Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
There was a meeting in an opulent hotel dining room, a year and a half ago, another version of myself ago, a version that wore neckties for forty hours a week and processed insurance policies. The underwriting assistants were enjoying a company-paid meal to commiserate and discuss their successes, their techniques, their relationships with their underwriters.
I remember so little of this meeting. I don’t remember what I ate. I remember that while I wasn’t by any means a senior underwriting assistant I was the most senior of the class who had been hired within the previous two years.
I remember those who were senior to me expressing surprise when I rattled off the lengthy list of tasks I was asked to handle for one of my two underwriters. It was a lot, they said, that was asked of me. They didn’t understand why I had so much on my plate.
I process the meaning of these observations very deliberately. By the time I arrived at any sort of conclusion or thought of action I had been let go from the job, ostensibly for inadequate performance of the same list of tasks whose length had so raised the eyebrows of my colleagues.
I’m not complaining about my superior loading me down with work. I agreed to do the work. I said yes, every time, with gusto. When my colleagues told me at that luncheon that I was doing an awful lot my initial reaction was a sense of pride. Yes. I stand before you thy trusty lieutenant, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to see the job done and done well.
I tolerate a lot. I’m quick to respond to requests with “no problem” and I maintain a wide radius of destinations that are not out my way. I don’t know if this comes across as doormat behavior or self-important nobility bullshit.
The point is that I’m willing to accept conditions far below the accepted conditions of other reasonable people. It might be a pathological need to be liked by everybody or it might be a learned behavior based on my history of avoiding and defusing conflict. The problem, I’m realizing, is that I’ve gradually lost a sense of what exactly it is that I myself want. I know the base level of almost everything that I might need to survive but my perception of what I might desire beyond that is hazy.
It’s not that I’m not selfish. I know where my selfishness lies. But I treat my selfishness as one would treat a Dickensian orphan, as something that seems to exist only to inconvenience the glistening facade of my soul. Ego is self and this other quality is only self-ish. If it must live here please see that it stays in the cellar when company is calling.
It’s as though my attempts to be selfless have led me to become less of myself. It leads me to wonder how much stock I ever put in my dreams in the first place, how much fight I really keep in the furnace.
Socrates and Sartre have slightly differing opinions on the relationship of do and be. Right now I’m just trying to figure out my want as it relates to either.