Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This is not our fault


I have a friend named Cassie who goes to art school in Boston. In the evenings she rides the train beneath the city and decides that she's mediocre. I can see her, there in the rumbling twilight of the subway with the sodium lights flashing by, rolling this idea back and forth through her head like a marble. Deciding how it feels, if this is something she can get used to.

My sister is a musician. She performed in front of 2,500 people just a few days ago. She wrote and sings this song. And yet she still wonders out loud if she'll ever make it. She wonders what will happen to her if she doesn't.



There was a voice that one day fluttered into my skull and stayed there. I was working a job in Seattle and writing a little bit on the side and everything was going well. I had a small apartment and a car and was in only a little bit of debt and was doing pretty good by all accounts. And one day the voice started hissing. Is this all? You certainly are playing it safe. You are heading towards a life of nothingness. You will very soon be nothing. Not a terrible thing to be, it whispered. It's easy after all. But nothing is nothing.

It was unsettling. I listened to it and two weeks later had given away everything I owned and was on a plane to the other coast. It was winter there and so I was alone for a while. The voice kept humming. This is alright for now, but this can't last. We both know this can't last. So I went south. I lived out of a backpack and fell off waterfalls. Life was terribly exciting. My head was quiet and I sung in the shower to fill the silence.

Then one day on a warm, clear river, I got caught and trapped in a cave underwater. I saw black spots and I knew that my number was up. I was a dead girl. But then I went through a long dark rock tunnel and emerged in the current. I climbed up on an island and lay there, bleeding all over and choking up water. Something landed lightly on my shoulder. I turned my head and saw the little wings. Well this is just terrible, it said, how stupid are you? we both know this won't last.



The voice planted itself firmly in my brain. At the slightest tremor of synapse it would launch into a rehearsed monologue. Aren't you too old to be living out of a backpack? Shouldn't you be going back to school? You don't have a novel written yet, how terrible, you never will if you haven't yet. This is games, what you're doing. There is no future in this. Everyone you know is settling down and starting up a life that will last. Do you want to be financially stable? Do you? Do you even know what a 401k is? This continued until I left and went home.



Now I am back in Seattle. I have a long scar on my right leg. In about a month I'll have no money left. "I'm trying! I'll quit the school! I'll find a career!" I tell the voice at night, in the morning, in the car, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, when I'm alone, when I'm out with friends. "I'll put something in my savings account. I'll keep the house cleaner. I'll wear better clothes. I'll be nicer. I'll be a real person."

Good luck, it says. Odds are against you. Are you sure you want to settle down now, at this age? Shouldn't you have a few more adventures before you give in?

"I'll go back to the school then. I'll live in Chile. I'll do big things down there. I'll leave Seattle and everything here behind."

The worst part is, says the voice, no matter what you choose, you'll be wasting your potential for something else. No matter what you do, you'll be a quitter.

I'm not the only one. I know a boy who paddles class 5 rapids every single day, because it is the only way to quell the incessant marching of questions in his mind. Then he takes out and there they are again.

I know a girl who got married a few months ago. She tells me, "every two days, I know that this is the life that I wanted. But the days in between...."she throws her hand and looks off into the distance.

This is not our fault. It's the hallmark of the 20's. It's doubt and guilt and shame and hesitation and indecision. It is the absolute certainty that everyone else has got it figured out, knows something we don't, and will soon be coming into the small fortune they worked so hard to secure. They are making the headlines of the paper we're one day sure to be sleeping under.



I don't think we're supposed to talk about this. We're supposed to put our heads down and push on and put on a facade of confidence that, once it's night and we're alone, we unwrap from around our necks like a scarf: everything is okay. Everything is just fine. Maybe that's why it seems so important to be with someone else, because when they're around we'll keep it up. We'll keep it on. But it's always there.

What does your voice tell you? Mine reminds me all the time that my life is inadequate and I"m in big trouble, just in case I've slipped and ooops! enjoyed myself, or felt content, or excited, or proud, or inspired, or capable, or I've stopped thinking about the future for just one tiny moment.

I think the voice gets more dangerous the more we keep quiet. So, talk about it. Also, this song will help.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

This Young Lady sure has some deep shit to share. She has her finger on the pulse!

Alden said...

