Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pessimism: Purple Prose Pondering A Problem

Welp, I'm not feeling particularly rant-y. Welcome, friends, to the "cogito" in "cogito, ergo sum iratus." Translation: musing ahead.

I was talking to my dad today, and it occurred to me that I have a horrible habit. I'm a negative bastard. Now, not in the "world pisses me off" sorta way.

Two definitions to kick off with, then:

Cynics are people who don't believe in the kindness of strangers as a default. And that's ok, because we have awesome days when strangers are kind, and shrug and chuckle when people aren't.

Pessimism, however, is a sucky trait involving the belief that bad things will happen in the future, or that your hopes and dreams will die horrible, horrible deaths. Not, mind you, in the "bad things happen" sorta way, but in the, "all the things will end horribly, and I shall never achieve anything because all the things will end horribly" sort of way.

When it comes to dealing with the human race as a whole, I'm a cynic. When it comes to dealing with myself I have a tendency to be a pessimist.

And that's not ok.

I have gone on the record as saying that my degree was a mistake. That I should have skipped the writing courses in favor of a certification or degree that would pay out.

And you know what? If I believe that I suck, or if I wasn't any good at it, I'd be right.

But I'm fucking fabulous. I write well, I interview well, I'm a research whore...I just happen to not enjoy the business of journalism. And I've got two to four years to go until I'm qualified for my dream job, sure, but that doesn't mean my degree isn't good for anything. It just means I can't use it for work at the moment, unless I want to sell my soul to the publishing industry.

When I was younger, my siblings and myself had a running gag/complaint that our mother was training us to be housewives. Eventually, mom stopped trying to explain her methods, and went with "you'll see."

We all learned to cook, clean, deal with kids, deal with adults, not spend money wildly, make minor to major household repairs on the fly, manipulate people...ok, that last one probably wasn't intentional, but you can only listen to a woman twist bill collectors around her little finger so many times before you decide that's a skill you need.

What do you mean that sounds like good life skills?

That's because it is. And we've all called her and mumbled some variation on, "sorry, mom, you were right." Because she's sorta evil, and will never say "I told you so." She makes us say it for her.

What has this to do with my degree? Well, when talking to my dad today, I found myself on the other end of the stick.

My dad is a genius level programmer. The man complains when it takes him more than three weeks to learn entire programming languages. Because he thinks that's slow. Because for him it is. Dad has been doing variations on database management and programming for close to three decades. Like, really close to three decades. He started with Basic, and he's learned everything in between.

Just last year, Dad saw a friend at work playing with iOS app code, and decided he wanted to play too. He borrowed a buggy version of a simple app from said friend, and played with it in between projects. The next day he handed back an app he'd rewritten from the ground up, maintaining only a few functional strings of code. And his app worked, with one or two bugs at most. Bugs, I want to clarify, on the developer side. The end user functionality was nearly perfect.

He's programmed patches over the phone and over the phone by proxy, sight unseen for proprietary databases while half-asleep. Oh, and the proxy was his 11 year old daughter and Post It notes. And the patches worked.

He's freaking out right now because he's having trouble finding a job. The purple squirrel principle is in full effect. In some cases, the jobs really are outside his bailiwick. But in many cases, he's overqualified.

Now, I could sorta understand that, but surely there's a place in the world for a programmer of my Dad's skill? I'm sitting here wondering, "how the hell have people not realized that my Dad's salary requirements have a floor? I mean, who wouldn't want a budget genius!?"

Turns out, he's not selling himself. No, really. He's written maybe half a dozen cover letters in his entire career. Full stop. He updates his resume by removing outdated programming languages and adding recent work experience.

Now, nobody think I'm bashing my Dad. Writing cover letters and editing resumes to target them to companies is a writing intensive art form. He's a programmer, not a writer.

But...I'm a writer. And...business writing isn't that far of a stretch from academic writing...or magazine writing...or public relations writing...or...well, you get the idea. Know the audience, know the format, and the only thing left to do is write what they want to read in the way they want to see it.

So I offer my services to Dad as a cover letter writer and resume over-hauler. As I'm on the phone, talking it out, explaining the rationale of cover letters, explaining resume optimization strategies, my mom interrupts me and goes, "Dude...you know people charge $60 an hour for this, right? Go make a living at this!" (Ok, I'm paraphrasing. My mother would spontaneously combust before she'd use "dude" seriously in a sentence.)

Moreover, I can tutor English, PR, Journalism, Comp I and II, Public Speaking, Mass Comm...I'm good at communications and writing. And either way I go on my bachelors (adult education or English) I can use my degree as a springboard for many, many things.

So...being pessimistic about my future because I got a minor is something I don't want to work in has been a major drag on my life that I don't need, and shouldn't have been bothering with.

What else am I pessimistic about in my life?

Well, I've addressed the issue of kids in the past, so I won't go into that in depth here. Suffice it to say, I really should consider that I'm damn good with kids, and that's really all that matters. If I have to lawyer up and beat ass to keep my kids, people better run screaming. And that's that.

But also, I've been in a funk about my art, my writing, my poetry...because pessimism means that hopes and dreams die horribly.

My art...well, I tend to go for the abstract, the impressionist, the expressionist. It's not photographic, or even representational. It tends to cut to the chase and and just shit emotions straight onto the canvas. So, naturally, it doesn't look like art to me.

But I've had several people say they love it, and I've sold one mixed media collage. So...obviously, I'm not the best judge of what I'm capable of. And hell, I've seen pieces in museums that resemble my style, so why should I worry when I could be painting and creating?

My writing is...well, according to this (I've run fiction, non-fiction, academic writing, business writing, you name it) I write like Cory Doctorow. Try it, it's fun. Admittedly, it's not perfect. I ran a horrible bit of crap through it and got Salinger, so it's more about tone than anything else.

And to my shame, I've never read any Doctorow, but hey. He's a successful internet meme, at least. And he's a champion for ideas I can definitely get behind. So I could do worse.

But the point of this: I write well. I just get so caught in a pessimism loop that I forget to actually write. And if I want to succeed, I first have to do.


This happened. (Source.)
Poetry? Well, I'm a poetry infant, experience-wise. I used to write doggerel and couplets. Then I realized I was an emo child, and stopped out of respect for the world around me. To this day, when I read whiny poetry, I have to fight the urge to unleash atomic slaps.

But I took a course in it. I realized that "free verse" is popular because it's easy and because poetry is stagnant, not because it's good poetry. It can be. But it's not the only option.

So, while I have the same pessimism about my poetry as I do about my writing, I might as well write the shit. I know, perhaps better than anyone else, that you have to write a lot of crap to get a few diamonds. And I keep forgetting that there's diamonds in them thar lavatories.

So, at the bottom of my (as usual) messy musing post, a point:

My mother is of the opinion that cynicism is killing me. I think she's wrong. Pessimism is killing me. It's strangling my art, my expression, my ability to get up in the morning, my ability to feel happy with any choice I make. I'm a depressive personality, sure, but I keep forgetting that there's a difference between sucking at life and being depressed. Pessimism, and my inability to recognize it in my thinking, is quite possibly the biggest potential pitfall in my plans.

And if any of this resonates, just remember. Pessimism is a self-perpetuating reality. And at the end of the day, you know what matters?

This. (Source.)
So, here's to pessimism:

Kerblam. (Source.)
Welp, let's hide the body in a dumpster and get on with being fabulous, shall we?

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