A while back someone asked me the inevitable (and rather vexatious) question, “What do you do for a living?” I told them that I’m a writer. That I have a novel I’ve been slowly piecing together for the past 3 years, and that I’m a mental health blogger. They looked intrigued. For a moment, I felt a proud but sheepish smile trying to break through. Then they asked about money. And just like that my heart sunk. No, it didn’t bring in a good income. It didn’t pay anything, actually. Abashedly I tried to justifying to this near stranger that I didn’t actually make money writing- I mean, not yet at least, but I hoped to. Planned to. You know, one day. “It’s more what I live to do, I guess,” I’d conceded, flushed with shame.
“Since when did sucking corporate dick for minimum wage become more admirable than pursuing something you’re passionate about, anyway?” It was midnight last night- twelve hours before I was scheduled for orientation for a part time position I had no real interest in with a company I had no respect for, and I was sitting up in bed, tear-streaked and shaking. “I’d rather die fucking penniless after backpacking around the world than die with a 401k and not a ounce of culture,” I said through gritted teeth. “What’s so wrong with that?!”
Not a damned thing, I finally realized. Our latest group therapy homework was to note the discrepancy between how much we valued a certain aspect of our lives, and how much attention we feel we’re giving it. What needs to be changed to to bridge that gap? For me, Personal Growth was at an ideal 10. I never want to stop learning, improving, exploring. At first I’d chortled and wrote a big fat “0” under how close I felt I was manifesting that value. After some reconsideration, I went with a 7. Looking back to where I was 5 years ago, and even how far I’d came in the past year alone, I had to admit I was making pretty big strides. But what about that last 30%? What needed to change in order to start really, truly living a life devoted to my own happiness and well-being?
Well, I had to stop giving a fuck. So what if I don’t go to work at some shit job that I hate for a paycheck that just barely covers the gas to get there? I’d sooner spend 18 hours a day working on my novel until my eyes bleed. I’d rather lock myself up in my room for days on end with heaps of fabric and sewing equipage to make a slew of finished products that may only end up being given away. And maybe I will have those days, but I knew my spoons are limited, and that while one day I may feel like Superwoman, the next I may not be able to get out of bed. And that’s fine. Living with mental illness, with any sort of chronic condition, is a full time job in itself. Don’t ever dare let a mother fucker tell you otherwise.
Today I was supposed to go to an orientation for a job that would take up a good majority of my evenings and weekends. That meant I’d probably have to miss out on a lot of the days when I feel well enough to do something creative, to make it to an event where I could meet new like-minded people, to try my hand at D&D, to volunteer at the shelter, or go to voice lessons, or Skype with an Australian friend until 3am while laughing to tears at his Smeagol impressions. I planned on giving up my freedom for a job I likely knew I wouldn’t last more than a few weeks at best in, this morning.
Instead I slept in, had a cup of tea. Decided to learn how to play Moonlight Sonata on the keyboard that’s been neglected for the better part of the past decade. I wrote in the notes, realizing when something sounded off that I’d written in the wrong note there, and there, and there as well. Tried again, making adjustments as I went. Played the same bits over and over, trying to make my fumbling fingers function with some semblance of dexterity. Tried to see what it sounded like on the jazz organ setting, on the banjo setting, on the chorus setting (creepy as fuck, that’s how). Taking baby steps. Learning, bit by bit, note by note. Exploring, constantly. Always improving. Doing the best I can with what I have.
Because when life gives you lemons, you kick life in the dick…