Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 2 of Just a Little Wobbly ...

Today is day two ... Cheshirewoodgie (Lauren) thought she had avoided the worst of the norovirus and went to work: no such luck for her. I went to campus to pick her up early, and now she's home and in bed recuperating while I've changed places; as she nursemaided me on Sunday, I'm now nursemaiding her as she overcomes the worst of it.

This has given me some time to return to the other topic I've addressed as of late: trying to answer the self-posed question: "who am I as a person without a job to define me?"

To help me answer that question, I turned to my favorite sci-fi series: the 5-year epic Babylon 5. The two alien races that are the antagonists, the Vorlons and the Shadows, have competing questions that form what the show is about:

From Wikipedia:

"The central theme in Babylon 5 is the conflict between order and chaos and the people caught in between.

"The Vorlons represent an authoritarian philosophy: you will do what we tell you to, because we tell you to do it. The Vorlon Question 'who are you?' focuses on the identity as the motivator over personal goals." (Put simply, when you lose the focus on "what you want", you are able to focus more on "what is the good for the whole" Or at least, you should be able to.)

On the other hand: "The Shadows represent anarchy. Their belief is that by creating conflict, a stronger generation is born — 'survival of the fittest'. The question they pose is "what do you want?" They place desire and ambition before everything else, encouraging conflict between other groups, who choose to serve their own glory or profit. Selfishness is often the turning point of a character from light to darkness, and selflessness denotes a change in the reverse."

According to the show's creator, J. Michael Straczynski, the order in which you answer these questions can make you ... or break you:

"It's not that there's a *correct* answer, but that there's an *informed* answer. If you decide what you want, before you know who you are, you're likely to get something that will destroy you; if you know who you are, you can then ask for something that will be of greater use to you."

So what is my "informed answer"? Who am I without a job to define me? The answer to that lies in a third question asked in the series:

"Lorien (the oldest living being in the B5 galaxy and older than the other two races described above), asks the series hero, John Sheridan, this alternative question: 'Why are you here?'"

Unfortunately, as I was growing up, that question was always answered by someone else, and never by me:

For my Dad, it was always: "you're here because we wanted a son to take over the family farm, just as I did", even if I wasn't meant to be a farmer and didn't want to survive at near-poverty levels. I did not want to be a farmer, where I was at the mercy of the weather and crop prices. Being the eldest, his responsibility was to the family, regardless, and he made his choices. But I did not want to be a farmer just because HE was.

For my Mom, it was always: "you're here because your father wanted a son, even though I had difficulties giving birth to you". She always held the guilt held over my head as I grew up, making me wish that my birth had been a bit easier for her.

It's rather hard to ask yourself "why are you here?" when you've already got two unhealthy answers already confronting you, don't you think?

So now I've reached a point where I have to start asking myself that question, because one of the old definitions of myself, "I am a very good technical writer" no longer applies anymore.

So "why am I here?"

On a practical level, I'm here in Maryville because it got me closer to my fiancee, let us live together, develop my housekeeping skills, and consolidate finances until I can find a job. I'm also apparently here to help our pastor learn some computer skills, if he can find the time to sit down with me to do this. I'm also apparently here to sing ... though in what capacity, I'm still learning.

I'm also here to write: this blog is an example of that, and my fiancee is encouraging me to take the time to develop some writing ideas.

Mainly, I think I'm supposed to start grappling with some of my baggage: my past struggles with my learning differences, and the work stress dealing with an emotionally unhealthy workplace, which included workplace harassment and rumor-milling that sprang from the unchecked immaturity, untrustworthiness, and territoriality of some of my ex-coworkers (not the ones I stay in contact with, I should point out).

For the last, I apologize: I once promised that I would not speak ill of my fellow coworkers, and for the sake of the company for which I once worked, that is as much as I will say about the situation.

I'm also here to learn what else I can do well, since my chosen profession is in decline: the job market for technical writers is thin at best, and I'm geographically challenged since my fiancee has tenure and is unable to move.

On an existential level, I'm here to learn to take care of myself better, to forgive myself for having weaknesses in the form of my learning differences, to accept that perhaps there is a reason God created me with them, and to forgive God for doing this. As a human being, that is the best I can do.

It may not be a complete answer to the question ... but it's a start.