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20 December 2009 @ 08:46 pm
I went to the concert. The music was brilliant. It made me want to dance, as Renaissance music often does. Makes me want to pick up the recorder again, too.

We got to intermission. There was more hugging. People came up to me; I smiled.

"So, you're halfway done!" I groaned inwardly, knowing that my least favourite question (save 'What's your real name?') was coming next. "You'll be done in no time. What do you want to do?"

I bit my lip and considered this question that consumes my mind so frequently, yet draws no clear or concise answer. I thought, I want to be happy, love all beings and die? Probably live poor in money but rich in love & community? Travel by the cheapest means, with lightest luggage, and often eat light? Change my mind many times a decade as to just what I want to do that year? Help people, always? Remain intelligent & capable, but not pigeonholed into one system that I so detest and would stress me beyond sanity?

I tried to speak them. At each turn, I failed. I settled on, "I want to be happy. Happy in a non-situational way: at peace with life and able to remain content through the turbulence."

Gail tried to offer words of what she might have called wisdom, but that drove me up a wall. My mind daemons came out full-force.

I sat back down at the concert and frowned. I considered my potential: I could fix myself in the Land of Academia, fated for glasses and a bun or a life as that eccentric professor no one quite understands; I could throw myself entirely into research, live staining my white lab coat an array of diseased pigments; I could pain my hip and press on through work in the field; I could stash myself away, study human nature and write; I could be a starving (and crap) musician; I could teach high school students who may prefer to aim spit balls at my pupils; I could minister to a congregation of open-minded congregationalists, live poor but spiritually rich.

All answers that, it seems, would please people in their ideas of my potential. They would feel comfortable with the ambitions I would speak of. Professor, Researcher/Scientist, Field Scientist/Conservationist, Writer, Musician, Teacher, Minister. All supposed 'ends' to paths.

I growled at myself as tears sprung to my eyes. I pictured myself answering the question each time it is inquired of me (far too frequently), pondered the idea that at present my worth is the weight of my ambitions. My friends respond, "I want to be a psychologist. English teacher. Doctor. Surgeon. Writer."

I considered the answer, "I want to be a Buddhist nun," but decided that, despite it being as true as my desire to be anything else (enjoy parts of it, issues with others), I wasn't looking for shock value. I was looking entirely for honesty. "I don't know," doesn't fully cover it - I have ideas, I have pictures, I have an image or feeling I'm working toward, just as my peers seem to. I do know. It's just not what anyone wants to hear.

I pictured the situation again. Probing eyes, not unkindly, with lips spelling out the dreaded question in whatever words used: What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to love, and I want to be happy." How do you want to do that? "I'll show you." Smiles. And if that doesn't work, well, Buddhist nun as comedic relief to the rescue - even if some day they may well witness me wrapped in red&yellow robes as I previously was in brunette tresses.

I began to mention it to my minister, Carol. "And people are asking me The Question - what do you want to be when you finish?" She looked me up and down and cut me off, her eyes hard with her resolve but filled with compassionate love and amusement. "You'll notice I asked you no such thing!" I thanked her. She told me all the things I had previously attempted to express, all the phrases of wisdom I so sought - my mind will change, my space will change, the unexpected will occur, my moments are important, I am not the sum of my ambitions, I will find my way, I need not have the perfect answer for the question. I hugged her tight.

I thought of all of this as I read this story: The Supervisor's Tale, Minerva and Hermione.

I don't normally rec stories, given I have so many fandoms and non-fandom people on my list. Essentially, it's Hermione working on the Beetle the Bard stories for Muggle publication with the help of Minerva. It's parallel to a dissertation...the beginning of life as an academic.

I read it and thought of my life next year, this time. My third-year project (dissertation) on my mind. The anxieties I'll foster that will be akin to those the author expressed for Hermione in the stories. The similarities my life in general will entail, whatever supervisor I get... (Of course I will be thrilled if I end up with someone in any manner like Minerva McGonagall, but I highly doubt it.)

I loved that in the story Hermione did all the scholastic work for the stories. She muddled through the academic anxieties of research and scholastic writing. She published. She 'succeeded,' in the manner she thought she could (despite harboring the typical fear at the start that she wouldn't). I loved that despite that, she went for a job with a Non-Profit, for something she was passionate about. That Minerva couldn't comprehend the move given it didn't match the girl's potential (that sodding concept of potential!) yet seemed at last to Understand, at least somewhat more. So she went back eventually for another tussle with the government (essentially) about controversial publication...it was a choice to go back, to do what she wished, to go with her heart or instincts or morals or all in the end and at each step.

Sometimes I just read stories at the perfect time. For me, those moments are magical. Thank you once more, Harry Potter and fandom, for helping me step further down my life path.
Vpiggyzxtc on December 21st, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
One of the hardest questions to answer in life. I HATED that question too when I was in college, and it still gets asked and I still hate it.

Life is a journey, I'm not sure if we really find our place in the real world in terms of work or anything else really. Too often people do things because they need the money, or want the prestige or simply no longer have the drive to do/try something new (I think I'm here) and they just settle and do something they may or may not be truly passionate about. Maybe they NEVER reach their true potential... BUT there are some people who really truly do find their true calling, and I really hope you're one of them!

