Monday, September 2, 2013

The Art of Being Squidward

Spongebob has been on TV since I was 11, but I never really watched the show until I was about 22 or 23 (mostly due to not having cable/satellite until I was that age). I don't remember exactly how it happened, but suddenly the TV was on Nick and there were sponges and starfish and crabs and squirrels and *echo-y voice* Alaskan Bull Wormsssss. Most of the characters seemed a little over-the-top, but there was one in particular with whom I really felt a connection. Squidward.

My friends in middle school used to tease me about being a Squidward but, having never seen the show, I didn't really get the reference. Ten years later, I realized it was probably because I played the clarinet in band, watched public television almost exclusively (I ended up interning at the local PBS station for nearly two years in college), preferred peace and quiet, and was probably (more than) a little cynical about, um, everything. (Or maybe it was just because I have a larger nose. I'm gonna pretend it's because of all the other stuff.)

Tootin' away (source)
A comic by Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes) on Tumblr the other day reminded me a little bit of Squidward. The strip was rather inspirational--which I suppose most would think is very un-Squidward--but included a bit about how someone who "takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake." (Just read the whole thing here. It's short.) And that quote reminded me of something Squidward says to Spongebob in one episode while working at the Krusty Krab: "In case you've forgotten, here's how things work. I order the food, you cook the food, then the customer gets the food. We do that for 40 years and then we die."

The quote is probably meant to be depressingly funny, but I think it ties in with what Watterson is trying to say. In this light, Squidward is a bit of a hero. Yeah, he has a crappy day job, but the show also makes it clear he has many hobbies--clarinet, painting, dance, public television. And because he doesn't take work home every night, he has time to pursue those hobbies (until Spongebob starts annoying him, at least). I think that's pretty admirable and, well, it sounds pretty damn good to me right now at this point in my life.

I've had more opportunities come my way in the past two weeks than probably in the past two years. Most of these opportunities have been based in creativity and, while they would be fun, I've recognized they would ultimately take away from the things in my life I really want to be creative with in what spare time I have. I've declined some speaking opportunities and meetings and, last week, I turned down a really big opportunity that would've sent me jetting off at the end of the month.

I wish I could do it all, but the older I get the more I realize that's just impossible. I do have a creative limit. My mind is like a pitcher full of creative juices, and I can either use that to fill up the few glasses I want, or else pour smaller amounts into many glasses. (There's also the matter of my health right now, which definitely makes my pitcher a little less full than usual, unfortunately.) Ultimately, there are projects in my life that are more current and that I want to grow creatively and that bring me happiness, and I don't want them to suffer because I'm being zapped by other things. I rather do a few things really well, rather than try to do everything and have it all turn out like shit.

And yeah, I guess the money I could've made taking some of those opportunities would've been nice, but I've also come to realize my personal time should be measured in happiness instead of monetarily (and the two don't always coincide). Plus, once a spare time activity starts paying, it can sometimes turn out feeling much more like work instead of fun. Before you know it, you're working during the day and coming home and working even more. Of course, I'm not saying it's not nice to make money from your hobbies. I think it's just a matter of discovering whether or not that turns them into "work" for you and deciding whether or not it distracts you from the reasons you find them fun.

To further prove this point (or as much as one can prove a point with cartoon characters), there's an episode of Spongebob where Squidward's everyday life does become his hobbies, and he moves into a development where clarinet playing and dancing (and all the other things) become routine. And I think this gif will show you how Squidward eventually came to feel about that:

Obviously, "work" doesn't always mean "not fun." In an ideal world, we'd all get paid for doing whatever we find most enjoyable. I just don't think anyone would be willing to pay me for playing copious amounts of Animal Crossing right now. I could very well even have lots of fun at work in a Squidward-esque job. People and work conditions and other things all factor into that.

And this isn't to say I'm not open to new adventures, either. I think it's just a matter of finding the right ones I deem appropriate to fit into my spare time, and I think Squidward would agree. Granted, I don't currently have a day job where I can zone out quite like Squidward's position at the Krusty Krab, but I also don't think there's anything wrong with dreaming of having such a job so I can keep doing what I enjoy in my own time. I've got a lot more videos to film and things to write about and raps to make with my friend, Sam, and video games to play and, yes, even more public television to watch.

I'm not entirely sure this entry does a very good job of connecting the first half and the second half of what I'm trying to say. In fact, the more times I read over what I've written, the less sense it makes. This whole thing just seems to be a big pile of thought vomit stemming partially from that Watterson comic and partially from that blog I wrote a few days back mentioning some options I have in life ("A Decision"). But what's great is this is my blog and I can make as little sense as I please. You probably shouldn't be taking the ramblings of some 25-year-old who's hopped up on meds too seriously anyway, especially when he's attempting to find a connection to a character in Spongebob. Perhaps Squidward can sum up your thoughts about this entry right now as well:

(I should also mention I'm not hating on people who have jobs they do take home with them. Thank goodness we have people in this world who are willing to do those and who do them well and are fulfilled by that sort of thing. That's fabulous. I just needed to add that on because, you know, sometimes people misinterpret what you say on the Internet. Shocking, I know.)