Friday, March 07, 2008


I often wonder if I'm in the wrong line of work. I'm a database programmer by trade. In theory, I spend all day thinking about entity relationships and parameter tables. In theory, I go to meetings where people say, "It'd be great if we had a button on this screen that did (x) when we pressed it," and I'm alert enough to ask them why they want (x), maybe tell them how feasible (x) will be, how long it might take me to make it happen. I like this work, and I'm paid well for doing it. In theory.

In practice, I spend almost all of my time daydreaming about color, light and shape. I drift off topic while musing about how that rolled skein of yarn looks like a brass helmet glimmering in an undersea grotto. I reflect on all of the little objets d'art in my front room, and how to properly position them so that they look like art and not dust-collecting tchotchke. I think about how the grids in my windows cast shadows across my cat's fur, lining up with his stripes.

This is not an occasional thing. I do this every day, losing productive time and falling behind in conversations because I am deep in reverie. I do not know how to stop.

My father was an accountant. I remember sitting in his office when I was about eighteen, just about to go off to college and major in journalism. "I always thought I should have done something else," he said, wistfully. "But you know, there's some creativity in what I do, with how I choose to structure a return. I guess that's enough." Looking back, I wish I'd asked him more about it. I wish I knew what he would have done if someone had encouraged him to follow whatever it was that was in his heart. Then again, it didn't really matter. He might have wanted to be someone else, but he'd made his choices long before that afternoon when he sat across from me in his office, both of us surrounded by ledgers and yards of adding machine tape. I think he was excited for me that I had so many possiblities in front of me.

I didn't become a writer. Two years into school, Cal Poly eliminated my major and I came home. I decided that I wanted to be a photographer. One term in a studio photo class at UCSB convinced me that everything in my head was clich├ęd and trite. I switched over to Art History so that I'd have a chance at graduating in fewer than ten years. I ended up in my career by accident, in a story too convoluted for today. I didn't follow my dream, either. Obviously, I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

People often ask me if I write professionally, and then proceed to tell me that I should. These opinions are always unsolicited. I don't want people to tell me that I should be a writer, because that would mean having to work purposefully at something while exposing myself to the possibility of failing. Maybe I'd rather have people tell me that I should be a photographer. It's easier to explain why I don't think I'd be successful - that everyone can take as many digital pictures as they want now, and given enough shots, anyone can produce work as aesthetically pleasing as I find mine - and why I don't try. I write beautiful code, indented and spaced and commented in such a way that it actually looks like poetry. I guess that's enough.

Work on the fluffy angora menace continues. I'm only a couple of rows away from binding off the body. This picture is a few days old, but it's better than anything I'm going to take while sitting at my desk this afternoon. Look at the way the light plays off of the slight ripples in the fabric. I'm going to spend all afternoon dreaming about it.

1 comment:

knottygnome said...

i decided awhile back that biding my time working for the Man was ok b/c if i ever truly found my calling and tried to earn money doing it, i'd probably end up hating it and myself.

i have good reasons to believe that this would be true. so instead i try to find joy in things outside the drudgery of work and hope that it will be enough.

plus save save save so i can retire early and flip the bird to the Man on my way out.