Friday, February 18, 2011

boy is gone

I'm adept at setting myself up as an object of pursuit. It's never so cold blooded while one is doing it; let me bask in your adoration. Let me distract myself with you; let me love you, in my limited, incapable, traitorous way, until the whole thing rots from the core. There is a power in being the object of unrequited love, even if it's painful and ugly, even if on some level--and eventually all levels--you hate it.

My power needs to come from somewhere else. This is not because of cruelty, although that would be enough; it's also antithetical to what I want most.

Equality or loneliness. We'll see which.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

a bibliography

So I promised my fellow bloomsburians that I would provide a bibliography on my presentation from tonight. It went swimmingly; they were awesome. Here (in no particular order) are the resources:

Stuff was the book that, for me started this all; I couldn't put it down. Although I was disappointed that it didn't cover the emotional relationship healthy people have with stuff as much as I'd hoped. This link also includes a scale of pictures by which people can measure their own level of clutter/potential hoarding.

A Perfect Mess is a rebellion against a culture that values neatness over efficiency, and a fun read. It explores the benefits of disorganization.

Organizing From the Inside Out is the organizing book my sisters all swear by. I found it useless when I could fit everything I owned into a metro, but these days I have to agree with them.

Spent, Memoirs of a Shopping Addict was a fascinating read as much for the peak inside high-fashion life as for the discussion of shopping addiction. It didn't contribute tons to the project, but it was an interesting read. The most compelling thing for me was how shopping addiction parallels eating disorders.*

Buried in Treasures was a treatment manual for compulsive hoarding. The behavioral modification techniques were interesting enough that I'd recommend anyone who is trying to change a seriously entrenched habit, and especially anyone who isn't satisfied with the way they get and keep objects, should have a look over it.

Cheap was an exploration of price expectations over time, starting with a local US economy and moving into a global one. Her discussions on craftsmanship, the science of pricing, and global labor issues were really inspiring.

You Don't Have to be Rich, I've mentioned here before. It was exceedingly thought provoking.

Other resources I drew upon include the children of hoarders website, the excellent story of stuff website, and the cheesy-but-weirdly-awesome PBS documentary Affluenza. If you're concerned about the environmental end of things, you may also want to check out this blog entry.

*I think the terrible relationship Americans have with food and the terrible relationship Americans have with stuff have similarities worth exploring. Recently I've read some great, very biased, very persuasive books that discuss how we deal with food. They definitely have flaws, but Omnivore's Dilemma changed the way I see food and the world, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was full of rich storytelling and helpful practical advice. The Elements of Cooking also had a big impact on how I see food. It is among my top ten books, and I highly recommend it if you're interested in exploring the sensuality of food, cooking as an art and a craft, and the depth of western culinary tradition.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

there comes a time to invest in your day job

By most measures, I have a great job. I'm in a growth industry. There is actual substance to it. I've accumulated years of experience; were I to buckle down and get some certifications, I could move up in the ranks, go full time, and eventually work anywhere I spoke the language. Relative to the options most of my (other) useless-associates-degree-or-less educated friends have available to them, it's also remarkably respectable; my job title says "educated and not a deadbeat" in a way that "industrial, retail, or agricultural worker," sadly, doesn't.

I read once about how this idea that we should seek fulfillment and satisfaction from the same thing that pays our rent can be crippling. At the time I was skeptical, but I'm starting to see the wisdom. Because this is my main complaint: I don't love this work. There are other downsides--most of my work challenges involve surmounting other people's easily preventable disorganization and miss-communication. It's hard sometimes to invest myself, because there's a certain meaninglessness to pulling your own weight in a system where the work you do isn't necessarily useful and the status "working poor" is increasingly standard.

But the main thing is that I don't want the life of a systems administrator. There's other work that I do love, and that I'm good at--writing, tutoring, maybe someday teaching. Maybe someday making documentaries. Maybe, someday, making community programs. I know what I want; the challenge is thriving in a system which works only to maximize profit and production, rather than (for instance) happy, virtuous, or connected human lives. And right now, what that comes down to is getting better at the things I don't love--the things that pay for everything else. I have a job that gives me the privilege of reading a lot and writing a lot, by giving me enough of my own time to do so. It gives me the privilege of going to city council meetings, ethics forums, protests. I have time to build relationships with people I can learn from, teach, care about--and time to figure myself out.

So it's time to get better at this job I sometimes hate. Maybe it will give me a better shot at all the things I love.