“So what do you do?”

What do we all want? Purpose, right? Meaning. I feel I got freedom when I did not deserve it. Get a job so you can have an income. For many people, money is the purpose. Or what you can do with it– things, status. Maybe travel. People are lawyers or real estate agents or go career military. They go to graduate school and get engineering degrees and doctors. I see a lot of people become teachers by default. It seems a difficult life– little pay, long hours, high stress, no respect.

People, adults, seem to become things. They are metamorphosed into their careers. A student becomes journalist, an actor, an anything. I’ve watched the odd social transition from college parties to “adult” parties.

College parties are defined by booze, largely– exhibits of excess and hedonism. You have loud music and shouting, most people you don’t know, drinking games, the members there are looking for release and testing limits.

“Adult” parties, at the most basic level, people actually bring food. It’s quieter, more social. There’s people uncomfortably making smalltalk. There’s alcohol, certainly, but it’s not the kind of consumption steeped in ritual and maximizing the shear amounts one can take before breaking. In adult parties, people get drunk more subtly, and if they do reach a level of sloppy, it’s something whispered and giggled about later and not in the open.

It’s at these adult parties where I am now asked this odd new question:

“So what do you do?”

I know what it means. And I know why the question exists. It reminds me a bit of Taylor Mali’s slam poem, “What Teachers Make.” I still mostly find slam poetry annoying since they seem to be delivered with identical candace. But I like the reevaluating of words and the meaning of making, and well as it being a rousing anthem for teachers, like a three minute “Dead Poet Society.”

What do I do?

Well, you mean what is my career. How do I make money. What have I been transformed into. What am I?

“Oh, I’m a…at… .”

“Oh, alright. Cool.”

I suppose it’s not an offensive question. It is not strange to me because I don’t know how to answer? What job do I have that defines me as a person and my place in society? What title have I achieved?

“I used to be a theater reviewer.”
“I studied Creative Writing and Astrophysics.”
“I’ve been tutoring and working on the big education project.”
“I act. I’ve directed before. I have an eye and instinct for visuals.”
“I’m musical. I have timing and rhythm and a good ear. I sing alright. But I don’t play any instruments.”
“I love boardgames. I’m excellent at teaching and communicating.”
“My tabletop roleplaying games are the best there are.”
“I’m a writer. But I haven’t really been paid to do it yet. So it doesn’t count. But I’m really, really good with story and character.”
“Do? Nothing, really. I’m depressed most days and struggle existentially with what to really do with my future. I feel I lack purpose.”

“…oh.”

I think mostly I’ve learned I don’t like the system. I don’t like capitalism and I don’t like rat races. I don’t like being in a little box and I don’t like being told what to do. But I need to eat and I need to pay rent. I’ll get a purpose. And then maybe take it from there.

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Needing Therapy

1
Hi. So how’s it going?

2
I don’t know. I’m sad? I feel ugly. Small. Scared. Yeah, definitely scared.

1
Scared of what?

2
I don’t know. Is it failure? That seems kinda normal. Or something, given better context, I could stand above from and see the outside of it. Where the fog clears and I understand the real dimensions of it.

1
Ow.

2
Yeah. Seems kinda stupid, right?

1
I’m not so certain.

2
Why not?

1
It is normal to struggle. To hate and clash and wail against our confines of life. It’s just being alive. I remember something about coming into life crying as you’re born just because of the violence pain of being alive. Life is pain. Life is suffering.

2
Yes. One of those darker philosophies. The ugly, internal looking ones.

1
And out. Life. The world.

2
Yeah, I suppose. I never quite figured out how the existentialism-nihilism dichotomy was supposed to work for me. Existentialism is about hope. Life being hope. That’s nice. But then you inevitably fail and then feel worse. Being alive and doing nothing, feeling guilty about it all the while. Nihilism is supposed to free you of that burden. The meaning just isn’t there. The universe is chaotic and ugly, but then can also be beautiful. If you have the hope to make it yourself.

1
And then you swing back to existentialism.

2
Right. Yeah. I don’t know, I just have too many questions I don’t have answers to.

1
That doesn’t sound that bad. That’s okay, too, right.

2
Yeah, it should be. Life IS big and ugly and weird and chaotic and just NOT. NORMAL. You know? I don’t know what I’ve learned about ANYthing. I’m at the end of something, not the beginning. That’s what it seems. Just because I don’t know what to do next. What to step to. I can’t even pour myself into a stupid job. Make money. But I have to, I should. I need. Soon, definitely. I can’t just jerk off and get fat and waste money and MY time. I just haven’t made plans. Cause I’m scared.

