Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daydream Believer

If wishes were horses than beggars would ride, and if I were half as responsible to myself as I am to other people, I would be self-employed doing awesome things all day. 

I like to think that I’m a free spirit, but I’ve been made to face the fact (over and over and over again, in fact) that my particular spirit is rather like a small child:  It craves boundaries, direction, structure in which to exercise its gifts in a safe and loving environment. 

I will take on an extra project at work, but fail to shop for groceries until my third day of eating nothing but unadorned grits and Bisquick pancakes with ground pepper (for real), help a friend move or paint an apartment but leave my laundry until I’m channeling Pigpen from Charlie Brown.

Ask me to do something and give me a deadline.  I’ll do it in style, with gusto. I’ll dot all the I’s with little hearts, wrap up the results in fancy paper and bows, and deliver it to your door with a curtsy and a flourish.

I’m a diligent ditz, a spazzy robot.  I’m a freight train making all its stops, leaving the mangled corpses of a million grand schemes at every crossing.

Because there are plenty of things that I do just for myself: I play my ukulele, make songs, I sing, I sew, I write stories and essays, I walk, I cook elaborate and not-elaborate meals, I bake and decorate and bake more, I draw, I build simple electronics and modify the complex, I replicate (with varying degrees of success) everything that strikes my fancy from shoes to food to furniture.  I MacGuyver the shit out of things.  Our VHS library currently resides in a six-shelf condominium fashioned from packing tape and vintage Casio boxes. I build tiny people in tiny dioramas because tiny things are just so, so satisfying. 

But there’s the rub.  There are so many things I want to do just because I want to that if you put all of the tools for all of those activities in a room, I would end up running from station to station, flailing my arms like the robot from Lost in Space and finally collapse like a birthday girl when the cake wears off.

I'm heavily motivated by guilt, and I swallow my own excuses easily enough that I don't feel guilty when I let myself down.  A friend pointed out today that my goal shouldn't be to make myself feel guilty for breaking promises to myself, but to recognize that my personal projects deserve attention as much as outside jobs do.  It's two sides of the same coin, and she's right that the latter would be preferable, but I'm hoping for either at this point.

More than hoping, I'm baby-stepping in that direction.  In the past I've looked at this glaring flaw in my operations as something huge and wild and untame-able, something to be acknowledged with a sigh and shrug, but as I cruise into my "grown up" life still holding tight to teenaged optimism, I'm increasingly aware that that's both really counterproductive and ultimately soul-crushing. 

I like my job a lot as far as working for someone else goes, but as my ten year anniversary approaches, I shudder at the thought of another decade, or even another five years. 

When I started this blog I hinted at a big project in the works, and I'm happy to say that I'm actually working on it.  This is in no small part thanks to the community of wonderful people around me, friends and family and co-workers, who nudge me when I'm flagging keep my alternately inflated and flattened ego in reality.  In the end, it would be great if I could be accountable to myself, but I consider it a good start to be accountable to the people who care about and believe in me.

In the very short term, I'm working on a web project, aggregating all of my projects into one space.  It's a relatively passive endeavor, but it's useful for taking stock.  In the next month or two my art, this blog, Giant Marshmallow Pillow (it's not dead, it's sleeping), and my first stab at a commercial baking endeavor will find a new home together.  Like most things I do, it's happening in fits and starts because the ol' squirrel in my noggin keeps running off to check out other stuff, plus I decided to go all out and learn a little bit of WordPress coding just to make things interesting.

So thanks to everyone who humors me and challenges me and keeps me on track.  I'll be sure to give you all presents tied up in fancy paper with a curtsy and a flourish.


  1. Big exciting stuffs! Can't wait to hear about it today.

  2. I admire the way you get your words down with such a beautiful flow, as if you're speaking very clearly. It's lovely, and it communicates very well. Typing too often makes my words trip and fall over each other. You're good at it.

    Good luck on your web project. A little PHP and javascript is great (valuable in the job market as well) and reasonably easy to learn, especially if you've got an ISP to practice on, and the ability to read and Google for help. Happy Spring Meghan!

  3. Hmmm.... sacrificing interpersonal relationships, hygiene, and nutrition in the service of arbitrary deadlines, while simultaneously falling victim (with great gusto) to any seemingly time-wasting distraction that should present itself along the way?

    You took all of the important lessons from architecture school, my dear.

  4. @Jay - Thank you! It means a lot coming from someone whose gift for language I've always admired.

    @Matt - Sigh. Who needs the professional degree part when you've got the neurotic tendencies, right?