Sunday, February 13, 2011

The World's Smallest Violin

It's been just under two years since the last time I attempted to blog, journal or otherwise publicize my inane ramblings on the world wide web. That being said, I have accomplished quite a lot of not-writing in this span of time and done a rather bang-up job of violating, in every way possible, the writer's central precept of "write every day". So, in the event that you are actually someone who cares about me personally (in which case you probably already know this) or are—in a completely hypothetical and delusional world—following me over from my LJ alias of waywardwhim (why the hell would you do that?) here's the five minute version of all the not-writing that happened since winter 2009.

Study abroad at Sophia University (Tokyo) 
During which I was inflicted upon my fellow writer and best friend of 10 years L. Scribe Harris who was working in Tokyo at the time. For six straight months poor Scribe had to live with me in her one-bedroom apartment, which was small enough to where, if we held hands, we could collectively touch every wall of our entire living space simultaneously; I don't think I snore but someone give this woman a medal.

Graduation from NC State University (Class of 2009) 
Somehow,  between 5½ years of indecision and two senior seminars that demanded the academic equivalent of ritual self-flagellation every night for a semester, I finally walked away from the college experience with a B.S. in Microbiology, a B.A. in International Studies, and Ph.D. in WTF do I do now? Well, what will you do now, you ask? Tch, be unemployed of course...! 

Unemployment (Winter 2010)
Just like all the rest of the pitiful suckers who brilliantly planned their graduation for December 2009, I was  jobless and sitting on my ass, feeling sorry for myself for the months of January through April. For those of you who missed out on the RSVP for Recession that year, let me give you the Cliff notes version: McDonald's wasn't hiring. 

American Institute of Certified Public.. wha?
By a bizarre twist of fate, I got hired by the last organization on Earth I would have expected to get hired by. I didn't even know what "CPA" stood for when I walked into the job fair that day. It was by freak luck that the rep at the AICPA booth noticed me and handed me an information packet. And, well, I was already throwing my résumé at every man, woman, and dog that even hinted at employment at that point, so the fact that I got the job wasn't a matter of compatibility, it was just as likely sheer statistical probability.

Some of these activities, such as graduating or getting a job, may arguably fall under the category of "necessary", "constructive", and/or "quintessential to not sucking" but they have nonetheless provided me with a wealth of ammunition when it came to combating my nagging muse. So, Raven—you may ask—now that you're done with school and have a source of stable income, what possible excuse to not-write could you have now?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is precisely my problem: I don't.

Not to dwell too long in the department of back-story, but I grew up Chinese—and by Chinese, I'm not talking about the "I was born in China" kind of Chinese. I'm referring to the we-used-our-dishwasher-as-a-dish-rack and anything-short-of-a-4.0-GPA-was-grounds-for-castigation Chinese. This may have had its pluses, i.e. when it came to getting financial backing for "academically sanctioned activities" or just having adults in your life who gave a general damn about your moral upbringing. But if your aspirations lay even halfway in the realm of the humanities, this also meant you were shit outta luck. 

Sure. My parents made me take violin lessons from the time I was five (How else would stereotypes survive?) but this was hardly in the hopes of me becoming the next Itzhak Perlman or maybe one day securing employment in the local symphony. It was just what Chinese parents do. When I expressed aptitude in arts and language, they were not only delighted but often even encouraged my pursuit of certain hobbies, such as drawing. But the key word here is "hobbies". Art, music, drawing, sewing, writing... all of these things were just fine-and-dandy so long as they did not impede my path towards a respectable career in the hard sciences. How else would I support myself, raise a family, and have 2.5 kids and a dog?

It is here that I should point out the hypocrisy of it all because neither of my parents are scientists. My father has a propensity for literature himself and a Ph.D in—drum roll—Economics. My mother is a teacher and brilliant artist who never did jack with her talent. The fact that I even made it through two years of applied sciences at one of the top 25 engineering institutions in the country should be considered a minor miracle. Nevertheless, time was wasted and habits were instilled, and now that we're all brought up to speed on Chicken Soup for the Chinglish Soul, maybe you begin to see the bigger picture.

I have spent my entire life, thus far, not-writing.

What I need to come to terms with is the fact that I am not beholden to my parents, my teachers, or anyone else for that matter anymore. Let me repeat this again so that perhaps my poor abused Pavlov's dog of a brain can understand. I am NOT beholden to my parents anymore. For the first time in my life, how I spend my time is completely and irrevocably my own fault. So this blog—among other inchoate endeavors—is a way of me saying to my muse: "Hey, look! I'm not going to put your off, ignore you,  then say terrible things to you, only to call you at 2 AM on Friday nights crying in the rain... I'm a big kid now!" No more excuses. No more not-writing. I'm my own world's smallest violinist.

Funny enough, when I told my mother the other day that I was trying to write in my free time, her response was: "Why would you want to do that?"  So, what about you? What do you think? Have you ever left your muse out in the cold without cab-fare or gone too far to live up to other people's expectations? What are your excuses for not-writing and how do you overcome them?


  1. I LOVED this blog entry! So fascinating! You have a way with words so you'd better keep writing. ;)

  2. There are times when you have that "now or never" feeling. The time to write is now, and now is the time to write. I had the exact same moment, when I graduated, when I knew I had to start being a writer or give it up.

  3. Honestly, I was on the same goat. I wanted to write for the longest time, but my parents convinced me that getting a degree in engineering would be the safe route with writing on the side. Thanks to this, I didn't write for five years. It wasn't until some (who I am pretty sure was just being nice, you know her. She's too nice! Something devious is afoot!) said she was interested in reading my poetry. So I sent her some poems that I considered my best and as I read over them, I started picking out things I would write differently now. Then I got the desire to write again. But everything feels a bit rusty.

    But I just try. If I see something that amuses me, I make a mental note and try to write a quick poem or even just a sentence about it later. I also made friends with this amazing guy recently who writes poetry all the time and I enjoy reading it. So reading his stuff sets me on a feedback loop that gets me writing sometimes!

    That's the great thing about writing. You can't say "Oh, I should have gone to school in writing! Now I won't be able to write!" Because you can do it anytime. And yet this is also the flip side of the same coin. You can do it anytime. So not now, now I am busy. I have to write this report. I have to do my laundry. I have to play Dead Space 2 because stomping aliens is the best thing I have ever done and everything else feels meaningless afterwards.

    Hope you had an awesome Valentine's day. Also, let me know if you want any chocolate! We were giving out ぎりチョコ at the club and it seems everyone brought a bag. So now I have this huge bag of chocolate just sitting on my counter.

    Master Rapper J-Dawg

  4. Where's my medal? j/k

    I'm really glad you finally came to this conclusion. You have no idea how frustrating it was as your friend to watch you bang your head up against every hard science that came your way when the paintings you were making in art class were getting hung on the wall in high school, and ALL YOUR HOBBIES revolved around the humanities.

    So congratulations. Don't look back. And go read Holly Lisle's "mugging the muse".