1
Because you’re scared.

2
I feel fat. Ugly.

1
You keep saying “ugly.”

2
Yeah. It’s weird. It’s not REALLY in a physical sense. I had my own battle with self image ages ago, mostly as a teenager. Came out the other side okay. It’s mostly about A. finding a mate, and then B. being just LIKED by people. Your peers and such. Us and our weird little social islands that we are, desperately needing those other islands to see us as good.

1
But now you’re ugly.

2
Agh, it’s a self confidence thing. Yeah, I feel fat and weird. But I COULD be fatter. That part’s funny. I think it’s more a symbol of feeling out of control. My body isn’t in my control. My life feels that way too.

1
So then take control. Henry Rollins’ thoughts on exercise.

2
Right. But then I get scared again. I collapse inward.

1
Can you breakthrough somehow? I mean. You know rationally that it’s what you have to do.

2
Yeah. I think that’s the thing. The rational versus the. Emotional? The gut feeling that I hate and that seems to hate me. Telling me to take it easy and not try and not take risks.

1
It doesn’t sound like you.

2
No! No, it doesn’t does it. It’s that cloud thing again, outside of it, I can look at it and say, “Well, that’s just ridiculous.” But I keep getting sucked in. Sucked under.

1
So, exercise? And make things. And have specific goals. And make money.

2
Yeah. Yeah, that’s all good. Externalize my problems, so they don’t get sucked into a black, silent nothing and pull me in with it.

1
Well, that’s what we’re doing here, right? Externalizing?

2
I hope so. No. Yes. Yes, that’s what we’re doing. I’m sorry, I’m getting weird and doubting again.

1
You don’t have to apologize.

2
Right. Yes, I know. Take a deep breath. Relax.

1
Relax. It’ll be okay.

2
It’ll be okay.

 

imgg203

Albuquerque is where ambition goes to die

Albuquerque is where ambition goes to die.

If you haven’t seen it in full force, you’ve seen hints of it.

“The Land of Mañana” speaks to the basic human weaknesses in it all– lackadaisical and whimsy seeps in and takes deep root as a motif of easy living. Stand at home. Smoke weed. Don’t care about anything. No need to follow through with promises or effort. Somebody else would have have flaked anyhow. Work just enough. The easier, the best. Lulled into a sense of entitlement and lethargy by low costs of living and an environment thick with people just the same.

It’s commonplace complacency.

So where does it begin? The question of causation, the chicken-and-egg logic, is never far from my mind. Does the inactivity come from living here? Or do you move here to become inactive?

I’ve often visualized Albuquerque as the basin at the bottom of Route 66 where things and people tumble steadily into simply by relaxing and following the soft gravity. UNM is the cheap and central Mecca of New Mexico– all the smaller towns of the state filter their children into a great anarchy of apathy under the guise of education. The uncaring beast accepts them easily, letting them flounder while six or seven years pass without notice. Once it’s over, the pomp and purposelessness of their education fades, leaving the squandered despondents to sit and forget in the laps of their lives and if nothing had truly happened. Many can’t even bring themselves to finish the middling tasks, becoming a new generation and legacy of American dropouts.

Our river valley lets others tumble into its depths. Low-cost living keeps even the most exorbitant ceilings low for those who migrate to the city with their Texas or California wealth. Even as the city’s poverty or disenfranchised collect and amass at places for mental illness or the APD to clear them out, so too does the conspicuous conception in the Heights or North Valley by people who just don’t care anymore.

Artistry seems effected by this. A small music scene, fueled by the few bands that come together and separate with the only such regularity that can be counted on. Gazing over the bios of community theatre actors reveal expensive or prestigious educations but yielding performances only worthy of the desert lull that sprouts like the coarse weeds after a monsoon. The embarrassment of the UNM Film Program spits out students versed in pretentious theory and distended egos in what effectively amounts as a degree in watching movies.

Maybe you were born here. Maybe you’ve made it here by mistake. Maybe you’re so new, you just don’t know the mistake you’ve made yet. Maybe you tried your hand at one art or another in bigger, more romantic places, only to ultimately slip back down to our basin. Albuquerque is like a safety net, one of low expectations and the comfort of universal indifference. If you return, don’t expect fanfare — only an assurance against effort. You know, “Happiness.”

The path of least resistance is one of inertia. It’s paralysis through indecision, it’s death come early, it doesn’t have to be this way.

If any part of you still cares, harness that. Get out. Get out while you can.

 

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