Naturally, this segment has absolutely nothing to do with tacos, restaurants, or, for that matter, detailed instructions on how to accomplish anything. If that’s what you came here for, you need to hit your browser’s “back” button immediately. Return forthwith and posthaste to your search results for self-help on restaurant etiquette, ethnic foods, or first-date standard operating procedures. Or whatever it is you were doing; I’m unwilling to question you too closely on that matter.
So, what does it talk about, reference, or explain? Today’s segment is all about knowledge, specifically self-knowledge and knowledge about knowledge–which, for giggles, I’m going to call meta-knowledge. Humor me. This post is about epiphanies and coming to terms with truth about myself that I have been skirting around for some time–the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing here or what I ought to really be doing, but I’ve been pretending to be driven and focused, accomplished and confident for most of my life. It’s a thing. It’s true. But like nearly all the epiphanies I’ve ever read about that go something like, “I woke up one day and realized…” That’s not exactly how all of this happened.
Yes, I did, in fact, wake up this morning. I also realized several things between making the coffee and the decision to make up my bed and dress myself in clothing that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for pajamas. But these realizations have been there for a while now. Seeing them isn’t sudden and you and I both know the truth of that. It was rather a bit more like the glass of water on the night stand. You put it there because you know you’ll halfway return to consciousness sometime during the night, ragingly thirsty, and going down to the kitchen when you’re not quite awake will assume the difficulty of solving an astrophysics equation with your toothbrush and three nickles you found in the couch.
So, knowing that you’ve done this, when you do wake up at 2:53 in the morning, your hand gently reaches out into the darkness beside your bed, probing tentatively for the shape of the glass. It experiences the dark-shrouded identities of objects you know are on that table in a different way–alarm clock, dusty; lamp base, also dusty; crumpled receipt from the grocery store you meant to throw away last week but have kept for some mysterious purpose that even you don’t understand. No glass. No water. Defeat. You decide that this is a level of being thirsty that can be endured and lapse back into unconsciousness. The next morning, you plod to the kitchen and see that water sitting on the counter. It’s mocking you. It was there all night. Where were you? Oh, that’s right, in bed. So much for careful planning.
I have a lot of advanced degrees. Right now, they’re about as useful to me as that glass of water that isn’t on the night stand. I know I received them. I went through the classes, demonstrated my understanding of the material, and even applied it at some point. But right now, I’m sitting here on a lovely June afternoon without a job, without a path, without much of anything, except maybe coffee–I have lots of that, thank goodness. So, in line with that first line–what I realized is that I’m not going anywhere, metaphorically or actually, because I have no idea where to go. I possess knowledge, skill, talent, intelligence, and a great many other intangible nouns. I’ve got a whole bag of them. Right here. In my brain. But, like a car with no ignition key, I’m not going anywhere, no matter how full my gas tank is, or what other awesome features I possess. They won’t do me a bit of good, because I’m in a sort of stasis, an Off mode, if you like.
I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the concept that no one is going to come along with a key. Kindly rein in the dirty jokes; I’m trying to be serious, here. I’ve been stuck in this place of no direction, no drive, no ambition for a long time now. But I’ve been successfully faking all of the above for so long, that I actually bought my own bullshit. Now that I’ve come to terms with the reality of my situation–both kind of pathetic and more than a little bit frightening, considering I’m 32 with a boatload of knowledge, plenty of skills, and more than a decent share of human intelligence in most regards–I have several options. I can A) continue applying for jobs that a brain dead fruit bat could do and be told that I “don’t have the necessary qualifications”. (I’ve learned that this is the employer’s way of telling me I’m not dumb enough for the job; smart people don’t stick around and they don’t want to have to hire someone new in two weeks.) Or I can B) Figure out what I want to do, what I need to do in order to do what I want to do, and who I need to talk to in order to do it.
Most of you are probably really wishing you could kick me right about now. It’s okay, I’ve done it for you. Just now. Keep reading. Option B, while it is by far the more complex choice, is really the only choice, right? Well, I’ll be honest. While I was coming to these conclusions, I was still sending off my resume or filling out endless and pathetically frustrating job applications for jobs that fall under Option A. Because, I’m in a place where I can’t do Nothing. I must be doing Something, instead, even if it’s ultimately an exercise in pretending that I’m stupid enough for that receptionist/filing/customer service/whatever job.
That’s because I don’t really know what skills I actually have. What do I have to offer and how do I sell my qualifications effectively to a company or endeavor I actually want to work for? Because this isn’t just about a paycheck. If it were, I wouldn’t have had my epiphany all at once this morning/gradually over the last three months. It comes down to a root issue that I don’t know how valuable I am, so how can I tell anyone else? Also, I have been told my entire life that I shouldn’t be pushy, real ladies aren’t pushy. You know what? I’m sick of being a real lady, then. Real ladies don’t get jobs they love, never fulfill their potential, and get left at home most of the time. To hell with that.
So, along with understanding this, and being thoroughly fed up with that, I have this to say: I finally understood with blazing clarity that it’s impossible to ask for something if you don’t know what to ask for. How can I send my request out into the Universe and be prepared to take advantage of what comes my way in response if I don’t know what I’m looking for, don’t know how to cope with success, and can’t actually put a name to what I want to achieve?
Well, here it is. Get ready for it. I want to write. I want to teach. I want to travel. I want to make the world a better place by using the skills of communication and critical analysis with which I was born and also those that were endowed through my education. I wish to live a life of purpose that helps others who are either actively being exploited or living in a state of intolerable inequality. Yes, I want to be able to live comfortably and care for those closest to me, which means being paid for my time. But mostly, I want to mean something to myself. I need to experience life as a valuable person when I am all alone, knowing that I have done good work with all those skills and talents I possess. That’s what I want, Universe. I’m saying it. Out loud. Also, I need a decent water decanter and tumbler for my night stand, because I keep leaving my water glass on the kitchen counter. But I think Bed, Bath, and Beyond probably has that taken care of.