281. maffick

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Friday evening I had a pretty positive experience in my summer practicum class, and I have been trying to hold on to the feeling that went along with it.

We recently had an assignment to put together a mock resume and cover letter for our target jobs. I had an anxiety attack reading job requirements for entry-level cataloging jobs, realizing how much I still don’t know and how much is expected of candidates.

What I ended up taking away from Friday though was feedback that my resume and cover letter was actually pretty strong, that I know more than I think I do, and most everyone is worried that they’re unqualified for the job they really want.

It’s one of the downsides of ADD and anxiety that my brain tells me that I’m not good enough, that I’m far too behind and will never find a salaried job or able to support myself, and that no one will ever love me—or be willing to accept my crazy.

One comforting thing about the ADD community is that these kinds of feelings are almost universal, so it’s not just me.


Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how to manage my dating life as a demisexual, because dating doesn’t work the same for us as it does for everyone else.

Mainly, I’ve been thinking about attraction.

There are several different kinds of attraction¹:

  • Sexual attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).
  • Romantic attraction: attraction that makes people desire romantic contact or interaction with another person or persons.
  • Aesthetic attraction: occurs when someone appreciates the appearance or beauty of another person(s), disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction.
  • Sensual attraction: desire to interact with others in a tactile, non-sexual way, such as through hugging or cuddling.
  • Emotional attraction: the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.

What I have observed is that (at least in most people) most of these attractions overlap. They might overlap in different ways, and some attractions might be more dominant than others, but they seem to work in consort towards bringing people together.

For me, it’s rare for any of these to overlap. I might experience aesthetic attraction for a guy, but not have sexual or romantic desire for him. Similarly, I might be emotionally attracted to someone, but not aesthetically or romantically.

In short, sexual attraction is basically the last stop for my brain, which takes the long way around through every other type.

It’s rare to meet a guy who either understands this or is on the same wavelength. I’ve never met anyone like that, at least. Most gay men seem to run on aesthetic and sexual attraction, with little thought to romantic or emotional.

This is ironic for me, with my ADD brain, since impulsivity is a hallmark of the condition. Maybe it’s that sexuality is based in a different area of the brain, or that my sexual desire is bogged down by anxiety.


This is relevant because my previous sexual history back when I was much more active needs to be explained.

What I think was going on in those days was that I was applying a “fake it ’til you make it” mindset, working under the assumption that I needed to overcome internalized homophobia by having as much sex as possible.

What I learned was that I just wasn’t into the sex. A handful of the guys I found attractive, some I was sexually attracted to, but at no point did I encounter anyone I wanted to date.

A friend of mine pointed out later that some of that was probably where I was finding these guys—hookup apps, mostly.

Even outside that though, in social circles, work, and volunteer settings, I still never met anyone. Statistically, that should have happened, right?

Or were all my chances in my early twenties, when I was closeted?

Where does one meet a guy who’s fine with dating a guy who takes longer than others to connect? I don’t belong in the queer community, am unlikely to find a guy amongst the heterosexuals, and I’m too principled to change myself just to snag someone.

It seems a problem without a solution.


I skipped Minneapolis Pride again this year, mainly because I don’t need additional reasons to feel bad about myself.

It’s not a place where I fit in. I’ve never been much of a reveler, and my body image issues prevent me from wearing anything short of long pants and a short sleeve shirt.

Also, I don’t belong to any kink/fetish communities and my identity isn’t sexuality or gender nonconformity-based, which seems to be a big thing at Pride. Cataloging and role-playing games are more compelling, and I haven’t found any guys in those realms.

Maybe it’s just the community I find myself in now, but it seems like almost everyone I know is into leather, bondage, drag, pop culture, etc. A relationship founded on shared core values and a deep emotional bond feels almost outdated for my age group.

The curse of being an introverted gay man on the asexual spectrum.


So what am I doing about this?

To start, I’m trying to be aware of when I’m attracted to someone, and what type, trying to think of them all like indicator levels. With this hypothetical guy, the overall rating is 43%:

Whereas with this guy, it’d be 78%:

Second, I’m trying to do better at boundary setting. This can be difficult for ADD brains, thanks to under-performing anterior cingulate cortexes, which regulate things like impulse control.

