Friday, November 30, 2007

Stream of Consciousness No. 10: Self-Pity Alert

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - I'm feeling a little bored right now, so I think I'll do a little stream-of-consciousness blogging, or something close to it. Where it stops, nobody knows...

Despite the fact that I'm (hopefully) graduating from Rutgers soon, don't anyone get the impression that I'm automatically one step to maturity or adulthood. Tonight I heard snatches of a phone exchange between my mother and an AT&T representative over some sort of issue with a recent phone bill (something to do with international calls that she felt she shouldn't have been charged for on account of a special service she was on for a while that made international calls real cheap), and, as happens to me once in a while, I immediately wonder how I'd fare in a similar conversation which would require a combination of calmness, assertiveness, fortitude and articulateness---personal qualities that seem to come and go (mostly go) with me, at least in person. How would I handle having to deal with unfair phone charges? Would I immediately shrink away from pressure and just accept something if I had even a hint of doubt? A part of me thinks that's what I'd probably do unless I absolutely really truly felt I was in the right about an issue (and most likely I'd probably have be inspired to such confident heights by someone else agreeing with me).

Adulthood? Maturity? Don't make me laugh! I may be working, I may be earning money, I may be reading more, but I have a feeling I haven't even come close to dealing with the drudgeries of everyday adult existence of the type my parents deal with consistently. I feel like, as much as I get immense pleasure out of books, music and movies, I'm still somewhat trapped in my own bubble, the real world still beyond my grasp---perhaps deliberately so. I wonder if I'm even ready for going out there and living on my own, traveling, etc. Shit, I'm still getting parental help with most of my bills!

And I guess some of you could point to the fact that I'm still living at home as an indication of my, uh, sheltered-ness...but I say big deal, I'm not the only graduate or soon-to-be-graduate staying at home. Might as well save some money while I'm doing what I'm doing.

Wait...what am I doing these days?

I'm working at the Wall Street Journal while, on the side, I'm indulging in modest intellectual pursuits like reading a book for about an hour a day, reading the news for about an hour a day, listening to a music album I've never heard, and otherwise Web surfing and/or writing. While an undergrad, with all the work I had to do (especially in my senior year, with my thesis always prominent in my mind), I was never able to get around to finishing Jack Kerouac's On the Road and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover or listening to a good deal of Bob Dylan and The Beatles (not just their hits; complete albums). Thanks to my new job and my lack of consistent pressing commitments elsewhere, now I have.

I rather like the way things are going with me now. I feel comfortable. But am I too comfortable? Surely this isn't the real world. A part of me feels like I should just try to risk it all and go out there, try to find that place near New York City, find some fresh entry-level newspaper job somewhere (either writing or copy editing)---just start off on my own for the first time in my life. Another part of me says, What's the rush?

In reading a lot of film criticism, both in print and online, I've realized that most of my favorite critics marry deep film knowledge and a personal vision with a broader knowledge of other arts---literature, music, visual arts (painting, sculpture, that kind of thing). Shit, where's my knowledge of all those other art forms? Superficial at best, really. I still haven't actually read Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn, for instance (perhaps I really should have majored in English as an undergrad in addition to, or maybe even instead of, journalism). As far as painters go, don't even bother to try to engage me in a deeply intellectual conversation about the visual glories and profundities of Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Manet, Picasso, with Todd Haynes and Bob Dylan, I'm not there. And I'm only now really trying to acquaint myself with music that isn't written by Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Bruckner, or someone considered "classical" (a term, by the way, I wonder about these days; I mean, do you call Aaron Copland "classical"? Stravinsky? Schoenberg?).

All that is to suggest that perhaps one of the reasons I think I've decided to keep the way things are going for me right now is partly so I can play catch-up of sorts---explore some of these artistic areas outside of my (currently part-time) job at WSJ. So far, I think it's been working pretty well for me.

