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I attended a career seminar yesterday for Psychology Majors. There, I learned all of the “transferrable skills” that I would gain by majoring in psych. Here’s a few: “Ability to communicate and present ideas and information, ability to understand and improve human relationships, ability to promote healthy relationships, concern and sensitivity for others, decision making, empathy, evaluates personal problems and makes appropriate decisions, good listener, insight to deal effectively with people, problem solving…” etc. And as I was going down the list, I began to think to myself… I can already do all of this shit. What am I wasting my time for? Oh, but Zack, don’t be silly! You’re here to get the degree, so you can get the next degree, and then the culminating degree. And then, you can charge more money for your transferrable skills that you have mastered by majoring in psychology. Right? Or is it the prestige? To be able to say I got a degree from a top-notch university, and then another degree from another one, and blah blah blah. It’s table talk then. Is that it? To be able to impress my future wife’s parents? Or to be able to say UC Berkeley when I run into old acquaintances?

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe I’m just taking the next right action. Get my shit together, get a job, go back to school, then transfer to a University. It was just the next step in the assembly line of Zack. This is just one foot in front of the other. The truth of the matter is, I just don’t know. If I had some unbridled passion for something, or some grand purpose, I think all of this would be easier. I’ve often envied people where this was the case. A few years back, I went to see a jazz show at the Jazz Bakery in LA. Afterwards, the guy on the bass guitar was outside smoking a cigarette, and my friends and I approached him to let him know we loved the show. We got to asking him questions, of course, about how he got into it, how long he’d been playing, etc. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, “Well, you know, I always say I came outta my mom with a bass. Ha! I tell ya boy, long as I can remember, all I’ve wanted to do was just play the bass. Ever since the first time I picked it up, held that bass in my hands, felt the strings under my fingertips…. I knew. I mean, what else in life is there?”

And I remember looking at the dude and being so jealous. To have that passion for something, and know it in your bones. And what else in life is there? Well, that’s definitely not my story. I used to think that writing was my unbridled passion. I’ve even had a couple esteemed writers tell me, “Zack, you’re a writer. There’s nothing you can do about it. Writers are chosen, they don’t choose. Just wait. You’ll see….” And I’ve been waiting. Trust me.

A guy I used to write with, Jack, a mentor of mine, he definitely knows. Writing is it for him. Every wall in his house is lined with bookshelves. He’s got his books organized into his own library. Different time periods, different genres, authors, text books, you name it. Thousands of books. His office, where we used to write, is scattered with drafts, revisions, post-its, poetry, more stuff to edit. He teaches a writing class, he edits for a publishing company, he writes plays, he writes essays, he writes poetry, he writes critiques, he recites Shakespeare and quotes Faulkner. He knows what he is. He’s a writer. That’s his craft. And he’s completely devoted to it. Me, I don’t know what I am. I know that I’m passionate about a lot of things. But I’m not completely devoted to any of them, I don’t think.

And for me, my practice is to learn to be okay with that. For right now, I’m a psychology major at UC Berkeley, getting adept at a list of transferrable skills. I guess, no matter if you have that unbridled and hopelessly-devoted-to passion or not, the real challenge is to have passion for the moment. This moment, right now; whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. And you know, come to think of it, I’m not too bad at that. I may not find that one task that defines me, to be able to say, “and what else in life is there?” than that one thing. But, like a writer, I suppose, I can find meaning and beauty in the every day repetition… in the smiles. Because, at the end of the day, when I put my head on the pillow, it doesn’t matter whether I’m a psychology major, or a writer with a library for a living room, or a personal trainer, or an academic, or a therapist, or a bass guitarist, or what transferrable skills I have. We start each day with a blank page. Today, I’m happy with the words that fill the margins. And what else in life is there?


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