Do you know what you are? / You are what you is / You is what you am / (A cow don’t make ham…) / You ain’t what you’re not / So see what you got / You are what you is / An’ that’s all it ’tis
—Frank Zappa, You Are What You Is
I’m in a rut. I don’t visit these parts of my brain often. I like to think that I can flick the switch off when I’m running on the fuel of anxiety and existential ennui. I’ve been out of commission since early January, with a bad back, which I neglect, and have neglected for the last 15 years. I don’t hear well either, nor can I read a prescription bottle, and occasionally, my right shoulder bothers me. I suspect I will neglect all of the above for the next five lives. Usually, I can shut that switch off… unless I’m lying in bed, bored, with a bad back: then I’ll flick the lights on and off repeatedly, and pretend that the walls of my room come with an epilepsy warning label: flick the lights at your own risk, like I am playing Russian roulette. It’s amusing.
I’ve been reading author/blogger/speaker/cutie Julien Smith lately. In his latest post, Julien writes about planning daily goals, tiny and large ones, from smiling at a stranger to flossing his teeth, “it helps keep me cheery and motivated to do more“. Julien has his act together, I like to read him for that reason. While on bed rest, I’m attempting to set myself small(er) goals: put on PJs, make myself coffee, sit in the living room, write a post, write a longer post, read, get better one day at a time. Realistic goals which I cross off my checklist, even when the back isn’t collaborating. Do my best today, do better tomorrow, be the best in a few weeks, set myself new goals, be better than my best… It’s exhausting. Today, I want to slow down and pamper my grey matter: think less.
I am in bed, in pj’s, drinking coffee, reading an email:
LinkedIn also sent that to 20 million other users. So be it. But it reminds me that when I am not lying in bed, sulking about the state of my aging body, I’m pretty damned good at what I do. I’m a web marketer, a successful one: I make you need stuff. Chances are, you own a mobile phone. I’ll convince you that it’s time to get a replacement handset, that yours is so yesteryear. I write clever ads, with shiny pictures, and wait for my bonus check: Good job, Eric, we’ve exceeded our target, best quarter yet, have a cigar. I’m dangerous, keep your wallets away from my ads. What do you do when you are so very good at something, but despise that very same thing in which you excel?
You assess your skills and ponder a career change. I’ve been trying to dissociate myself from marketing from the time I’ve met my wife. Yet, I fall back into it… We have great perks in marketing, our offices are splendid, we believe in happy hours, we have many, many conferences, we listen to speakers—not all nearly as interesting as Julien Smith—often treated to the same speech rebranded in the speaker’s colours, and supported by a sharp PowerPoint presentation which you will find a week later on Slideshare, we mingle and exchange business cards, add ourselves on LinkedIn, perhaps even on Facebook, and hashtag our excitement on Twitter.
Could I work for a brand, a product or a cause that I believe in, i.e. destigmatizing mental illness, green living, attachment parenting, Art, not for the bottom line, but for the greater good of all? I was recently approached by an internationally-renowned artist to build a social media campaign to promote the man and his craft, but we ended up butting heads and egos, and we couldn’t even get past the simple process of defining the campaign’s raison d’être. It ended up being a disaster, but it was the closest I came to finding happiness in my working field. Have I lost faith in social media?
How does one sustain a family on a broken back, and on his hopes of finding happiness in work? This is my not so tiny goal of the day: find a career that will appease my mind, and feed my kids. My therapist once told me: “Your fascination with Darth Vader, a man wearing a mask, and your life as a web marketer where you make a career out of embellishing products, isn’t random. You’re in make-believe land. You took the blue pill. Find what really makes you happy. Remove your mask”. Today, in pj’s, while sipping on a third coffee, having moved from the bed to the couch, I can say that my family brings me the most joy, and blogging, even when I wear Le Clown’s mask. So my question is: how do you become the person you want to be while pursuing what you love? Or is the answer in my question?