Last week, I got lost in Mt Pleasant. Somehow in a shortcut search for Chuck Dawley, I ended up driving over a bridge at night having no idea where I was going. After thirty minutes of being lost and then crossing over strange waters, I called a friend for help. But by the time I reached the end, I laughed at the site of the city sign: Welcome to Isle of Palms. Then, yesterday, having no obligations or desires to be productive, I decided to go explore James Island, to take roads I’ve never driven down, to drive beyond the “state maintenance” lines where tire tracks in dirt lead a path into woods and marsh. A mundane epiphany of the shared nature of Lost and Exploration. One in the same, but whose name of the moment is determined by perception alone.
Last Sunday morning, I was up early with a friend watching basic television. Any Southerner will know that Sunday morning stock channels are filled with Christian church services. I usually find most predominately “white” churches to have boring services. And my opinion comes from my church hopper days in middle and high school since I was never a member of a particular denomination. I’ve attended Presbyterian (most yawns in a pew), Southern Baptist, Baptist, Catholic (most awkward service attended was actually at Divine Redeemer), AME, Pentecostal, Evangelical, and so on. So, we opted to watch the African American church service, which was featuring local Christian artistic groups. One group of several men came onstage, but one was in white face. Just one, I was a bit confused, not having seen this before. At the sight of it, I said aloud, “What is this? Miming for Jesus?”
As for the New Year, I haven’t decided if I want to make resolutions or not. I’m not sure if there’s a purpose because if I had the motivation to do anything I would conjure up, wouldn’t I have already done it? But, I have decided one thing, by the end of 2009 I will not be in Charleston anymore. Well, one exception, and one alone, if paid photography gigs pick up enough where I could pursue photography full time, then I’ll stay. So, where will I go? What will I do? And if I don’t want to be in Charleston why have I been? Complex hypotheticals and reasons.
Close friends know why I stayed in Charleston and opted to turn down an offer to teach English in S. Korea. At the time, I was emotionally and psychologically destroyed. In fact, looking back at my thoughts and behavior during the last six months of 2007, I’d say I was in a state of depression. I had no motivation. I was completely lost. I felt quite alone and abandoned in many facets. I cried more in that period than ever in my entire life, my poor pillow during those months sustained many deluges. Extremely vulnerable, angry, quiet, hurt, I was a magic 8 ball of emotions, shake me and who knows what you’d get. So, I stayed because it was what I knew, and there is safety in the familiar.
For so long, I was angry at Charleston. This place reminded me of my failure, my weakness, my missteps, all the potential failed dreams suffocated me in my cubicle. I felt like I was dying in that space, that my desires, my creativity, my soul was being crushed under the weight of this place, of my choices, my rage, guilt, and shame. It was at the end of 2007, a year I refer to as my Kaliyuga year, that I realized the detrimental state I was in, and that no one could save me from this dark abyss of emotion but me. I knew the only way I could begin to save myself was to fall back in love with the world. Such a difficult thing for me to do at the time, I saw no beauty in this place or in its people. But I was permitting myself to live within nihilistic means, which would have inevitably produced a great void, a self void. At the time, I had no idea how I was going to go about this, but I found the answer in photography.
So, I can no longer say my last year and a half here in Charleston has been a waste, that it did nothing to contribute to my life. This simply would be false. Had I not been here, then I would not have met my next great teacher. She would not have opened an emotive visual world to me that simultaneously provokes my emotions and heals me. My creative eye may never have reached the depths it has in this brief period of time. Never would I have met or captured such eclectic and complex souls, some of which I now call friends. All of whom unknowingly have helped me along my path of creativity, healing, and discovery. How grateful I am to have met them even if only once.
And though there has been growth in this facet of my being, I feel quite stagnant in my field of work. I am fortunate that the women (and one man) in my office manage to be a civil yet dysfunctional family. The fault is not them in any way, though it is draining to have so much responsibility and trust vested in me by my head boss. What is often expected of me is not of others, and this exhausts me, and in some cases, has caused conflict within the office, even if passive aggressively by others. But the changes over the past year have revealed much about the people outside my office, the nature and caliber of their being, their intentions. And recent events prove to me all the more why this business is not for me. More than ever, I am acutely aware of my work self and my non-work self, how split in personality the two are, and the personal changes that environment is causing, that I’m letting it cause within me, is proving equally toxic as the depressive state I was in over a year ago. For these reasons, I have reached quite a desperate state.
As of right now, my last contracted obligation is a wedding in mid May. After that, I am free to flee Charleston at the earliest convenience.
Known to few, I applied for a program to teach English in Bangladesh that would begin in August 2009. I have yet to hear if I’ve been accepted or not, and may not until late January or February. This pending application has also been a reason for my resistance to change or move since I find it unfair to work for someone for a brief period of time. If I am accepted, I have several weeks to accept or decline the offer. I would need TEFL certification, and would only receive a monthly stipend of $350, which may not be enough to cover my loans and debt on a monthly basis.
Other options I’m now considering (and feel free to chime in opinions or potential options I haven’t considered):
Move to Houston. My sister and her family are there. She misses all of us so much, as we do her. I could help with my two nephews and niece, temporarily have a place to stay, and from what I’ve seen, the job market in Houston hasn’t been terribly damaged by the economy. I may have a better chance with my photography there, or apply to a grad program in photography for the only reason to be able to teach at a college or university with a masters.
Apply for a job with the United Nations. What is problematic is my experience is isolated to accounting and administrative fields, though my time in India may assist. I have no fluency in a second language and lack a master’s degree. So, I’d need to find a way to make myself look quite appealing.
Teach for America or Peace Corps. No elaborate thought here.
Perhaps pursue an auditing job with the main corporation. My experience in-house would likely replace my lack of an accounting degree, and I would have good references. Though still keeping me in the corporate world, it would involve traveling within the United States and a higher pay tier.
Teach abroad through another organization. I have found programs that would pay more than the Bangladesh stipend, helping ensure my ability to pay off debt (because surprisingly I care and prefer to be responsible). My preferred locations are Thailand, Laos, Japan, or possibly somewhere in Central America. Though TEFL certification isn’t necessarily required, I’d still likely pursue it.
Other options I’ve considered but likely won’t pursue:
– Say screw it all. Take up a part time job with no medical benefits but permits more time for me to pursue photography.
– Attend grad school for religious studies. Oh, hahahaha, what would I be with that? I love the study of religion, but really, a masters only leads to one inevitable path, actually two…1) a PhD program or 2) A perpetual enlightened wanderer who never really stays put and goes missing for long periods of time.
– Become a pirate.