Upheaval is caffeine for the soul

February 14, 2007

Big things are going down in the world of me and my friends. LCB is giving her program the finger, clearing her student, and getting the hell out of Dodge. AH is going to give her supermean prof the finger by not only surviving her mean spirited comments but by getting all law school apps fit to turn in done and on their merry way. D is dusting off the idea of teaching for Broward County while he works on this thing called the Master’s of Accounting. And me? Well, I haven’t really wanted to mention it, but I’m having a bit of the professional crisis as well. I walked up to the third floor of the library today and grabbed a big thick Chemistry textbook and a big thick College Algebra textbook. I met with the pre-med advisor last week. I’m calling up the community hospital across the street and scheduling a volunteer orientation.

Aaaaand now you’re all laughing hysterically. Okay, this is a highly improbable turn of events, and not one that I’m ready to trust, but one I feel I need to feel out long enough to 1) satisfy myself that yes, I have happy and fulfilling future ahead of me as a librarian by day, writer by night or 2) realize that I am certifiable and am lucky that no one has turned me in to the head shrinkers yet. Nothing is changing right this minute, but I’m in the spirit of letting all ideas back onto my horizon. This one might float back out of view like any good cloud or it might become the whole sky. Only time and perhaps a few good blog entries can tell. (I’ve admitted this strange thought I’ve been having to just about everyone I know via Gmail chat already, so I might as well fess up here. It’s part of the reason I’ve been non-blogging so much recently. I’m spending my days obsessing about taking chemistry and learning massive amounts of stuff I’ve sworn for years now not to be the least bit interested in and trying to imagine a life so different from the one I have been actively training for, but not so different from the one I once imagined. It felt a bit awkward to just start talking about it, as if it were a normal thing.) 

And in the midst of all this, my neighbors have finally gotten wise and put a password on their wireless network. So rather than going home right away and fixing myself some dinner, I’m staying at school to gather up articles to transfer to my flash drive to take home, blog a bit, and try to watch Veronica Mars online (though alas the newest episode is not posted yet–curses!).

In some ways it’s good to be sitting here, and not home alone on the couch, when I’ve just gotten out of a poetry workshop in which we discussed Helene Cixous’s Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, which actually got us into some down and dirty areas of discussion. What really forms our identity, and how can we know that we are not lying to ourselves? Do you need to have a close experience with death in order to be a writer? Given my recent doubts about the direction of my professional life, I also asked myself: could I still know myself if I were something other than a writer, a book person, a person living more in daydreams than in what’s going on right in front of me? A person trying to be a poet? Has too much time passed and too many other people, important people to me, been persuaded that they have known the real me to change so drastically?

What merits a moment like the one Cixous describes here:

“When do we reach the hour when we say we have deceived everyone in our lives in order to keep what we call life going?”

I like my life. I like my laptop, my cats, my ability to go to the wine store and spend hours at a time watching The Wire. I love my husband and my friends and my family. I often love Florida, every smell and color and taste of it. It feels wrong to disrupt all of it, even to imagine disrupting all of it. My life has not been a lie, I don’t think–so where could this urge to change everything come from? Must one or the other be a lie?

Fortunately, in a decidedly un-French rhetorical moment, Cixous answers her own question pretty straight forwardly. Before I succumb to further melodramatic meanderings, I will give you her answer: “I don’t know.”

Ha! That’s it. We don’t know. We won’t know, nothing may ever seem settled beyond a second, third or fourth possibility. So as AH was advising me today, the key thing is not to lose our breath. Not to rush but neither to fear epiphany. It is all, for this moment, possible.

Put that alongside with this other idea we talked about in workshop: the habit of “saving” your best material. Avoiding the exhchange of the possible for the actual. You know, those things you always say you will write about one day, when you are a better writer or when you finally understand it all or when you have the time. We abhor our own shortcomings and wait for a time that is pristine, when we will be pristine and ready. That time may come, but now is a time to produce something that you won’t be able to produce then. If I don’t write out of confusion and imperfection and feeling messed up about every choice I’ve ever made, if I don’t write now, some thing will be lost. It’s a certainty. That thing doesn’t need to be the ultimate, it just needs to be.

See what reading those French feminists will do to a girl? Not to mention her grammar. Vive le run-on and le sentence fragment!

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2 Responses to “Upheaval is caffeine for the soul”

  1. LCB Says:

    Dude, I totally feel you right now. I mean, doesn’t it seem beyond ridiculous for me to write on my blog about how my decision to drop out of *journalism* school (journalism school, for the love of god) has somehow caused an existential crisis? To even utter the phrase “existential crisis” on a blog whose title is a pun on my last name? That I spent yesterday wandering around Evanston worried the entire world was devoid of meaning and searching for it in a Borders bookstore? (Not expecting to find it there, really, but it was snowing and I was cold.) I feel we have outlived the age where one could have an existential crisis and not be a tool.

    But anyway, I totally support you in whatever you want to do. I’m all for really-relatively-early-in -life-when-you-think-about-it realizations. If you become a doctor, you’ll still be Liz. Just Dr. Liz. Which is very different from Dr. Laura. Now I’m rambling.

    Also, because I know she reads this blog: Your professor was mean to you, AH? Heads will ROLL. *makes menacing gesture with her fists*

  2. AH Says:

    I know it’s late to say this and that we’ve talked over all this already, but you do know that we would never laugh–hysterically or otherwise–at your ambitions, right? Okay, good. Glad to have that cleared up.


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