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.