Thursday, November 01, 2007

Personal Foursomes

No, I'm not announcing that I'm into ménages à quatre but rather simply doing another one of those self-questionnaires:

Four Places I’d Love to Visit
  1. Japan. I've been fascinated with it since I did my fourth-grade report on it, and I've had several close Japanese friends. There is a very slight chance my company may send me there someday, as we do 95 percent of our business there. I'll keep my fingers crossed...
  2. Hong Kong. I've always been fascinated by Asia, and visiting Taiwan in 1997 was every bit as fascinating and exotic as I'd hoped, so now Hong Kong is also on my list, all the more so because my wife served her mission there and could show me the real Hong Kong. We may go there for her mission reunion in 2009, finances allowing.
  3. Europe. Yeah, I know that's too big and unfocused, but I've never been across the Atlantic Ocean and don't really know where to even start. Actually, we have plane tickets in hand to visit England in April 2008, and we are planning to make a brief visit to Paris as well. (My wife's brother lives right in London, so we've got to get over there while they still live there.)
  4. Hmm, I'm stretching for a fourth place. I can't think of anywhere in North America where I'm dying to visit and haven't already been. I suppose I would like to spend time in one of the big Latin American cities, like Mexico City or Buenos Aires or something. Or maybe somewhere truly tropical in the Caribbean—I've been to Hawaii but not to the Caribbean yet. I wonder if I'd enjoy a cruise; I should probably try at least one before I die, but I worry that I'd get bored.
Four Things I Covet
  1. John Updike's career as a writer. At one time I was hoping to become a Mormon Updike, but my experience with my novel Kindred Spirits showed me that I don't have Updike-level writing chops and that it's almost impossible to mix worldly and Mormon themes and expect to appeal to either audience.
  2. William Shunn's lifestyle. I've never met Bill in person, but I know him through his writings, blog, and podcasts. I'm a little envious of his lifestyle of living in big cities like New York and Chicago, not having any kids, letting go of the Mormon rope, doing lots of traveling and drinking, and getting deeply involved in a writing community (in his case, science fiction). I am also envious of his podcast of his Mormon missionary memoir. But I suppose I got all that worldliness out of my system as a young adult—well, most of it, anyway—and I'm sure the path I'm on now will lead to more long-term happiness than his. Besides, I'm feeling too middle-aged and settled now to realistically picture myself living in a big city. And it sounds like Bill's dad was a real jerk, so he's got more of an excuse than I do to reject his parents' lifestyle.
  3. My three brothers' careers. Two of 'em are doctors, and the other one works in a real industry that provides the world with real, valuable benefits (telecommunications) and makes more money than I do. I'm the oldest of the four but earn the least, and I'm certain they'll all be farther along in their careers at age 41 than I am. My problem is that deep down I consider my day job and my career to be two different things, and neither one is really satisfying and successful because my energy is split between the two and because what I've chosen for my career is rarely successful even for those who can devote their lives to it.
  4. Hmm, again I'm not real sure what to put in this fourth slot. One good thing about me is that I'm not really materialistic, so I don't feel any big envy for any particular house or car or big-screen TV or anything, although I'm sure I'd enjoy upgraded versions of all those. I would someday like an iPod big enough to carry all my music (I'd probably do fine with a 40 gig). I'm trying to think of someone whose positive attitude or spiritual purity I envy, but most of those people I secretly dislike and wouldn't really want to be like.
Four Goals I Have
I'm very weak in this area, without any real goals beyond staying gainfully employed, keeping the status quo going, not getting sick or divorced or bankrupt or dead. But I'll try to come up with four things I'd sort of like to do sometime, maybe...
  1. Get a Ph.D. and teach college. I've given this pretty serious thought at times, and I may yet go through some future cycles of exploring the possibilities. I don't mind teaching—after all, I already teach college as an evening instructor at UVSC. It frustrates me to waste my spare time on it because we need the money, but I think I'd like it more as my day job. And I like the idea of the academic lifestyle. But I probably don't like all the academic philosophizing and theorizing and politicking enough to commit to a Ph.D. program. Plus, I'd need to inherit some money or something to finance it, as I don't believe in it enough to go into debt for it.
