More often than not, by doing your thing—as opposed to what you think you ought to be doing—you kindle a fire that helps keep the rest of us warm.
Oliver Burkeman said this. He was a columnist for the Guardian, and his final piece has several bits of life wisdom like that. (It also has a brief treatise on why we shouldn’t listen to celebrities because they likely pursued fame to fill a void and are therefore more troubled than we are. This is manifestly untrue; most celebrities pursue their professions for the art not the fame. Just ask them.)
I cling to Burkeman’s words in this topsy turvy year when figuring out who we are and what really matters seems like the best and only un-cancelable use of our time.
In that pursuit, I’ve changed jobs again. It was a best-effort kind of move, a thing I had to try. The truth is, it’s possible I will always search for the right thing to fill the paying hours of the day. I remain a little traumatized that we don’t prepare children better for the fact that most of us get jobs rather than glorious titles that easily translate to Halloween costumes. I wasn’t prepared for this, and I continue to resist.
It’s not that I don’t know what I want to be. I know exactly what I want to be. I want to be a person who leaves finished things in the world when I transcend it. I want to be someone who was here.
This year, I have faced a scary number of rejections for a novel I finished last year. To endure it, I tried to realize my days are telling a story, too. Life, in fact, and the choices I make in it, is the only story I get to tell no matter what. It doesn’t go through an agent or editor or anything. I’m making it every minute, and it’s published right away.
The eight hours I spend in a day job often feel like eight hours outside the story I really want to be telling. I should be making books and movies or going places I’d hate to leave the world having only seen on Instagram.
I no longer have an answer to the angst. I’m tired of the answers. I only know I decided this year to accept the wanting of things I don’t know how to get. I am determined to finally learn a gear between soaring on the wings of anticipation and plummeting to the depths of despair. Marilla in Anne of Green Gables worried so fiercely about Anne when she only knew these modes, but Anne convinced her the soaring was worth the thud. I used to agree. This year, I’m open to alternatives.
The search for alternatives has led me back to the things I always love, that always soothe or lift me up. To that end, to the best of my ability, I’m doing my thing. If this is life—too short, pretty stressful most of the time, and less going places and writing things than I might have hoped—I’m not going to spend any more of it doing un-me things than absolutely necessary.
From now on, given the choice, I’m kindling a fire.