Which really doesn't mean anything. You can say, "I've been thinking a lot" and the truth is all you really did was stare at something and space out. But I've been thinking a lot in the sense that these thoughts are following me like a trail behind me or a stalking predator. The themes that have followed me are inescapable and I feel like, yes, I've been thinking a lot, and I'm actually processing things. Funny huh?
I've been thinking about external validation, which when you look it up actually apparently has more to do with the scientific method than the not so scientific process of psychology, or more accurately sociology. But in this context I mean the way people support or do not support your decisions. And it's more complicated than that - it's a framework of decisions, determined by the kind of person you are, I guess. And that framework makes up how other people view the kind of person you are - but it's so subjective. The examples that I'm thinking of are mostly career-oriented but not necessarily so. It could deal with whether or not a person lives with their parents, or the kind of relationship they have with their significant other (or if they have a significant other). It could deal with transience versus settling down, planting roots. In the future, I'm sure it will have to do with getting married or having kids, but once you start getting specific like that (or maybe more appropriately, just typical cliches regarding what I'm talking about), it just seems so typical. Of course people will judge you for your lack of accoutrements of grown-up life. External validation. But it's not so direct, it's much more intangible than simply recognizing it as a general trend. It's part of a framework. And to say simply that people can judge is to appear to disregard recognizing that any individual is affected by that judgement, or lack of it. Regardless of whether or not one chooses to recognize it. It's obvious that in the past few days I have been stewing in examination of how I recognize it and how I react to it.
More specifically, I have been hanging onto this perception that my parents are very strong forces in my life of external validation. Probably to the point of being pathological. So many conversations, particularly with my father, have been about whether or not I am where I should be at this point in my life. What I need to do. What I need to pursue. Why I shouldn't be doing this.
Who doesn't deal with that? But thinking as much as I have been recently, I'm realizing that regardless of my actions that might suggest the contrary - I believe them. I believe my mother and father about being where I should be for my age, about being on a constant upward slope, improving and developing into career and those accoutrements of grown up life. It's a gestalt - a pattern the mind works around because if you didn't have that pattern it would be TOO open, too full of possibility to be able to function at all. And I have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely a middle ground... but I am a summer hermit in Southwest Utah, alone in a trailer full of time and paint and kitten. I am trapped in a contemplative timewarp that demands I examine everything because, well, there are only so many episodes of Northern Exposure to watch instead. And maybe my concept of "middle ground" was still a little too close to my parents' North Shore upwardly-mobile competitive worldview. And that's what I'm grateful to Henry for, and to his parents, too.
And that's what I'm grateful to the state of Louisiana for, too, I suppose. In cancelling the program that was going to put me into a career situation, the state has forced me to examine what my motives were for going in the first place. I was going because it was going to be fun, and because it was the only way I could find to learn the things I want to know. But there is a additional meaning to the concept of graduate school - a meaning that is apparent when one considers that pretty much anyone who goes to grad school is planning on getting married right afterward. It's part of a march, of a track that runs through the road map of the Western collective unconscious. And while I would always assert that something like that had no bearing on my own perception - I need to admit to myself that in losing the opportunity to attend this program, I felt a little like a failure. Even though the decision to cancel the program had nothing to do with me, I felt like my development, my progress as a citizen of the system we live in, has been retarded. Which is stupid.
Between the fallout of graduate school, my parents' natural inclination to direct and push and guide me, and my parents' additional loud opinions regarding my choice of romantic partner - I feel like I'm hitting some dire mid-twenties crisis. Which has led me to another thought about crises: Maybe it's better that I have a mid-twenties crisis in which I realize that it's not enough to say "fuck the system" and rebel, or buy into the concept of external validation wholesale without examining its merits, but instead to contemplate my own needs and perceptions of what that validation even is (particularly the extent to which it is imaginary altogether, just someting I myself percieve). Maybe that is better than to reach the point so many people reach where one realizes that youth is behind them and they never took advantage of it - which is just as archetypical, stereotypical, as anything else.
Is it wrong to accept that, when it comes to careers, most of the time I would rather be waitressing? Is it wrong to think that my life will not be over, I will not die poor and alone, if I do not get a graduate degree? Isn't it just as important to know this world and celebrate in it in as many ways as I know how (and it just happens to be that some of my favorite ways are through poverty, depravation, alcohol and transience)? And also to explore new ways to celebrate it? How important is career?
Sure, we all are special, but we all are not going to be important in the working world. We can't all be upper management, man. Which is good! I think the world would be a better place if more people accepted that declining the opportunity to suck at upper management does not mean you're some kind of sheep. The world needs garbage collectors, grocery baggers, plumbers, landscapers, gas station attendants, obituary writers, dishwashers and waitresses probably more than they need another guy to sell air conditioning units, or manage the people who sell air conditioning units. It's probably my fault that I feel so much pressure to be the guy who manages the people who sell air conditioning units, or to be the medical transcriptionist or the curator or the whatever. It probably has a lot to do with the way I think people see me, or whatever. If I decide to be an underling, to be an ant, to be a low man on the totem pole, have I done the wrong thing in life? A huge part of this contemplative funk I've been in has to do with the fact that when you put a question like that into writing, it seems so simple. Of course there's nothing wrong with being non-managerial. But really, how often does the average person think, of course there is something wrong with a lack of ambition? How much does one have to lack ambition before other people notice and disapprove? Do people compensate for a lack of ambition by being... interesting?
And the tumbling thought process goes on. If I had just a little bit of interesting company to distract me from this existential rut, maybe it wouldn't be this bad. But I suppose I need to take advantage of it while I can.
Youth is wasted on the young.