So I’m trying to be aware when my anxiety activates and resist the impulse to fall back on mirroring the other person’s behavior, which is how I find myself in unhealthy situations.

Having to write a manual for this from scratch is SO MUCH FUN.

246. auroral

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Red_and_green_aurorasThe recent engagement with my last few posts has been encouraging. Not in a “look how many comments” kind of way, which would be a silly measure of one’s self-worth and I’m too reflexive for that shit. Rather, it’s because of the reason I started writing in the first place, to hopefully help someone maybe similar to me feel less alone, or understood, and I’ve felt that being accomplished recently.

Looking back, it’s hard to say if that would’ve made a difference to pre-2008, pre-coming out David, if reading about someone else’s struggle to find authenticity might’ve given me the strength and courage to come out earlier.

I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I’d like to think that he was the same person I am now who (like Dorothy stuck in Oz) always had the power to break free.

… on the other, why didn’t he? We do have more gay people coming out now in 2015, whereas in 2008 it was still a relatively rare thing, something only those who lived in large urban centers with large (and insulated) queer populations, LGBTQ activists who were prepared for violence and bigotry, and the very privileged could do.

Now everyone and their mom is coming out, and it gives people like me who felt conflicted about their duty to God and family the courage to be themselves.

So maybe it simply wasn’t possible for the David of 2008 to come out any sooner.

This is why I don’t play the “what if” game.


On Monday afternoon I read to my therapist an excerpt of the email my dad sent me on July 13th:

… I/we (your family) don’t expect you to be static. We are not static either… It sounds like you think we don’t change, but in small ways we do, all the time. We just want to know who you are regardless of who that is. Sure, we wish things and you were different, but they’re not…

For me/us there does not have to be a shared future. We just want a future with you. From my vantage point, it looks like you’re the one who does not want to be part of our lives… We don’t understand why you feel so intense a need to erase the past or put it behind you. We are all made up, like trees, of who we were, who we are and who we’re becoming. Seems to me that gutting the tree leaves you less a tree and a weak one at that.

He still hasn’t responded to my reply, and at this point it seems unlikely that he will.

She immediately said: “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear the bit about the trees because that’s just so far out there, I don’t even know what to do with it.”

But she echoed my assessment of it being a tone deaf response to genuine concerns I’ve had about my relationship to the family—that he doesn’t see how radically different we are; that our being together is contingent on my self-censoring in ways that they would find persecutory were they asked to do the same; or that the religious upbringing they provided was deeply damaging.

Overall, she thought it was the latest in a series of positive steps forward.

  • Throwing myself a half-birthday party (something I’ve been violently opposed to for the last decade) a few weeks ago and actually having friends enthusiastically show up.
  • Actively rebuilding my community with wonderful, authentic people and getting involved with groups and Sunday Assembly and YogaQuest.
  • Finally going to grad school for something I’m passionate about rather than continue on in dead-end jobs.

Now I’m taking a more active role in setting boundaries with my parents, which at this stage means perhaps permanently distancing myself.

She also reiterated how much I’ve got going on right now, between work, school, and my efforts to rebuild my life and recover from religious trauma. So it’s doubly important to note and to celebrate these accomplishments; that I’m actually making forward-moving progress.

She also noted how many positive things I was saying about myself, compared to the usual mode of beating myself up and only pointing out the negative.

That’s not to say that I’m not experiencing negative thoughts. Maybe it’s depression that amplifies those views, and maybe I’m coming out of a cycle into a more positive mindset. These things tend to go that way. It’s something that’s easy to forget, particularly when things are going well.

The thoughts are still there that my parents and their hateful religion damaged me beyond repair; that if people could really see how broken and fucked up I am that they’d abandon me in an instant; that the repressive and performative environment I grew up in made me incapable of ever truly accepting love and of being in a relationship; that I came out and am effectively starting over too late in life to find someone.

So those ideas are still lurking in the dark corners of my mind, like the Vashta Nerada. Just stay out of the shadows…

Rather, I’m choosing to approach each step forward like a scientific experiment. A few weeks ago, I decided to test the theory that people genuinely like me and would want to celebrate my birthday with me. I sent out Facebook invites, and lo, over two days twenty-four (of forty-two invited) of my friends came to the event.

