Sunday, February 20, 2011

Passion and Believing in What You're Doing

When I was doing hard time in the corporate world, I worked for awhile with someone who I will only identify as Marko the Magnificent.  Marko was smart enough to get out before the corporate world and money and all that jazz got their hooks in him. He dropped out to play clarinet, the thing he really loved to do. Money wasn't a priority for him; happiness was. He used to say we, as corporate writers, simply were trying to get people to buy shit they didn't need. I later amended that statement to say, we simply made rich men richer, and we tried to get people to not only buy shit they didn't need, but shit that really was just shit. Over the course of my internment, or career, whatever you want to call it, I have worked for software companies that knew the code wasn't stable--we all knew it--but we wrote that it was anyway, to finally my last gig in the corporate world working for GM--and we all know what happened there--selling, I am embarrassed to say, Buicks.

There were a good five or six years in there where I freelanced, and once I got things moving along (let me tell you, homelessness and starvation are great motivators) I only took on clients who I felt made the world a better place. And I only worked with people I liked. So, with that philosophy, I was able to get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror. I worked for Eastern Mountain Sports (for about a year and a half I wrote a good portion of their catalog), Boston's Museum of Science, Saucony, Boston College, a couple of little start ups and a sweet little design company that let me write about Harvard University and the City of Cambridge and a lot of other interesting assignments. I did art reviews and feature stories for Cape Cod Life, and met and talked with people who were really doing things with their lives.

And now I'm at Boston University and just to give you a sense of how exciting it is there, I have a class at 8:00 a.m. on Friday that goes for four hours, and I'm typically sitting outside the classroom door by 7:30 waiting to get in.

If you don't have passion in your life, if you just are doing the nine to five to pull a paycheck and are willing to ignore or worse, scramble your own brains in order to make the insanity in the world appear sane, turn the nonsense that goes on in life into sense simply so you can have a house and a car and a nice television, well, I just don't know what to say. Isn't that game over?

In most of my classes, I am easily the oldest person sitting in the room, and that's including the professor. And I find being with young people, even with their madness and what comes across many times as inappropriateness, is refreshing and inspirational. Robert Pinsky told me he loves teaching. He waved his hand towards his grad students and said, I get to hang out with them. That's how I feel. I am at a stage in my life where I "should" be starting to position myself for retirement, not take too many risks because, I think the line of thinking goes, I'll be too old and frail to do any living. And the thought of that, well, it infuriates me. How dare you pigeonhole me into something that I'm "supposed" to do. I, quite frankly, find a lot of people my age boring, and the questions and uncertainty that I see in the young people at BU I still find in myself, too. Who will produce my plays? Can I make some kind of living doing what I want to do--writing and teaching? If you think those are big questions when you're 22, try asking them at my age. (No, I'm not going to tell you my age, simply because I'm pretty sure I'm older or younger than you think. We're talking mental age here, anyway.)

The life I'm experiencing now versus the one I used to experience are worlds apart. Sometimes I can't believe I actually lived in that other world. I'm not sure how I did, and now it's as if I'm awake and then I was asleep.

Friday, February 18, 2011


it is so much easier when the temperatures aren't punching you in the nose and you're not wearing boots so heavy kind of like the kind the astronauts wear but instead your favorite pair of cowboy boots and an old pair of jeans and you're not wearing so many layers not even a second layer under your old leather bomber that you can't move even on days when the fresh bottle of milk is spoiled and it's 5:30 a.m. and still dark and you need that coffee and sue god love her doesn't think twice about jumping into her car and heading for the 24-hour cvs to pick up a bottle so you can push out the door semi conscious and not have to pick your way through the ice and around piles of snow over your head and on the subway people are normal size again not like when they're wearing coats the size of sleeping bags and take up two seats and sit with a look on their face like try me just try me and the switches don't freeze and the conductor doesn't lie over the crackling loudspeaker that there's a train ahead because there's always a train ahead and it never stops us only when it's biting cold so we get to park on time and your feet aren't crying because the damp has swollen them and the train just rumbles on through the tunnels and pops up in the light that's pink and empty still and the earnest are jogging and bobbing and walking with a purpose to somewhere and i get off and enter the building and the student who signs in the applicants for their music auditions is already nervously tapping his pencil and a young asian is dragging her cello to the elevator and i get on because i'm here and you're not and that's just the way it is which makes it so easy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Plans and the inevitable

What do they say about draining the swamp filled with alligators? It's the southern version of the best-laid plans of mice and men.

It's the end of the fourth week of classes, and if it weren't for me having some free time as I hold office hours for my English 202 class here in Blue State Coffee, I wouldn't have had the time to open up the laptop and ramble here like I am. Nobody's showed up but me who is required to. I imagine a few emails are forthcoming this week, and we'll deal with last-minute problems that way.

Last semester, the second week, my back went ka-plooey and so did my leg. And I worked hours and hours and more hours backstage in the theater. Even though I have a bigger load this semester, I figured I'd still have plenty of time to get my work done if I didn't waste time and still have time for a life. Ha!

But this semester no one told me I was going to get sick with a cold/flu/plague that I'm still recovering from. No one told me Sue would get sick, too. No one told me what teaching was like, or the amount of work it takes. (What was I thinking?--it is a job, after all.) I planned on getting in shape for cycling in the spring with a spin class every Saturday. I hoped to have at least one meal a week at home with the kids, to talk and catch up and just feel like family if only for a few hours. I planned on sending my plays out and getting some relationships going with theaters so when (what an optimistic statement!) I graduate. Hell, I even thought I'd have the time to play some music with friends maybe every week or so. The amount of work that has to get done is monstrous, and the self-induced pressure to excel seems to triple the workload.

So, the best thing to do, as always, is scrap the plans. Plans and rules were made for breaking, right? If things don't work out the way you plan them, just go with it and see where it takes you. So you don't end up where you plan. You always end up somewhere.
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