Friday, May 26, 2006

Objective and History

A couple days ago, I mentioned that I would address the importance of having an objective when on a quest.

Now is that time, especially since I have just that issue with my current quest. My job search is a quest of sorts.

I should back track a little, though, to provide a little background.


For those not in the know, I've been working on my bachelor's project exploring Utopianism in literature and historical communities for the last 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 years, depending on when you count me starting the project.

My main problem and reason for not completing the project by now: other than having some kind of academic background understanding for a novel that I'm writing, I didn't really have an objective or necessarily anything that I looked to accomplish. I just wanted to get it done to earn my bachelors degree.

On some level, I still have that objective. I've also come up with another, more personal goal. Maybe I should say that I've more re-discovered what I've wanted to accomplish when I first writing my novel. . .even though the story of the novel has changed.

I believe that I had a certain blindness to my objective when I first started writing the novel. At the time, I really just wanted to emulate George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ray Bradury's Fahrenheit 451, which I hope most readers know that Michael Moore alluded to with the title to his movie Fahrenheit 9/11.

Some of my conscious thought acknowledged that my life situation at the time influenced my approach to writing this novel (which actually started as a short story). Little did I know to what extent the situation influenced me. Sure, other than Fahrenheit 451, a friend of mine into freedom of thought and action, liberty, anarchy, politics to some degree and all that stuff had gotten me into reading 1984 and Brave New World (the librarian at my 4th grade elementary school had gotten me to read Brave New World. He probably wanted me to read those books because of the principles and excitement that he wanted to spread about them, but I think he wanted me to read them, also, so I would take another look at my own situation since he often would motivate me to fight my own fight for liberty and freedom.

Now, I can't say that I had a horrible existence at that time compared to many other people and populations in worse situations than me. My friend's influence along with a lot of indirect exposure, including trips to Boston, stuff I saw on TV and heard on the radio, other books I read, 'zines and other publications found in Boston, movies, the Internet, people from all walks of life, to the injustices in the world propogated by either the purposeful hand of those in power or just through the existential brokeness of the human spirit and nature and the system created by that nature. Even some school teachers addressed the systematic vice in our mists. My parents had even encouraged me to read Brave New World and William Golding's Lord of the Flies (two books that implicitly support our overall "Puritan" value system but can do a number on opening a young man's eyes).

Going to an isolated liberal arts college on top of a mountain with people from all walks of life didn't hide me from the injustices in our midst. Despite the political thinking and mindedness of the students and teachers there, my approach to the topics became more academic as compared to my intuitive and feeling the topic that I did during my high school days. I also ran into some personal issues and challenges while there and over a summer vacation or two, which caused me to turn inward for awhile, question myself, challenge my very way of being and, as I addressed in the essay a couple days ago, become more comfortable with myself in certain ways while letting go of aspects of myself that alienated me from connecting with people on a good basis but still added some degree of excitement and adventure to my life.

Looking back to then, I guess I hid from myself the intuitive, feeling resources from my adolescence that I needed to understand my objective behind the novel. I started writing it from the gut to express a feeling and emulate a couple authors, yes, but I didn't have the clear thought to articulate the themes and purpose behind the novel. Sometimes the beauty of literature comes from that aspect, touching onto something through drama but not explaining everything. That way, a reader can connect to it, make their own meaning and even later, come back to it to find more new meaning between those two covers and inside their head. I've often had this experience of coming back to a book or a recording years after first hearing it, having a new perspective and understanding the piece on a deeper and clearer level.

So to start fulfilling the requirements of my bachelor's, I needed to focus on thinking clearly and logically. One night in my junior year, my roommate gave me a lecture of how I use my intuition too much. My senior year, another roommate had the most difficult time working with my spoken arguments, since I could pontificate like Senator John Kerry or even flip flop like him while working with short answers. Both of these guys influence my way of thinking nearly as much as the big identity crisis I had around that time wherein I needed to make my point of view more understandable and rational to simply continue staying sane.

I went to school for another year and a half after the trigger of that crisis without figuring out a good objective for the project. Even worse, the novel ran into tons of issues because my crisis and loss of confidence as a writer. If I couldn't even live life, relate to people and co-exist with them on some kind of human level, hwo could I possibly write good literature.

Nothing at that school could help whilst in that crisis. I couldn't write anything worth anything. Even one of my advisors got completely frustrated with the flip flopping I did with the papers I wrote for him. He said that he had never seen anything like it, and he couldn't think of anything anymore that could help me. I left there with the option to finish my project open to me but not totally sure whether I would.