It’s not conclusive by any means, but the results from that experiment were quite promising.

Fact is, I’ve done plenty of exploration of the negative emotions connected to my past. Now it’s time to start exploring the positive ones—the ones that will allow me to experience and internalize acceptance, love, belonging, and joy. Fear, doubt, and suspicion had their chance and made a mess of it.

Fuck that.

So I’m taking it one experiment at a time, knowing that integration may be as easy to spot as the line between colors on the spectrum.

spectrum

240. cavort

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knightofwandsLooking at the title for this entry (which, by the way, I typically pull from Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day), what immediately came to mind is some advice from my birth chart (that I did on Astrolabe):

Give yourself the freedom to look awkward or silly once in a while. The relief you feel will be quite therapeutic and the embarrassment (whether it is real or imagined) will pass quickly.

For the record, I’m an Aquarius, with both rising sign and moon in Libra. And something about being a triple air sign?

Do I believe the stars and planets align themselves in the heavens to provide little old me here on planet Earth with sage wisdom? Of course not. But I do enjoy the moments when general observations such as those in astrological charts or tarot readings happen to intersect with my personal reality.

And there is a perverse part of me that enjoys activities like tarot or astrology precisely because they were at one time forbidden and demonic. So getting my chart done or doing a tarot spread is a bit like giving the finger to that part of my past.

However, the truth from that reading is that I do tend to take myself too seriously. I think too much, analyze too deeply, and ultimately lock up and consequently look awkward and weird… which is precisely what I was hoping to avoid in the first place.

And it has the tendency to create problems for everyone else, too, in that it can create the impression of my being standoffish or rude, when in reality I’m just feeling insecure and uncertain about how I’m supposed to behave.


A few weeks, ago my friends Erin and Matt got married, and that got me thinking (yet again) about my own prospects for romance and partnership, and whether it’s something that’s even realistic for me. The day of the wedding I also left for a two-week hiking and camping trip to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, and the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park in Texas. The trip gave me a lot of time to digest some of what I’ve learned over this past semester, and to deal with some of the issues that I just haven’t had the mental space to process because of grad school.

Something that I heard on Minnesota Public Radio the other day also caught my attention. They were talking about why millennials aren’t getting married, and one of the guests, Ann Meier, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, said something that resonated with me. They were talking about marriage as a status marker, and she said this:

“I think it’s marking an achievement that you’re able to achieve a certain level of education and an income where you feel like [marriage is] the culmination, the icing on the cake, instead of, as Brigid [Schulte] said, a step in the transition to adulthood. It’s the thing you do when your life is set. And people are taking longer to get their lives set these days.”

I think this part of the sense that I’ve been trying to articulate the past couple of months, that it’s difficult watching my friends getting married (especially my gay friends) because it feels like I’m getting left behind. Everyone else has their lives together and, as Ann said, “set” and I’m still trying to achieve a basic level of emotional and psychological subsistence. And it makes me feel incredibly old at 32, watching people younger than me who have been together for almost a decade and seemingly much further ahead than me.

So articulating this view of marriage, that it’s a marker of a certain status achievement, is helpful, because it still doesn’t feel like I’m there. I’m working, I’m working toward a graduate degree in a field I’m actually excited about working in, but I’m also aware of how much further there is to go. Especially when I’m surrounded by couples and married people.


 

But there’s something else that I recently became aware of.

I had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday who said that even though she’s been very successful at work, it’s not something that she’s excited about, and that what she really loves, the thing that gives her the most satisfaction in life, is being a mom to her three kids. She’d been asking about my library science degree and what I plan to do with it, and I shared that for the first time in my life it feels like I have a calling, something I was just born to do.

… not that I believe in destiny or anything, but rather that I’ve finally found a field that aligns almost perfectly with my personal values and what I’m naturally good at. I am absolutely in love with librarianship and science, and cannot wait to get into archiving and special collections.

She said (and another friend of mine recently said) that she doesn’t feel about her job the same way that I’m articulating it, that the work I am planning to do gives my life real purpose and (dare I say it) joy. Will there be days when I hate my job? Probably.

But it brought home for me the reality that I do have things going for me right now.

Another astrological birth chart I looked at for myself said that people with their moon in Libra (lunar Librans) “have a strong need for partnership. Without someone to share their lives with, they feel utterly incomplete.”

