I clearly remember the moment I finally really articulated this to myself, and that moment was TEN YEARS AGO. It was, in fact, during the long conversation with my cousin Amy "Maximy" Walsh when she came out to me, back in Thanskgiving weekend '98. Which is an amusing story in its own right, but not a story for now. I think I was reacting to one of my favorite people in the world (then and now) saying "I am this." I realized there were plenty of times when I'd essentially said "I am not this." Random examples, small and big: I am not a gamer; I am not a social conservative; I am not a tofu eater; I am not gay or bisexual (though I will admit to having a bit of a man-crush on Jason Lee); I am not a computer programmer; hell, I am not a squirrel. See how this tendency can get ridiculous? It's actually spectacularly easy to define yourself by what you're not. Figuring out yourself: that's the trick. (It's one reason for psychologists, because you can't always figure out yourself on your own.)
If I'm still having this issue ten years later, then it's been a tough habit to break, you think?
I've seen Babylon 5. (In fact, I'd watched the very last episode the day before Thanksgiving '98, right before the whole Amy-coming-out-to-me thing.) One of the big freakin' points of that story is that when you ask and answer the questions "Who are you?" and "What do you want?," they need to be asked and answered in that order. Truly knowing who you are changes the answer to what you want. Londo answered those questions in the wrong order, and brought disaster on his whole empire. Other characters, like Sheridan and G'Kar, asked them in the right order. This didn't prevent problems (it didn't prevent Sheridan from dying that first time, for instance), but they were on a clearer path. They were doing what they knew they needed to do, based on what they knew about themselves.
I'm searching for the clearer path. And trying to identify and get around my own personal stumbling blocks on that path.
The issue's in the forefront of my mind again because of the job hunt. Deciding what work I want certainly involves a lot of eliminating of options -- I'm never going to be a doctor, for instance, or a pilot, or a lumberjack (and that's OK) -- but beyond temp jobs, where I'm more likely to take whatever I can find (and I try my best to do that), I want to be searching for a job based on the idea I want to do this. Which I've done before, like when I hunted down and got newspaper work back in 1997. I covered much of Oregon in that quest, and found the Hermiston Herald job, work I was glad to do, work which suited me.
I'm feeling my way back to that. Family and friends have given me great advice on what work to seek, based on what they know about me, and they aren't as hung up on the "what doesn't Chris want to do" thing because, well, they aren't Chris. I'll be looking online and in the paper for what jobs are out there, and they are out there, even in the lousy economy.
Meanwhile, temp work will likely happen again -- I've moved mattresses, installed furnishings in apartments, filed, made office labels, stuffed envelopes, answered phones, directed traffic in a parking lot, moved books in warehouses, and all sorts of miscellaneous work -- because I can do many things for a little bit, for a little pay.
I'll figure this out. At least I'll figure this out better.