Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Vitae

There’s a task I’ve been dragging my feet on for a while: writing my resume. I haven’t had need of such a thing in a long time, and any version I used to have would be, not only laughably out of date, but possibly in a format I can’t even access anymore, from many years and several computers ago. I’ve got to start over from scratch, and have seriously not been looking forward to it.

Yesterday evening my ordinary Tuesday choir rehearsal was cancelled because of snow. An unfortunate thing, because it means I don’t get to sing with the choir and see my friends there for another week; but it was also a gift of time, an extra evening free this week. Driving home through the snow, I knew that it was time to make a start on the resume, time to stop avoiding and start moving. Like it or not. I don’t need to like it, I just need to do it.

Resumes and CVs are scary documents for a lot of people, I think. They seem to have this inordinate power over one’s future, over one’s position and livelihood and what one will be able to accomplish in life. Get this wrong, and maybe everything will go wrong. Maybe you’ll never have a good job again. Maybe nobody will ever want you. Maybe you’re doomed.

To hell with that. For one thing, everything that I’m reading about searching for new jobs says that the resume is only one tool, and one of specific, limited value: not unimportant, but not everything, and not paramount. For another thing, my future depends on me, and this document is mine, it’s about who I am and what I have done and what I intend to go toward in the future. It’s my tool, not my judge.

So as I was creeping along with traffic on the snow-covered highways, I decided that I would start tonight, and choose to start with energy and life rather than dread. I ordered in food for supper so I wouldn’t have to fuss with cooking; something tasty and not entirely healthy, just because I can. I put on some of my favorite music, stuff with a lively beat, and danced around my living room for a while, because it’s silly and fun and to get my energy up, and then I sat down and wrote about my accomplishments, things I’ve successfully done in my job, things that I’m involved with outside, things to be proud of. Neither too modest nor too flattering, just claiming honestly what I’ve done. A celebration of a decade of solid work.

I’m not done yet. I have a handwritten list in a notebook that will need to be considered and polished and typed into proper form so it can be printed on command. There’s more work to do, but I’m content with this: I started, and I didn’t start in fear, but by choice and with positive energy. I started in hope and with life. That’s something else to celebrate.

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Particularity

A while back, I wrote some things about reality, about the idea that, you know, the world really is here and I really am part of it, objectively and substantively. On the surface, an idea so simple and obvious that it hardly seems worthy of mention, and yet it’s an idea that doesn’t occur to me on a regular basis — I don’t somehow notice that the world is real and I am real, and that therefore the world matters and I matter in it. In the day to day doing of day to day things, I overlook that. And I think it causes life to lose some of its meaning and joy.

This morning I was struck by a further thought — not only am I real, but I have particularity, an individual and unique existence. Again, not really earth-shattering stuff, here. But then again it is, and I felt the force of the realization in ways that I never have before. I am real and individual and unique and part of the world: I take up space, I displace a volume of air, I gather in and expend energy, I weigh upon the ground. I have ideas that no one else has and say words that no one else says (they have their own ideas and words). The world is a different place, not only because I am in it, but because of what I do in it. These words are coming to life because I am thinking and typing them on a keyboard, the words I wrote in my notebook earlier mean that there are black marks now on a once-clear sheet of paper, the program I am writing this afternoon is making a spreadsheet capable of doing things it otherwise couldn’t do, the leftover stew I had for lunch wouldn’t have existed if I didn’t make it, wouldn’t have been consumed if I didn’t eat it. And on and on.

Once again, some of my kind readers may be thinking “… and this is newsworthy, how?” It’s not, on the surface — I know that it’s not. But once again, how often do any of us think in those terms? I certainly don’t. And the effects of that go much deeper than whether or not someone scribbles on paper or eats a bowl of stew.

Along with particularity, I’m also talking about the concept of agency — the ability of a person (an “agent”) to make decisions and enact them upon the world, so that the world becomes a different place. This is where these ideas gain urgency for me, because I am realizing that I have never fully understood my own agency, never felt it as a strong force in my decisions and actions, and so in a lot of ways I just drift through life on default settings. Many people do, and some are content, but I am not — I want more out of life than that, I want to live more fully, I want to feel that I have more choice in the way things go. I know that not everything is controllable, that sometimes stuff just happens, but I want to have a greater sense of my own ability to make the best possible choices in response to stuff that happens.

Further, I know that the world is in many ways a broken-down place, and people live here limping and hurt, and I want to be able to help — I would like for there to be people who live better lives because I have been on the earth. Maybe that sounds grandiose, but so be it. I want for it to be true, and so these concepts of particularity and agency are important, maybe paramount. My ability to change the world into a better place, in whatever capacity, lies with them — with making decisions and acting out of my own uniqueness, my own particular abilities and gifts, in the real places where I live and work and meet with my friends.

Last night in my taiji classes we discussed the familiar idea of “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In that context, the lesson was that improvement at taiji means improving something, a little bit, every day. It’s true in taiji, of course, because it’s true in life as a whole. Lives are built out of day-by-day choices and actions, most of which are very small. But each of those small actions is an expression of our agency, or an abdication of its responsibility.

