Saturday, March 05, 2011

This is All There Is

I wondered today about changing careers. What if I became a sociologist? Or moved into women's studies? What would I need to do that, I wondered, besides even more education?

A little more time? For I am growing old.

So very long ago, I stared off into the sky, watching the clouds and daydreaming of the day I would be a "writer." I didn't even know what that meant, really, except that somehow I would produce those magical things full of words that created visions in my head and gave me ideas. Books shared entire worlds with me and with those who read the same as words as I. It created a connectedness, didn't it? We all read See Jane Run and we envisioned the same things, a girl running, and perhaps there were differences - a red shirt or brown hair - but it was basically the same. The imagery ran deep and long and the tales were bold and striking. We could reach out for new life and new civilizations and run barefoot amongst the clover or visit the mad woman in the tower.

All we had to do was open a book.

And there were other jobs in writing, I soon learned. Newspapers offered a daily attraction, what with their stark black and white words and photos. Images and words scattered across a large page to inform the public, educate the masses, and preserve history. I loved newspaper stories. They held adventure, promise, and change. They held my future, and I knew it, deep down.

Advertisement and copywriting never really appealed to me - loads of information slammed at you in a few sentences and carefully crafted images. Advertising was meant to persuade, not educate, not evoke the imagination, or bring out nuances. It was all about selling.

I am not a saleswoman. I never have been. I am, I think, a teacher in some ways. An educator of the population. Writing newspaper stories is ultimately about education. If the story is done well.

My sociology class appeals to me because it educates and reminds me of dramatic changes in society. Studying women who have made an impact on the world has moved me. Through sheer force of will, women forced themselves upon the world. Through women we have suffrage, we have the ability to work in any job (well, sort of), the right to move freely about the world with our head uncovered and our shoulders back. And yet the work is nowhere near done and in fact has fallen behind, for women still cower in the corners beneath the fists of their loved ones, they make pennies on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, they are sexually abused and emotionally demeaned, and most don't even realize they have choices. The world is unfair and it is suffocating in the hands of those who have the power to open up their grasp and make things more equal but they do not do this. They only close the fist tighter.

And I think to myself, what am I doing, sitting here writing claptrap and thinking about so dramatically changing my life that I might need to find a low residency program for a Ph.D.? And I wonder too about the lies sold to me as promises so long ago - those lies that if I went to a reputable school and received my B.A. in English and I worked hard and long and wrote my heart out that somehow I would one day be able to call myself writer?

What of those promises? Those made to me, and those I made to myself? And what about these schools now offering up these MFA degrees in creative writing, the ones that advertise all over the magazines on writing that I still read even though I stopped finding them helpful years ago? What are they selling, really, but pipe dreams and promises that will be kept only for the select few? What are they doing, teaching these hope-filled dreamers to write fancy sentences and how to find metaphors, create plot, and construct a character? What do they think they are preparing these people for? It is all to the good to learn how to write cute and pretty, but in the end, what good is pretty, hmmm?

What good is it all, really? Do I want to be a writing teacher and perpetuate that cruelty?

There are less than 5,000 sociologists in the country. The field doesn't even have real standing, except in academia. There's no room in that field for me, I see. For one thing, I have trouble with statistics. Figuring percentages has never been a strong suit.

Women's studies? Another uphill battle. I can't even figure out what the prerequisites are for that. Apparently I don't have them. As best I can tell, you take the courses as an undergrad, get the MA, and then find a job at a state college. Good luck with that.

Everything I have ever thought about doing has been totally marginalized in the current society. Every field of study I have ever contemplated has been outsourced and is gone. Regardless of where I went with my life, I would still be where I am now. Apparently that is the type of person I am - the one who doesn't fit in. Looking back, all I see are roads that lead to exactly where I am. Questing, searching, wondering. The round peg in the square hole.

Maybe this is what it is to live today when you're not a corporate clone. Does it mean one must constantly explore, dream, wail, writhe in frustration out of the sheer idiocy of it all? There are better tomorrows, surely. There are new dreams. But what if there are not? What if the journey is all there is?

But wait. Wait! What am I saying? What am I dismissing? Why wouldn't I want to be a writing teacher? Why wouldn't I want to see the joy on a student's face as she learned to communicate? What greater gift could there be than to teach someone how to make herself be understood? And what is wrong with pretty, anyway? Isn't the world bleak enough, dreary enough, crazy enough, that pretty might be what we need?

Ideas are what makes creativity so vital to the world. Without them, nothing moves forward. Where would we be without Newton's notion of gravity? Without the zero? I may not know what E=mc2 actually means but I know it has great importance in the vastness of change and creativity.

And how do we share these ideas, this creativity? We write it down, of course. We can use the oral tradition and talk it out, but things are lost and easily forgotten. It is in the act of writing that we achieve longevity and capture creation.

Stories give us pause. They offer up insight. They give us a way to move forward without breaking a sweat. If nothing else, stories entertain. And Lord knows we need entertaining, if only to forget for a few hours.

Round. Around. Circle about, pull up the wagons, let the snake eat its tail. I wander about for 40 years, and I end up back where I was in first grade.


  1. "The real writer is one who really writes."
    ~Marge Piercy
    I saw this quote on someone else's blog. According to this quote and my (humble) opinion, you are writing, therefore you are a writer!
    I often think of Norman Rockwell, who never considered himself in the category of a great artist. Crazy, huh?
    And goodness gracious, why would you ever want to fit in?! Being your unique self is the best thing to do!

  2. It's kind of ironic that the Google ads on your blog are for vanity presses.

  3. I feel your pain here, dear. I majored in history. Great idea. What is it that people do with that again? Oh, that's right. Teach.

    Ugh... this calls for a post.



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