Monday, March 19, 2018

Before the Year Gets Any Older

You will find this hard to believe if you don’t know me, but easy to believe if you do: I hoped to start off 2018 posting from the get-go, and posting more regularly, as in more often.
What went wrong?
Well might you ask.
I have been hard at work finishing a novel that I started eight or nine years ago. I had to take break to write other things as well as teach a few courses and read some other manuscripts in one editorial capacity or another, all within the framework of doing more work for less pay.
The year 2018 seems neither a good year nor a bad year, just another year.
This notion is neither grim nor celebratory. This is another year we need to get through, like every year preceding it and every year to come.
Granted we don’t do something like die.
I’ve explained elsewhere that around the time I reached sixty, I gave myself points for still being around. People who knew me when I was considerably younger would not have bet on that possibility. But I made it, out of sheer luck, or stubbornness.  Having survived this long is one of the few accomplishments I can claim without some awkward qualification.
“Wow, Rich, you made it to sixty-two. How did you do that?”
“By not dying.”
Life should always be so easy.
Already this year, the list of folks who won’t make it to the year 2019 is pretty long, and getting longer. Folks I’ve known personally. Folks I’ve known by reputation. The one thing you never get used to about living is that it never gets easier to look around at all the people who are dying before you.
One advantage to being sixty-two (going on sixty-three) is that you no longer have to imagine what you’re going to do before you get to the age of sixty-two; you’ve already done it. That can relieve you of a lot of worries.
Late at night, I find myself thinking something or saying something, then I stop and ask, “Is that really me? Is this who I really am?” Maybe it’s a symptom of dementia, but I doubt it. I just find it hard to believe that I’m the person that I have become – not because I didn’t think I would, but because everyone else thought I was going to become someone else, some other person; that I would gain some inner wisdom or lose some critical flaw they saw in me. Instead, they got this.
I’ve tried to write about “Imposter Syndrome” before. Maybe I did. I don’t remember and at the moment don’t much care. It’s common to writers, artists, musicians, creative people in general, and anyone who aspires to one of those positions to which the said individual ascribes a great deal of respect and reverence. Somehow, you assume that the status you aspire to is one must be born to; it’s all destiny and DNA – you cannot “become” a writer, a composer, painter, a physicist, a world leader. Therefore, if you try to become such a person, you’re really an imposter. An imposter, along with other things, is a person who lives in dread of being discovered an imposter.
Whenever it was I was going to write about Imposter Syndrome, I was going to say that a person, if or she lives long enough, wakes up one morning (or whenever it is one wakes up) and discovers he or she is not an imposter. You may not be who you aspired to be, but you are who you are and no one else. For better or worse.
Many of us have had to take on jobs that we needed to take – to make a living. We also may have taken the jobs we were convinced, by others, we needed to do – again, maybe to make a living, or because others, or ourselves, we didn’t think we had what it took to be the person we wanted to be. It may not make much difference why. We took jobs we were expected to have or had to have.
And in this country, in this world, a person is the job. You’re not a poet who washes dishes, you’re a dishwasher. You’re not a guitarist who paints houses, you’re a housepainter. That’s how you do business in the country whose business is business. At best, you’re a dishwasher who writes poetry, or a housepainter who plays guitar. But … you are the job.
I was a Production Assistant (I clipped tearsheets for an ad agency). I was a Mailing Machine Operator. I was a film inspector.  I was a Cold Type Compositor (whatever that is). I was a Makeup Desk editor. I was a Copy Editor. I was a Communist for the FBI …
No. Scratch that last one.
Actually, no. I wasn’t any of those things. Scratch all of them.
I was an imposter.
An imposter whenever I did anything but write, or teach, or fiddle in one way or another with the texts of others. I was even an imposter when I tried to be a scholar of a certain sort I imagined I should be, and could be, if given the chance.
All the times I thought I was not being an imposter, I was.
All the times I thought I was being an imposter, I was being who I really was.
No wonder it took me sixty-two years to stop spinning around. I was going in through the “Out” door, looking through the wrong end of the telescope, taking the right train in the wrong direction, from the wrong station.
It’s always been thus for me.
Do I repeat myself? Then I repeat myself. I repeat multitudes.
Something that does change, if you’re lucky, are your dreams. Not your aspiration-dreams, your what-you-do-when-you-sleep dreams.
For years my dreams always took me off course – in the dream I needed to get to Place A, and by the end of the dream I was riding past Place Z with little hope of returning. Now, my dreams leave me off somewhere, somewhere uncertain, but wherever it is, it’s where I seem I’m supposed to be.

More about this later. You’d think I was getting paid by the word to write all this. But after concentrating so deeply on that novel, I just needed to let my brain run off without a leash, before the year gets any older …