Monday, August 07, 2006

What have I become?

Years ago, a friend of my wife's (let's call her Kay) would call, every few weeks or so, with one purpose alone: to bemoan the state of her romantic life. She would flit from one deadbeat to another, each relationship lasting a few spare months or weeks, usually dangling on by a thread for the longer than the shorter, just to make her that bit more miserable, and to enable her to bore me and my wife to tears as she recounted the horrors of her existence. As you might suspect, my wife (as ever) had more patience than I. Fortunately, Kay eventually found a fine fellow (though I can't account for his sense of taste!), and we attended the wedding.

The point of this is neither to introduce you to Kay, nor to discuss relationships, but rather to introduce an annoying element of people: their undying propensity to bore others with their whining. And, as the song says "... and here I go, again". What have I become?

I'm a whiner. I'm a sad sack, miserable, mumbling, can't get anywhere kind of a guy. I don't smile enough anymore. I'm not as nice to people as I would like to be. I more often recognize their incompetence than their humanity.

Sheepish on Happy Ending recently posed the question: Work is what you do, not who you are. Agree or disagree?. But... what I am right now is miserable. Sure, my work is merely one aspect of my life, but just now, I'm stuck... because without that aspect of my life on track, any track please!, I'm adrift, lost without a compass, no heading, no wind, no stars, just... empty.

And thus, I find myself become a wretch with whom any of my former selves would shirk to associate. Indeed, even the wretch of myself that I am becoming recognizes this, as his eye contact (with anyone) is kept for the most part to a bare minimum. Not me. Not like me. I'm an outgoing, jolly, happy, sociable, clever, fun, roll-with-the-punches, chameleon kind of a fellow. But what have I become?


trillwing said...

I don't see you as whiny at all. You're just documenting (helpfully, I might add) your strategies for finding meaningful employment. And you're in the process of redefining your mission in life. That's some rough ground to tread.

Were you a gifted child? In K-12, my gifted cohorts and I were indoctrinated with the idea that "if you try hard enough, you can accomplish anything." As adults, I can't tell you how often we've discussed how far this attitude set us back emotionally. I'm frustrated with the academic job search. A friend is frustrated with her inability to conceive. Another friend bemoaned the failure of her marriage to a total wretch whom she just couldn't change no matter how hard she tried.

I think it's difficult to find that balance between being idealistic and optimistic and realizing that there are just some things that are out of our control. And that's what frustrates me most about the job market: it's not really in my control.

But I babble. Your thoughts?

timna said...

my only thought (knowing that there's nothing I can say about the academic job market) was that I scheduled exercise classes to take my mind off of the many elements of my life that were out of my control. it really got me through the last round of interviews/search stuff.

besides - I'm so impressed with all of constant efforts you *are* making.

take care.

What Now? said...

I'm so sympathetic. The first two years I was on the job market, I was really dismayed at the changes that I saw to my own personality. I became pessimistic, bitter, churlish at other's good fortune, and in many ways just an unpleasant person to be around. My friends hung in there with me, but I didn't like being around me! And I have to say that even winding up with a job in my third year of looking didn't really help the situation; by that point, I think much of this negativity had become a way of life for me. I finally and slowly worked through much of this, thanks to working with a good therapist and focusing on non-professional parts of my life, but it was a long haul. All of which is to say, I wish you strength and courage in tackling this challenge.

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks, Trillwing and Timna for your comments. Trillwing, I try not to whine, though when you hear it from your kids, you wonder "where did they learn that?" hmmmm. Gifted child? Um yup. Driven more like. When I was, what 3, my mom tells a story of my experience in Montessouri school in New York. Two older brothers. The older children went upstairs, while the youngest stayed on the ground floor. What were they doing up there, I always wondered.

One day, when my parents picked me and my brothers up from school, I was terribly upset, crying. Eventually, they prised out of me the matter. "All they do all day long is play play play, and I want to work work work!" I exclaimed. So my folks made me up a little box which they labeled, "Articulate's Very Important Work Box". And so, as the other children sang their songs and danced, I dithered away at my math and reader workbooks, my collages, my drawings.

I started 1st grade when I was 5. My middle school principal told my mother that I would go far, that there was nothing holding me back except me, that I'd be "President of the United States someday" if only I would hold a course. My mother always said "choose one thing, and you'll do it well".

I was bored, always bored by school. After two years of high school, I dropped out to begin college at 15. Driven... but I've always had a bad sense of direction. You're right, it's a rough patch of ground I'm treading. And if it doesn't loosen up, there's always the rake and cultivator, right?

Timna, thanks for your encouraging words. I am still here, still plugging away. Patience, ah patience. But, at 38, I wonder, just how long must I wait?

ArticulateDad said...

Oops, What Now?, thanks for the comments. Strength wishing duly accepted.

psychgrad said...

Does it ever get appreciably better?

ArticulateDad said...

Psychgrad, my friend, yes, it does. Even I in my misery can assure you of that. I can't say how, or when, but I maintain a belief that in the end, perhaps we won't win the race, but we will reach the finish line, and more importantly, we'll enjoy the journey along the way.