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It must be the weather.
I started this entry in October 2017. With a few tweaks, it is just as relevant to my state of mind today in September 2018 as it was then.
The problem with being responsible at a day job is that so few people are, so you get more responsibility and expectation heaped upon you until you start to smother. I don’t know if it’s because of how stressful the year has been or what, but my focus has dropped and I’m retreating back into long-running TV shows and oldie-but-goodie favorite movies to cope. While I love me some good stories, I can’t stay there forever.
Even with burnout knocking at my door.
I’ve worked in a public library for over seven years. I’m good at it, I enjoy aspects of it, and it’s a hell of a lot easier than some other occupations I could be in. But I also feel like we’re being asked to expand into territory far beyond what the original job description suggested. Working in a library requires far more socialization than I ever expected… or wanted. I didn’t sign up to be a teacher or baby sitter or entertainer. I’m supposed to provide access to a resource, a place to connect people with the information they need… but ultimately whether they learn or not is up to them. Unfortunately, working in public service means you are over-utilized and under-compensated. As the world changes, libraries have changed from quiet repositories of information to an introvert’s nightmare of loud interactions and community networking. And as an atheist and humanist, I believe this life is the only one we’ve got and spending the majority of my day in a never-ending rat-race fills me with existential despair.
It gets hard to remind myself that I am not my job. That I am and can be more than that. I cannot allow work to take over my sense of self, but I also cannot allow writing to do the same. At least, not the image of a traditionally successful writer.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely would like to be traditionally and financially successful. I do want to be published and have people both read and want more of my books. That would be nice. But I cannot bank on that. I cannot construct my identity around that image because it may be a mirage. There is, like with any other endeavor, a distinct possibility that I could work my whole life at this and publish very little, if anything at all. I’m not trying to be pessimistic or sabotage myself when I say this. I just want to acknowledge one of the potential outcomes. And I don’t want to be broken by not becoming a “writer” in the most popular sense.
This might sound weird; after all, I do think of myself as a writer in terms of being a creator of stories. That’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid and I don’t ever expect to stop. In terms of importance, writing ranks above librarianship. But the commercial aspect of writing is the part that is uncertain. And I need to be okay with that scenario. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, but I must also remember that there are other things in life that I can and want to do, either just as hobbies or for my own sense of well-being. I need to be able to get along without that recognition or financial security.
The image of the suffering artist does not appeal to me. There’s only so much I’m willing to sacrifice before the cost beings to outweigh the benefit. Compared to some, I’ve sacrificed barely anything and experienced very little suffering. But that doesn’t make it any less real to me. Everyone has their own tolerances and I do not want to go through life as a miserable slave either to my regular paying work or to an ideal that may not come to pass. Maybe that is self-sabotage. Maybe that is a sign of giving up.
Or maybe I’m just trying to be realistic and brace myself for whatever storms may come.