Believe it or not, but it's not cheating to redefine happiness. Growing up you get this idea of what it is and it just sort of sticks with you. It's not the sort of thing you ever even consider examining critically. But I think it's important that you do. It's one of the most important philosophical decisions you can make. What does "the good life" mean to me? What will make me happy? How do I know I've reached it? Once I sat down and thought about it, I got a much clearer picture. I'm questioning some of that these days, but that's okay. The path to happiness does not mean that you have to reach some mystical island of happy, you can just find that happy is right next door.

Marisa said...

That was a great post Lina. I also approved of the Josh Ritter in the previous post. My voice tells me I'm striving for mediocrity most of the time. and how do I make it go away? I guess it just fades as I remind myself I'm doing what I love and still having adventures.

Neva said...

great post. Answer: not married and no prospects. Learning French. Feeling pretty good about my career. So far the 30's are way better than the 20's, though I do miss Arnie a lot.

Nicole said...

That's an awesome post! My voice asks me why I'm still in school, why I'm throwing my life away day by day when there is so much in this world to see and so many adventures to be had. I feel like I have so much to do in this life and I have no idea where to start. So I work hard to tr and finish my degree as soon as possible to live life and have as many adventures as possible on the weekends. It's not a bad life...my voice should learn that.

David said...

You seem tormented by the idea of not knowing. The in-between phase is always hardest. Not having your own place, bouncing and waiting on the next adventure. If you had a career and routine at this moment maybe it would be easier. If you were working with kids again and touring your Chilean adventure maybe it would be easy. Maybe either would be easier.
Lack of money, lack of routine, lack of knowing which direction to choose is a hard lesson. Honestly, how does anyone deal with that?
I was working long hours, dealing with some minor teen dramas, tired, and I thought my life was rough. One day a friend explained how her 18 year old son was caught with pot at home. When they took his/their car back he ran away and was skipping high school classes. I met with the kid to help. The boys best friend had died from an OD and his older sister got pregnant her senior year. The entire stereotypical suburbia family was dysfunctional.
It made me feel good and alive to go out of my way to help. My perspectives were put into check, and I realized my problems were just that. Perspectives. Life was all right no matter which road I took.
Choose a road, own it, and avoid the in-between phases. Thanks Lina for making us think.

Zoey said...

glad to see you that you're back on the blog with those beating thumping words of yours.

Cassandra said...

Took the thoughts right. out. of. my. head.

:)

I love what you have to say, have to ask, and the words you choose.

adventurekate said...

I love the phrase "the hallmark of the 20's." You put this feeling that so many people have into beautiful words. It is so helpful to know that others find themselves "floating" in this in-between stage too. Just when I feel like I have it figured out, when I'm really doing it, that little voice creeps up again. There is a balance between honestly wanting what you have and settling for alright. I hope we all can find it! Beautiful writing, thank you.

Paul Burke said...

Well I've been listening to your sisters music and reading your blog. An inspiring experience - maybe you should join forces somehow - it worked for me.
______________________

Here's the deal: You have to put the bread on the table...its an expression I picked up passing two professors lamenting curriculum at Tulane on my way to freshman class.

I flunked out but my time in New Orleans has lead to a life time love affair with the city and State. You are not the only one who can digress...and that's what it is ...or as it occurs to me now...life is a digression.

Feel your way, feel your way like the day before - the timeless journey we all take as individuals remarkable in its similarities and looking back on it now - I've done some bouncing around myself.

Although I'm a bit of a safe freak - there are some chances I took - I guess having the cops draw their guns on you - isn't really that safe or smart.

So no one has the answers - nobody knows - take care to either farm your own food or get money to buy it - those are our two choices...opting for one the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Been through stupid jobs but got to the point where I realized my job wasn't me - just the fuel that allowed me to be what I want to be...wrote the book, played the guitar, biked the parks - my to do list is endless...but that's life...listen to some old music.

Cole Porter - the stuff Sinatra sings - Doc Watson - they laid the truths out that we can understand simply and clearly...and understand this - it is all magic...every square inch of it, every second - no matter where you are or who you are it is all a created miracle - as we are the conscious and consciousness of the world no less...no more.

It is the moment that we live in but a little planning helps those moments transition a little, smoother, lighter...although upheaval is a helluva producer.


Again nobody knows...NOBODY....emphasis mine because there are so many claiming to know...by design the mystery is built in and that's something amazing and thankfully not taken out of the equation.

