Burn Your Life Down

Do you ever want to burn your life down?

Metaphorically, speaking, of course.

But really. Do you ever want to start over? Raze all of your relationships to the ground, put fire to any friendships in your life, and walk away from it all, in slow motion, as the spark finally hits the gasoline barrel and your life explodes in a swirl of flames that somehow blows your hair away from your face as you casually slip into your Porsche, like in all of the movies?

Yeah, I feel something like that too, every once in a little while.

Because wouldn’t it be easier to start over? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pick up and leave? Move to another country where no one knows your name or the fact that you still haven’t grown out of the footie pajamas you wore to elementary school a few times? Wouldn’t it be easier to give up on all of your responsibilities in favor of being slightly selfish, locking yourself in a hotel room and eating good food and drinking better wine?

From this side of the fence, it sure looks like it would be easier. Or maybe it just looks like the entire plot of Eat, Pray, Love. 

But for whatever reason, when I consider my distant future, I get overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many pieces to put together. And it seems like nothing fits. And even worse, it feels like my life has pieces that don’t even go to the same puzzle. What am I supposed to do? Build two puzzles? Build another path in case I change my mind?

Of course, I’m a firm believer that you can’t really “mess” up your life. To admit that a person can mess up his or her life would be to suggest that there is a correct way to live. As profound as it may be, I simply believe that whatever you choose is your choice. And you can’t be anyone but yourself, so you can’t do anything in this life that isn’t right for you. You just have to live your life.

But, why does it feel like I’m going to be disappointing people if I don’t do a specific thing? Why do I feel like I have to everything figured out, retirement plan and all, before I have even considered the next ten years? Why can’t I just burn my life down and start fresh whenever I want to?

There’s a relatively simple answer. No, you shouldn’t burn your life down. (Or anything else, for that matter…)

When I start to feel like this, I realize that it probably isn’t because I want to start over. More like, I don’t know what to do with the resources I’ve been given. Metaphorically speaking again, it’s like I have a hammer and a few nails, but instead of building a house, I just want to throw the tools on a bonfire. It’s like I don’t know how to ask anyone, my friends or family, for help.

Really, when you want to burn your life down, it’s not necessarily that you want to start new. It’s probably because you are trying something new. Remember that your greatest assets are the people that hold out a candle to you so that you can make your way in the dark, not the people who hand you the book of matches.

Do Your Job So I Can Do Mine

Okay, I’m going to do some math tonight.

Now, that should set off some alarm bells in your head. The size of the bells of Notre Dame, to be honest. Because I’m not a math person. Therefore, I should not be doing any math of any kind, even under pretend circumstances. But humor me. (Hope your funny bone is the size of your femur).

So, basically the world has this equation to determine if you are doing what you should be doing with your life. It’s simple: direct societal contribution + deliverable good  = your job.

Now, think about it. For example, you have an architect. What does he or she contribute to society? Places to work, eat, and sleep by building structures. What does he or she deliver? Those buildings, more opportunities for revenue, etc. That’s a one-to-one relationship, if I’m not mistaken.

Now, think about another job. A professional dancer, let’s say. (The math is going to get significantly harder, here.) What’s the societal contribution? Beautiful art. Sadly, not enough people seem to appreciate this societal contribution or consider it as such. What’s a deliverable good from a professional dancer? Well, it certainly isn’t tangible. But professional dancers create memories for their audiences. Visual interpretations of what a piece of music is “saying.” More art.

Not exactly the most straightforward equation. So, many people look at a professional dancer’s career and see this: 0 + 0 = 0. Which isn’t the correct math (even if my own math is not always sound).

Now, I have no grudges against architects. I don’t hold anything against professional dancers, either. But when professional dancers are forced to become architects because society sees value in architects but not professional dancing, then we start to have a problem.

Because this happens all of the time. Professional dancers, and other people who don’t fit into the stark equation outlined above, think that their passion cannot sustain their lifestyle. In many cases, they are right. Since society doesn’t value their contributions or deliverable goods because their careers do not benefit society as obviously as other professions (see above equation, again), they are told to pursue other things. Then, their passion is thwarted, and we get lifeless accountants who were supposed to be painters, we have frustrated attorneys who were meant to be novelists, and yes, we have jaded architects who were meant to be professional dancers. We get people who are displacing themselves to make a living, which then, in turn, displaces the people who really wanted to be accountants, attorneys, and architects.

Which brings me back to my original point. I should never, ever do math. I’ve never been good at it. Even trying to double recipes is difficult for me. I’m a writer. I like words, not numbers. Which is not to say people can’t like both. I’m just not one of those magical, incredibly talented people.

The point is, I should not be forced to find a job that is outside of my realm of expertise simply because society doesn’t think I can make a real societal contribution or deliverable good from writing.

Basically, you should do what you want to do, no matter what. Because if you can’t follow your passion, then things won’t really add up for you, no matter how (badly) you do the math.

The Joys of Job Hunting

“As a recent college graduate, I am enthusiastic to begin working for your company” is how some of my cover letters start. In bitter disappointment and dejected sadness do many of my applications end. Almost everyone above the age of 18 understands the “joys” of job hunting. And if you forget those pleasantries, let me remind you:

Every day I wake up with something bright, and shiny throbbing in my chest. It’s called hope (I’m not Iron Man). Hope brings me down the stairs and on to the computer. From there, I log onto numerous job websites; hoping, wishing, pleading that there will be an entry-level writing position open. And every day, when I realize there are no new opportunities, or there is a listing, and it has been open for 3 days (might as well be 3 years in my field because it is already closed), I start to feel defeated. Hope whispers kindly that we will try again tomorrow, after we have spent hours on one cover letter with no results.

And usually, at this point, I punch hope in the face.

Because with hope concussed, I don’t have to think about the long-awaited rejection letter, the horror you feel when you find a typo long after you’ve hit “send,” the feeling that all of your materials are being fed to a monster that thrives on resumes and dreams, and can be the only reason that you receive no reply from a particular company. (Maybe Monster.com is named after that same creature?)

But in reality, we have made it so much easier on ourselves. In a way, hope is right to egg me on and encourage me because technology has made the job hunting process wildly simple.

We can write the one page cover letter that we need to apply to our future careers in our pajamas and in bed. And we can type that aforementioned page in about 5 minutes flat. That is, if we do not repeatedly revise and judge ourselves and cry. We don’t need white out, we have backspace. We have websites for our personal industries, and to create personal connections with potential companies. Everything is electronic for our convenience, and while we may find it maddening when we apply to a job that has been posted for 2 days but is already filled, we still have it better than our grandparents and the generations that came before us.

In this economy, all we can ask for is an interview after we’ve sent in our resume. Before computers, all the unemployed could ask for was that they might stumble across an opportunity by accident, or in the newspaper, which can be even more of a gamble.

In some ways, we are strained as a society. In others, we are completely comfortable.

So, the next time you are begrudgingly answering situation questions after situation question just remember: you’re allowed to hope. Actually, I encourage it. Because when the resume-eating-monster under your bed comes calling, you’ll be able to feed it something other than your dignity.

Don’t worry. Hope can take a hit.



Okay, fine. I know, it’s two. I haven’t always been eloquent…