Feeling like one does not have “enough” of anything (money, status, fame, recognition, shoes, name it): that’s where every kind of terrible shit starts. And the benchmarks of success constantly shift. Ambition is a fool’s game, its rewards fool’s gold. Who is happy, asks the Talmud? She who is happy with what she has.
I read “Snarling Girl” by Elise Albert the other day and it’s still ricocheting in my head. I’ve had a hard time for most of my life because many women’s experiences I read about and many of things women talk about I don’t relate to very well. There are a wide variety of reasons for this and it isn’t anyone’s fault. It just is the way it is. When I clicked the link to this piece, I expected to have the same feelings. But, to my utter astonishment, it was the complete opposite feeling. As I read, I kept saying to myself, “this is me, this is what I feel and think all the time.”
Our contexts are not the same, our struggles are not the same, and so our rebellions and complacencies and conformities and compromises cannot be compared. But the fact remains: whatever impresses you illuminates your ambition.
I think this is what I’ve been struggling with so much. So many times, people have made assumptions about me based on my gender and that is infuriating and frustrating and exhausting. And when I say people, I don’t just mean men, I mean everyone. Our experiences in our lives are all different and I find that in many of the situations I’m currently in, there isn’t room for that wide range of experiences and so I’ve been shutting down and pulling back.
Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.
She hits it again. The paragraph above this talks about being tired of the fight and not wanting to fight. I feel that so much. And I realize that I’m in a position where maybe I don’t always have to fight and that is a privilege. Many days I want to live my life. I want to take care of my family, I want to do the things I love, many of which happen to be doing things that care for others.
“Real” work is often invisible, and maybe sort of sacred as such. The hollering and clamoring and status anxiety and PR two inches from our collective eyeballs all day? Not so much. So tell the gatekeepers to shove it, don’t play by their rules, and get back to work on whatever it is you hold dear. Nothing’s ever been fair. Nothing will ever be fair. But there is ever so much work to be done. Pretty please can I go back to my silly sweet secret sacred novel now? Bye. Take care.
I think about the concept of work often and this is gonna play into how I think of it in the future.
Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché.
Albert goes on to talk more about a young writer looking for success, it reminded me of the letter in Dear Sugar that I’ve quoted before. Often, I think our work is quiet, it’s just doing it day in and day out. As I’ve begun to draw again this year, I’ve been reading how some of my favorite illustrators and artists got to a place where they make money off their work. For many of them, it was doing their work day in and day out and not looking for anything more than the satisfaction of getting better, keeping going.
As I age, as I work more, both my work that pays the bills and the work I do because it’s what I desire to do with my time, my ambition wanes. And, much like a quote that inspires Albert, where ambition changes to wanting to be happy and left alone, I feel much the same way. So I pull back and I do the work.