Every now and then it happens. I freak out about what I’m doing with my life. It usually comes when I look at my bank account and it’s in the double digits and I have two bills due and a half-empty fridge, because like everyone else, I’m pretty financially stressed these days. It also happens when I consider the fact that I’m 32 – wait, 33 as of almost 30 days ago. Shit I’m getting up there – and I’m not a huge successful millionaire with a kick-ass job doing something other people would be envious of. You know, something prestigious.
I realize that prestigious or not, the unemployed might be jealous of me. I have a job. I’m employed. Full-time, with benefits. And I actually like my job. I like the people I work with, I like the work that I do, and I like the goals and values of the department I work for. I try to keep this in mind when I’m going through my freak-out moments. Then that sneaky bastard Doubt comes back around the corner. Most times I think it’s because of my station, my career title. I’m a secretary (I was told yesterday that “secretary” is politically incorrect to say now; I’m an administrative associate – how fancy). So yeah, I’m a secretary. It’s a pretty low-level job. And although I have to say my current supervisor and previous supervisor do/did a good job of making me feel important, for all that I do, I’m underpaid (like most people in their careers) and sometimes unappreciated. On a different semi-significant note though, I have to say that being a secretary is pretty sexy in a nostalgic, vintage, pencil skirt-wearing kind of way – minus the racism and sexism that was so rampant in the 50s…60s…70s…80s…90s….oh, how ‘bout that…
Anyway, actually being the backbone of a department, knowing they can’t really function without me, but still being able to stay behind the scenes carries a sort of power. When it comes down to it, I don’t have to be the face or figurehead of the department but if the people in the department want anything they must all bow to MEEEE!
But power don’t pay the bills, not in this case. And in Atlanta, where everyone just has to be someone, my job carries no wow-factor, no prestige. There we go again with that word. Even if you have a pretty solid foundation of self-awareness, being broke and prestigeless (yes I made that up. I write; I can do that) in a society that tells you you’re nothing if you’re not rich and envied by throngs of people who don’t really know you, can chip away at you (hey I’m still a work in progress y’all. I have soft spots – and I’m a Leo). This constant push of being what society determines successful, the push to do more, be more, achieve more from my parents (more my dad – my mom thinks I’m a freaking God and I’ve moved on up like the Jeffersons – RIP Sherman Hemsley), the whole “anyone can be a millionaire, this is how I did it, why can’t you? You must be a loser” thing, makes me feel like I’m lacking in so many ways, and sometimes makes me forget the myriad ways that I’m so very awesome.
Especially when we’re inundated with the daily news of the lives of these rich bitch celebrities who never have to worry about choosing between their gas bill and a grocery bill because they got famous for fucking on camera or throwing drinks in each other’s faces. In this TED Talk video, Alain de Botton (isn’t that a cool name? I say it in my fake French accent) talks about meritocracy (rewards for good, hard work) and how we live in this era of fake meritocracy. But I feel like it’s more accurate to say that we’re living in a ratchetocracy, where the most ratchet people, from politicians to ATL jumpoffs receive the highest reward in terms of financial freedom, better health options, etc. It’s really not good for the soul.
But I’m all about feeling better and not worse, cause when you’re diagnosed with depression, you gotta push for that internal light, that light that only you and the Goddess can manifest. So instead of succumbing to these feelings of worthlessness and despair I went looking for some articles to read about how to fortify yourself against a world that is constantly trying to tear you apart on all levels. And I came across this website about finding your purpose and doing what you love. I mean that, as much as anything, is the source of joy, right? Right. So in the first section, I was introduced to Paul Graham, who talks about prestige in his 2006 article, “How to Do What You Love”, pretty much calling it an illusion: “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like…Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.” I liked that. I really did. Cause I like jazz n shit. It’s classy.
So then it comes down to what I want to do, what I like. What do I want to do? What are my ideas and ideals of success? It’s not like I want everything. I don’t “want it all”. Other than being able to sleep, read, and dance my life away, I want to be at peace, financially. I want to be able to pay all my bills on time and still have money to play, to be able to take a vacation twice a year, once with the kids and once without. I want a kick-ass wardrobe, a travel, food and book fund and happy, healthy, independent & critically-thinking kids and a wife who loves and adores me and is down for me like my mama. And of course, I want to swim in the ocean like the mermaid I am….
So that got me to thinking (that never really stops. Man, the conversations I have up in here): Really when it comes down to it, outside of these occasional freak-outs, I’m pretty happy. My kids are happy and healthy and that independent critical thinking thing is coming along fairly well (a little too well with the 3 year old). Im getting my money together slowly but surely, and even though it’s still in its infancy stage, starting my copy editing and proofreading business has allowed me to read for both business and pleasure. The vacation is coming but until then I have that 3 hour ocean video on youtube. So this isn’t really a gripe post, it’s more like a reminder post about just how freaking awesome the Universe and I have been working in harmony. We get off track sometimes, but we never lose sight of one another. And that, for me is what defines happiness.
Oh, check the video. He talks about career crises, how we view success, and the way that society feeds our anxiety by the way they talk about how with just a little bit of hard work we too can achieve the highest levels of success, which is complete and utter bullshit, because like Stokely Carmichael said, if success was a result of hard work “black people would own this country.” But that’s another post for another day.