I have been the victim of class-related bigotry. Laura’s parents believe I am a “loser” because I’ve made it to 25 without at least getting an undergraduate degree, and they recommended that she simply cut off all contact with me immediately. She is a free thinker in some measure and decided to think about it more on her own. Her conclusion included that I was not even trying to reach her ‘class’. Her word. She says she’d be fine with someone who came from the lower classes, as long as they worked their way up to her level before getting to her. She seems to mean not just educational level, literati level, but financial, too.
I am too much an idealist, it seems. I so often forget that people are so hung up on money… since I am so NOT hung up on money. That people place so much value on buying a piece of paper that signifies a “degree”, since I realize it’s what you actually understand and can use that matters, not whether you paid the money and shoved your nose up the right asses to get the degree. I live in this idealist world of mine where people can be judged by the content of their character rather than the contents of their wallet, and sometimes I forget that most of the western world is the other way around. I get caught off-guard when someone treats me differently because whether I make $5000 this year or $500,000 doesn’t matter to me so much as how I spend my year.
I spent my year working more than full time doing everything I could for my grandparents, running the store for them to bring in extra money and doing the heavy (and often the light) lifting that keeps the place running. I spent my year re-working my novel, and by the end of the year it will be available for the world to buy it, whether they want it or not. I spent my year working on my art and create the ‘Mouse’ project and more paintings this year than the last 3 or 4 years combined, so far. If I get a couple more paintings done before the end of the year (as expected), I’ll have done more paintings this year than in all prior years combined. I just started another creative outlet, the design, marketing, production &c. of custom screen-printed products, and I expect it to be a satisfying (and profitable) outlet for me in the coming years. I’ve spent the year doing the things that I consider important.
So, even counting unemployment and painting sales, I didn’t earn $5k the whole year. After working so hard to get re-admitted to ASU last year, I simply did not attend at all this year. But how do you measure success? Is it the money I didn’t spend? Is it the degree I don’t have? Is it the relationships I haven’t built? Or is it in knowing what is important to me and doing what is in my power to achieve and support it? Is it in every time I helped my grandmother up after a fall or to walk across the room? Is it in every time I expressed myself creatively through art? Is it in every ton of junk or materials I moved from one place to another or sorted out and threw away to clean up and maintain the property for my family? Is it in actually finishing my novel? Is it in trying to build and maintain strong and worthwhile relationships with my family and existing friends, as well as with new people?
What is winning and what is losing? What is success and what is failure? Since I don’t consider myself a loser, does it matter what the parents of a person I have never even met think? Does it matter what random visitors to the site think, or that something about me induces them to vomit (on their dogs’ faces)? Does it matter that I don’t have detailed, long-term plans?
See, right now a very important thing to me is to help support my family in any way I can. To help out my grandparents, whose health seems only to be declining. So right now if you asked me I might say I was planning on living in Pine for “at least a couple more years” to “pay off my debt and earn enough money to be able to go back to school.” Which is true. If you asked me what I was going to do after school, I might not be able to tell you much, since I expect to spend several years (taking courses at not more than “half time” so I can properly devote myself to them) on what is ostensibly my “senior year” of college… and while I now see myself continuing to work on my art (which is what I will be going back to school to study; I want to get a “classical” training in the arts and get at least a BFA), things may change between now and then. Because the “couple of years” seems to mean “at least as long as I’m needed”, which sounds a lot like “as long as my grandparents are still alive” – this could be 6 months or two years or ten years; there is no way to know.
So… since my plan is vague… and doesn’t lead me down a “career track” and isn’t aggressive or “performance oriented” … am I “wandering through life”? I’m playing it by ear. I’m doing what seems right, considering the circumstances and my priorities. I’m not making plans that preclude me from taking care of what is important to me, and I’m not particularly concerned with getting things done ‘as fast as possible’, just in getting things done.
The numbers you see all over the site… the “645.0 A.C.” … that’s my calendar… that’s part of an expression of my disconnectedness from time… I’m hardly aware of the day of the week (and less so of the day of the month) on the calendar that everyone else around me uses… it just isn’t important to me. When I need to be somewhere or do something, I’ll know. When circumstances change, when my grandparents are dead, it isn’t something I can look forward to on the calendar, but something I can know has happened, and know as a cue that it may be time to do something different. Whether I put together a spreadsheet or an accounting program to tell me what day I’ll have paid off my debt or not, all I can do is keep making the payments until they’re gone, so why pay attention to it? Just keep paying until they’re gone. One day, some semester will be starting and I’ll notice that I have more than enough money to go back to school, and the next semester I’ll probably go. And there isn’t some fancy job as a fine artist waiting for me that I can only get if I rush through art school. The more time I spend working on it, the better I’ll get (in school or out), and when I’ve taken all the classes that means “degree” to some bureaucrat, they’ll let me know. Dates and schedules … just add complication and stress to an already complicated and stressful life. So I try to avoid it.
So how do you measure success? Is it how much? How fast? How many hoops? Or does it have something to do with working towards your goals and recognizing your priorities?