April 1, 2012 – Following my Bliss or Teaching AgainIn The Power of Myth Joseph Campbell says, “You have to follow your bliss.”
I’m lucky enough to be doing this.“How are you subsisting?” a friend asks me.
The question brings me a surprising amount of guilt because as Dr. Michael Wayne says, “We are programmed to think that we need to make a living, and that we should make the most pragmatic choice in that regard.”And I feel this sharply, it’s as if the fact that I’m not currently earning an income is despicable. That somehow I have to apologize to everyone who is working at a job they hate. That my meager savings (which is becoming more and more meager) is an indicator of my value as a human being. Or that my writing isn’t worthwhile enough to justify my current lifestyle. The trickling stream of rejections from agents seems to emphasize this – even as I know it’s only par for the writer’s course.
Silly me.Writing is my bliss. This is what I’ve worked my whole life to be able to do.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”“A writer,” I’d always said. My second choice was to be an astronaut, but I knew I didn’t want to invest the time I’d need to improve my less than perfect math skills. Right brain thinking has always been more my forte than the left.
Yeah. To write. And now I’m feeling this is somehow wrong. That the words I string along aren’t enough. Aren’t big enough. Aren’t good enough. I’ve always struggled with the drive that says, “You must accomplish Things.” Things. Things. Things. I’ve resisted our world’s emphasis on the value of paper and metal. I hate it. But, even resisting, I know that money facilitates things. I have plans. And as most plans do, these involve money. I’m counting pennies, wondering just how far my dollars will stretch. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to do something that brings in a little plata.Yet, even with this thought in the forefront of my mind, when Katrina passes my name on to two different English Class Seekers and they call me, I freak out. I love my daily groove. I love the fact that I don’t have to set an alarm in the morning, that I can afford the gentle easing into the day with a workout followed by coffee and breakfast then settle down at my ironing board desk to work at words in between snacks. This is all gonna get interrupted if I have to make lesson plans, travel to a student’s home, work around their work schedules and actually teach.
I realize anew the fortune-dense life I live when teaching five hours a week nearly sets me into a stressed frenzy.“Are you going to think of fortune, or are you going to think of your bliss?” Joseph Campbell asks me from The Power of Myth.
That question is what I try to communicate to my mom when I explain my ridiculous aversion to this new work. I hear in her voice the latent scolding and I understand the reason for it. I know I’m being absurd. My greatest fear is that I’ll get too caught up in trying to gain money for the future that I’ll lose out on this Now which I’ve worked so hard to have.It’s a strange and contradictory life I live out in my head.
On Thursday when Rodney and I are out for a vegetarian lunch and a quick walk to the ocean he says, “I’ve got a great idea for you!”“What is it?” I ask.
“I was thinking that you should write yourself as a character in your fiction.”It’s a great thought. I toy with the idea while I pick the corn out of my food. During the rest of our time together I ponder the main questions that come to my mind. What parts of myself would I put into fiction? What would my greatest flaws be? How would I react to situations? Would I make myself to be greater, bigger than life, or more ordinary? Would I ruin my fictional life the way I do so often with my characters? How would it look to blend truth in fiction? Maybe that’s what all writing is anyways.
In real life, I take on the new students. I hate how happy the cash makes me feel. How relieved I am to get paid. That I feel I have to justify me to myself. Sometimes it’s just adjusting to the new that throws me. I’m a creature of habit that loves adventure. I’m a human thing that craves freedom over all else, but wants structure, my own structure. I’m a paradox of needs and wants.I’m rich in this life I’ve got going on.
And I do truly feel rich. “I didn’t feel poor,” Campbell said, “I just felt that I didn’t have any money.” I feel that way too.The two people I’m teaching both want to learn English in order to make better lives for themselves and their families. This is worthwhile. This is something I can do. It’s living outside my own mind and contributing in a small way to another. Even if it’s in exchange for cash.
Whether I'm teaching, reading, writing, living--there back behind it all, in the archives of my brain, I tuck words into files and record experiences to use for later. And I write. I worry sentences around. And I write. I doubt myself. And always, I write.This is living.
This is life.This is following my bliss.