I really do realize that I’m not writing anything new and groundbreaking here. Many other and much better writers have said the same things in their own words. The only difference is that these are my words, and they come up out of a place that is beginning to realize these ideas apply to me as well as everyone else. That I really do have the capacity to build my own life, and the desire to do so — that is maybe the most surprising, compelling thing, feeling the intensity of desire that follows realizing the possibility. I don’t want a default life. I want my own.

Snow

What a difference a little snow makes. My part of the world finally got some proper snow at the end of last week. Not much, just a couple of inches, but the temperature dropped and those inches are still hanging around. This is not the first cold spell we’ve had, but it’s the first time that the ground has been white.

Winter tends to be really inconsistent here. Sometimes the season is fairly mild overall, sometimes it’s very cold and harsh; sometimes we have piles of snow, sometimes we have barely any at all. Sometimes we have no snow at all until February or March, and then we’ll get a couple of feet all at once. Sometimes it’s all ice and freezing rain rather than snow. There’s no telling what we’ll have until it comes.

I’ll confess that my old-and-tired-acting self most often thinks of snowstorms as a nuisance, something that gets in the way as all of us grown-up sorts try to navigate them in the course of daily life. But today I appreciate snow; I appreciate the newness of it, the contrast it brings to the world. Winter without snow is all brown, brown, brown. Brown trees, brown grass, brown leafless flowerless colorless everything. White breaks up the sameness of it all, sends everything into higher relief than would otherwise be. The trees look warm in comparison to snow-covered ground, warm and alive, stoic and calm in bare winter repose. Dry grass is covered over to sleep away the cold months. Snow gives the world a different shape; things that are usually revealed become hidden, things that are most often hidden may be revealed. This morning I had an errand that took me across country in a different direction than usual, across the hills of my home area; snow on those hills reveals so much more detail of their shape than ever their summer-green cloak allows.

Today I really appreciate snow, I appreciate the change in perspective that it is giving me. The world shows me a different face, and it helps me to see with different eyes, opened eyes. That’s worth a little cold outside.

Hello, you

Hello, new year, and hello again to my blog. I hope that January and 2011 are finding all of you well, my kind readers.

Today I am having lunch, listening to the dryer finish off a load of laundry, and was just writing in my lovely, cheap, available notebook with a pen that was given to me by a friend, early last year. I’m remembering today that I like writing, and that nobody can keep me from doing it but myself, but that I still keep myself from doing it pretty often — mostly simply from neglect and forgetfulness. Hence, I’m doing both some private scribbling today, and also writing here.

My friend Sandi has just finished a challenge to herself to post every day, which started out as a goal for Advent and then stretched to Twelfth Night. I’m proud of her for her success, and it has also been instructive to watch the progress of her blog and her writing, how one day connected to the next and how her writing and her topics came up out of her life, day by day. I’ll confess that a lot of the time, I hesitate to post here because I’m too worried about having something clever to say first, and if I don’t feel like I’ve got anything clever then I don’t post — worse, I don’t even write. Not so good. It’s like any kind of skill or tool: if I don’t practice and write and find words to say regularly, how am I going to have the skill I need when something clever needs to be said? How am I going to be sharp at this craft, without sharpening myself by use? So, I’m thinking about that, and I need to write more. I’m not making a hard commitment right now, like Sandi’s, but I want generally to do more writing. Maybe a commitment in more solid, accountable form will follow. A couple of other friends have suggested to me the idea of “daily pages,” of taking time every day to just write, about anything and everything, even about nothing, but just writing. Not for public consumption, no pressure to do anything smart, but just write. Make words happen. Every day. I think that could be a useful exercise for me to undertake.

The other big thing on my mind is about my work, or maybe my career, or maybe my vocation. I’m not sure which yet. I started making noises around these-here parts last fall about wanting to change jobs or go to school, and I let those plans go by the wayside — it wasn’t time, maybe, and I realize that I was tired and fighting off depression, and change was hard to face. Between Christmas and New Year I had a week off to rest, and now I’ve had a week back at work, and I’m realizing and recommitting to this idea of change: I need a new job. Staying in the place where I am isn’t doing me any good, I’ve been stagnant for too long, stuck in a place that’s become too easy and comfortable, and it’s smothering me. So I need to make a change.

The thing I’m torn about right now is whether it’s better to seek a quicker change for the sake of having a new environment, new things to think about, new sights and sounds and people and work, or whether I need to take more time and thought about what I want to do long-term and start moving purposefully in that direction. Because regardless of which I need, I do want to have long-term purpose; I want to do, not just good work, but the best work I can do, for myself and for the people I work for and with, and I don’t feel like I know what that is yet. I’m only just starting to think in those terms, and I don’t know how long it will take me to uncover answers; and the longer I keep myself in the same old environment, I’m afraid the more I will continue to be smothered and not really pursue better things. Changing my work environment could help me to see with new eyes, but it could also be a distraction from clarifying my long-term vision. I’m not sure which is better or worse, or if it’s just a choice between alternates that’s up to me, not good or bad, just different paths to take. If any of you have any ideas, or have moved through similar choices, how did it go? What did you choose, and why? I’d like very much to hear about other people’s experiences.

Whoops, there goes my dryer beeping. Laundry is done; lunch is done; now I’ve got family to visit and give hugs to, my normal Sunday afternoon routine. Blessings and good wishes to everyone for the new year!