Not enough, not enough, not enough, not enough. Never enough. Work-life balance. Work-life integration. That’s all well and good but. What about. You should. Why?
No reason, really. It’s just what “what we do,” just how “the world works.” The Path People have always seemed odd to me, even misled. I’m talking about the ones who’d worked out the course of their lives by 20 or 25, or seemed to. And yet here I’ve been, presuming the same kind of knowledge of my own life — that I’d be a writer or an academic, something artistic and creative and absurd and openly experiential, writing and thinking my way not just out of the rat race for “success” in the more “traditional” sorts of “careers,” but into a fuller, better human being. Now is that “a revelation or a more efficient blinding.”* That’s me being literary about wanting to be literary.
Have you heard of the impostor syndrome? I knew I’d never write a book as a [job title], knew I was and would always be a person first and [job title] second, just a writer (i.e., person) with a job [title]. Because life is special, too special to waste on [job title]. Besides, anyone can do most stuff, to put it with zero eloquence and mild aplomb. Marketing. Anyone. Project management. Anyone. Writer/artist. Few. So there I’ve been, writing on the fringes, hoping to be noticed, wanting to be heard, working to get better, trying to get published, to be one of the few, always feeling misplaced, paying the bills with jobs in business and professional things, earning a living for the sake of earning a living, working for someone other than myself, like one of the many.
I suppose I should be thankful, feel lucky, privileged, and seize the moments and the opportunities, etcetera, etcetera. And it’s not that I don’t, etcetera, etcetera. It’s that I don’t want to. Sometimes I don’t want to at all. And I feel something like guilt over this not-wanting-ness, something petulant and ungrateful and difficult. The same way I sometimes facetiously over-emphasize with italics and quotations. It’s the impostor in me, acknowledging himself.
This doesn’t end with me saying something conclusive and triumphant like “I don’t feel like an impostor anymore.” I do, but not nearly as much as I have in the past, or not quite in the same way(s). Am I still scrambling inside to figure out what someone else wants, and the way they want it? Yes, but less so, because I know what I want and know that I am not necessarily what I do, regardless of [job title] and Path People.
My point is this, I think: I still feel captive to the legacy of the Protestant work ethic and the mythologizing of the “free” market (does that sound academic enough?). And to the great many of their conscious and unconscious acolytes. Miłosz still makes more sense to me, artistically, professionally, philosophically, and that makes me feel like no matter how good I get at participation, no matter how well I play the game and play along, it will never be enough. They are relentless. They always want more. And different. And more different. Why? What’s the end? More. Because more means more, and there’s no time or place for less.
I’m frustrated, that’s all, and it’s coming out. Now is simply one of those times. I’ll be more pleasant and amusing tomorrow.
*Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man