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I've always been a driven child, resenting children with driven parents, imagining what it would be like to have soccer monday, art tuesday, ballet wednesday, theatre thursday... I've grown up into a driven teen, and that's left me with a lot of questions. I'm graduating a year early, I've hit escape velocity and I'm ready to flee from all that constrains me, and I'm left to think-- what then? Don't get me wrong, I've got a plan, I've always had one, but do I want it now?

I've said as long as I remember that I was going to grow up, become a lawyer, a politician, change the world make it safer for women like my sisters and I. There are tapes of my precocious little mouth chastising my father for sexism... But is that what I want, what I love? I spend my days drowning deep in philosophy, Derrida, Foucault, Wolfe, they were my first loves. I write poetry, pages of poetry, about everything and I love it. I've been told by the writer I respect more than any I've ever known that I have a fluidity, understanding, and breadth of language that rivals Wordsworth at times... I love to write, to dance, to act-- I love to show how I feel and express myself, how can I do that in front of a judge, a jury, a voting pool? I want to grow up and be a poet, a Shakespearean actress, a painter, a dancer, anything at all that will free my soul. What do you do when you know the best choice and the right choice, and they're two different things? I want to be able to support my family, to keep as many children as I'd like to have well fed, and put them through college... but I also want to always have the manic feeling of putting words on paper.

I've been told my need for expression is just a phase, that eventually my hormones will settle down and I'll be happy to grow up and assimilate, but I can't believe that. They're taking me out of context, not looking at the whole of me, not realizing that my soul belongs to my art, that without it I cannot breathe. I want to become a person without regrets, and with this fork in the road I know I'll have to.

*sigh* I know better than all of this-- my writing is decent for highschool standards, but poetry doesn't get published, doesn't get bought anymore. If it can't be turned into a screenplay it might as well not exist.

She falls softly down from towering pedastools...

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The following comments are for "When I grow up..."
by shefallssoftly

You can feed your soul, and your family
Where did you read this rule that says you need to be one thing at one time?

I am a poet, and always will be.

I am a musician, an artist, a novelist, a storyteller, a designer, a singer, a comedian, a teacher... many things that feed the soul. I am also a husband and a father, a friend and a brother. And I'm a marketing consultant. I've been a publications manager and a technical writer and an advertising manager and a business development director. All these things meet in my head and my heart. There's no pain of choosing. No great tug-of-war.

When I was graduating high-school, in 1984... jeez... 20+ years ago... I thought I wanted to be a high-school English teacher. I studied literature and writing at Cornell. It was, according to all the various books my guidance councilor had available, the best place to study English. So that's where I went. When I got out, I got the chance to teach high-school English.

Turns out... I didn't like it much. I liked the teaching, but not the politics, the snide parents, the crappy pay, the kids who didn't give a shit... I could have taken, I think, several of those things, but not all of them. So I went into technical writing with an eye towards going into marketing. But I never stopped reading good books or writing poetry or talking to other readers and writers. And I never closed my heart or my mind.

When people ask me, "What do you do?" I sometimes answer, "I'm a poet." Mostly because I'm a wise-ass, but sometimes because that's closer to who I am than, "I'm in marketing." Marketing is what I do. Poet is who I am. It sounds, to quote a friend from back in Massachusetts, "Wicked queer," but that's the way it is.

My marketing philosophy is predicated on the theory that you need to be both creative and analytical at the same time in order to succeed in the business world. As I put it, we need poets of industry and artistic number crunchers. The same can be said for what you want from life.

Why can't you be a poet lawyer? Much of the marketing work I do is for lawyers and law firms (if you're particulary bored, see my blog at I tell you this truth: the world needs more lawyers who are, at heart, poets and actresses and warriors, rather than just smarmy, smart little shits who wanted a guaranteed six-figure income straight out of Michigan Law School.

It is not easy to be true to more than one faith; but it is much more fulfilling. It requires that you understand yourself better than most people are willing to do. That is the one failing that trips up almost everyone who tries to "be something" for the wrong reasons; self dishonesty.

If you say you're doing something because it's noble, but you're really in it for the money, you are doomed to be unhappy. If you say you want kids because you love kids, but you're really doing it to try to save your marriage, the marriage is going to fail. What I mean by this is, that if you try to walk two meaningful paths at the same time, be sure you understand what your true goals are. Your odds of self-delusional implosion go way up when you get complicated.

As for worrying about your writing not getting published, or never earning any money from it; quit whining. Everyone has to earn a living. TS Elliot was a bank clerk. Einstein worked in the patent office. If you're a poet, you write poetry and getting paid for it has nothing to do with it. If I never wrote another word, and never got paid for anything I ever wrote, I will always be deeply and profoundly glad for the gift of whatever ability God gave me, and the additional gift of the friends and colleagues who have made my writing journey so much more interesting. There are, in all the pieces I've written, several lines that I cherish. That is enough.

[Side note: people do still get paid for writing poetry -- we call them "song writers"]

So... if you have the talent, family backing, skills and opportunity to do something with your professional life that you enjoy and that can make a few bucks and that helps out the world... you're already ten steps ahead of everyone else. If you also have the internal and emotional wherewithal to be creative (which can easily be applied to both personal and professional areas) on top of that, you're doubly blessed.

This is not a cross-roads to be tragically and dramatically obsessed about. You don't need to choose one thing or the other.


( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: March 11, 2005 )

No subject
Andy, this is perhaps the best bit of writing I have seen in some time. Such passion and yet enormous clarity. I would have really appreciated a mentor like you in my life. Although it must be okay, since now I feel and believe all the things you said. I'm even living most of it now as well. It just took awhile to get 'it' and have the maturity to know it. Thanks to both of you, shefalls and andy for good stuff to read. warm regards huni.

( Posted by: Huni [Member] On: March 11, 2005 )

faux pas
Shefalls.. I am so sorry. I just realised the awful thing I did. I didn't mean to hi-jack your post. I just got caught up with Andy's reply. That was bad form. I enjoyed your read as well and like the way you explore the options and possibilities of your future and the questions it raised for you. All the best in your choices. You could do far worse than follow Andy's advice. warm regards huni.

( Posted by: Huni [Member] On: March 11, 2005 )

ooooh sorry.
My apologies-- didn't realize how whiny this sounded when I wrote it. Been having some troubles with a teacher and her over-critical ways. I generally handle criticism well. I don't handle being told that I write "average high school poetry" very well.

( Posted by: shefallssoftly [Member] On: March 21, 2005 )

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