Thursday, June 25, 2009

Doing what you like

A friend of mine at work loaned me a book about the travels of a Spanish boy in search of treasure. The story is a parable, and thus far the thrust of it is do what want in life rather what you feel you must do or need to do. It is better to pursue the dream that lies at the root of your identity rather than to give into necessity.

On the face of it, I could not disagree more with that philosophy. There are plenty of unpleasant demands that must be addressed and sacrifices that have to be made in order to prevent bad things from happening. Sometimes wars must be fought, or people must give up their ambitions or dreams in order to see to the dire needs of loved ones. And what would the world be like if everyone subscribed to this philosophy. Would it degenerate into a confused blur of chaos and pain as everyone set out to become a rock star, or actress, or sports hero, and nobody was there to raise crops, tend the sick, and look after the infrastructure that keeps much of the world's population alive? Or, are there enough people with practical dreams to do these things?

Certainly doing what you want often means leaving your friends and family behind. It necessitates relegating the close connections between people to a place further down on the big list of priorities. Leaving friends and family is something that I am getting to be an old hand at at this point in life, having moved away from Reno four times now.

On the other hand, in practice my life has worked wonderfully when living it in the dogged pursuit of what I truly desire. The world really does seems to conspire to help me along at such times. When I have oriented my life on trying to do the "right thing," it's gotten ugly.

Going on to the university after graduating high school because it was the correct thing proved to be disastrous. Dropping out to join the Army and finally do something real ended up being a four-year arc of happy serendipity. Even the shitty times from back then seem to resonate with a broad range of meaning and depth.

The subject of life's dreams and their importance has been of interest to me for some years now. Just behind the evolution of human thought and the complex world of military affairs, these collections of half-articulated desires and fantasies have been one of my favorite areas of inquiry. How does an assemblage of wants come together into a cohesive desire for a certain kind of life? What makes one job a calling and all others merely drudge work?

So now I am asking myself, is going back to school what I truly want, or am I trying to do the correct thing again? What I really want to do in life is write fiction. School will mean largely putting that on hold for a year, as the demands of course work and of a part-time job do not usually leave me with much time or interest in sitting in front of a computer.

On one hand, I am almost done with the book, and this time it feels good--similar to how "Lisa with Child" felt when it went out the door and ended up wining in the Writers of the Future. Staying on at work would allow me to finish the book without rushing it and provide a comfortable lifestyle while doing so. On the other, this is my last year in which to use my GI Bill benefits, and I actually did enjoy being in school this last time around. And on the other other hand, I do not like my present job at all. The current workplace leaves a lot to be desired.

So, over the coming two weeks I need to ask myself: How much do I really want to be back in in school, and how much I am just trying to change jobs? Can I get the book revised and incorporate everything that I learned in the course of writing "Lisa" before mid September, when the first full semester begins.

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