I do hope (against hope) that one of these days I’ll find someone about whom I feel the same way that I feel about librarianship… that it’ll be a fantastic match. The older I get, of course, the less confident I am that I’ll even find someone.

In the meantime, I’ll continue rebuilding my life post-Christianity and getting to know myself better so someone can also get to know that person.

200. Tempérance

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ainikkiThis post marks my 200th on this site. A look back at the subjects I’ve most written about are atheism (no surprise there), Christianity, community, relationships, religion, depression, fundamentalism, acceptance, experience, and family. These are all things I’ve been pondering since my first post on this blog on April 19, 2009.

“I am many things,” I wrote in that first entry. “An artist. A composer. A writer. A some-time cook. A fan of public radio. Irish-American. A Christian. I’m also gay.”

Two years after writing that, two of those ended up not being true anymore.

Last night I decided to do what many have been advising me to do lately: meditate. That word has always brought up negative connotations, especially since coming out as an atheist it’s basically become a synonym for “prayer.”

Merriam-Webster defines meditate thus: (1) to engage in contemplation or reflection; (2) to focus one’s thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over.

As I’ve been writing about the last few weeks, there’s been a lot to reflect on and ponder over.

Last night I made sure everything was put away (so I wouldn’t think about it), lit candles in the living room on the coffee table, and laid out the cards. There’s an app on my iPod called Altered States that uses “advanced binaural brainwave entrainment to stimulate brainwave frequencies associated with different states of mind.” I used a setting called Mindful Meditation, designed to “create an aware, or awakened, meditative state.”

Here are some reflections that I had while meditating on the cards. This entry will be a little longer than the usual thousand words. But not too much longer.

1. Ego: Three of Cups

This is representative of friendships and collegiate, harmonious relationships.

Despite my hermetical tendencies, I’m surrounded by wonderful people who, even though I have difficult believing it, actually desire my company. This card also reminds me to take stock of the good things—and the good people—in my life right now.

Wikipedia says of this card: “It can also signal that this is the time to reach out if things have been particularly rough in the past.”

2. Crossing: Eight of Wands

This represents a very focused kind of motion and activity.

This reminds me that there are active opportunities to seize, especially relating to the first card. More on this later, but persistence is essential if I’m to make it to the Nine of Wands. One site interprets this card: “You might not realize that your efforts are out of the ordinary.” I’m adept at underestimating my own abilities and strengths, and believing the lie that I’m powerless and inept has, historically, held me back from confidence and going after what I want.

3. Unconscious (Id): Ace of Cups

This represents the beginning of love, happiness and compassion.

I contemplated this card for a while, trying to think back to some of my motivations and sources of joy and pleasure as a child. Thinking about my current career crossroads conundrum, my first love really was writing. I used to spend hours in the closet (oh, irony), writing stories and plays. I also tried to think about some of the blocks getting in the way of reconnecting to that joy.

4. Past: Five of Swords

This action is the foundation of where you stand now. If your life is in shambles, understand that compromising your integrity may have been the source of your undoing.

It hit me last night that a cause of so much trouble has been letting the expectations of others steer my life. The main reason why I chose music composition to major in was because my father thought that I showed promise and talent as a composer—and didn’t think much of my interest in writing. This summer, a good friend of mine suggested I try applying for a master’s in composition. I didn’t want to disappoint him, my friends who’ve expressed that I have talent in music—or my father. No one led me astray per se. They seemed to have a better idea of what I’m capable of and should do—but I failed to listen to my own voice.

5. Superego: Six of Pentacles, reversed

This can suggest that you are not aware of the potential sources of assistance available to you.

So much here. I need to follow up with a director friend of mine about a workshop of my one-act opera; contact friends who’ve expressed interest in singing and helping out with this project; contact a woman I met at an LGBT networking event about a job possibility. This goes back to the first and second card, of seizing opportunities I know are right there, but also recognizing the people who have generously offered their resources.

The image in the card is of two beggars (from the Five of Pentacles) kneeling before a wealthy man. I’ve often said that I don’t really know how to let people help me. To be brutally honest with myself (and you, dear reader), it comes from my pride getting in the way. I fear feeling indebted or powerless to others, even to those who have no ulterior motives. My bloody lizard brain, however, hisses that by accepting assistance, I’m proving myself a failure—that everyone sees me as a failure. So I shut down, secretly resenting the man offering help and hating myself.

