This morning in my journal, I continued an on-going conversation with myself about life, and meaning, and joy. This is a topic I have always struggled with, and possibly wasted far too much time worrying over. Henry David Thoreau wrote “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and, as a young adult reading those words, I felt that desperation, and knew I wanted more.
I want my life to be significant. That has been what has driven my actions for as long as I can remember. I chose men “with issues” time and time again, for the idea that I, with love and attention, could “fix” them. I loved being a mother of young children for many reasons, but the feeling that I was doing something truly important and meaningful was strongest. The teaching profession was attractive to me, for the opportunity to make a positive difference.
Any job I’ve held, no matter how menial, I have tried to perform with enthusiasm and care. As a waitress, I worked to make dining out the best experience that I could. In fact, in every customer-service position I’ve held, I consider kindness, concern and a cheerful smile as much a part of the job as knowledge of goods or materials.
Books, and reading, have been a constant source of security and enrichment. Writing has allowed me an outlet for ideas when I had no voice. Art enhances my life in a thousand ways. I was drawn to all of these things, I’m sure, because they caused me to be noticed. I was one small child in a large, noisy family. Shy and nervous, there was little beyond my bad temper to cause me to stand out.
Except that I loved books. Even before I could read, I loved handling them, fascinated by the letters and the feel of the pages. I can remember rearranging the encyclopedias on the three shelves they occupied, frustrated that no matter how much I changed their order, there were still the same number of books. How could that be? I took to reading quickly, and was good at it.
And I liked to write. Maybe all readers do. An appreciation of how others told stories and expressed ideas caused me to want to do the same. I wrote letters, kept diaries, and penned long, angst-filled poems and essays to vent my anger or frustration. My mother would harness me to help the younger children with reports and papers. She’d often say, “Cindy, you should write a book about our crazy family!”
I wonder how many artists were drawn to that profession simply because early development of motor skills allowed them to color inside the lines a bit earlier than their peers. I remember getting accolades for “good coloring” in kindergarten! That grew into an early love of drawing. Because it brought me attention, I devoted lots of time to it. And so, became good at it.
On days when I feel frustrated and unappreciated in my job or in my life in general, I look to reading and writing and art to save me. Though I may have been drawn to those things, first, as a way to be noticed, they have grown to be an important part of who I am. That’s where I find significance.