There are a million roads to travel, a million ways to be - it is not a one size fits all world...and happiness comes from inside...wherever you go what is revealed is what you bring with you...what you broadcast you receive...keep your sense of humor and remember its not "out there" but inside each one of us because we are a part of all we see not apart from the world.

No baby, family, job, career, adventure will bring happiness - its not "out there" but in how you look at it - seems stupid - the great mystery is lying quiet with our souls - if we just step out of the way for a minute.

Being a part of the world, universe, ethereal reality as opposed to a part from it - that paradigm shift would cure a lot of ills ....now I'm skidding into politics, business, war, greed and don't want to go there....

and so I struggle to protect what has been created...I didn't put the Earth here or even myself or maybe I did put myself here -right now with my extenuating circumstances in order to evolve through the finite into the infinite and so isn't it amazing is not such a bad way to go...


Your passion and your career might not be the same thing but that's okay - our market system isn't "that" organic - its a man made tool, money is a tool - sometimes the mundane realities are just that mundane...but within your soul is the ability to turn laundry into harmony...

We are here I suspect to help each other...and in your own corner of the world make it better somehow some way - a kind word - a smile - a helping hand, giving is receiving....don't give up on yourself - if you can't thread the needle where you are doing something you love and making a living - make a living and do something you love.

In a hundred plus words maybe I've said something after all.

Paul

Paul Burke said...

Well I've been listening to your sisters music and reading your blog. An inspiring experience - maybe you should join forces somehow - it worked for me.
______________________

Here's the deal: You have to put the bread on the table...its an expression I picked up passing two professors lamenting curriculum at Tulane on my way to freshman class.

I flunked out but my time in New Orleans has lead to a life time love affair with the city and State. You are not the only one who can digress...and that's what it is ...or as it occurs to me now...life is a digression.

Feel your way, feel your way like the day before - the timeless journey we all take as individuals remarkable in its similarities and looking back on it now - I've done some bouncing around myself.

Paul Burke said...

(part two)

Although I'm a bit of a safe freak - there are some chances I took - I guess having the cops draw their guns on you - isn't really that safe or smart.

So no one has the answers - nobody knows - take care to either farm your own food or get money to buy it - those are our two choices...opting for one the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Been through stupid jobs but got to the point where I realized my job wasn't me - just the fuel that allowed me to be what I want to be...wrote the book, played the guitar, biked the parks - my to do list is endless...but that's life...listen to some old music.

Cole Porter - the stuff Sinatra sings - Doc Watson - they laid the truths out that we can understand simply and clearly...and understand this - it is all magic...every square inch of it, every second - no matter where you are or who you are it is all a created miracle - as we are the conscious and consciousness of the world no less...no more.

It is the moment that we live in but a little planning helps those moments transition a little, smoother, lighter...although upheaval is a helluva producer.


Again nobody knows...NOBODY....emphasis mine because there are so many claiming to know...by design the mystery is built in and that's something amazing and thankfully not taken out of the equation.

There are a million roads to travel, a million ways to be - it is not a one size fits all world...and happiness comes from inside...wherever you go what is revealed is what you bring with you...what you broadcast you receive...keep your sense of humor and remember its not "out there" but inside each one of us because we are a part of all we see not apart from the world.

No baby, family, job, career, adventure will bring happiness - its not "out there" but in how you look at it - seems stupid - the great mystery is lying quiet with our souls - if we just step out of the way for a minute.

Being a part of the world, universe, ethereal reality as opposed to a part from it - that paradigm shift would cure a lot of ills ....now I'm skidding into politics, business, war, greed and don't want to go there....

and so I struggle to protect what has been created...I didn't put the Earth here or even myself or maybe I did put myself here -right now with my extenuating circumstances in order to evolve through the finite into the infinite and so isn't it amazing is not such a bad way to go...


Your passion and your career might not be the same thing but that's okay - our market system isn't "that" organic - its a man made tool, money is a tool - sometimes the mundane realities are just that mundane...but within your soul is the ability to turn laundry into harmony...

We are here I suspect to help each other...and in your own corner of the world make it better somehow some way - a kind word - a smile - a helping hand, giving is receiving....don't give up on yourself - if you can't thread the needle where you are doing something you love and making a living - make a living and do something you love.

