They say opinions are like assholes (everybody has one) and that talk is cheap. Both of these cliched witticisms suggest that you should be careful whose advice you take and that people can present their lives in a way which it decidedly is not. I am very bad at remembering this. Unfortunately, to my ever-increasing chagrin, I have absolutely no guile. None. I don't lie or even really schmooze or embellish, so I assume no one else does either.
For instance, when I run into a friend from high school who asks me what I'm up to lately, I always say something to the effect of, "I work a X company in Dayton." When the person follows up by asking, "Do you enjoy that?" I say, "Well the pay is a joke and the hours are terrible. But a job's a job." Here is what I could say; "Oh I am just fantastic. College was such a blast, I lived in Berlin for a while and traveled all through Europe! And oh, I also interned in D.C. for a Senator! And would you believe it, I got a job right out of college. I live in my own apartment downtown and I bought myself a new car. It's so nice to be able to completely support myself. Aren't I fabulous?!" While none of the preceding was untrue, I will never be able to present my life like this. Whenever I say something that could be objectively impressive, I always downplay it with, "Yeah, but it wasn't all that glamorous," or "I don't really think I can congratulate myself too much on that. It's just what's expected of me." Because that's honestly how I feel. My father pointed out to me, however, that other people are exaggerating their own fabulousness, and that I am buying it hook, line, and sinker. And even worse, letting it make me feel inferior.
Recently, I called my father with my weekly sobbing meltdown. I was complaining about something that happened Friday night. My parents and I went out to a restaurant in Columbus that one of my Dad's former coworkers owns with her husband. She sat down and starting talking with us, and then asked me what I was doing and what were my goals. I told her I was toying with the option of grad school, and when I stated my desired discipline she said, "Well that doesn't make much money, does it?" Not, do you think you'll enjoy that? Are you good at that? Or even, are you excited about it? Straight to salary. Which made me feel like seven kinds of shit. Then she told me I "really must" go to business school in order to be competitive. Here's the thing about business school--I think it's like thinking for dumb people. They teach you to reach conclusions which are PAINFULLY intuitive and make "business people" disregard their common sense and all feelings of warmth toward humanity and instead turn people into amounts of money. That being said, the biggest frat boy idiot jock will probably make three times the highest earning potential in the fields that interest me, so, there is that. But, I got to thinking, "really, must I go to business school?'
One of Tina Fey's many pearls of wisdom within the book, "Bossypants" is that whenever someone tells you you "really must" do something, it means you don't have to do it. If you did, it would be obvious enough no one would have to say anything. So, in reflection, (and through my father's gentle, logical, coaxing) I realized I really don't have to go to business school. And that's good news, because I would hate it. It's not a way that I think, and frankly, it's not a kind of knowledge I value. I almost thought of writing "no offense" after that last line, because it's so deeply engrained in our culture that capitalism and the knowledge of its inner-workings are almost holy, but I disagree and you can choose to be offended if you want. I know a lot of people who think art is stupid, so whatever, agree to disagree.
Despite my father's reassurances, I just can't shake the feeling that everyone knows something I don't. I used to laugh at my classmates who chose their majors based on future earning potential. I felt confident that pursuing my interests with little thought given toward future career plans would lead me to a place that would make me happy. I'm realizing, however, that those people who said "a liberal arts degree--what the hell are you going to do with that?" the ones I laughed at, may have been right. It's recently hit me, what the hell am I going to do with that? And that chaps my ass. Because while I wouldn't be happy in business school and no amount of money in the future would make it worth wasting years of my life pursing that degree, I also have to admit the lack of security involved with having a liberal arts B.A. doesn't exactly make me thrilled either.
So I do this maudlin soul-searching, what would make me happy, who am I, where do I fit in the universe thing instead. Sometimes I think I am physiologically programed to be unhappy--that I'm just a grumpy, bitter cynic, and nothing will ever change that. Other times I think when I think that I'm just on my period. My point, I guess, if I have one, is that I haven't got it figured out yet. So if you ask me, I won't tell you I do. I'm starting to maybe realize a little bit that no one has it figured out, they just are better at hiding it.