To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e. e. cummings
I stumbled across this quote while looking for one on the topic of interesting days. I thought it, perhaps, more appropriate. Let me explain.
I began the morning feeling weighted with worries. No job. No benefits remaining. No ideas. Zach and I headed out. He made a job application and I dropped him at class.
I went to the unemployment office to check on extended benefits.
As luck would have it, I didn’t have my book of job contacts with me and I needed it. So I did a bit of shopping, picked up Zach, and headed home to retrieve said job contacts.
While I was going over the list to determine that all was in order, it occurred to me that I hadn’t checked the library for job openings. Why not? And there shining brightly was an ad for an assistant/youth program coordinator at the branch located just 10 minutes from my house.
I picked up my things and headed out the door and immediately began a mental list of activities suitable for youth and teens. My mood began to brighten. I got downright giddy planning for all those lucky kids. I can teach them to knit on their fingers, do a reader’s theatre, make a quilt block, knit a scarf, crochet a bracelet, make a piece of jewelry, weave a potholder, make a collage, create a sign to hang in their rooms, and so on. We would tie it all in to books…lovely wonderful books that can teach you to do so many things. I certainly have the skill set.
Then it occurred to me.
I could only be a bit of myself to succeed.
The me that disdains organized religion, swears, and makes off-color jokes would have to remain apart.
The me that despises Republican rhetoric, thinks we should legalize marijuana, and get off the moral high ground would require silencing.
The me that wanted to act and design lighting has already conformed.
All of us are in the same boat to some degree.
We go to work. We may be sock-wearing, tennis-shoe-loving, casual, laid back, stand-up comics, but making a living requires pantyhose-wearing, dress-heel-flaunting, tensed up, waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-fall kind of women.
It’s getting better… or at least it was.
It seems to me those damn Republicans are determined to return us to walk-one-step-behind-the-man, bible-toting, keep-working-your-ass-off, do-what-I-say kind of women forced to seek out back room procedures and bow and scrape.
Let me pause here and say that ain’t happening in my household.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to subject someone else’s kids to the real me. I can do that to my own. I can teach the loaner kids crafts, encourage them to write stories, teach them a bit about acting, lead them in a reader’s theatre, do funky Kiss-inspired make-up on their cute little faces and still maintain the status quo.
I can’t fully be me. That part of me that hasn’t conformed got me in trouble the last time. Shoot, that’s probably what’s gotten me into trouble every time since I was old enough to spout my own opinions.
What about the fight?
It seems that most creative souls find it hard to make a living, hard to survive. We write, we paint, we sculpt, we act, we do all the things that make the world a better place, but there isn’t much room for us. We conform to survive. We become like the actor that teaches or the graphic artist that longs to put his soul on canvas and be appreciated.
Only a few are successful in their art in the way that success is now defined.
Is it time to re-define?
That initial excitement was sparked by the possibility of sharing my passion on a small scale, of realizing a part of myself missing from my working life for a very long time. At present the conformity seems a small price. There are always concessions to be made. At least for now.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. – Jenny Joseph
The pay sucks. It’s just over half what I was making. Bob says don’t worry about it. Isn’t he sweet? So I will apply.
And I will continue to write.