This card is reminding me to confront these issues in my superego, the thoughts and attitudes buried at the seat of my subconscious. It’s the disapproving voice of my parents, and anyone who has judged me in my life.

6. Application: Death, reversed

You may be reluctant to let go of the past or you may not know how to make the change you need. Let go of any restrictive, oppressive, limiting attitudes and beliefs.

This card reminded me that life is short—so why am I letting these petty inner voices hold me back? What about my past am I holding on to? Is it really just the cold comfort of being a victim? Of my inner child still believing that God will solve all my problems?

7. Self-image: Four of Swords, reversed

This can suggest that you are feeling frustrated with the lack of progress and change. Part of this lack of change, however, is as a result of your passive approach.

This felt connected to my reflections on the Six of Pentacles. Rather than pick up my sword and go after what I want, I’ve relinquished my power for the time being and opted instead to lie down. I’ve let those negative, judgmental voices crowd out positive thinking. I want things to change, but need to truly accept that no one is going to change them for me. I have to get up from the slab, stop playing dead, and dedicate myself to going after what I desire.

8. Surrounding: Seven of Swords, reversed

This suggests that you may be finding it difficult to take the first step in a new direction.

Usually, this card is about betrayal, deception, or stealth. I had a different thought while meditating. Like the Ten of Wands, the man in the picture is trying to carry too much. He’s hauling five swords. Two are left in the ground, and his gaze is fixed on what’s behind rather than what’s ahead. The group in the background is often interpreted as the “thief” being found out. What I saw is a man going it alone, apart from the group, trying to do it all on his own.

9. Hopes/Fears: Ace of Pentacles, reversed

Your goals may need to be re-aligned to something more realistic. You need to plan and have more foresight and consideration into the aspects that align to your passions and career interests.

Aces are often about seeds of potential. As I contemplated this card, I focused on the garden in the background. The element associated with this card is Earth, and that theme is present throughout the pentacle suit. I pulled out the Nine of Pentacles, which portrays a young woman in a verdant garden with a bird lighted on her hand. I also pulled out the Page of Pentacles (in the court cards, pages are also associated with Earth), and the Ten.

I pondered what might be keeping me from going through the entrance into the garden. The answer seems obvious. In addition to silencing the negative inner voices, I need to apply myself like the man in the Eight of Pentacles, and not be discouraged by the lack of progress in Seven.

10. Summation: Temperance

You are seeking balance between your inner and outer selves, searching for a higher meaning and purpose in life. Throughout this transition, you may experience a clash between the old and the new you, or confusion about which direction you ought to take and what is really important to you.

If we’re talking about a destination for the journey I’m currently on, this would be it. I’m doing at thirty-one what most people do in high school and college—figure out who they are and what they want out of life. For most of my life, I’ve been the figure in the Eight of Swords: blindfolded, bound, and trapped by the thoughts and beliefs of others. Now, I’m finally realizing that the way out was clear all along; and, like Dorothy in Oz, the power to return home was always mine.

In listening to music this past week, trying to figure out what is “progressive” in Classical music right now, and even in trying to get my head into the mindset to compose something more “academic,” I started to remember what turned me off from music academia in the first place. Trying to be clever and “cutting edge” never felt like being creative. Far from it. Do I really want to return to that world, to posture myself amongst other composers who are trying to be ahead of everyone else and jockeying for tenure and pay raises?

I think of the composers I admire: Purcell, Bach, Mozart, Robert Schumann, Britten. They were innovative by fully dedicating themselves to pursuing their passion. The innovation took care of itself.

I also reflect on how I’ve enjoyed getting back to writing, and the positive feedback I’ve received so far.

Perhaps the way forward is to focus on becoming a writer who also composes, rather than the other way around. After all, that’s where I began.

Look at what you want,
Not at where you are,
Not at what you’ll be—
Look at all the things you’ve done for me.

Moving on.

