"Do you like to live just like a rock / in the middle of the sea? / Do you want to suffer by yourself / in a pool of blissful misery? / Do you feel like a saint in artists’ clothes / with a rosary in your hand?"
Sometimes I like to have imaginary conversations with my Self from Ten Years Ago. Our sense of direction is notoriously bad, so we occasionally like to take a look at our Life Map together and see how far we've strayed from the path we thought we were taking. Our latest talk: "You get paid for doing WHAT?!"
Me 2007: Hey, Cooks! How you doin'?
Me 1997: A little tired, but excited! I'm supercrazybusy with the Asian American Studies campaign. If we can get BSU, LSU, and LGBA to march with us down Campus Drive, Kirwan and his administration cronies will have to pay attention. Wow, I would love a soy latte right now! What have you been up to lately? I haven't seen you in a while.
07: Yeah. You know I moved up to Canada, right?
97: Canada? But you hate winter!
07: I know. Edmonton gets colder than this witch's tit by October, but my husband got his dream job up here, so we moved. Then I got a great job at the same place.
97: Sweet! So you guys are working for a non-profit foundation that provides financial aid for low-income students who want to go to college?
07: Erm... not exactly...
97: Oh, then you got that job writing for TIME or National Geogra--
07: We make video games.
97: Like educational, multicultural, environmentally conscious, interactive video games that teach nonviolent conflict resolution?
07: Like "Flying space pigs are trying to take over your planet, so shoot 1000 of them before your timer runs out, then collect space credits to spend at the space bar, where space hookers do their space dance" role-playing video games with violent--or sometimes sexy--conflict resolution.
97: WHAT?! I AM RAGE PERSONIFIED!!! What the fuck is your malfunction?! Have you really sold out? Have you abandoned all your principles? Have you forgotten who you are?
07: Don't you talk to me like that, sista! I know who I am. I was you! In about three years, you're going to start doing communications and PR for various non-profits that all work nebulously for social justice. Some of them will pay you shit wages. Some of them won't pay you those shit wages for a couple of months. One of them will give you your starting month's shit wages as part of a severance package because it didn't get a grant for the following fiscal year.
97: But it will all be worth it! We'll be serving The People! We'll be working for The Cause!
07: We'll be starving and living month-to-month! We'll be wondering why it seems like every non-profit organization we work for doesn't know how to balance compassion and progressive thought with basic business planning. Maybe you just pick the wrong organizations to join, but living like that will take its toll. You will get really burned out and bitter.
97: You just don't understand! I'm supposed to help save the world. At the very least, I'm supposed to be the next Jessica Hagedorn.
07: Oh, sweetie. Don't try to be the next anyone. It's hard enough trying to be the next you... or me. I still try to write poetry with a purpose. It's just a bitch to get published and a grrl has got to eat. By the way, the world doesn't need us to help save it; it needs us to help make it better.
97: All right, then. Tell me: what are you doing at your video game editing job that is helping to make the world better?
07: Well... erm... Oh! I convinced them to change the spelling on a town with a Chinese-sounding name so it would match the Taiwanese Mandarin pronunciation. It was a small change, but I'd like to think that calling attention to it made the writers and designers just a wee bit more aware about the cultures and languages they might be appropriating.
97: What was that about working nebulously for social justice?
07: Don't you sass me, young lady! At least my paychecks don't bounce anymore. Look, when I was you, I thought I had to do really big things to make a difference, but small things matter too. A tiny stone dropped into a pond makes as many ripples as a large rock.
97: Dude, you are such a hippie.
07: I know. Let's go get a soy latte. And keep at it with the AAS campaign. Trust me, it'll pay off. So did I tell you? I made saskatoon berry jam last summer.
97: Sweet Mother of God! Who are you?