For the next year, I would try getting a job and learning how to live in the world. It didn't kill me, but I couldn't really find success all that easy. That bachelor's degree became all the more important to me. I made friends. Finally, I had accepted the job offer my parents had kept giving me for 1 1/2 years. I found an idea that would work for one of the project papers, after a year of brainstorming, hard thinking, tons of reading, frustration and papers started but not completed. Another paper even got finished after that first one.

The novel even got started again, even though it had to go through plenty of starts and incompletes before one of my walking around town ideas stuck. Still working on the novel, even though I haven't done any real work on it for a year or so. The idea sticks, though, and people really like it. . .a better result compared to when during my freshman year, I let a girl in the dorm read it then who had broken out laughing at the vast amount of cheesiness it embodied at that point. People liked the middle incarnations of the novel, too, but the middle ones stopped working for me because it worked away from the utopianism and had moved onto some kind of strange mysticism that no longer worked for me.

Also during that year or so between leaving college and accepting my parents' job offer, I had re-discovered that the novel had come out of my experience during my adolescence. Not only did it get influenced by the books I read at the time but also by my everyday experience at the time. Unfortunately, my perception still had the taint of resentment and anger, so even though I had gotten a boost from that re-discovery, I didn't get any good ideas from it.

Fast forward fours years. I'm engaged. I'm about to leave the job that I had accepted from my parents. My anger and resentment at things have died down as I make way for the move to Chicago, starting a job search, making plans for a wedding in about a year and saying goodbye to people. I've written 4 out of 6 papers for the project but am having tons of issues with the 5th one similar to the 1st one, a good idea that will work from page 1 to the end just doesn't come to me, even after a ton of false starts.

The fiancee and I have started couples counselling during the move to deal with the stress of it all and to also help us maintain the relationship. We learned some useful things about ourselves and plan on hooking up with another counsellor once we get insurance again, but the topic of my bachelors came up a lot. Even if I finished this project, would Marlboro still give the bachelors to me? Would I be able to finish the project? Should I just go to school somewhere else? Can I re-negotiate things with my advisors?

The fiancee and I thought the easiest approach would be first to see if I could still get the bachelors from Marlboro. I contacted the head of advising there. After a somewhat mixed up dialogue, I learned that I could still get that bachelors, but that they thought it would be a good idea to speak with my advisor. It took me a few months to finally call him and leave him a message saying that everything's actually going OK, I just had a logistical question about the whole thing. . .wasn't necessarily looking for guidance or anything.

While fretting about talking with the advisors, though, the couples counsellor had a great idea: I should sit down, figure out my objective, come up with talking points, etc. etc. One night, I sat down to do just that. Can't say that I finished that project because while doing it, I couldn't get satisfied with my objective/points.

I got diverted, instead, into searching for an objective for the overall project and also figuring out an outline for this 5th paper. The beginnings of a good objective came to me: an exploration of what happens when a society, community, group helps an individual to fulfill their goals and gratifies their desires or what happens when they don't help or prevent an individual from fulfilling goals and gratifying desires. By working through my own personal resentment and anger about my adolescence and college time, I figured this touched upon the issue that bugged me a lot: I wasn't being helped to fulfill my goals or gratifying my desire in a helpful way. Either no one really knew what they were, knew how I could, in the long term, fulfill and gratify or because they weren't getting fulfilled and gratified, I would either act out or find ways to numb or stimulate myself because I didn't know what else to do.

From that point about a month ago, I've realized that that objective isn't enough. The outline I did for the 5th paper can't really accomplish anything with that objective. I've read at least one book that points me in a good direction and a little bit from another that steers me a little closer to the goal. At the moment, however, I can't really refine the objective because the job search bears more importance, and I can't spend money on the book that will help me to refine the objective. Still, still, still. . .having this somewhat more refined objective in mind points me in a direction and helps me to discriminate what information and what thoughts will be useful for me in this project. Right now, it has something to do with Charles Tilly's Identities, Boundaries and Social Ties, but I don't how yet.

I just know that I can't move forward until I check out this book. At least I know my objective, though, and that I have next step. . .. Without this objective, though, I probably would be going nuts with anxiety while doing my job search. Now i can just feel anticipation that once I get a job, I can move forward on accomplishing my objective.


I'm not done with this essay. Writing this part has taken a long time out of my day, though. I will have to continue it tomorrow.

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