The internet is just full of ideas and sayings and motivational tips and life plans that feel very inspirational when I’m listening or watching or reading, but at the end of the day it’s like everything else on the internet. (And maybe in life?) Ephemeral and meaningless. Or, for shorthand, “lolcats”. Puppies vs. Stairs is undeniably the most memorable and touching thing I’ve found next to Nietzsche Family Circus and Garfield Minus Garfield. But none of these things helps me make any decisions about my life, or make better art, or be a better person. No, not even the absolutely brilliant, supportive piece of internet called Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. The internet is still just lolcats all the way down.
Still, I have about 4 hours a morning to sit in front of it. And be angsty. Even though it’s springtime, and I should be thinking about flowers pushing up from the ground and fluffy yellow chicks hatching. I’m thinking about staying cramped up in an egg where it’s warm and dark and nice and safe. “Solitary as an oyster” came to mind as a pleasant thing until I remembered that it was a Dickens reference to Ebeneezer Scrooge.
I found a couple things this morning that were the last ingredients in this mess of angst in my head. Nothing compared to the teenage angst I felt ten (god, ten) years ago, but maybe it’s my approaching birthday that’s getting me screaming DO SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING. Amanda Palmer addressed this in a February blog post.
should we be surprised that we are all FREAKING OUT when we are basically the first generation in thousands of years to actually HAVE all of these choices between careers, marriage, kids, art, and so forth, instead of just towing the party line?
add our parents expectations on top (who can blame them, many were raised in a mono-culture of nuclear-family-or-be-rendered-outcast) and it’s enough to drive you to drink.
Hence it goes. After a long line of questions for 30ishorsomething women freaking out about to baby or not to baby, among other things, she puts the Elizabeth Gilbert quote “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” I found this quote about as helpful as the book Eat, Pray, Love, which Gilbert also wrote. That is to say, not at all. Ugh, more lolcats. Really, Amanda? You’re supposed to have all my answers!
Even the brilliant Amanda Palmer can dole out a piece of the solution, a short respite from all the freaking out, in a bite-sized quotable, and then a few days later post a video asking for funding so she can MAKE ALL THE THINGS. She hasn’t really found the solution to freaking out, either. As if deciding on one thing will Be Better and Make You Happier or More Productive than ANY OTHER DECISION. And some internet quote is going to help me make that magical decision. Amanda’s decided a few things, gotten really good at a lot of things, had to become her own venue-maker/party-planner/art-coordinator/boss-person in order to get the things made, and there’s no denying she works really hard. At what, though? At being a song-writer/performer/artist/game-maker/book-writer/poet/troubadour/entrepreneur/traveler/wife/bloggist/e-mail-answerer/MOTHER/lover-of-all-things/whatever-she-wants-next… she’s good at being Amanda Palmer and made a career out of it, and there’s really no formula for that, let alone a quote. Nor am I really sure that that’s the model I want to emulate, though it sure as hell looks like a lot of fun. You get to just keep making All The Things, being a raucous punk, marry Neil Gaiman, and then create what I’m just going to assume will be the world’s best possible person? (A Neil Gaiman Amanda Palmer baby? Someone is going to base a religion on this.) Where do I sign up for that life? That totally neurotic, unfathomably frightening, exhaustingly romantic life? I do the things! I make the art! I work real hard! Do I just go about making All The Things like I’ve been doing? Failing at things a little less often than I succeed at them? Cuz that certainly feels like my wheels are spinning and spinning and spinning…
Finding new challenges is important – and I haven’t found any new ones in a while, so I guess I have to start inventing new challenges.
Moving forward has a funny thing attached to it. When you move you must always be moving towards something.
And here we swing back around to the other side of the balance I’ve found, back to Neil Gaiman’s formula for approaching art. The above piece of lolcat information, bite-sized and utterly digestible, sounds a bit like his Make Good Art speech, which is substantially less forgettable.
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be–an author, primarily of fiction, . . .–was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.
When I got to college I heard a lot of that. Pick a major. Decide what you want to do and then do it. And I never did. (Well, I picked “theatre” which, in my opinion, was a narrow enough focus.) And I’ve still been doing plenty. My life did not come to a screeching halt because I didn’t climb a ladder or start a career or get pregnant or married. (Is that what we’re worried about? Everything coming to an end, rather than a new beginning?)
BUT. I have been living in post-college land for quite a while now. This land looks less like a mountain and more like a series of hills, which I like a lot, or I have been liking a lot in the past. I get a project done, I work on another one. I teach for a summer. I pick up a job that has an end date. The steady job I’ve had for 5 years now is minimum wage and just about the easiest thing I’ve ever done. The shows I do blur together, and I actually forget about them some times. My heart may not be in this particular scene anymore. Maybe I need a new challenge. Maybe I need one, big, single thing to look at and move towards. Like a distant mountain. Something scarier than a hill. Something looming. A bigger risk if I fail it. “The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things,” after all. (Thanks, Rilke.)
Thing is, my future looks a little like this:
That’s not one distant mountain! That’s a wall! That’s a WALL of ROCK. Unless I want to go for the one in the way distance. But surely once I get close enough to that one it will ALSO look like an insurmountable WALL of ROCK. (I could just live in that little cabin on the hills next to the mountain. Come outside every morning and look at the mountains I never climbed.)
How he hell am I supposed to know which one is my mountain??
“Decide what it is you want.” Ptchhh. It’s always the first on the list. It’s never the whole quote. I have a problem with STEP ONE of my thousand step journey. Which direction should I go? Which direction do I WANT to go? Do I put what I want before what everyone else wants?
Women’s liberation did not, I think, take into consideration the paralyzing effects of indecisiveness. But what a nice problem to have, at least!