Once in a while, I wish I wanted to be an accountant.
In this alternate reality, my life is quite simple. I am a good accountant, diligent, dedicated, and detail-oriented. I probably work too much, and this fact probably occasionally causes a little bit of angst, but I’m probably mostly too busy to think about it.
I do the standard things society has taught me to value. I consume. I nest. I go to the gym several times a week, or else I jog. I follow the most popular TV shows. Maybe I even follow a sport. I am a somewhat brainy accountant, so I bet I read a newspaper, although probably not quite as often as I secretly feel I should to be up on current events.
I have an actual cleaning schedule for chores around my house. I cook balanced, healthful meals, and I freeze leftovers for later. My furniture mostly matches, and I don’t need a ridiculous amount of wall space for eight plus bookshelves and a piano.
I wear slacks on a regular basis, or maybe even smart blouse and skirt outfits, and pointy-toed heels have magically become not a torture punishment to wear. Also, I am not allergic to almost all perfumes. I remember to get my hair cut at regular intervals. I might actually wear makeup almost every day, and I wouldn’t be caught dead outside without sunscreen on.
I go to happy hours on a regular basis. I drink wine with dinner. I host formal dinner parties. The last book I read was Shades of Gray because all my friends told me I had to read it. I receive women’s magazines in the mail. I send out Christmas cards to everyone I’ve ever known, every year, without fail. And I remember to call them holiday cards.
My edges are all rounded off.
I am not that woman. She only exists in my mind, an amalgam of television ads and eighties sitcom wives and Good Housekeeping covers and mostly overlooked comments and the fifties sensibilities my parents were raised in. Add in the power woman of the workplace with oversized shoulder pads and the collective obsession with female appearance and a good dose of social norms and common hobbies and belief systems that allow us all to coexist with less friction than otherwise.
And there she is, this imaginary woman. Her life isn’t actually simple at all; it sounds quite challenging to be good at everything she is good at, and to keep on top of everything she keeps on top of. Add in a family and a house, and I wonder if she has any time for herself at all. Maybe she is also unlike me in that she doesn’t become a shell of herself on less than eight (seven, absolute minimum) hours of sleep.
What does seem simple about her, though, is that she is exactly what society has told me I should be.
I am who I am, and I live the life I have chosen, and most of the time, I am not just fine with that, but grateful. I mean, yes, I should wear sunscreen more often. And perhaps there would be a kind of comfort in living the life that seven-year-old me was led to expect. But even seven-year-old me wasn’t on board with that life because that’s the year I both started studying the piano and decided I wanted to be a writer. Being a serious artist didn’t ever really fit into the picture I was given.
(Not to say you can’t be a serious artist and also be an amazing cook or be good at keeping the house clean or wear killer blouse and skirt outfits or watch basketball or read three papers a day or be an accountant. People can, and they do. They’re creating their own amazing pictures.)
Here is my picture:
My apartment is filled with books: YA and science fiction and literature and fantasy and travel guides and research materials and sheet music. I can’t imagine living without a piano. The little white dog lies curled up by my chair. I probably need to vacuum.
When I go to happy hours (maybe once a year), I go for the cheap food. I will probably never drink wine with dinner. I have friends over for board games and role-playing games instead of dinner parties, and sometimes I bake brownies for them. I eat out a lot, and I eat frozen dinners a lot of the rest of the time.
I’m wearing jeans, a sparkly sweater, and no makeup. I spend most of my days reading and writing and thinking. I’ve been trying to make more time for practicing music. I love to read novels. I am horrible about sending anything to anyone via post. I’m not athletic and I never go to the gym, but I do love walking my dog and soaking in the world around me. I don’t know the right way to clean a variety of stains, and I don’t know how to use a sewing machine, but I do know how to sew on a button.
I wear glasses, and I have a weird sense of humor, and I’ve never had a traditional salaried job. I like the Vampire Diaries, but I am more than half a season behind on it, and right now I’m rewatching The Gilmore Girls because I like watching Lorelai create her own picture for herself, plus hers includes the really nice blouse and skirt outfits. I daydream about London and New York and Seattle, and Disneyland is still one of my favorite places on the planet.
I try to figure out what it is I actually care about, as opposed to what I’m told I should care about. Sometimes these things are the same, and sometimes they aren’t. Making the distinction can be difficult.
What is your picture?