Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weltschmerz and a Plan

So, last night the Wife and I were watching the Big Bang Theory (because it's hilarious, and we were eating dinner). Rather than try to explain the clip and get everything wrong and boring, I'll just show you:

Of course, being the nerd that I am, I didn't believe "Weltschmerz" was a word, or that it meant what Sheldon says it means (because it's TV, and like the internet, the TV lies). So I looked it up in my German Dictionary (because I'm that awesome I have a German Dictionary that is an actual book, not some internet hooey). This is what it says:

Weltschmerz, m.
 weariness of life, pessimistic outlook, romantic discontent.

Crap dang it.

The show got it right, which is awesome. I've seen this episode before, and every time I see it, I always think: "I really need to remember that word, it's brilliant." Of course, I never do, so the next time I hear it, I'm excited all over again. And the reason being is that this is how I feel. All. The. Time. I would venture to say most of us do. Accepting the deluge of the world is not easy, or desirable. We want to be who we are, doing what we want to do, and people loving us for it; but, alas, we live in 2013 when that is not possible. Not to say that there was some Golden Age when it was possible (because who knows what was possible hundreds or thousands of years ago? Certainly not historians, or scientists).

Last night, I decided I would write some brilliant blog about this clip. About how watching the show helped me remember some small epiphany that has remained hidden somewhere in my memory for years, about how I've got the "weltschmerz" and how difficult it is to live in our modern society being diagnosed with this German terminology all while trying to be an "artist", how writer's don't get the credit they deserve for the work they and hours spent thinking and creating and thinking more. I'd link to this article about writers in the UK and how the world on a whole does not respect artists and blah blah blah, whine whine whine. The point is, I was going to write about this. Then, I checked my school email this morning (I've edited the email to remove names and things, because I don't want to get in trouble or whatever, because I'm a wuss):

Dear Faculty & Staff,

We greatly value the contribution you provide to our institution.  That’s why I want to share an important development about our campus with you as early as possible. 

Effective (DATE REMOVED), the (SCHOOL I WORK AT) will no longer enroll new students in its programs and will begin a gradual process of discontinuing operations — what’s called a “teach-out.” Our team made this difficult decision (NO TEACHERS WERE INCLUDED IN THIS DECISION) by taking a number of factors into account, including local economic and workforce conditions and enrollment levels at the campus. We expect that the campus will remain open until (PEEPS IS GRADIMUCATED). 

We recognize how hard everyone works, and we are deeply grateful for all of your efforts.  This should in no way be seen as a reflection on your work here (WELL THAT MAKES ME FEEL ALL WARM AND FUZZY).
We have made the commitment to an orderly transition to closure that will provide current students a reasonable opportunity to complete their programs of study. (I cut out a long boring part that wasn't really pertinent to the blog, it was about what services students will have access to as the school slowly shuts down).

Here are some key facts that you should know about this decision:

  • The anticipated date for closing the campus is (WHEN THERE ARE NO STUDENTS LEFT).

  • This decision will result in immediate (I THINK THIS MEANS ME) and future staff reductions, which we will implement in phases without sacrificing the quality of our student-focused education and services.

  • We will follow up with each of you this week to provide you specifics about your individual situation.

  • We will offer severance pay to our full-time staff (THIS IS NOT ME).  

Our intent is to make this process as transparent and supportive as possible, and we are committed to ongoing communication with faculty, students, alumni and all stakeholders.

While we know this is difficult news for you to receive, our students will count on you for support and guidance in order to complete their studies successfully.  We thank you for your passion and commitment to our students, and we are confident that you will continue to show that dedication to students during this transition period.

Please know that the (THE SCHOOL) continues to operate campuses in the United States.  We continue to be very proud of the education we provide. 

Thank you again for your passion, commitment and continued support for each other and our students during this transitional period.

