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Working Class Heroes, Their Boomsticks and Their Dreams

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/12/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

What happens when you try to fly solo?

I start my blog entries like that these days.  The above question looks very straight forward. I want to know what happens to the person who decides that they’re going to make a go of life on their own. I want to understand how an individual functions when they try to pull themselves out of mediocrity and live their dreams.

We live in a curious time in American History. Western culture demands that the average individual seeks guidance as a youth. A person is supposed to depend upon their parents for warmth, shelter, wisdom and love. Moms and dads nurture their children by providing the basics as well as opportunities for their education.

But children grow up. Expectations change. Life becomes high school (or is it the other way around?) Children are taught to believe that they are supposed to broaden their minds with books and technology. Yet they are also supposed to round out their learning experiences with intense athletic pursuits or “extra curricular activities.”  Meanwhile, if adolescents succumb to the bombardment of commercials, internet ads, or peer-pressure situations in which they find themselves, they learn that silence is no longer golden. To survive, one has to be a social butterfly, not just in real life, but on the internet. Social Media websites commit younger and younger people to creating a secondary persona that either modulates or inhibits their popularity in school or in other social situations.

A self-reflecting adult might scratch their head at the contradictory messages they received  about life. I was raised as a child of the eighties. Adults of our generation were taught that education was the key to financial success. I used a have an enormous, light-up  picture on my wall with three fancy sports cars in a three car garage by the beach. The motto that was emblazoned at the top of the picture screamed “Justification for a Higher Education.”  Enough Said.

Except not everyone who gets a higher education automatically get those sorts of things. Even going to a top tier college in the country guarantees nothing if you don’t get to know the right people and you don’t focus on the things you love. Anybody who tells you that time is money hasn’t had to look for a job for the last five years in this country.

“The economy is in the crapper.” Those were the words of someone who interviewed me for a sales position years ago. They still pretty much hold true.

Somehow despite all the contradictory forces screaming for our attention, we’re supposed live our dreams. We’re told that we’re better off pulling ourselves out of mediocrity by our bootstraps. We’re also reminded by oversimplified hallmark moments on television shows and food advertisements that we somehow can’t do it alone.

We have to do it by ourselves, but we can’t do it alone.

That includes living our dreams, doesn’t it?

I’ve been sick for the last week and a half. This is the cold that never ends.

Major illness tends to sharpen one’s focus when they begin to recover from it. I, for one, will make it through a major cold like this one and begin to take stock of how well I’m doing living my dreams and meeting my personal goals. Since my largest one by far is writing, I have to remind myself that I can and will write every day.

But like the rest of this story, I’ve come to learn that I can’t really make my dream a reality all on my own. While I try to get my name out there by submitting more and more of my work to various publishers for consideration, I’m getting to the point where I spend a lot of my time with my nose to the grindstone. I push so hard to get more and more writing done, it feels like I’m only picking my head up to notice that everyone else walked off to some social gathering. I’m perfecting the swing of my samurai sword, and everyone else walked to the river to drink beer and sake.

From a professional standpoint, my current solo method seems like a piss poor way to garner real opportunity. From a personal standpoint, I feel more and more like a lone warrior. What happens to warriors who stay alone for too long?

They go nuts and start saying things like “This is my BOOMSTICK!”

Now that I more or less know where I am from a professional and a social standpoint, the question I have to ask myself is “What now?” It’s one thing to understand how much one misses social connection when they’ve been ill for more than a week. It’s quite another thing to realize that this uniquely Western notion of “independence” is not quite all that it’s cracked up to be.

Nobody ever really meets their goals without help, even on a minute level. I’d love to sit here and tell you that I got my first short story published because I woke up one day and inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning. But that isn’t even close to the truth. I got that story accepted by a publication only after my first attempt with them flopped. I never even asked the editors why I was rejected. I got really annoyed and decided to up the ante. I thought I was a warrior recovering from wounded pride.

But this isn’t about revenge, proper action or silt. I would not have even bothered to finish the story had it not been for my friends, writers or otherwise, who were there to encourage me from day one. My friends are still around, though it’s been a while since I’ve been willing or able to talk with them.

It’s also been a while since I’ve felt like I was a part of a real writing community. I don’t know if I need that feeling again so that my writing can reach the next level, or if I want to be a part of a community so that my social skills don’t fade while I write my next manuscript.

At any rate, here I am world. I’m not quite recovered my from my eternal snot fest. And yes, I know that that description of my illness will make everyone want to stay around me. I’m going to start small and post this blog entry. I’m reentering my former social media sites. I’ll keep on writing, of course. Maybe I just won’t use all of my words to add to the chapters of unseen stories and manuscripts.

Advice on Dreams..

Posted in Drum Roll, Please...., The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/15/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe that I will be forever young.

I never thought I would find myself giving advice to young people.

I had a job interview today for a place right across the street from me.  I had to wonder what it would be like since I hadn’t had a job interview in almost 4 months, and I had not had a job in fourteen months.

Fourteen.

It was hard to be late for the interview since I live right across the street.  I had fun strolling in with my dress pants and purple striped shirt (sharp dressed men never lose), and I thought I would have some fun checking out my competition.

All of them were either sitting or standing in the middle of the store in a living room -like setting, surrounded by books.  They had all been waiting since about 2:00 pm for a group interview that was supposed to start at 2:30.  I had to wonder why.  I’d read an article on Yahoo.com just a few days ago that suggested that interviewers don’t like when interviewees show up more than ten minutes early.  According to the article, interviewers then get the impression that they are rushed, and that you are desperate.

