Tuesday, May 15, 2007

PDX Night Skyline / Gift Impotence

Hawthorne Bridge over the Willamette River
Portland, Oregon
January 25, 2007
4-second exposure

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Sunday was Mother's Day -- yet another reminder that I am not a good gift-giver.

In my imagination, there are people out there in the world somewhere who love to give gifts, for whom it is a sincere expression of their gratitude and a beautiful reflection of their relationship with the recipient.

Why can't I get into that? For me, gift-giving is a chore, an obligation, an assignment, a test which I will inevitably and embarrassingly fail. I have almost never in my life thought of a thing I really wanted to buy for someone and give to them. If I ever did have a thought like that, it is even more unlikely that it would coincide with a scheduled gift-giving occasion.

Do those perfect gift-giving people actually exist? Or are they the fairies and gnomes of holiday charity, a mythical concept designed to motivate and/or keep in line the charity-less schlubs like me?

As I struggle with this issue, I see an opportunity to highlight some of my finer qualities:

> I am cheap. Spending money is difficult for me, so I do as little of it as possible.

> I am selfish, which is a close cousin of cheapness, my reluctance to give anyone else my money or anything gained by my money. (See also: public radio membership drives.) Also I'm self-centered, so it's hard for me to think of what someone else might want or enjoy. So hard.

> I am disorganized, and I procrastinate. It comes as no surprise, I'm sure, that I wait too long before working on choosing and getting a gift. I should be planning right now for Christmas.

> I am lazy. Thinking of a good gift requires significant effort. And then you have to go get it. And spend money on it?! Bleh!

On the flip-side, I can *always* think of something that *I* want. And while I put-off spending the money on myself, if someone wanted to give it to me as a gift, I would be willing to accept it. As long as I don't have to get up from the couch here. -=-

Monday, May 07, 2007

This Winter Day / Career Planning

December 1, 2006

Another take on that Soft Cream sign I like so much,
taken that deeply foggy day in December. (Like this one.)

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My eldest son asked me the other night, "What did you want to be when you grew up?"

It was a good question. I was disappointed that I didn't have a good answer.

I know how my son answers that question: he plans to be a video game beta-tester. It sounds to him like the perfect job, getting paid to play the latest games. I have what is probably the typical parent reaction: You'd better have something to fall back on.

I told my son that when I was really young I probably told people that I wanted to be a fire-fighter. He knew that was a lame answer and came back with, "But when you were my age, what did you want to be?" The best I could seem to remember was that I liked drawing, and I probably wanted to be a cartoonist. It still felt like a fake answer.

I also remember that there were times I dreamed about being an astronaut -- especially of how cool it would be to float in weightless space. But I started wearing glasses in the sixth grade. And I remember hearing that astronauts had to have perfect vision. I also heard that the grapes at NASA are sour.

What *did* I want to be when I grew up? Maybe I just don't remember what was on my mind at that time. I don't have very clear memories of much of my growing-up years. Mostly foggy impressions, not many vivid movies I can replay in my mind. These days I'm conscious of avoiding the "be when you grow up" question, so as to avoid the impression that career is the most important thing. But back then, that's the question adults most often asked kids, right? So I must have had a stock answer. Either I didn't have an answer, or the answer I was giving didn't leave a lasting impression on me, because it wasn't a deeply-felt and genuine belief. Probably the latter.

Can I blame the generation I grew up in? The pervading, 'Sesame Street' message I absorbed was, "You can be anything you want to be, and do anything you want to do!" [So I guess I wanted to be lazy and self-centered.] That freedom/hippie generation before us reacted against ideas like 'it's your role to follow in the family business, like your father and your grandfather did.' So the pendulum swung hard in the opposite direction. We ended up with a complete lack of guidance and structure. "Be anything you want to be" might work for some people. But really, freedom without structure is chaos.

And now, irony of ironies, one of the things I wish I could do most is what my dad did: photography. OK, I don't really want to follow his path and do the jobs he had. The work he did was mostly on the technical side, and most of the photo-talk I remember hearing from him in those days was about the mechanics and the equipment. But at least he was in the business. And he was always taking photos, mostly as family documentarian but sometimes for hire. So somehow it's closer.

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. But that's OK, because I haven't grown up yet. -=-