Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm Totally Normal. Abby Normal.

Naples - Museo Archeologico NazionaleThe more time I spend pursuing a career, a life's work, that's in the creative arts (visual or written), the more I realize that another major task for me is reconciling myself to the idea of living life in a not entirely linear fashion. What I mean by that is, creative pursuits don't always lend themselves to a straight road. It's not uncommon, I'm finding, for people to meander a bit.

Perhaps this will be a bit clearer if I provide some contrast. Take my parents. Though they are very different from one another in a myriad of other ways, they are both a bit linear, especially when it comes to how they see working life. This is not necessarily a bad thing, not at all. In fact, I envy them. For them, this is how life generally works: Kid is bright and shows potential. Kid goes to college and majors in chosen field. Kid becomes knowledgeable in said field. Knowledge leads to degree or series of degrees; degree leads directly and immediately to reliable and long-term employment in field of study. Success and stability are achieved in all acceptable societal measures of such.

In the arts, this just isn't always the case. But it's taken me a while to come to terms with that fact that it's not a sign of wrongness or failure, but simply NORMAL. The more I look at authors' book jacket or website bios, though, the more I recognize kindred spirits, the more weird jobs I find, the more--not flitting about, but doing a lot of other things to earn money so that you can pursue your art. And I realize that it isn't necessarily dilettantism that has caused my longest-held salaried position to be less than two years in duration. I look with a sense of relief at the biographies of other YA writers, like Jessica Day George or Jennifer Allison, both of whose bios I recently read. I look at my stepdad, one of the smartest and most creative people I know, and the fact that within his working career he's been a carpenter, an adult ESL teacher, an optician, a high school biology teacher, and a bit of an artist, too--in his retirement, he's making pottery using molds and a homemade kiln. I have to remind myself that it shouldn't be a source of embarrassment or shame to not hold the same job my entire life, to not have a "real job" in the same way that others see it. I AM doing my "real job." Every second that I live.

7 comments:

david elzey said...

western society (all i really know) doesn't really do well with non-linear, non-conformist lifestyles. the lack of understanding in the arts leads to an underclass of creative people left to feel less-than rather than equal contributors to society. if we spent half as much time and energy and resources appreciating art and artists of all stripes – and not just the heroes vaulted into the media for the purposes of commercialism – maybe people wouldn't take such a sideways view at creatives, and maybe we'd have a better view of "normal."

Ethel Rohan said...

Great post. "I AM doing my "real job." Every second that I live." I'm right there with you.

Elimare said...

All of us who've been in 'permanent' type jobs? We're looking at you enviously... :)

tanita davis said...

Exactly.

Beth Kephart said...

Yes, and yes.

Like Tanita says: Exactly. I've been piecing my life together since I left my last full time job at the age of 25. It works. But it's always, um, exciting.

adrienne said...

I always figure as long as I can eat and pay the bills, life is good.

a. fortis said...

Thanks, everyone, for adding to the discussion!

I just wish that I didn't get so squirrely when the (usually safe) subject of occupation comes up during social situations...