The person who wrote that article never had to deal with the pains of public transportation.  Even in New York City, you’ve got to plan as though one train or bus will get you there too early, but  the following one will get you to your destination just about five minutes too late.  That seems to be the norm EVERYWHERE in the country that has public transportation.  You plan accordingly if you’re a strap hanger like me. The interviewers are just going to have to deal, especially if your interview is taking place in the winter or in the summer, and you don’t feel like waiting outside in the elements..

I was thinking about all of this as I stared at the other applicants, all of whom were beginning to show signs of impatience.  And then I realized that strolling in “with two minutes to spare” from my apartment across the street was only the beginning of what set me apart from them.

I am older than anyone in the group by at least ten years.  I wrote that in the present tense because it’s not like they’ve all aged twelve years each since we last saw one another.  Funny how those kinds of things come up in writing.

But I digress.

It didn’t take me long to strike up a conversation with a young Asian man who was standing next to me.  It was clear to me that he was losing his patience.  Much like many other people in college, he was trying to determine the course of the rest of his life.  And, much like the rest of us, he had been looking for work for a very long time.

“I need this job,” he said.

For a moment, as I stared at him and I peered at the other young people with whom I was situated, I had to wonder if I was making a mistake.  I had forgotten, of course, of the retailers’ penchant for the group interview.  This occurs when a group of people are called in to meet with a mysterious store manager or human resources person.  They are herded through one area where they are “registered” or branded like sheep. Then they are corralled into another area where they all wait their turn to bleat their answers in unison to some basic questions.

My ex used to write about this for job fairs when she began her career as a teacher.  She used to preface each of the aforementioned steps with increasingly bored or frustrated versions of the word “Moo…”

She was absolutely right..

I looked around again at where I was and who I was with, and I realized that I too needed a job; that I was one of the 99 percent.  And I simply refused to leave (as though anyone was actually trying to get me to leave in the first place).  Way to take that stand!

But as my conversation with the younger man continued, not only was he smart enough to claim I looked more like a 20 year old than the 32 year old that I am, he reminded me of what awaits anyone who is about to enter “the real world.”

It was once thought that there were certain areas of study that college students should stay away from if they wanted to garner “gainful” employment in the job market.  Philosophy majors could go on to think deep thoughts about being unemployed.  Sociology majors might become social studies teachers.  You only became a psych major if you wanted to be an underpaid social worker or you really needed to figure out what Freud and Skinner had to say about you and your “issues.”   Conversely, at least when I was attending college, there were certain majors that were considered “cash cows.”  You were going to do alright if you were a math major as you could probably get some wild, completely esoteric papers published before you learned to use your riding crop to turn your future college calculus students into your little bitches.  And if you were a computer science major, the sky was the limit, especially in the heyday of Silicon Valley.

Now I could sit here and compare and contrast my own lifestyle to that of all of my friends who graduated from the same college with different majors.  But as I stood there today talking to this bespectacled Asian student, I listened to his concerns about “looking professional,” and I wanted to shake my head.  But then he mentioned the word that has been the bane of my existence for the last fourteen months. He mentioned the “economy.”

“With the economy as bad as it is, it isn’t like I can do what I want to do with my life.”

And that was when I got on my soap box…

Me- “With the economy the way it is, now is the best time to follow your dreams.”

Asian guy – “Why is that?”

Me –  “Because you’ve got nothing left to lose at this point.  Why not go for yours?”

Asian guy – “What do you do?”

Me- “I write things that will scare you and your children.  It took me ten years to get to the point where I gave myself permission to pursue a dream.  This economy has utterly convinced me that life is too short to put that off.  Don’t listen to what unhappy older people tell you about the real world!  If you don’t have dreams, you don’t have a soul..”

I meant every word.  Still do..

Of course, when you venture out into it, the real world sort of makes you wonder if you can survive the Blitzkrieg.  You have to learn to balance your checkbook, make sure you can pay back your student loans if you have them, pay your bills, your rent, etc.  If you’re in a relationship at all, other things may or may not have to be considered in your long term plans.  But all too often, we’re told if we work hard in school and graduate, everything will sort of fall into place.  But how does one bear witness to that when one wants to balance living in the real world with the fulfillment of one’s dreams?

Ten years of holding one strange job after another has caused me to conclude that all the work in the world is absolutely MEANINGLESS without a dream to pursue.   People who tell you that you should be okay for the rest of your life holding down some boring ass nine to five job without having other dreams are people who gave up their own.  Sometimes, they feel like they had no choice because they had kids too early.  Other times, they had people around them who were less than encouraging.

But what happens to people who don’t pursue their dreams?

They grow older, less happy, and then they may tell others to live life like they did.

That’s not the kind of person that I want to be.

My dad often talks this way, and then follows it with a private conversation over a beer or two about how much he might have given up because he had kids too early.  He forgets that he’s having these conversations with his oldest son.  I love my dad. In many ways, he is what is best in men.   But I WON’T live a life that causes me to have conversations like that with my own kids.  I am going to pursue my dreams.

So I told this young Asian man the same thing I’ll tell anyone who ever asks me about the pursuit of their own aspirations. It’s going to sound a lot like the advice a friend of mine just posted the other night.

Just shut up and do it.

I went on to kill in the interview.  We’ll see where this goes.  They want me to come back on Tuesday at 10 AM with a social security card and a state issued I.D.  My own personal battle was won today.  Now it’s time to continue to the fight for my own soul.  It’s time to renew the pursuit of my own dreams.

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