Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Different Kind of Freedom

So I'm kinda stuck right now. Thankfully, this time it isn't because I don't know what I should do. What I should do is pretty easy and laid out there easy as pie for me. It's more getting off my ass and doing it that has been the hard part.

I guess I've done this enough times that I should know what to do. And I know that making certain commitments will get me moving, which is why I start by doing that. For example: Even though I wasn't ready to actually go back to school, I knew back in July that I needed to go back to classes in the fall, so I did the easy part of it. I enrolled in the classes. I filled out the FAFSA. By the time I had to go up to school to sort this and that out, I had already gotten the ball rolling, so I figured I might as well do the crappy stuff too, so I could get to the fun stuff (the learning, yeah, I'm a dork). So why haven't I gone to get my books yet? Classes start Monday. And I ended up going out of town at the last minute, so getting my books has been permanently postponed until Monday after my first class.

The easy answer to why I haven't gotten my school books yet is just that I'm lazy. And that my sleep schedule is very messed up right now and I'm sleeping all day, awake all night. (I blame talking to BT, who is +8 hours from me. ;) ) But the real answer has alot more to do with being scared than anything else.

If things go even partially as planned, I'm going to be entering the real, grown-up, sink or swim world here in the next couple months. It won't be terribly well-planned. And it won't be like some sitcom dream. When BT comes back to the States, I'm only really hoping for us to have enough money to get a place and to get him a vehicle, mostly because circumstances have been such that we haven't started saving until just now. (My parents aren't too keen on us living in their basement and, frankly, neither am I.) I will have a part-time job, but I will also be going to school. While I know that I am perfectly capable of doing that, I also know that I don't have a good track record of doing it consistently enough to support myself. Also, BT will have earned leave days which he will take the pay for, but he'll need to find a job soon after he gets home. While I don't anticipate him having a hard time finding a job, I do know that many returning from "over there" often do have trouble finding and keeping jobs. This doesn't even take into account that money is just tight all around these days. I am constantly reminded that, for most Americans, us included, all it takes is one thing to go wrong for them to be completely fucked. Getting ill or being injured for an extended period of time, or even just having your vehicle break down and not having the savings to repair it can lead to loss of job which can lead to loss of home. Just the economics are scary as hell.

But that isn't what I want my life to be about. Last night I was reading the 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon University by David Foster Wallace in the Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005. Here's a link if you want to read it through, which I suggest because it's really good: His basic argument in the speech is that liberal arts educations don't actually teach you how to think, which is a cliche that many commencement speakers repeat, but what to think about:
"And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts
education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your
comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to
your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely,
imperially alone day in and day out."
I am well aware that I have always feared that real, non-crazy, non-bohemian, adult life meant that you had to go through everday like the above because I've always feared all of that life is what Wallace only admits to one part involving- "boredom, routine, and petty frustration." I know that I've talked in this blog before about a temp job I had a couple years ago, where I did data entry in a cave for 40 hours a week over a couple winter months before I quit. After that job, I was scared to death that, if I ever allowed myself to live an adult life, it would be just like that. I hated how little energy I had at the end of the day to do anything more. All I felt I could do was veg out in front of the TV. Here recently, in large part because of what my family is going through and also because of being with BT, I realize how fulfilling other parts of adult life can be, parts I had also shied away from before. When I read the speech by Wallace, this section made me cry: (emphasis mine)
"But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is
most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world
of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The
really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and
discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice
for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day
While at this point, I really have no desire to be a mother, I do have a huge desire to take care of my family, especially as we go through such a difficult time. And while I have reservations that this is 'woman's work' and thus tend to steer away from it the way I do cooking, I have wonderful male role models who have taught me that this just isn't true. That it is not only everyone's responsibility to do what they can for their family, it can also be something that everyone can take pride and comfort in having done.

But in all this, in wanting to take care of my family, in wanting to build an economically and emotionally stable household with my husband, in wanting to finish my degree, in all this I fear that I just won't have the strength. That's I'll start it but never continue with it (as there really is no finish in most of these things.) That if I put forward a little but can't put forward enough, I'll disappoint everyone, because that little I put forward was just a down payment on what is expected. So I'm stuck because I'm scared of failing. How completely ordinary, huh?

I guess the only thing I can do, what I am planning on doing, what I started planning on re-committing myself to doing after I read that speech, is to put one foot in front of the other and do what I can. No one realistically expects me to be perfect (except for me and I don't have realistic expectations). I have a great family who will support me when I slip, most especially when they know I am trying hard in my own right. And things that seem to big to tackle just need to be broken down into managable peices, what needs to handled first and second and so on. There's another quote that I need to remember now. (I'm sure I don't have it exactly and I'll have to come back and edit it and attribute it like a good English student.) "Don't do nothing because you can't do it all. Do something."

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