If I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I’d be doing it, I tell myself. If I had an inkling, I wouldn’t have majored in the social sciences, I wouldn’t have thought of graduate school as a safety net, and I certainly wouldn’t have continued on simply because I had already invested the amount of time that I did. But the problem with not knowing what I wanted to do with my life is that I ended up having to do something – to pay the bills, to pass the time, to not be a useless human being. And what I’ve had to do has become what I do. And that’s an issue.
I never was one of those kids who was destined for a particular profession, either by fate or overbearing parents. For the longest time, I wanted to be a lawyer, basically because I was really into John Grisham books and the David E. Kelley drama The Practice. I had a romanticized vision of the field: the underdog against the heartless corporation, the cute, ambitious, smartly dressed women. It was somewhere around high school when I realized I had no desire to follow through, that the practice of law necessitated qualities that were antithetical to every fiber of my being.
I suppose too the idea of being a journalist seemed attractive to me at one point in time. I’ve always enjoyed writing, after all. But a year on the high school newspaper was enough to squelch that flame. I didn’t want to write on deadline, I didn’t want to write dry, boring accounts, and I didn’t want to write about subjects imposed on me (ironic since I went on to attend 150 more years of school). I came to dread the idea of having to interview people, and ended up regularly using my friends’ names – with their permission – for fabricated quotes to fit the story I was working on. I was a real Jayson Blair.*
*Don’t judge. High school papers are stupid.
What I have had since are a bunch of hobbies that haven’t ascended to callings, nor have they translated to real world opportunities. I love sports but can’t imagine doing anything in the field.* I love movies but writing screenplays is just a gateway to the service industry… not that that’s stopping me. Meanwhile, I have no interest in being a reviewer (I once maintained a daily movie blog, and ended up hating everything). I love comedy but the life of a stand-up seems fucking miserable. So I majored in the social sciences, I went to graduate school, and I continued on.
*“What about being a sports commentator? You know how I always make those witty comments during a game?”
I don’t hate my life path entirely, or I would have jumped in front of a train by now. I enjoy teaching, though less for the pedagogy and more for the creativity and social interaction. I appreciate the research, though less for the subject matter and more for the independence and web-browsing. It is telling that I’ve been in situations where I only had one or the other and felt rather apathetic about what I was doing in the moment, all the while never really missing the other all that much. I can easily do without.
I’ve put myself in a position to where I have possibilities. The tenure-track assistant professorship, the research officer position at a global institution. But I see the lives of the people who have made it, and those of the people who are trying to make it, and I just don’t want any part of either. I don’t want to travel on a mission every two weeks, or have to submit grant proposals I don’t believe in. I don’t want to be on the sending end of a 1 am e-mail, or serve on some bullshit editorial board to get one more line on my C.V. I don’t care enough.
It’s inaccurate to say that I don’t have any ambition. But the ambition that I have has nothing to do with my career. The ambition that I have is to enjoy my life. Fuck a work-life balance, I want my life to be dominant.* For now though, I go to a job that I am indifferent about, stare at a computer for eight hours a day, and repeat the process every day. I justify it by thinking that I am moving onto a greater goal. But I’m not. See, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. If I knew, I wouldn’t be doing this, I tell myself.
*Ironically, I have neither right now. But that’s an emo entry for another time.