Monday, March 30, 2009
*The following is a warm-up exercise intended to break myself out of a creative dry spell that's been plauging me on and off for the past twelve months or so:

Back when I merely dabbled in writing (read: not my main livelihood), I was gratified by the fact that I was actually getting paid - chump change as it was - for putting words together that people would actually fork over money to read. It was also gratifying to know that my name would be printed in a medium that is, from a certain point of view, more mainstream than an online journal. That meant that my work would be thrust into a large, non-blogging public and that alone gave me a short-lived sense of satisfaction.

At the time, my sideline work as an article writer made me distastefully smug with the knowledge that I was only working as a customer care specialist (a kinder term for "phone monkey") to get by. I was close to bearing that title for over five years and naturally I came to resent my job with each passing day. Therefore, I kept my ego inflated over the self-delusion that slaving away as a call center drone was "beneath" what I really wanted to do. In short, I felt that I was meant for better things and that answering phones was demeaning.

While I don't see myself returning to my previous line of work, my reasons for not going back are different from why I left it in the first place. As I said, it came to a point where I looked down my last job and so the career shift was, in my mind, a more dignified step forward. Looking back today, I choose not to get back into the call center business because I now realize that it was merely time to do something else. Besides, I wouldn't have lasted that long if I didn't derive some small measure of satisfaction from helping people over the phone.

What I'm really trying to say is that I no longer want to think that I changed jobs because I'm above being a "phone monkey". There is no humiliation to be found in an honest job, and I should never be ashamed that I was able to generate steady employment for myself for so long. To think otherwise would be an insult to the people and companies that offered me the gainful employment which allowed me to sustain my family's material needs. And let's not forget the character-building experiences I incidentally picked up along the way.

What made me realize all of this is on account of the current dissatisfaction I've wrestled with during my current job as a full-time writer. As I've detailed in my previous posts, I've come to find that writing for a hobby (or as a part-time job) is very, very different from doing it full-time. It's not so easy, cool or glamorous as it's cracked up to be, but I can't argue with the paycheck. What puzzled me was how I was slowly beginning to resent this job just as much as I did with my last. How ironic it was to think that this was more dignified than answering phones when I was slowly becoming just as disgruntled as before.

When I began conceptualizing this little piece you're reading today, I intended to start off by ranting how much the current place we're living at is driving me nuts. The street across our gate and along our house both go uphill, which is no big deal unless you live in a village where the residents are dependent upon tricycles. Do you know what a two-wheeled motorized vehicle sounds like when it's struggling to move along an inclined surface? Each strained rattle from its labored engine feels like a cheese grater being raked over my nerves. Now multiply that by everyday. When your work is affected by noise, it doesn't help when you live in a place that thrives on it.

But then I thought, is it right to blame everything around me for my frustration? When they built this community about twenty years ago, did they go and say, "Hey, why don't we make these streets slope upwards to torture the hell out of the writer-to-be that's going to live in this exact spot"? Of course not.

I realized that for all of the things that I moaned and whined about, the only constant variable in the equation was ME, or my attitude to be precise.

That's when I thought that I should just suck it in since I'm moving out of this place in a few months' time anyway. I also realized that at the end of the day, work is just work and it doesn't really define who you are. As long as you're doing an honest job that doesn't violate someone's rights (including your own of course), there is really nothing to complain or be ashamed about. Whatever your job is, find pride in it. If you feel like you're not earning enough or are better suited to something else, then move on to another job and be thankful for the learning experiences you've had with your current line of work.

Ultimately, you are responsible for the quality of your life and no one else can change it for you. I'm not going to deny though that there are random, uncontrollable circumstances and problems that get in the way. However, the way you react to, or work around it is really up to you. As a great author once said, humans are the only animals that say, "why me?" when the shit hits the fan. Other creatures, like your pet dog for instance, won't complain or fight against their pain like it was some disorder. They simply move on with their lives and ride out their anger or depression until it blows over.

In a way, it's good to feel those emotions because it reminds you that you're alive. It simply has to occur to you that you have what it takes to bring yourself back into being happy again. Like Mazer Rackham once told Ender (and I'm paraphrasing here), "The human race does not ask us to be happy. The priority is to survive first, and then happiness as we can manage it."

While those lines were said in the context of an intergalactic war threatening to extinguish all human life, it's just as relevant to me now. As such, I hope that it brings to light all the things you may be taking for granted at this very moment. Be grateful for what you have, because there are millions of other people who are nowhere near as blessed as you are.