Celtic cross

199. Le Pape

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The Hierophant, reversedIt’s worth mentioning again in going through this Tarot series that I do not approach the cards from the standpoint of divination (i.e., fortune telling). As an atheist, I do not believe in divine or supernatural forces, especially those that may guide our fates. That some force or thing created the universe with us in mind, and that arbitrary positions of cards, stars or planets can somehow foretell a future or course of action to take is silly, at best—narcissism, at worst.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about life goals and directions, as what I’ve been doing job and living-wise has not been bringing me joy or satisfaction. Quite the opposite. This summer, during a moment of particular distress and depression, a friend of mine offered to do a Tarot reading for me. He is also an atheist, and approaches Tarot from a similar analytical perspective. It was he who first suggested that Tarot was really collaborative storytelling; that the cards themselves describe general but universal aspects of the human experience around which a codified “school” of reading and interpretation was defined.

I’ve always been deeply fascinated by Jungian psychology, and in particular the archetypal. As a storyteller, I find myself drawing on these images myself—the wise old man or woman, the cunning trickster, the child, the hero, the dark shadow lurking just out of sight.

The thoughts and questions that I’ve been contemplating lately are on the epic (albeit personal, so not huge in the grand scheme) scale. I’m in the process of doing in a couple of years what most people do over the course of their lifetime—or at least in the process of growing up. A few years ago, I realized that the foundations of my life were fictions. Though there are some mythic truths to be found, the stories my parents and teachers told about a holy and supreme god who made me and the entire universe; who has a divine purpose and plan for my life; who is keeping notes on every thought, word, and deed to determine which afterlife I’ll enjoy or suffer for all eternity—none of it’s true. And now I’m faced with probably the most important question asked by any human being: Who am I?

It’s an insignificant question compared to most of the problems we face. And most people never really give it a second thought. But when you realize that every premise you’ve based your life on (and experience you’ve denied yourself) isn’t true, you start to wonder: What do I believe?

All that to say, Tarot has been helpful the past couple of weeks in bringing up and beginning to confront some of these issues and questions of purpose. What do I care about? What do I want to do? The cards can’t tell me the answers, but they introduce a certain level of randomness to get me mentally unstuck.

One of the big questions right now is that of career. Because I don’t really have one. I’ve been doing office admin work since college, but that’s a job. I don’t care about data entry, filing, document formatting, or any of the pointless shit I’ve done for other people over the years.

What I care about is storytelling. And art—specifically, music and writing.

Late this past summer, I decided to finally explore pursuing a master’s degree in one of those areas: music composition. I somewhat hurriedly (and haphazardly) put together three applications and submitted them this past fall. And they were rejected. These rejections made me question whether this was even the right path I should be taking.

The cards told me what I’ve always known at the core of my being, but have been afraid to acknowledge. Follow your passion.

The Hierophant is an interesting card. It’s also referred to as The Pope. It typically represents tradition, conservatism, discipline, heeding the status quo or social convention, and education. Wikipedia suggests that “it is a warning to the Querant to reexamine his or her understanding of the meaning of things; of the structure of the world; of the powers that be.”

Another interpretation of the reversed card (which is how I laid it out):

The Hierophant reversed is about breaking the rules and challenging the status quo. You no longer accept the rigid structures, tradition and dogma surrounding you, and now seek out opportunities to rebel and retaliate. You want to challenge ideas and concepts that you once thought of as written in stone. (BiddyTarot)

A friend of mine posted a comment yesterday on my previous entry: You didn’t get into grad school because that’s not really your best choice; you’re comfortable in music, and so you pursue it. You have great eloquence as a writer, but you didn’t pursue a master’s degree in writing. Why?

Frankly, I still wonder if I did the right thing in doing my undergrad in composition. Deciding on it was almost a last-minute decision. My original plan was majoring in creative writing, but my father suggested that I had real talent in music. But was that reason enough? Music was always easy for me; and while one’s natural talents should be considered, no field will successfully hold one’s interest without passion.

The ideal would be finding a program where I could somehow combine my love for creating music with my love for writing. This is why opera always felt like such a good fit. In addition to providing the music, I also provided the text and the story, although I’ve always felt like more of a musical playwright than a composer when it came to it.

So that’s where things currently stand, stuck between a hard and a rock place and unsure which direction to go. What comes to mind is (yet another) lyric from Sunday in the Park with George:

“I chose and my world was shaken. So what? The choice may have been mistaken. The choosing was not. You have to move on.”

