Self-Actualization and the Wisdom of Peter Frampton


I should’ve been at a writer’s conference today. For the past couple of years, I have registered for it as soon as registration opened and waited, with great anticipation, to attend. This year, I didn’t. In fact, I missed the deadline altogether. I know this because twinges of regret about not going made me try to register at the last minute. It’s been a difficult year for me as a writer. I’ve written little, struggled to find the desire to write, lost confidence in my ability, and felt overwhelmed by the demands of the job that provides my income. It sucks. There’s nothing that hurts as much as being untrue to yourself. Anyone who’s ever lived a life of denial will tell you that. There’s a line in the song Ophelia by the Lumineers that goes, “I read the script, and the costume fit, so I played my part.” I feel like that’s me. That’s why I went into my current profession – teaching. It fit me, at the time. Look, it’s not like I don’t like what I do…well, I like the idea of what I do, anyway. I take it very seriously. I feel like it’s extremely noble and incredibly important. And it’s not like I don’t pour my heart and soul into it every day, day after day. Still, the intrinsic motivation I feel to give 110% to my job is mostly about my deep feeling of inadequacy…and having something to prove because of it…and my psychological status as a grade A people pleaser. It’s not because it’s my passion, though…and that sucks. My job has been draining every last ounce of my soul lately, because of the aforementioned reasons. Consequently, my passion…my writing…is writhing within me, starving and crying out to my conscious mind.

Okay. I am intensely aware that my plight is a total “first world problem.” I appreciate the things my job has given me – a decent income, health insurance, modest retirement savings. And, yes, my parents got what they wanted for me – for me to do a little better than they did. I got what I wanted, as a single mother, too. I worked my ass off to achieve a modicum of financial stability. I worked full-time while going to college full-time and raising two kids. After living in poverty, my goal was to stand on my own two feet and take care of my kids. I did that. Back then, though, I never once thought I’d find myself in a situation where I was considering what would make me feel fulfilled. I studied Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs in college. For those of you unfamiliar with it, his model details how basic human needs – food, shelter, and safety – take precedence over everything and then other needs like esteem, belonging, and self-actualization follow in that order. Sometimes, but not always, that hierarchy corresponds with the aging process and maturity. I spent a lot of my life trying to meet those basic needs. I am grateful that, thanks to my job, I rarely worry about them anymore. As a result, however, I can’t escape the nagging ache…the pull I now feel…to “self-actualize” and fulfill this burning need to write and only write. I dunno. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling time ticking away. It’s just getting harder and harder to ignore. I have this crazy need to say stuff and a deep belief that the world needs to hear it. I have poems, just below the surface of my emotions, itching to burst forth. I have characters, the voices of whom are getting louder and louder, parading around in my head and demanding that I find an audience for them. I am confounded. I am perplexed. Aaaaand the final stupid thought floating around in this episode of “Hoarders” that is my mind? Peter Frampton’s lyrics, “Ooooh won’t yoooou show me the way?”

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