Tag Archives: Guilt

My Guilty Passion

5 Jul

As I sit down to write this post, I feel guilty. I feel guilty about writing.

I realised that I felt guilty about writing almost a year ago, when choosing a career path for the first time and thinking about what it was that prevented me from giving myself to the activity that I love most of all.

From a young age, I had been taught many things about life and work from the adults around me. These things include:

1) All normal people have a 9-5 job.

2) Working longer hours than everyone else actually signifies that you are talented and/or important.

3) No one ever really enjoys their job.

4) A job is a way to earn money. Having fun while we’re at it? That’s just a child’s naivety.

5) We have to pick our career path at college, study hard for it at university and become a specialist in our field by our 30s.

6) Career changes are for undecided, unmotivated people.

7) Being ‘unsure’ is almost equivalent to being a failure.

8 ) Productivity is respectful, creativity is laziness.

9) A respectful person is one who works hard, sacrifices himself at work for his family and never ever complains about his job.

10) It is selfish to choose a career that brings little money simply because one ‘enjoys’ it. Instead, one should choose a career that guarantees security and stability in order to be able to support family and be ready for any unforeseen events/circumstances.

11) Only those who have ‘achieved’ something are those who are worthy.

As you can see, writing doesn’t really come anywhere into this. As a teenager I would only write in my ‘free’ time: after I’d finished my homework, during the summer holidays or late into the night. At all other times, there were more ‘important’ things to do: revise for exams, practise my musical instruments, help with the housework, babysit…I felt guilty about spending so much time in my day doing an activity with no ‘purpose’ or no visible results. I had been taught to always do useful things first and use any remaining time for rest or play. (But if we only ever do what is useful, will we ever have any time to do what is fun?)

Despite having pinpointed the thing that prevented me from dedicating myself to writing, I continue to have feelings of guilt. Few of my friends are in the creative field; when I say “I spent a whole afternoon writing”, only one or two will sympathise in replying “Ah, I know how you feel. I spent the day painting a beautiful park”. Since moving to my new country, with a calmer, slower lifestyle, I feel almost embarrassed to tell my friends that ‘what I do all day’ is work, go for walks, ride my bike and write. This answer never seems to be satisfactory and I only receive a nod, or an “OK..”, or further questions starting with “But do you not go/do/see….”.

In their late-thirties, both my mum and her best friend had drastic career changes. They took evening classes, sat exams and started from scratch. After their final exam, my mum’s friend said something that has stuck with me since, and that has perhaps been a reason for most of the writing activities I have done in the past few years. She said “Do what you love now. There’s no point in wasting time and settling for something else. In the end, you’ll end up going back to the thing you love, anyway.”

Torn between doing what I truly love and doing something ‘respectful’ I ask myself: did Dostoevsky, Hugo or Shakespeare ever feel guilty about writing? If so, they were damn right to laugh, spit and stomp on guilt’s face!