Thursday, May 03, 2001

Walking Past the Library

(first draft at explaining my place in life and why I'm not using my degree in creative writing as you all would expect)

[email composed 3 May 2001]

As I walked back from lunch to the office the other day, I passed the downtown L.A. library. Reflecting on all the books inside, and on how few of them I’ve read—and how many I continue to not read—I felt as though I had not spent enough of my past preparing for where, on some level, I wish I was right now. Sometimes I think part of what holds me back from exploring writing more seriously is this disparity between what I know and what I think I should know (or at least with which I should have some experience, have some familiarity).

This, on the surface, sounds like an easily surmountable obstacle: turn off the TV, stroll down to the library, find such a book, and sit down and read it. Repeat as necessary. Then write things, invoking this knowledge when appropriate. Astoundingly simple, at least in theory.

The problem (had to see this coming) involves my level of motivation in doing so at this point in my life: I don’t want to do these this, I want to have done it. I fancy the idea of procuring the information, as it does interest me. Unfortunately, the period of my existence when I had time set aside for this sort of activity—school—has passed. So go back to school, comes a response.

Hell no to that! I know one thing, and that is that I’m way too lazy.

I blew it (on so many levels) back in college: I didn’t apply myself well, I didn’t always take what interested me but what fit into my schedule, much of the time I didn’t do more than necessary to get through. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I must have known I would regret these patterns down the road. (Okay, let’s extrapolate that out to make a general statement that I know I’ll regret everything I don’t do, not merely what happened—or didn’t—at a university.)

Luckily, I have amazing resilience, and can get over these feelings of self-disappointment. I only beat myself up for so long before it gets old—at least for the time being—and then I focus on what I do know, on what I have done, on what books I have read, and realize that, relative to a lot of people, I am very knowledgeable. And what’s the point anyway? It’s not like intelligence is rewarded in our society. (It’s certainly not critical for working in high positions of government.) I switch on the tube and look at whatever is on, then the next day I write some stupid little essay about it justifying my lack of change of behavior, and feel smugly content for a while.

However, eventually I do make some changes in my life to improve this situation: I figure out a different path to take walking back from lunch that avoids the library altogether.

one bachelor's degree, nine years of his life he'll never have back

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