Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Walking Up the Down Escalator

I've been trying to start the new year right, but as our sentence-of-the-day instructional German calendar reminds me, "Der erste Schritt ist der Schwerste." For example, although I love the idea of the calendar and am thrilled that Skylar wants to learn the foreign language in which I'm most proficient and deeply invested, it bothers me that the pronunciation guide this thing provides consistently deviates sharply from what I regard to be standard German. For a native English speaker like my daughter, the result is an accent that sounds an awful lot like Pennsylvania Dutch. There's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I still find it unsettling.

I am also having trouble getting back into the mode where theoretical speculation comes easy. During the holidays, I found myself shying away from all reading -- exhaustion and an excess of sugar being the likely culprits -- but especially the sort of dense, philosophical prose that normally inspires me to avoid taking the world too superficially. I'm starting to think that my decision to post a piece to Zeek every week, rather than every other week as I had originally proposed, is having a deleterious effect on my mind. I have talked with "real" journalists who bemoan the difficulty of navigating in deeper waters when they have several deadlines each week. Am I suffering the same problem on a timeline that most of them would have regarded as a vacation?

Another struggle involves the resentment that I've had difficulty keeping at bay lately. Although I have long prided myself on the ability to perform "invisible labor" on behalf of people I care about, I suddenly find myself periodically flooded with bad feelings when I think about how much time I've spent doing work that only I will ever be able to quantify in full. While I am happy for the people I have helped, that experience of vicarious pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by a brand of self-loathing, rooted in the conviction that my life would be a hell of a lot better if I'd pursued my own interests with a tenth of the energy with which I promoted those of others.

And then there is the frustration I feel at not being able to make a firm decision about how I want to develop my career as a writer. If I am no longer satisfied doing assignments to assist ventures that seem sure to push me into the margins, what do I wish to pursue instead? I am confident in my ability to craft a variety of sentences, but lack a clear sense of how that repertoire might be collectively mobilized to a single end. I have plenty of ideas, mind you, but am having a terrible time committing to any of them.

Well, that's enough complaining for today. I had considered discussing my more earthy vexations as well, but think it best to continue keeping that part of my life private -- or at least only obliquely public -- for the time being. For one thing, I continue to deem it possible that if I can finally turn the corner and begin doing the work that I value most and for which I am most likely to be valued, the personal challenges I have faced in recent years will eventually fade away. Then again, I once thought it probable, so some of the sea ice on which my external façade secretly floats is starting to rumble. One of the few friends in whom I feel comfortable confiding insists that it's just a matter of time until I find myself on an iceberg cast adrift on the high seas. I don't yet want to agree with that conclusion, but am starting to wonder whether my resistance to entertaining it isn't the source of all my other struggles.
Tags: analysis, everyday

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