Wow. It was 8:00 AM, and I was getting ready to leave for that very job in an hour. All I could do was laugh (because my other option was to cry, and I don't cry, I'm a man). So, yes, I laughed. And then I told my wife, excitedly, that the school was closing. I'm not excited, I just like sarcasm and irony, though I suck at timing.

Now what? I'm still trying to process all this. It's not a lot, just frustrating and sudden, and I'm not sure what my next step should really be. I thought I would have this job for at least a year, teaching one or two classes a term, dealing with the same kind of students over and over, correcting the same issues, but still getting paid, and working my way out of the school to another school, or an editing job, or maybe get that book deal that makes me a millionaire writing household appliance romance fiction. Or win the lottery, who knows? But this . . . . I should explain that I felt this was coming. We have these mandatory meetings where we talk about the state of the school and students, and what we are doing to improve our teaching. In order for the school to keep its accreditation, they have to do these meetings. I've been to two in the last three months I've worked here. And at both all I heard was how things were changing, and they were adding new programs, and new advertising, and trying to bring in new blood to get more money. The higher ups made it sound great. Too great. Way too great. To be honest, I wasn't surprised by the email, none of the teachers should have been, though some were. It's simple business. Not enough money, close up shop. Even an English major can figure that much out.


What do I do now? I had finally come to some conclusion for myself in the last blog about where I'm at with my life: living in my head, disillusioned about the world around me. Kind of like the weltschmerz, but less Germanic. And I came to the conclusion that I needed a plan. Some change, some direction to follow until I can get to the horizon and steal that pot of gold from the dead Leprechaun and ride over the rainbow on a Unicorn to Avalon and the White Shores. Of course, that plan involved still teaching while I slowly made some significant changes that would allow me the freedom to create, to become, to explore and grow (because let's face it, I've got baby numero dos coming along and working super part-time doesn't buy diapers, or food, or air). And living with the parents needs to end, this can't continue much longer, or I might explode. Or implode. Or both. Like a Red Giant. Maybe I'll just shrink up to a White Dwarf or Brown Dwarf and use my intense gravity to bring everyone else down around me. Granted, it's not the best option, but it's something.

Back to the plan. It was going to be epic. Not the modern overly used internet meme sense, but in the classical literature Beowulf meets Odyssey sense. Slaying the wicked, traversing unfathomable landscapes and conquering fears and beasts and demons, et cetera, et cetera. But now, I feel like a deflated balloon. Slouched over, tide to a string, the garbage my imminent demise.

I've got the Weltschmerz. I've got it bad. But no one is going to change that for me. Not my job, not my wife, not my parents, certainly not society or capitalism or the world. So, for now, I have only A plan, not THE plan (because THE plan will blown my mind, and I can't afford that kind of medical coverage right now).

So, for the rest of the year, I'm going to write a new story, or chapter for a book, every week. Because I need to focus on MY work more. I've spent so much time editing other brilliant people's writing that I need to get lost in my stories, with my characters, in my worlds. This won't be easy I'm sure, but I did pull off over 150 days of writing flash a few years ago, how hard can a few months be? I mean, even with these being real stories (at least 1500 words or more), it shouldn't be too difficult . . .  right? And, on top of writing, every contest I find, I'm submitting to. No matter the cost. I've already submitted to at least five in the last month, I'm working on the Novella again right now for another, I'm going to put together a chapbook of prose poems/flash fictions for another contest, and then see what else I can find.

I'm sick and tired of the world pocking me in the and laughing so hard it gets spit all over my face. It's time to start pocking and spitting back, yo. I'm no sissy-faced sitzpinkler.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Welcome to the Château Irreal

In an effort to try and be the happy I want to be, I’ve spent a lot of time reevaluating life choices. Most of which are addressed through a series of conversations I have with myself, silently, in my head. Usually late at night. Trying to examine what makes my reality, and translates into happiness — or the lack thereof. It didn’t hit me until last week while driving to work: I live in my head. All writers do, I think. I know it sounds simple, a 'no duh' kind of revelation, but I never thought of my life in that way. Writers are imagination archeologist. We dig and dig and dig through ideas, possibilities, newnesses; something called ‘creativity’ and ‘inspiration’; we dig through all the sludge and muck of our gray synapses, trying to find that perfect story. That perfect image. That perfect metaphor, in some menial hope to change ourselves. And our readers. And, just for kicks, the whole world.