But I know I can't keep this up forever. I also suspect that my plan is probably fatally flawed in one respect: even the best critics, I suspect, are still catching up themselves. I wonder if I'm assigning too much of an artificial aura to film critics I admire, giving them credit for being infinitely more knowledgeable in general than I am. (By the way, not only is some of my artistic knowledge patchy at best, but really, so is my political knowledge---call me emptily cynical if you like, but the American political scene just plains disheartens and frustrates me, to the point that most attempts at trying to summon up some kind of idealism about American politics often fails.) The point is, I could be spending the rest of my life "catching up," and I'd never really get to a point where I can say, "Okay, I think I've learned enough I need to feel more confident about my intelligence, now it's time to go out there and make my voice heard."

Sooner or later I'm just gonna have to be brave and make the jump. Not sure if that time is right now, though...

I dunno. I guess I'm just trying to work through personal issues rattling in my brain even as I slowly work my way through Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and delve a bit into the varied musical worlds of Elvis Costello (whose debut album My Aim Is True turned 30 this year).

I recently emailed the copy desk chief and asked about the possibility of coming back to the desk I interned at during the summer. His response, to put it simply: probably not for a while. So it looks like, if I plan to move up in Dow Jones (and the copy chief's response got me thinking about whether that's what I want to do), I'm really going to have to start from the bottom. In essence, I willfully dropped myself back down to an entry-level position. Well, I had to, I guess (although if I had pressed people to let me get internship credit for my 10 weeks at the copy desk during the summer, maybe I'd still be working there right now). Don't get me wrong: I like my job just fine. But it looks like I'll be at the monitor desk for a while.

My supervisor says most people stay there for about two years before deciding to try to find other work elsewhere (recently, two monitor-desk employees left us, one to Dow Jones Newswires up in Jersey City, the other to some book-publishing company in New York).

Maybe I'll see how I feel about the way my life is going in one year and take things from there. Will I feel more restless then? Heck, I might already be feeling a little restless now (not to mention immature and intellectually inferior)...

Oh, and have I mentioned the bundle of greatness that is the Coen Bros.'s recent film (and, I honestly think, some kind of masterpiece) No Country for Old Men? See it (read the Cormac McCarthy novel if you'd like, although I think the movie improves on the book).


Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with living at your parents home for a few years. Why waste money on rent when you have a place to stay? Working at the WSJ is the dream of many people---maybe if you stay there you can work your way into another position you might like more. And--the intellectual pursuits--nothing wrong with that either. You are being too hard on yourself. "Maturity" (Whatever that is) will come soon enough---just take it one step at a time and be happy that you have what you have---because it sounds like you are in a really good place right now in your life.

Kenji Fujishima said...

Thanks, anonymous. Yeah, I tend to be more hard on myself than I need to be sometimes (regular readers of this blog---wonder how many of those are left after my lengthy posting absences). It's my perverse way of convincing myself that I keep myself "honest." Or it could be I just think too much about what other people think.

I guess I'll just heed what I wrote at the end of the post: in a few months or so, I'll try to assess where I'm at and how I feel about that. Maybe by then I'll be so sick of living at home that I'll decide to move out, who knows? But I think you're right, least, I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Two more things: try to post regularly, even if its short---even a few lines--- so that your "readers" know you are still interested in this blog. Long spells of no posting---not good. Secondly, your opinion of "The Kite Runner" would be of interest.

Kenji Fujishima said...

Well I'll probably check out the upcoming movie adaptation of The Kite Runner, so maybe, if I'm so inclined, I'll air out my thoughts on the novel then.

I'll try to update more regularly now that I've posted twice in the past week, but that'll depend on both time and inclination---whether I feel like it or not. I guess I haven't felt that inclination much recently. It takes me time to churn out entries, believe it or not, and usually I feel like there are other things I much rather do at that moment. (That, and sometimes I just feel like something I have to say has already been said more eloquently by someone else anyway, especially regarding films and such.) But yeah, I'll try.