"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dabbler

A Jack(ie) of All Trades, is that what I am? I often wonder how people decide what it is they're supposed to do with their lives. How it's remotely possible to wake up one morning and intrinsically know what you plan to spend that forty-thousand dollars in college tuition on as if it was never a question. If it'd been up to me, I'd have spent that ten times over by now, trying to perfect everything it is that I ever wanted to do. As it is, I did not ever get around to graduating high school, much less venture into the wide world of higher education. And honestly, I'm not always convinced that I envy my friends who have.

(Exhibit A: The Dabbler.)

When I tell you I have done, considered and perused everything, I am so not lying to you. If it remotely involves creative endeavors, I have sought to attempt it. Art teacher, Waldorf teacher, Adobe Creative Suite teacher, author and illustrator of children's books, toymaker, graphic designer, blogger, web designer, artist, illustrator, writer, seamstress, historical costume designer, jeweler, silversmith, photographer, interior designer, doula, midwife, professional organizer, professional organizer who specializes in hoarders...

Seriously, I have no idea what to do with myself. I ebb and flow like the tide or whatever dainty poetical term you want to call the fact that I can't ever seem to get a grasp on the one thing that I really, truly want to do. Because I want to do it all, of course. No aspirations here, just the obsessive drive to be as diverse and wacky as possible.
(Exhibit B: A sample of The Dabbler's 'serious' photography.)

I mean, I feel like somewhere in there I've been all of those things this whole time. I grew up with a remarkably creative family on my father's side, and I'm pretty sure it's just there, in my blood, and I don't have a choice. The problem is- I need to choose. I'm not going to be a Stay at Home Mom forever, not by any stretch of the imagination, but neither am I content with being a secretary for the rest of my life, you know? My lack of schooling sees to it that I am destined to never make more than fifteen bucks an hour no matter what job under The Man I happen to have. My only way of getting around this AND being happy forever, it seems, is to branch out on my own.
(Exhibit C: Notebooks.)
(I did not take this photo and for the life of me I cannot figure out who to credit for it, regardless of my Google-Fu.)

I have a stack of notebooks about the size of Rhode Island (come on, that's a reasonable size!) Because my best friend in highschool and I spent about three years writing ...possibly more than was healthy for us. Late nights, not paying attention in class, daydreaming, all attributed to spiral bound notebooks from the school store. She nurtured in me a love of writing, and it is because of her- and one other friend I happen to consider a best- that I am still writing to this day.

At this very moment in time I am thirty-five chapters into the second draft of my novel. I spend all of my free time parked right here in front of this laptop with a candle lit banging out the story meats fleshing out/cannibalizing the skeletal cremains of a story I wrote on and off for the past three years. I'm almost five-hundred pages completed and it's starting to look like a series. A whole series.

Between that, and this blog, and the frequency with which I update my LiveJournal, am I allowed to call myself a writer, now? Or do you need to be published to make that distinction? I suppose I've written about twenty informative articles (via TextBroker) that have been published on the internet and I've been paid for. So that's it, then? I'm a writer? Let me take a bow now, before it's too late.

(Now if only I didn't have to worry about my laptop falling apart at every turn. I can't keep this thing together with gaff tape much longer.)
(Exhibit D: Sterling & CZ solitaire ring made by The Dabbler.)

But wait. I've also been paid for jewelry I've made. Toys I've made. Clothes I've sewn. Websites I've designed. Art I've drawn. Does that also make me all of those other things "professionally"? When am I ever going to get a grip on this?
(Look, Ma! My bracelet, featured on Etsy's front page!)
(It never sold. I kept it for myself and passed it on a few years later to a dear friend along with the mermaid necklace below.)

So what makes a person what they are? How do you define yourself with any seriousness? How do you say "I'm a writer," without getting laughed at? I have a friend who is a brilliant artist. He worked for Marvel for two years (and incidentally went to the same college at the same time in the same program as my father.) He can now go around saying "I'm an artist" because he has the professional and educational credentials to back his claim. But what about the person who just sketches something in Photoshop every once in a while, but never had a job doing it? Is she allowed to say she's an artist?

My father worked as a graphic artist, went to school for art, has professional and educational credentials, but is less talented than I am- (no offense meant, dude, you said it yourself for years.) Does that make him more of an artist? A different type of artist? Less of an artist and more of a person who can handle responsibility manage to get more done? Where are the answers, universe?!

(These were gifts. No professionals here.)

It seems to me that I'm destined for the rest of my life to be the girl who could have been a hundred things but never got to be any of them because she couldn't make up her mind. But would I trade that? Would I ever trade that to be the person who went to college, got one degree, went out and used that degree to become one thing? I get to be fifty things! I am fifty things, and how cool is that?

Fifteen years later, "So, Ali, what do you do?"
"Oh, you know...
...I dabble."

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