My dislike for my job is well-documented here, so I won't belabor it. (In fairness I like my co-workers a lot. I just don't like the company or the work environment.) My search for other employment has so far just led to dead ends. I've accumulated a lot of story notes over the year, but have no writing to show for it.
More prosaically, my apartment is still a mess and getting messier. My finances have also been a mess since I got a new car. I need to make time to take said new car to the dealer for its first service, which is either 900 or 3400 miles overdue depending on which paper I read. It's been hard to make time for Christmas shopping and none of the presents I have are wrapped. I didn't get cards out to half the people I should have.
And every day I feel aggravated with work before lunch, ready to rip off people's heads by quitting time--and then I have a 30-45 minute commute home depending on traffic. (Doesn't sound like much? Tampa has the second highest traffic fatalities of all the nation's metro areas. A commute from one side of the county to the other, literally through downtown, is not a relaxing drive.) So when I get home I just want to relax. And on weekends, I want to escape. I can't take time off for vacation--I don't have the time left.
Which, of course, means that the small things accumulating don't get worked on like they should. They just keep accumulating. It's at a point now--a pyschological point, granted--where everything is irritating. In better times I can relax roleplaying or chatting 'out of character' online. Very rarely, I find myself in a state where merely connecting can make my mood go from melancholy to sour. I'm in one of those states. Being told I never seemed happy didn't help, even though the comment was made by a friend with the best of intentions.
I've been attracted to Taoism and Zen Buddhism for years. (My primary online persona is something of a 'casual shaman,' with a very Zen outlook on the world.) Dealing with problems calmly has been a personal ideal--in times of stress I'm prone to panic, anger, or despair, especially if it's stress due to errors I've made. I don't like that side of me. I like being calm. It helps me, and when others have problems, it helps them--and I've played confidante, counselor or just good listener to a lot of people, both online and off.
Two people have told me that I seem distant and unemotional--at least online, where their interaction with me is mostly through the filter of "Chipotle," the character I mentioned above. Yet she smiles, laughs, jokes, teases--most of the time. She's been subdued recently because I'm not a good enough actor to project an energy level I don't have. Or so I think. I can't help but wonder: am I misremembering the times that I thought she was obviously happy? Or is the trick of memory being played on my friends--because I haven't been happy lately, the times I have been have become difficult for some of them to remember?
I'd expected 2001 to be a year of changes; looking back I see it's a year of turbulent transition, and I'm still not sure where it's leading. Whether or not it makes me seem distant, I need a little more Zen in my life, a little more grounding, less worrying and more simply doing. Yet at the same time I need a direction.
I believe everyone in life has a calling--but I don't believe that everyone, or even most of us, find ours. Most of us are willing to settle for an occupation we can live with. That's what I did with Intermedia. It's what I was trying to do with NetPoodles. The lesson seems to be that you'd better shoot for the high targets: if you fall short, at least you'll be closer to them than if you started out by aiming low.
On most days if you asked me, I'd say my calling was to be a writer. Sometimes I'd say just a fiction writer. Sometimes I'd say any kind of writing--I enjoy technical writing, too, when I've done it. Of course, I've also enjoyed editing, and I still enjoy typography and print/web layout design. And at least some of the time I enjoy the puzzles in data mining and programming.
My current temporary frustrations will pass. The holiday ones can't last much longer by definition, and I will get a handle on the apartment upkeep again even if it takes a bulldozer. But as I move into 2002, I think the question of the year--or of the life--is going to be: do I try to move toward my calling? Even if it means taking a pay cut? Moving? Giving up both evenings out and evenings spent just relaxing online or in front of the TV?
Or do I settle for the next NetPoodles?