In yesterday’s unusual Sunday Evening Post I talked a lot about God’s Will and what that means for writers. Even if you aren’t a Christian, the chances are that you’ve been infected–just as many Christians have–by Americitis. And Americitis is a huge problem for most of us.
I’ve only been around since 1970, so any knowledge I have of times before then comes from books and anecdotes. I admit I’m not an expert on life before 1980. But the 1980s and their peculiar zeitgeist seem to have given our Western Hemisphere society this idea that success in life is only measured by two factors: money and fame. If you have one or the other, you’ve been a successful human being. If you have both, you walk the earth like a giant. Without either, you are perceived by many as having been worthless in your time here. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Oprah and others provided a sort of third path and gave people the idea that having children was also a marker for your personal success. So there are a lot of people who find ego refuge and self-respect in the idea that although they are not wealthy and have no measure of fame they have succeeded because they have had children.
I suppose the “have children” thing comes as close to an antidote for Americitis as anything else. Or it did until it was twisted by Americitis and the ego refuge became something different. Having children isn’t enough anymore. You have to have Gifted Children who become wealthy or famous. It’s like you get a little do-over there. And until they grow into gifted genius dot-com millionaires they must have the nicest clothes and cribs and toys. If your five year old does not have an iPad, you are sailing perilously close to the winds of failure.
That’s Americitis. This inability to value humans for their humanity is a problem. When it comes to writers there is only value if you’ve been published. Well, that used to be the threshold. Now the bar has been raised. You have to be published by A Big Publishing House, your book must be a best-seller and you must have more than one best-selling book. Until then you aren’t successful–some would even say you aren’t a writer.
I’ve been a call center agent who verified credit cards in a fraud prevention unit. I’ve worked the Membership Desk at a Sam’s Club. I was a travel agent, a computer programmer for a travel agency, and a freelance researcher for business startups. I was a Marketing Assistant, a Catalog Coordinator, a Licensing Coordinator. I was a freelance desktop publisher and graphic designer for print marketing. These were all jobs that were fun at times, a drag at other times. Some paid well, others did not. I’m still actually owed money from the freelance gigs, but I figure I’ll never see it and chalk it up to lessons learned.
There are a lot of lessons learned from having those less-than-glamourous but necessary types of work. I’ve met many people, most of whom are wonderful, others of who are annoying but all of whom have made me a better person. I’ve learned to not think of myself first all the time. I’ve learned to value people of different faiths, different politics, different sexualities. I’ve learned so much about how to see the world with Holy Spirit eyes instead of eyes blinded by Americitis. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’ve come a long way and it’s thanks to being willing to do the work where God placed me.