Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Manic Monday's word is drift

i was writing a letter to a young woman who is very dear to me who is worried that what she's doing now might not lead to any sensible, money-making kind of future. And I thought about my own time in, and after college. And drift is one of the words you might use to describe it (if you're being generous). Here's some of what I wrote:

Most people flounder. A lot. They try on different identities, wear them for a while, then file them in "not me" and try on another one. Every "not me" you cross off your list gives you that much more information, gets you that much closer to "me."

I, of course, am my family's officially designated black sheep and flounderer, the queen of the flounder(er)s, so I speak with some authority here. I've always known what I loved, but I had no idea how that could translate into anything even vaguely practical. I used to worry that I would end up as a bag lady, pushing her shopping cart up the street toward the homeless shelter each night. But here I am with a husband and kids I adore, a big messy house, a life in art, and the only shopping carts I push are at the grocery store.

And look at Kirk. He majored in math. Math! It wasn't until the last semester of his senior year, when he signed up for a semester to study art history in London (which he mainly did as a cheap way to get to Europe and because a girl he had a crush on was doing it) that he finally BEGAN to find his path.

I remember once sitting in my back yard in Berkeley, trying to write a story. I didn't know where it was going and that made me panicky, the way I feel when I'm driving somewhere I've never been before and I don't have a map -- anxious, certain I've missed the turn off, gone wrong. The panic, of course, was making it harder to write. And it finally occurred to me that in art, there never would be a map, and if I ever wanted to get anywhere I was going to have to find a way accept that and relax, enjoy the ride. It also occurred to me that, given the many oddball choices I've made (e.g., the trifecta of impractical degrees I have -- English lit, studio art, and creative writing), this would be a good guiding principle for my life too. And it is. My life is full of amazement, discovery, and creativity. i feel incredibly lucky.

So, if you can, let yourself ride for a while without fear, and with faith that you are going toward something, even if you don't know what it is. And understand that some of your most lost, feckless times will end up being your most formative. So try to believe you're on your path, even when you can't see it, and let yourself drift.

Lots of love, E

1 comment:

Joanna Goddard said...

that is such a nice letter, elizabeth. i completely agree with you. i actually went to law school and hated it (i was so miserable!) and then quit after just one year, much to my father's dismay. I went into magazines, which is infamous for paying rock-bottom wages, but i am so happy and i LOVE my job and work really hard and actually make a great salary now. i have never ever regretted leaving law school five years ago. your friend should follow her passions -- doors will open where she least expects it, and she will love and be inspired by her daily work and routine. what's the point of making the big bucks if you hate going to work every single day?

anyway, i totally agree with your advice to her. she is lucky to have a friend like you! good luck to her.