But it’s all just cerebral. It’s not real. Even the pages we print, covered in ink, it’s still just ideas. Shadows, imitations of what at some point was real; an experience remembered, altered, deformed, and regurgitated.

These blogs, and Facebook, and Twitter, and YouTube, and online articles, et cetera, ad infinitum; they are no more real then Never-Neverland. No more real then wishes and hopes and dreams. Blowing out birthday candles and wishing for a pony, or happy parents, or a spaceship, doesn’t increase the possibility of that happening. But as children we believe in it, and we do it all the same. Then, at some point, we grow up and out of childish traditions to the realization that everything we did as a child was ridiculous. We still go through the motions, though: blowing out candles and pretending to make wishes, to keep up pretenses.

I don’t want to blow out candles anymore, making wishes with the slight hope they will come true, but knowing, deeper than that hope, that wishing and dreaming and hoping is futile and pointless. Because it’s all just electric pulses in your brain. Imagined realities that we come to convince ourselves are real.

This is the life of a writer. My life. Dwelling in the spaces that don’t exist, fabricating individuals and events and emotions and objects to validate, or explore, or confuse, or whatever the intent; writing to know, to escape, to expose what troubles us inside in an attempt to rid ourselves of the darkness. Or to capture the light. But it’s not real. You can’t touch those stories, those characters, those experiences. I used to believe that books, the physical objects we hold encasing thousands upon thousands of words, were real. That the paper and ink and cover made the story real — a tactile reality unraveling some mysterious world that hitherto had not existed. It’s why I collect old books: some residual childhood hope that convinces me those old forgotten tomes connects me to the dead, the lost and forgotten, that our two worlds can be joined through those texts. It’s also in part what attracted me to bookmaking in the first place; some way to intertwine the imaginary realm of story with the concrete textures of papers and inventive bindings. A dream I’ve diluted myself with for years. A beautiful dream. One I shall remain in for the rest of my life, I think (at least in part). But it’s still all just imaginary.

So how do I (and We) translate imagination into corporeal realities?

In no way is that rhetorical. This is a new revelation for me, and which path to take from here I am uncertain. I suppose this comes out of my lack of monetary employ. Granted, I have a part-time job. Very part-time. More part-time than high school kids work part-time. But it’s work, and I can put it on a résumé. My situation as it stands is my fault. Or my doing. I chose this path of Creative Writing. I chose the dark and impoverished track that is the life of the ‘artist’ (whatever that means).

(This is not meant as a complaint, but as an expulsion of confusion and bewilderment in an attempt to make sense of my current reality)

I want to change. I want to be happy. I want my life to be filled with the realities I’ve always imagined. I don’t want to waste away a hunchback huddle in the corner of a dark room scribbling out my manifesto about the world and it’s struggles and terrors that no one reads and ends burning with my body and shack I call home because I died in the night of some easily avoided disease I contracted due to my lack of medical care, and my slumped-over body knocking over the candle by which I read, igniting my pants, transforming my corpse into a new, human candle: spontaneous combustion. If people don’t know who I am, that’s fine. I just want my life to feel real. To be real. I want dirt under my fingernails, salt on my lips, the smell of damp earth and wildflowers all around. I want to taste my world, taste my work. I want my blood to be part of what I create, of my world, of my reality. My tangible reality. The expanse that no longer stretches infinite across my brain. I want boundaries I can see and touch. Because they are real, not because I want boundaries. But because that is the world, and things have limits, measurable qualities like distance and weight and mass and volume. Velocities and Cartesian coordinates. All within the bounds of time, that indefinable decayer.

Step One: the realization
Step Two: the plan