California · Congo · Memorable words · Movies

authenticity

The months that have slowly stretched, like a lazy confused cat, between January and August have been leading to a decision on my part. January is when I was laid off from my job with Disney, and I went from having the title of  “Associate International Localization Producer” to a more nondescript status as a “student”.

I could say this existential period of going from one job to another job, trying to see myself as a project manager, localization producer, document analyst, NGO administrative assistant, Parisian, Angelino has been going on for a while, more specifically since after college. I’ve always managed to be useful and productive in my search for the career, or the field, or the job, or the place I needed to live in. I think it’s fair to say I’ve given each chapter its fair trial and have really believed in each of my moves. I’ve tried to fit in, tried to find my place every time. I don’t think I’ve come to any conclusion, but along the way I’ve crossed some things off my list.

To quote U2 I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, and I’m still searching. We’re in mid-August and I haven’t signed up for any new classes at Pasadena Community College. I’m working through each day, getting up, making my bed, cooking all my meals, starting a regimen of going for walks in the evening when the oppressive semi-arid desert heat lets up a little and the birds squeal of contentment. This is a familiar state of mind for me: the evaluation of the leaving possibility.

I need a job and I don’t want to get a corporate job in the US, which is what my resume currently would point towards. I don’t want to spend productive days in school studying various classes, three-quarters of which will end up being disappointing or the wrong direction for me to go in. I’m thinking of spending three months in Congo, working on three or four different projects. A personal writing project about my country, teaching art in the elementary classes of our school, possibly teaching English at our language center, and working with my father on his museum project.

I’ve been watching old masterpieces lately, Hitchcock, Film Noir, Katharine Hepburn and lined up a few silent movies too. I’m working through a mini-list I’ve been keeping in my head. Yesterday I saw a Film Noir must-see:  the 1944 Laura with a favorite actor of mine, vitriolic deadpan Clifton Webb, who has a line in the movie that I find authentic and courageous and absolutely hilarious. (He’s Lydecker and being interrogated by Detective McPherson, played by Dana Andrews, handsome devil):

Lydecker: McPherson, you won’t understand this. But I tried to become the kindest, the gentlest, the most sympathetic man in the world.
McPherson: Have any luck?
Lydecker: Let me put it this way. I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbors’ children devoured by wolves. Shall we go?

I’m figuring it out, too. I’m trying to hit that note of authenticity in my own life, and I’ve not been taking the task lightly. But I grew up in Congo, in between a father’s middle eastern culture and a mother’s French culture binded by a shared Baha’i culture, bathed in Congolese culture. I grew up traveling constantly, and those were my formative years. I have a trunk of personal journals and letters dating back to when I was 8 where I’m still trying to find my place and figure out my life. Options for careers go from Lion Tamer to Policewoman and teacher. My list has changed over the years but I still add those three at the top for old time’s sake.

Maybe some people aren’t meant to settle down and have an apartment, and a career and formal education. The times when I feel most myself have never been when I’ve been in that exact situation, and I have tried very hard to stay in this situation. I’ve hung on longer than I should have been able to, in jobs and cities that were not a good fit for me and I am trying to learn from those experiences. It’s awkward to see this written down, but maybe I need the adventure and the crazy unpredictability of Congo, with a ton of different responsibilities in order to find my path, maybe even find myself. It’s almost the only thing right now that keeps me from feeling like I’m withering away into nothingness.

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