Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unbearable lightness!

"Can't be whatcha wanna be, gotta be what you oughta be."

I am listening to a psychedelic jam with a bratty singer. Above is a lyric I snagged out from the jam by mere chance, but it really fits the mold of what I want to talk about. "What will you be when you grow up?" It's nice to have a dream (springsteenian rocker), but if you simply can't play the part well enough or you don't receive the necessary luck to get the part, then you gotta be what you oughta be. But how do you know what you oughta be?

A few days ago, I checked out from the library a career help book called "Do What You Are". The premise is that we can't change who we are (our genetic makeup) and therefore we will be happiest and most fulfilled in a career that allows us to be our natural selves. It first helps the reader to narrow down what their personality type is, and then it suggests career matches.

After 3+ hours in the library vacillating back and forth between personality types, I landed on ESFP, Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving. Granted, the personality type descriptions are written like horoscopes so everyone can connect the dots and form make the relationships in their heads, but I did it enough times from enough angles to make it seem justified. The motto for the ESFP type is "Don't worry--be happy." Careerwise, I know it is just one book's opinion, but it's very reassuring to see Environmental Scientist listed under my type. Check out or for more info.

Reading this "Do What You Are" book not only opened up my eyes about who I am, it broadened my clairvoyance about who other people are, what they value, and what their needs are. As the book says, my type has a certain "play ethic". In college, my play ethic was certainly in action, but for many others with different personality types, the play ethic may have seemed immature or frivolous. I have since gained a new perspective about where the "party poopers" were coming from. Playing just wasn't in their personality code.

This play ethic could pose problems for grad school or a job. I can't sit down and execute a task independently for several consecutive hours very well (the GRE test!). I desire human interaction too much. No matter where I end up, a requirement will be interaction with others or working as a part of a team. But I am motivated to tough out some periods of hard-working isolation in order to broaden my opportunity horizon.

Over New Year's, I was kindly given by Ms. Bellin a copy of a book called "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera. It's a clever European romance/philosophy book that's beautifully written. Here's a sexy thoughtful passage from near the beginning:

"The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar to new heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are significant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?"

So far, only a small portion has been philosophy, the rest being the interesting sad story of a promiscuous man and an unstable woman. It's deep though, deeper than I ever normally think about anyway.

As for "weight or lightness?", I think, like with everything, you need a balance. My personality type lends itself to lightness, but lately I've had too much free time. Free time is something many would envy, but I don't like it right now. Not without some substantial weight, work, and activity to balance it out.

I think the American way of life pushes us all to be more burdened than light. It seems that BURDEN=PRODUCTIVITY=MONEY=HAPPINESS=FULFILLMENT....or something like that. But what if you don't desire money or a lot of the things you can buy with it? I need food, friends, sleep, family, nature, clean water, and shelter. Bob Dylan summed it up in some interview for Rolling Stone a while back:

"Happiness to me is just being able to breathe well."

If any of the seven things I mentioned get tampered with, I might not be able to breathe as easily. Oh, and I guess a slimy mucus cold might also tamper with my breathing. Add health in there to make it eight. Also add helping others to acheive those eight. Now THAT would take a lot of work...damn, have I got a lot of work to do!

I can't wait to shake this unbearable lightness.


Big A

(try not to read as big gay)