Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What To Say

I like going to parties. I like to meet new people. After a bit of back and forth, the person I have just met asks what I do. I'm not upset about it. I do the same thing.

For 15 years I had something crisp to say. I'm a freelance still life photographer. I work for magazines, design firms and ad agencies.

Then that line of work no longer fit.

For another several years, I worked for another photographer. He shoots these exquisite portraits and I helped with the behind the scenes work.

My what do you do conversations became a bit more complicated. It wasn't as tidy. It became a tangent of this work, taking care of my kids and various volunteering.

Then I stopped working for money. I work very hard. Just not for a paycheck.

All children need their parents. Some kids need extra.

Because of this, I have an impressive laundry list of skills. I enjoy doing these things a lot, and feel a deep sense of competence. At some point, I may promote these skill sets and start a business. That business will have a name and a short description. Then it will be easier to talk about myself at parties.

This is a possible plan for the future. It doesn't do anything for me now.

If someone asked me today, I could say that I am amassing skills that I plan to monetize later. That actually sounds pretty good. I might even say that the next time I meet someone.

I am reading a book. There is nothing to say except that this book is incredible. Right after I started it, the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates won a McArthur Grant. The name of the book is BetweenThe World And Me. I consider it required reading for everyone.

There is a part of the book that had resonance with me in a way I didn't expect. For most of the book I am being schooled about racism and things I don't already know on account of my being white. This one small piece took me in a different direction.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is at a party. People ask him what he does. He said that he's trying to be a writer. Then later in the book he feels entitled to just say that he is a writer. He gets rid of the trying part - somewhat tentatively. That is how I remember it anyway.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and I have lived very different lives. My white privilege follows me everywhere. That is mostly what I think about when I think about this book.

But I also think about that one little part. This author would probably be surprised but he sort of helped me out with the party question.

Not everyone who gets asked the party question feels confident in the answer. It always feels like everyone else has something compact and easy to say. But that isn't so.

I wear a lot of hats. But I also do one hell of a lot of writing and photography. I'm seriously prolific even though I am not holed up somewhere at an artist colony. I'm writing this while multitasking.

I can say that I'm a writer and a photographer. Or at least trying to be. Or the other thing about amassing skills and monetizing them later.

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