The Increasing Oddness of Being a “Thing” Person

One of my friends told me this week that she just didn’t really have the capacity for creativity. So I asked her what her thing was, what she did, and she really couldn’t give me an answer. She works in a bar/coffee shop, walks dogs, hangs out with friends, reads, and just, you know, does things she likes. She’s living a happy, healthy, and complete life. But she doesn’t really have a thing, right?

It puzzled me at first, but as I thought about it, I realized it’s a becoming a common enough theme in my life, lately.

I know a lot of people who have more fun than I do. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are clearly enjoying their lives more than I am at the moment, and definitely going out to do more fun things. I don’t have a lot of fun, really. Some months, like this, I don’t even have fun writing. I think it would be fair to say most the people I know are leading fuller lives than I am just now.

The feeling is compounded by the fact that I’ve worked really hard to stabilize my income streams over the past year, and it’s paid off. It means my time is divided about evenly  between things I want to do (which don’t pay me) and things I don’t really want to do, but are in my industry, and pay pretty well.

The weird bit is, I don’t really  mind, most the time.

Looking back, my life has basically been an endless series of escape plans. And they’ve mostly worked, but I’m going from one locked room to the next. 

My teenage years were spent plotting getting out of Las Vegas. After a year at a university in New Mexico, my entire being was focused on escaping New Mexico. I felt the need to get out of grad school and academia so overwhelmingly that I left at the end of my first year, and spent most of the next year living in my car, travelling from state to state (and around parts of lovely Canada) visiting friends and new places.

I think it would be fair to say that the brevity of most my romantic relationships might also be laid at least somewhat at the feet of this wanderlust (although I’m rather happy with the one I’ve been in for the past two years) and general escape-plotting.

Even my future plans are along the lines of “buy a truck and an over-the-top camper and travel the country writing” and “buy a Bristol Channel Cutter”. If I buy land, I want it to be a lot of acres and a long long way from a city. Or other people.

My point is, I’m always on my way to somewhere else, or something else, and I’m honestly not sure if that’s a personal failing or advantage. Am I a deeply motivated natural explorer, or just a flake without the sense to appreciate what I’ve got?

I expect the answer to that will depend a lot on what I accomplish in the next ten years or so. I’ve watched people like my friend without “the thing” settling into careers, lives, and relationships they enjoy and appreciate, and it makes me acutely aware of some gulf in myself.

I have a thing. I want to be a writer. I would say most my friends make more money than I do most months. How much I make is a bit of a random number generator on a month-to-month basis, so it’s hard to be definitive. My next good month is going to go right into repainting my car, saving up for a new computer, travelling home to help my family pack up two houses, and getting together a deposit for whichever house my girlfriend and I end up renting together.

It should be incredibly stressful, frustrating, and disheartening, but it’s really not, because I have a thing. I have something I’m absolutely determined to succeed in, and if that means making less money for awhile, or missing out on fun things, or leaving everything behind and moving on, at some level I’m fine with that.

Like I said, I’m not sure if this is a net negative or a positive. Am I a control freak for wanting to control the course of my own life? Or even my own schedule?

I don’t, I hope you understand, want to spend all my time writing, but I do do want to spend as much time as I want to spend writing, writing, and the simple mathematical reality is that I can’t write as much as I’d like to write, do any of the many other things I’d like to do, and have a job that wasn’t writing.

It was an interesting truth, once it finally dawned on me, though. Whether I end up in a cabin, or a boat, or, if there is a god and it’s a cruel one, in the middle of a city, I’ll be writing. Whether I’d stuck with academia or chosen this way, or if civilization crumbled around me, I’d be writing.

I do feel very lucky to be at the conflux of having a thing which happens to offer the potential for living my life largely on my own terms. Still, writing’s for me not a hobby, nor a career, because it’s independent of silly things like where I am, or what I do, or whether there are still people alive who can read. It’s a thing, you know? My thing.

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