Sunday, August 31, 2014

Restating my Assumptions... ver. 54.0

Writing has always been a central part of my existence.

I started very early... discovering how the written word enabled me to communicate not only truthfully, but often compellingly, in ways my brain never seemed capable of doing "in the moment," using the spoken word.

I'm talking about being eight years old, here... meaning that this journey has now lasted 46 years.

From my teenage years through the late 1990's I wrote letters to people.

"Why don't you just pick up the phone and call me?" people would ask.

Well... because I'd rather write you a letter.

For many years, I was part of the "social blogging" movement, until it seemed to slowly wither away as people-- perhaps pressed for time-- turned from writing blog posts to writing shorter Facebook posts, and then even shorter twitter posts.

"Nobody has time to read, anymore."

It was my birthday, yesterday, and I more or less "took the day off" from the daily grind of making a living and keeping the electricity turned on. It allowed me a few moments to sit and reflect; specifically, to reflect on "things I like" and "things that matter to me."

There's an exercise people often engage in when trying to determine their "True Calling" in their work life... in which you brainstorm the question "If money were NO object, what would you most like to be doing? What would your day look like?"

Yesterday, I took the invisible invitation to re-examine that question, and to look at my life since I last pondered that stuff... somewhere around 2006, which is also when I last attempted to "reinvent" myself, after moving from Texas to Washington.

Truth be known, if I could just do "whatever," I'd probably spend the first 5-6 hours a day just writing. Which begs the question "Then why aren't you DOING that?"

Well, I can't afford it.

"But people make a living from writing, all the time!"

That's absolutely true. But they make a living from writing sales brochures for timeshares, manuals for stereos, online FAQs and corporate newsletters. I actually did that, for a while, and abandoned it... chiefly because I had zero interest in it.

Writing-- for me-- isn't just about words on a page or even "telling a story," it's about setting pieces of myself "free" into the universe with the hope that someone might be touched and benefit in some way from reading them.

"Observations about life" is generally not the kind of writing that earns people an income... chiefly because there are six bajillion interpretations of "life" out there, and they are all 100% free. Taking time to write musings like these is a pure "luxury" for me, these days.

Increasingly, I am finding meaning in writing my observations from the perspective of being an HSP or "Highly Sensitive Person," and that gives a sense of direction and "purpose" for my writing... even if I am writing largely to an audience who-- in their idealism-- either expect things to be free, or are sailing in my same boat as I of being "well-intentioned, but flat broke."

But let's continue with the exercise.... what else would I be doing?

I'd "be" doing pretty much what I am doing: Taking long walks on the beach and beach combing, I'd be working on my stamp collection, I'd go to flea markets and antique malls to look for "interesting treasures," I'd be doing some form of creative doodling, I'd take pretty pictures in nature and I'd work in the garden.

So that's really kind of cool... I actually get to do that. Most people can't say that.

What's less cool... and what prompted me to "re-state my assumptions" is that eight years after the last revision, I'm still not "making a living" at this. Well... yes, I am... but only in the most technical sense of the word, just like a rusted out 1988 Yugo is technically speaking "a car."

On the greater scale of things, the picture is not much prettier... it's 2014, and I'm making about the same income I did in 1989, not even "adjusted for inflation." And in 1989, my electric bill was $65 a month, but today it's $230 a month. Sadly, that's an equation that doesn't really add up. But at least I am here "on my own terms."

So what is it really I am doing, here? What has been my "objective" in life, to date?

I guess what I have "been" is authentically myself. That has been my objective... and it feels like I have succeeded quite well. Of course, then I can point to the fact that being authentically myself is not a "sustainable endeavor," perhaps becayuse I always struggled to "monetize" (to use that popular buzzphrase of our times) that endeavor.

My parents tried to instill in me a value set that would make me feel motivated by money, but it never really took. I have failed miserably at planning anything, or undertaking anything, primarily based on its financial viability. I just look at whether a venture is "what I want to do." Even when faced with a shutoff notice from the electric company, I'm not motivated by "money," I'm motivated by "fear" (of sitting in the dark).

As I do my soul searching I consider whether I have some sort of subconscious vow of poverty... or some altruistic need to actively "reject" the financial tenets that drive our world. In most ways, I really don't. I recognize that everybody has to eat... and so, we want to be "compensated" for our contributions to the cause. I just happen to hate sales, in any way, shape or form... which is ironic, given that I have been in various forms of "sales" for all my adult life.

And so-- as I concluded my little "inner journey" yesterday-- I examined a dilemma faced by many other HSPs, like myself: How do we find a balance between "meaning" and "money?" Moreover, when being your authentic self involves "things esoteric" that appeal only to a small number of people, how do you put food on the table through the pursuit of what "most matters," without selling your soul in the process?

1 comment:

  1. Happy birthday, Peter!
    Well, the meaning-or-money-question isn't easy to answer. I never wanted to sell my soul and I'd say I have succeeded - whenever I got the impression that I had to sell my soul for a job, I quit it. At last I found a job - or I'd better say it found me - that has the perfect mixture of creativity, structure and communication for me. And, well, I am paid for it, even if I won't be a billionaire with that.


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