In a hundred plus words maybe I've said something after all.

Paul

Paul Burke said...

(part two)

Although I'm a bit of a safe freak - there are some chances I took - I guess having the cops draw their guns on you - isn't really that safe or smart.

So no one has the answers - nobody knows - take care to either farm your own food or get money to buy it - those are our two choices...opting for one the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Been through stupid jobs but got to the point where I realized my job wasn't me - just the fuel that allowed me to be what I want to be...wrote the book, played the guitar, biked the parks - my to do list is endless...but that's life...listen to some old music.

Cole Porter - the stuff Sinatra sings - Doc Watson - they laid the truths out that we can understand simply and clearly...and understand this - it is all magic...every square inch of it, every second - no matter where you are or who you are it is all a created miracle - as we are the conscious and consciousness of the world no less...no more.

Paul Burke said...

(part three)

It is the moment that we live in but a little planning helps those moments transition a little, smoother, lighter...although upheaval is a helluva producer.


Again nobody knows...NOBODY....emphasis mine because there are so many claiming to know...by design the mystery is built in and that's something amazing and thankfully not taken out of the equation.

There are a million roads to travel, a million ways to be - it is not a one size fits all world...and happiness comes from inside...wherever you go what is revealed is what you bring with you...what you broadcast you receive...keep your sense of humor and remember its not "out there" but inside each one of us because we are a part of all we see not apart from the world.

No baby, family, job, career, adventure will bring happiness - its not "out there" but in how you look at it - seems stupid - the great mystery is lying quiet with our souls - if we just step out of the way for a minute.

Being a part of the world, universe, ethereal reality as opposed to a part from it - that paradigm shift would cure a lot of ills ....now I'm skidding into politics, business, war, greed and don't want to go there....

and so I struggle to protect what has been created...I didn't put the Earth here or even myself or maybe I did put myself here -right now with my extenuating circumstances in order to evolve through the finite into the infinite and so isn't it amazing is not such a bad way to go...


Your passion and your career might not be the same thing but that's okay - our market system isn't "that" organic - its a man made tool, money is a tool - sometimes the mundane realities are just that mundane...but within your soul is the ability to turn laundry into harmony...

We are here I suspect to help each other...and in your own corner of the world make it better somehow some way - a kind word - a smile - a helping hand, giving is receiving....don't give up on yourself - if you can't thread the needle where you are doing something you love and making a living - make a living and do something you love.

In a hundred plus words maybe I've said something after all.

Paul

Paul Burke said...

(part three)

It is the moment that we live in but a little planning helps those moments transition a little, smoother, lighter...although upheaval is a helluva producer.


Again nobody knows...NOBODY....emphasis mine because there are so many claiming to know...by design the mystery is built in and that's something amazing and thankfully not taken out of the equation.

There are a million roads to travel, a million ways to be - it is not a one size fits all world...and happiness comes from inside...wherever you go what is revealed is what you bring with you...what you broadcast you receive...keep your sense of humor and remember its not "out there" but inside each one of us because we are a part of all we see not apart from the world.

No baby, family, job, career, adventure will bring happiness - its not "out there" but in how you look at it - seems stupid - the great mystery is lying quiet with our souls - if we just step out of the way for a minute.

Being a part of the world, universe, ethereal reality as opposed to a part from it - that paradigm shift would cure a lot of ills ....now I'm skidding into politics, business, war, greed and don't want to go there....

Paul Burke said...

(part four)

and so I struggle to protect what has been created...I didn't put the Earth here or even myself or maybe I did put myself here -right now with my extenuating circumstances in order to evolve through the finite into the infinite and so isn't it amazing is not such a bad way to go...


Your passion and your career might not be the same thing but that's okay - our market system isn't "that" organic - its a man made tool, money is a tool - sometimes the mundane realities are just that mundane...but within your soul is the ability to turn laundry into harmony...

We are here I suspect to help each other...and in your own corner of the world make it better somehow some way - a kind word - a smile - a helping hand, giving is receiving....don't give up on yourself - if you can't thread the needle where you are doing something you love and making a living - make a living and do something you love.

In a hundred plus words maybe I've said something after all.

Paul

Barbara said...

Wow I'm so glad I'm not the only one thinking this stuff. I'm so glad I found this.