I started writing this almost four months ago, when friends and former classmates wrote on a friend's blog about where they were vs. where they thought they were going in post-postgrad life. Like the others, I love writing. And I haven’t been able to make a life out of it, so am doing other things. I did not expect the process of responding to Chris, Sean and Anna to send me down a months-long rabbit hole that had me balancing questions of meaning, value, work, and how to say you have “enough” when you’re still trying to figure out your vision of what that is.
I decided to break this up into three different posts. The first is a more personal perspective, so I did my best to keep the political and theoretical tangents to a minimum. The second will explore what “enough” can look like, with the lives and work of others as guides. The third deepens the discussion and brings it to focus on what I consider to be the true issue at hand, the various systems (political, social, economic) that make up our world and the ways they create the boundaries we use to both define and create our lives.
A Life Worth Living... In Debt
My privilege is showing.
Economically, politically and socially, I have options in front of me that many don’t. The world is a harsh place, and not everyone has enough shelter to weather its storms. And many work tirelessly in hands-on capacities to make life better for those in difficult-to-impossible situations. They are the everyday heroes who sacrifice not for their own wants and needs, but in the name of helping others. I had assumed that would be the work I was drawn to, but instead I fell in love with my questions in New England and found happiness in life at a bookstore in Alaska.
Sometimes I feel selfish for focusing so much on my dream to live life as a Citizen Scholar. One day I might feel compelled to do more than the odd volunteer hour, and dive back in to the low-paying, high-energy work of working in social services.
But I am a writer. It is what brings me joy and makes me feel fulfilled. Sometimes I’m even good at it. Right now I feel driven to do it, because if I’m not contributing to the world through my job, I at least need to be searching for answers to questions and helping continue the discussion of “if this world isn’t working, what else is there?” Maybe I could do both, the job that makes more of a difference as well as writing. Maybe.
I’m backing off to two jobs in August, in part because I’m exhausted, but also because I need more time to write and engage with my questions. I plan to find places to submit my work, and go on as many outdoor adventures as possible along the way. Once the school year starts I’ll likely do some substitute teaching, leaving at least one guaranteed free day in my schedule for writing. I'm planning a two-week trip with my younger sister in the fall. Come winter you will find me at our local bookstore five quiet days a week. My plans for spring remain a mystery. Don’t ask me about two, five, or twenty years from now. And for the love of everything, please keep the conversation free of the words career or retirement.
A part of me is afraid I might work myself to exhaustion as I wait for the noose of student loans to be removed from my neck. Another wants to throw caution to the wind and join the anti-debt revolution. In the meantime I’m treading water and (mostly) loving it.
Sometimes it feels a little like freedom.