Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Yesterday morning broke clear and crisp, and today it looks like the fog has finally ceded to that old reliable Indian summer. The weather channel tells me we're due for endless days of 80 degrees and sunshine. I sit back and sigh. San Francisco.

My friend F, knowing that I love all things Audrey, surprised me yesterday with this obscure-ish album, full of music from the films of Audrey Hepburn. It's all Mancini and Astaire and My Fair Lady, closing out with a final subtle track of Audrey herself in Breakfast at Tiffany's singing "Moon River" as she sat on the fire escape strumming her ukulele and looking out onto the city.

There were garlic pistachios at the corner grocery store this morning when I went out. Garlic pistachios, my friends. The world does pull through with pleasant surprises when you least expect them.

I've been thinking Big Thoughts lately, thoughts about Life and Purpose and Meaning and all that shit. Seems like many of those dear to me are doing the same thing. We're pushing 30 (or hit it already), our lives are ostensibly quite full (and fulfilling), we're paying the rent and then some, we're in a place we want to be, sometimes even with people we want to be around, and life is good. But there is always more we're looking for, right? Hungry Ghosts are we, say the Buddhists, always looking for more, grasping, clinging, seeking, craving.

There's a phrase that has stuck with me for some time, since my teens, I guess, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I "grew up." I probably read it somewhere, but I couldn't tell you where. It's simple, really; a mandate, a declaration, a command: Make of your life something you love. It's something that's been modeled to me by the very few people I know who are actually happy in their jobs - rare, yes, we know - who don't dread them, who aren't always bitching about having to go to work, who actually look forward to getting up in the morning and doing what they have to do to pay the bills.

My Pops was one of these. Even in the worst stages of chemo, when he could barely lift his head, what bothered him most was not the being stuck on the couch or the not being able to eat but the not being able to work. I'm grateful to have had a model of someone who was so fulfilled by what he did.

But, to get to that point ourselves, we need to ask: what do I love? What can I manage to do such that I don't dread this livelihood thing anymore, such that it doesn't feel like such a chore to get up and do whatever it is I do to pay the bills? Although life doesn't necessarily look like I'd imagined it might ten years ago, I don't dread my work; I take a measure of joy in it, find myself fed in healthy ways, nourished and nourishing, and feel lucky that I've found somewhat of a balance between being able to live comfortably while doing the things I love like writing and playing piano and practicing yoga and baking stupid cakes and being outside, the real things that make me feel alive, that make me lose hours without even realizing it.

But again, we say: make of your life something you love. I love this mandate because it implies so much agency; it tells us, ourselves, to make our lives such, not to wait for someone or other to do it for us, or to point the way, but to get up in the morning and choose it, be it, live it, just do it. To quit pussy-footing around and just fucking do it. And quit worrying about whether it's the "right" thing or whether it's following the rules or whether it's what society wants or whether it's what your mother would want.

Remember being a high school senior, when you're a kid but supposed to be making all these huge decisions that will determine your life, picking declared majors and colleges and all that shit? My mother was convinced that I should major in actuarial science. I was really good at math, detail-oriented, whatever, and she had already envisioned this secure respectable life of mine that would result: a solid job at some Nebraska corporation, crunching numbers all day with 2 weeks' paid vacation a year, health insurance, blah blah blah. I could marry some farm boy, pop out a few babies, eat Nebraska beef and drive my minivan back and forth from church and work and the grocery store for more beef, and that would be my life.

And then I would have blown my brains out. By the time I hit 30, without question.

Even then, I knew my heart was in intellect, in theory, in sociology, had never taken a class in it and had no idea really what it was, but I knew in my gut it'd be what I loved, and so I moved across the country and did it, and I did love it, and then I moved across the country again and studied it some more, and loved it again, and now here I am and I am not an actuarial scientist and I am not driving a minivan or eating beef and my life in this over-priced aging little flat on Nob Hill is so goddamned fucking good. And I guess the point of that all is, on this Monday morning when I have too much time to think and am sorely lacking an editor to keep me from rambling: jesus christ. People. Do what you love. Figure out what that is. Sit down and think about what makes the hours fly by without your even noticing, because you are so hungry and intrigued and excited and heart-racingly interested, and just fucking do it. Find a way to do it. Even if it means shaking martinis on the side to make up for the low earning potential of doing Warrior 1 for 2 hours every day. Because, jesus. Life's too short to wake up at 50 feeling like you've lived someone else's life.

All of this is because, well, I read this great speech by Steve Jobs from the Stanford graduation a few years ago. Dude never finished college. Dude got fired from Apple ten years after making it bloom. Dude was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and thought it was all over. Dude is now healthy, mad-wealthy, mad-powerful, and most importantly: mad-happy. Doing exactly what he loves. And geez, if that isn't inspirational.

Please read the whole thing. I'd post it all here, but then this post would be 6 times too long instead of just 5. It's full of great wisdom about fucking convention and having hope that the little deaths in your life are actually lotus flowers just beginning to bloom. And then please quit your actuarial science job, unless it makes you really really happy to crunch numbers all day, and do something less bile-inducing.

"You've Got To Find What You Love," Jobs Says (Stanford.edu)

Comments

Matt said…
Technically, I think that's just a small guitar; a ukulele only has four strings, or possibly four doubled-strings.

Me? I want a mandolin. That would almost complete my "bluegrass instruments" collection. After that I need a double bass, but they're pricey.
mruhlman said…
maybe long, but you kept my rapt attention. i sometimes get jealous of other lives, or frustraited with mine, and then i remember that i can just live whatever life i want to. if it doesnt seem like i can, then i should pretend i can. living as if i were the person i wish i were/lived the life i wish i did suddenly becomes just doing it. but i need constant reminders of this.

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