  2. Publish a Mormon novel with a national press. This is what I tried to do with Kindred Spirits, but I don't have any new ideas or plans or anything along these lines. I hope I do someday, but for now I'm working on a novel aimed more at LDS readers, and at the rate I'm going it will take 2–3 years to write it, and I'll likely end up self-publishing it through Zarahemla and selling 40–50 copies. I hope to get myself into more of a regular writing groove again here pretty soon—I think it would help my spirits, with regards to my ongoing midlife career depression. (I have 2–3 days every week where I'm quite down about my situation.)
  3. Run my own business. Yes, I already do Zarahemla Books, but it's a hobby business that consumes more money than it generates, and I will probably downscale it next year, as it costs me too much time, money, and stress to continue at this level. What I'm talking about is running my own business that could actually become my day job, my main means of support. I'm not sure what this would be—the closest I've come to doing anything was that eBay drop-off store I seriously looked into. I would love it if something like Zarahemla could catch on enough to be more than a hobby, but I've seen no indication along those lines. If I were to lose my salaried job, I might try to freelance for a year, but I'm pretty certain I couldn't replace my whole salary, so I'd have to find a new job or probably even a whole new line of work at some point.
  4. Ah, this tricky fourth spot again.
Four Delights
  1. Cuddling with my wife, and beyond.
  2. Getting Zach out of the crib in the morning, and many other kid moments.
  3. Being able to relax and read in a clean house, with a fire going on cold Sunday eves.
  4. Food, sleep, music, interesting e-mails.
Four Regrets
  1. Not ever learning a foreign language. But I guess I've never had a compelling enough reason to do so, such as living in a foreign land for a sustained time period. It would take too much effort to do it just for the sake of doing it.
  2. Getting married the first time. However, deep down I believe that marriage was somehow something I needed to go through as a punishment for earlier mistakes. If I hadn't deserved such a chastening, I'd like to think that Heavenly Father would have steered me away or led me down a better road, like the one I eventually reached with Ann. My question is, What did my two adopted kids do wrong to get stuck with such a difficult personality? Judging by what I know of their dispositions and endeavors so far in this life, I sometimes wonder if they somehow didn't demonstrate enough mojo during premortality to warrant something better...
  3. Not making a better career choice. Looking back, I wish I'd gotten interested during my twenties in some conventional career that I could have pursued with an actual plan and purpose, getting myself onto a reasonable upward trajectory of increasing responsibility, accomplishment, satisfaction, and of course income. I have no idea what that could have been. Real estate? Computer programming? Insurance? Psychiatry? Ah, who knows... Instead, I sort of stumbled into the Ensign magazine job, and then I sort of squandered my thirties dicking around in MLM creative while putting my passion and ambition into my own projects. I suppose I could still somehow get myself onto some kind of progressive editorial career track, but I don't know of any great options to pursue here in Utah, and editors aren't much better than teachers in terms of potential career growth. Only a few can become the equivalent of principal, and I don't really aspire much to leadership anyway, although I don't rule it out. My instinct is to keep conserving my energy and ambition for my own creative projects, even though there's no evidence they will lead anywhere beyond the hobby level, and I think that's the main source of my career frustration and depression. I just can't seem to get really passionate and engaged about anything but my own stuff, but even then I don't quite believe in myself or in my projects enough to make big sacrifices and devote myself 100 percent.
  4. I'm not thinking of any other major regrets. I'm sure there's lots of little stuff that I've said or done or failed to say or do, but at the moment I can't even think of specific examples. I could say I regret my two years of worldly living from age 17–19, but I think that was inevitable, and I did learn a lot about life. I could also say I regret my two relationships that turned sexual after my mission, but again, I don't see how I could have avoided those, even if they did somehow lead to the chastisement of my first marriage, as I alluded earlier.
Four Things I Wish I Could Do More Often
  1. Read for pleasure.
  2. Sleep in until 8:00.
  3. Go to movies in theaters.
  4. Travel with just my wife.
Four Things That I Never Would Have Imagined Would Happen to Me
  1. I wrote and published five books within about a three-year span.
  2. I underwent chemo and radiation for Hodgkin's disease.
  3. I settled down in Provo, Utah.
  4. I fathered three boys and then got a vasectomy.


