt judged by the other students and by the teachers, which was really more a measure of my immaturity than it was of anything else. Nevertheless.
Nevertheless, I quit and any skills I had began to wither under the internalized other. How can I explain this to people who don’t know what it feels like to take in those throw away things from society—commercials, magazines, pop music, mainstream movies, etc.—and so thoroughly incorporate them into yourself that they become legitimate and you are just a shadow of not good enough? But it was me who did the quitting, except instead of full-on quitting I transferred all my energy into writing. Do you see? There is often room to be tricky.
When I entered college I wanted to do research on gendered violence. Over time that changed. I was discouraged by several professors from researching anything that might appear to be personally motivated—as if one can separate one’s self from one’s work. As if a lower-middle-class, non-disabled, heterosexually-identified, young, white man who researches white collar crime and Burning Man is separating himself from his research. It was my feminism and my outspokenness that was such an affront to some, and while I knew that, I didn’t really know it. I didn’t really understand that the assertion of feminism is the acknowledgement of an unjust society. I didn’t feel the paradigm threat because I no longer belonged to that paradigm. Even so…
Even so, I changed. In my last year as an undergraduate, when professors asked me what I wanted to do the only thing I could honestly say was, “I don’t want to make the world worse.” And suddenly they were at a loss for words. Did you catch the subtle shift? Because I did, although at the time I didn’t know what it meant.
Dearest reader, if indeed you think of me at all, I don’t want you to think of me as a failure. Everyone wants to be liked, but it has been rather a long time since I have felt that I needed to be liked. I am attempting to explain to you that I have looked at the situation I am in, and as far as I can tell there is no room to shift in this situation. However, if you conclude that I am fallible I couldn’t begrudge it because I couldn’t begrudge you.
I had two training days at the group home, and those days have thoroughly convinced me that the non-profit sector is not for me.
Yesterday I was all-ears. I hardly spoke. I took in all that I could and I was appalled.
I wanted to take each resident home with me. I wanted to cook them vegetables, which they probably wouldn’t eat. I wanted to offer to play board games, which I hate. I wanted to tell them to call a lawyer when the police came. I wanted to call a nurse when they complained of pain. I wanted to cook a special meal for them alone because they were hungry when they came back late.
But instead I watched them be ignored until their complaining became too insistent. I witnessed them crying on their phones. I felt them waiting to be heard.
And I knew to my core that these fuzzy bureaucratic restrictions were immediately translated in my body into a lack of care that would quickly drive me mad.
My life thus far has been a process of elimination, and with each new experience I better understand what I want and don’t want. I don’t want to work in a group home. I want a job where the stakes aren’t quite so high so that I have more to give to the people I love. I want a job that gives me room to adopt children of my own.
So, dear reader, think of me what you will, but I entreat you, just as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. so often did, to be kind to one another. Be kind to yourself. Kindness is a choice. Choose wisely.
And so it goes.