Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Antidote to ennui

There are things in life that aren't so great. Like driving home on the freeway and not making it back into your house until two hours later. Or like getting back and having to cook your own dinner and not being allotted any time to simply relax.

Look at me, I'm digressing and I haven't even begun.

These are the sacrifices we make to do the things we love. Or at least the things we tolerate. Or the things we're assigned to do and therefore can't get away from.

I can't categorize my internship quite yet. It's been a week and a day. I still enjoy going in to the office and finding out what responsibilities I have for the day. But what I despise and have trouble getting over is the annoyance of repetition.

Having to get in the car at exactly the right time each morning to arrive at work at exactly the right time and repeating the process again at night makes everything seem a lot less friendly. Even when you're working on the lot of a television studio where you are inevitably surrounded by a ton of talented and interesting people, the tedium of routine can be stifling.

But there's one thing that gets me through any job: the fact that I get to learn.

I was in middle school the first time I officially said I wanted to be a journalist. We were working on this visual crest project that was supposed to depict our futures by dividing a page into sections and then answering questions the teacher had written up with artistic depictions.

One of the questions was the not-so-unique "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Earlier on in my life I'd have said veterinarian or popstar or actress or princess or whatever. But by 13 I had a real goal.

I want to be a journalist. I drew a picture of a newspaper. I might have written "New York Times" at the top or something similar. Next to it I drew an ink well and a fountain pen. This is my future. Writing out articles full-time with a fountain pen and leaky ink.

Well that hasn't panned out quite yet (I'm still in school though, who knows what fountain pen experiences might lie ahead in the coming years?), but that doesn't deter me from feeling the same enthusiasm that had me focusing intently on getting the font of the Times' header just right.

The image wasn't just synecdoche put to paper, though. It carried a message about my goals in life and how they've altered, changed, transformed into what they are today.

Because back several years ago, I didn't really know what I wanted. I had no clue what I'd grow up to be or what I'd find a passion for. Even now I guess I'm not wholly sure.

What I do know is that I always want to be experiencing new things. And with a fountain pen and an ink well I've found a way out of the repetition that I've come to despise.

All of us have a thematic goal in life. The go-to ones might be "helping people," or "making a difference." For me, the primary concern is finding happiness and feeling fulfilled every day. Since I have a short attention span and a constant desire for entertainment, I recognized a long time ago that I needed to find a way to appease all of these conditions.

Being a popstar or an actress might have fit the bill, but those jobs come with the added trouble of being absolutely impossible career paths. When I considered veterinary school or even becoming a pediatrician (I had that goal for about two months and then I realized I was just copying my best friend), clearly I'd been steered in the wrong direction. Even basic science doesn't hold my interest, so I couldn't possibly expect complex biology to do so for the rest of my life.

When I happened upon writing, it was my first time encountering something that I was not only good at, but that I was able to stand for long periods of time. Every writing experience is an adventure. It gives us a way of acquiring new ways to use language, new methods and reasons to express ourselves, new topics to uncover and explore. There are no limits to the possibilities and even just sitting down when I'm half asleep in the evening to write a blog can be a learning experience.

There aren't a ton of careers that allow the flexibility of variation. Jobs have time schedules and seasonal calendar cycles. The budgets are tallied on the same day of the same week of every month.  The long term projects look vaguely similar year after year.

Writing may always be the same. It may never fully change and adapt with the times. But it will also never be standard. It will never stop growing and shifting into something new.

And it's all in the writer his or herself. Just having the power to decide to learn and apply that knowledge is enough to make one rejoice on having found such a beautiful craft. But aside from that, it's a welcome distraction to moments of ennui in the face of repeated work.

Sometimes we have to be taught to appreciate that reprieve.

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