Now I want to read that fanfic! That is what I love about the power of the written word :)

I've been thinking lately along quite similar lines as you about work and life, so I will probably post something up on my LJ too but far less eloquently!
Kiwi Crocuscranky__crocus on December 27th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
I'm just not at all sure any of us have a specific 'place' or 'path.' One that is ours, perfectly, without a doubt, exactly-what-we-were-made-for material. I guess it doesn't fit with my science brain, as looking at us as a species. We invented the jobs as a species, same as a meerkat will invent jobs: babysitter, forager, whatever else. We have just complicated ours, added buildings in cramped places and certain outfits that fit a societal decorum we have chosen as a group. We're still just a species of animal. I'm not sure how that could equate to any of us having 'destined' paths and places...and if that isn't the case, why all this pain over finding the 'right one,' an din expecting a college student to know that she is on hers or out looking for it?

Funnily enough, some people are happy not being passionate about their jobs - I am just as thrilled for them! It wouldn't do right for that individual to be in a job that requires impassioned work and a priority for work in life. Not everyone is going to be that person.

And in any of those cases, what is True Potential or True Calling? To me it seems like just a good fit - not a Perfect Puzzle Fit, in which we are all puzzle pieces searching throughout our lives for our pre-destined spot, but... as organisms living and working in a changing world. Not a puzzle, that has a fixed end that we are living with, not a problem that has a set solution. Just a model. A model with no controller but our own designs and decisions.

I just guess I wonder a lot about the weight a society of such people can add to a system based on what individuals desire. And why it feels as though the weight of it all strikes my shoulders the minute that question is asked!

I am honestly a very silly creature.
V: imaginationpiggyzxtc on January 6th, 2010 09:49 am (UTC)
You are not a silly creature :) I enjoyed reading this comment of yours.

Everyone is looking for something different in life. I suppose as long as you're happy and content with who you are and where you're at in life then good for you! I had a chat with one of my colleagues yesterday and he brought up how its quite funny when you have an easy job that doesn't require too much but you enjoy, you want something challenging. On the other hand, once it gets too challenging, we want something easier. Aren't we funny?

I sort of fell into my job, as did one of my best friends in college. A good fit for where I am now in the stage of my life. I'm not complaining. I had a bit of a "what the hell am I doing with my life" moment today, but I was reminded of all the reasons why I do what I do by my friend/colleague and it really helped me break from the dark and twisties and go back to the rainbows and sunshine.

Sometimes not knowing opens the doors to a lot of new experiences. Best to keep an open mind I guess!
kellychambliss: Xmaskellychambliss on December 21st, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
I love that story! I've been in both Hermione's and Minerva's situations (thesis writer / thesis advisor), so I can identify on two levels.

When people ask what you want to do when you grow up, give them the answer that my friend's son gave when he was eight -- it got him kicked out of the Cub Scouts (seriously). He wasn't sure what the words meant, but he was the last one in his Cub Scout den to be asked the question, and the other kids had already mentioned all the other careers he knew. So he said he wanted to be a "gay terrorist."
Kiwi Crocus: Firefly || Kaylee || Maybe no words...cranky__crocus on December 27th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
Laughter. Gay terrorist. Sounds like an aspiration I could handle! Chuckles.

My answers thus far have been, "I want to be happy," "I want to live with love and integrity in my life," "I want to be like my minister," and "I want to be a Buddhist nun." I am having considerably less trouble with this now that I have taken the time to sit down and consider all the faults I have with the heavy question, rather than sitting there trying to fit my thoughts into the skeletal formula that a society of differentially-minded individuals have tried to set as standard. This is not the first time I have witnessed myself as someone who doesn't quite 'fit.' I'm sure it won't be the last! My companions and I seldom fit. I tend to align myself with highly...idiosyncratic individuals.

Or, as we like to explain, eccentric and eclectic. Doesn't always fit us into the mould or the "what will you do after college?" question.

Oh, great thinky thoughts. Sometimes I'm relieved to just turn off my brain and think of Wrackspurts dissipating through my ears.
101mutts: Brewster with ball101mutts on December 21st, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
"I could teach high school students who may prefer to aim spit balls at my pupils" That made me giggle.

Whatever you begin, middle, and end up doing, have fun with it.
Kiwi Crocus: Firefly || Kaylee || No power in the 'vecranky__crocus on December 27th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
Laughter. There will be many stops within each beginning, middle & end, I'm sure! But inevitably it'll end with a last breath, and what a job that will be - preparing for it and acknowledging it, considering the end bracket to my personal time line. Provided I don't live denying that, nor without cherishing my birth and beginning bracket, I should be fine. :)

And I am SURE I'll have fun!
chellix18chellix18 on December 21st, 2009 10:39 am (UTC)
i remember back when i was a kid and somebody would ask,"what do you want to be when you grow up?" and the answer comes so easily...i agree with 101muts,just have fun :D
Kiwi Crocuscranky__crocus on December 27th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
Will definitely have fun!

I miss the day of saying that I wanted to be the Pink Powerranger!
Lee Annsarai23 on December 21st, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Ahaha THAT question. It's one I always try to avoid, but it always come up over Christmas, when tehe family are together and whatnot :p
I'm nearly 21, and I'm only in my first year of Uni, so I also get the 'So, how old will you be when you finally finish?' lol.
I think as long as you enjoy what you're doing at the time, other people don't really matter that much (I've gone through phases of wanting to be a geologist, doctor, writer, biologist and now I'm back to Geology, and I still don't know if I'll get a job in that field after I graduate) I just roll with it!
Kiwi Crocus: AFP || Imagine flowers.cranky__crocus on December 27th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Just rolling with it sounds ideal! Great philosophy! :D