Anonymous said...

Chris-I don't think you give yourself enough credit regarding the many contributions you have provided to both the literary and religious arenas. I am amazed at all you have accomplished and cannot fathom doing the things you have done so far. In a lot of ways I am envious of your non-conformist path, and your ability to focus your passion and efforts outside of work. To this day I wake up sometimes and wonder, "What career should I pursue?" having forgot about my current trajectory for a few fleeting moments with an excitement that I could do many different things. In a lot of ways it is hard to realize that I will have to have a "real" job beyond the academic focus of residency.

Christopher Bigelow said...

Yeah, I'm sure the grass always looks greener on the other side. Probably I do need to work more on appreciating and being content with what I do have. My personality may be the type that's too hard to satisfy in some areas...

shunn said...

Dude, Marrakech in May!

shunn said...

Btw, you might want to know that your post sparked lengthy comments from me here and here.

Anonymous said...

I felt and could've written much of the same just a few short years ago. Reading your post made me think 2 things: One, could you be any more sad and depressed, and two, this guy is so on his way out but he just hasn't realized (or accepted) it yet.

I used to take potshots at others too; it was my one way of feeling better about myself and reassuring myself that the "Mormon lifestyle" was the one true way to eternal happiness.

But that was then. Life couldn't be any better now. Sacrifices were made and dealt with. Have they been worth it? A resounding yes.

Good luck on your chosen path, wherever that takes you.

C. Holland

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention-

I doubt your first marriage was a punishment for anything. You got married to the wrong person just like the rest of 50% of America (including myself). Young people just off their missions are not ready for that undertaking anyway. From my own perspective, hormones are probably not the best indicator of a good pairing.

In my case I was married for 10 years, divorced, kept the good memories and on I went - all the while wishing my ex well. Live and learn, you know? We're human, we make mistakes. But punishment for something? I'm not buying it - not anymore.

C. Holland

Christopher Bigelow said...

Hmm, C. Holland, it's interesting to have the tables turned and have someone making judgements of me based on what I've chosen to reveal on my blog. Of course, to me your comment comes across mostly as wishful thinking.

One of my main uses for my blog is as a place to vent uncomfortable feelings, and I often feel quite a bit better after letting off my psychic flatulence here. When I don't blog, often that means that I don't need the outlet--I'm not the kind of guy who blogs about happiness much.

And the VAST majority of my midlife discomfort that I whine about on my blog has to do with career, not religion. The majority of the time, I feel reasonably happy. Yes, I suffer bouts of depression at least weekly, which is a bit more than I'd like, but if it ever becomes the majority mode, I will go and get me some Prozac.

I think I'm still a ways off from needing Prozac, and I also don't see myself leaving Mormonism. I believe in it for reasons you couldn't even begin to guess, and my personality is gray enough that I'm never likely to ever be 100% in the church or 100% out of it.

writer@home said...

I have to agree with C. Holland on one point - your dissolved marriage was not some cosmic punishment. To believe that, you'd have to absolve yourself of personal responsibility. When you make a bad choice, you (and sometimes others) suffer the consequences. Your children, adopted and biological, are whole individuals on their own physical/spiritual journey. They were born without sin and are not being punished for anything that may have happened in pre-mortality. (Surely I misinterpreted your comment about that, but just in case...) Life is hard, but it is also possible to make it harder than it has to be. Wake up to the reality that life is beautiful and short.