184. spigot

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RenewalJuly was a rough month for David.

My long-term contract finally ended at the university where I’d been doing administrative support since March 2012. I’d been informed of this about two weeks prior and started sending out résumés right away in the midst of completing the project work I was doing there. I let two temp agencies I’ve worked with in the past know that I’d be available starting July 1st.

Then June 28th came around, and there was not a bite on any of the applications I submitted. Granted, that was the week of the 4th of July so a lot of hiring managers may have been out on vacation. So I kept filling out and submitting applications. The temp agencies started calling with job opportunities that sounded like a “great fit” for my skill set that they wanted to submit my resume for, only to call back a week later to say that the client had selected another candidate.

I started getting email responses like this:

After screening your application materials, you are not among the candidates who will proceed to the next step in the process. However, you may be considered for future vacancies as additional positions become available.

A couple of the places I submitted résumés to that actually responded wanted me to come in for interviews, only to call shortly after to say that I hadn’t been selected. Meanwhile, the bills kept coming in, rent was due, and I had to buy groceries to avoid starvation. A haircut still seems like a luxury, even though I do need to look presentable (read = hireable).

This has been a demoralizing month, not to put too fine a point on it. My thirtieth half-birthday just passed, meaning I’ve passed the half-way point to thirty-one, and I’m without a job and steady income. My application to receive unemployment benefits finally went through a few days ago, meaning that I have a little cushion room while looking for permanent work.

Just another first.

I did experience some relief in my contract ending with the university. While I liked the people, I wasn’t really happy with the kind of work I was doing there, or the work that I’ve been doing the past few years. It’s tough to find anything else with my skill set, however. I trained for a career in music academia, and at the $11-12/hr pay rate my degree and experience have garnered, it’s been virtually impossible to pursue additional training and, you know, pay the bills and live.

The truth is, I’ve been rather down on my experience and education since graduating with what I’ve often referred to as a “useless” degree in music composition. From a conservative Christian liberal arts college, no less. It wasn’t until talking with a friend who is a career counselor several years ago that I even saw the marketable value in such a credential. A music education is not the fluffy walk in the park that many high school seniors seem to think it is. It’s actually one of the most rigorous fields of study there is, aside from medicine or law. It requires a high degree of analytical and creative thinking, learning to work and think collaboratively, and retaining a great deal of information that you’re required to apply and synthesize into performance.

The amount of rejection I faced both in college and after led me to believe that what I had to offer was something that nobody wanted—that I’d wasted almost a decade of my life pursuing something that was only going to be decorative. Like most people, I can’t make a living doing what it is that makes me feel most alive. Yet being stuck in an office, at a desk, staring at a computer screen at spreadsheets, and formatting and filing documents is suffocating and deadening, like the gnomes of Bism in The Silver Chair, held in captivity too near the surface.

The other day I was finally able to see my therapist after over a month of not being able to afford to go. It didn’t feel like a very productive session as I was pretty low that day and felt like I was just babbling most of the time. What I did manage to get out of the visit was the reality that I’m in the midst of a crucible of renewal, both personally and artistically, and that I often fail to see the actual value in the wealth of experience that I do have.

Though I’ve flirted with pursuing other professions and fields of study, the one that has most consistently held my interest is music. Over the past couple of months, after beginning to connect again with musical friends, I’ve started composing again, and the feeling of satisfaction in putting notes to paper is palpable and intoxicating.

Another realization that came after seeing my therapist was hearing that I’m finally approaching my career, creativity and life purpose as me, as my authentic self. While I wasn’t necessarily an empty shell before, I was living my life by what I believed other people wanted for (and by their expectations of) me. It felt like being a shadow, and I had very little idea of who I actually was.

Once I started getting free of the anger and resentment that followed my deconversion from religion, I could begin to piece together who I really am and what I truly value, and live by that. I’m not entirely sure yet what that means for a career, but it does involve making this world a better and more beautiful place. For creativity, it means pursuing what deeply resonates with me (instead of what will glorify God), promoting a Humanistic worldview, and using music and art to highlight issues that matter to me and to bring people and communities together.

Life is too wonderful and short to keep my head down and work for retirement. Because there’s more to my passion than a pile a stuff.