The rocket of the self


To a sub-hypomanic aspiring polymath like me, life is an arcing parade of aspirations, goals, and might-have beens — other identities that never quite came to fruition or were discarded before being allowed to develop.  But lest such a notion come off as entirely depressing, let’s regard this possibility as not as any sort of evidence of lifelong disappointment but instead as the proud contrail of a personality — a rocket of the self, that must burn up the raw fuel of other potential selves and shoot them out at the world in a great arc while the true self lurks always just beyond the horizon of understanding.

All of which is to say I’m now going to make a list of all of the things I once wanted to be when I grew up.  I’ll go back as far as I can people:

  • at age 3 I began to wish I were an opera singer — I used to wear a towel as a cape and sing at the TV (that explains a few things.)
  • I wanted to be a car wash attendant … or so the grainy photographic evidence would suggest
  • From quite early on (I was born in Europe to American parents and would sometimes fly over the Atlantic as a little kid) I wished to be a commercial aircraft pilot
  • I wanted to be a policeman for about two days in elementary school.
  • As a young teenager I wanted to be Gary Gygax (inventor of Dungeons & Dragons) or a similarly famous RPG designer.
  • I wanted to be a doctor, because I though it was respectable.
  • I wanted to be a PhD in something and teach that thing.  Maybe it’s because my father did this.
  • I wanted to be a historian.
  • Also, a philosopher.  My role model was Bertrand Russell, also David Hume.  Now there was a real philosopher.
  • I wanted to play the following sports (in order of when I wanted this and the intensity of the desire:) hockey, baseball, soccer.
  • I wanted to be a cook.
  • I wanted to be a Republican Senator.
  • I wanted to be a US Marine.
  • I wanted to be a famous writer (emphasis on famous.)
  • I wanted to be all of the following kinds of musicians (and to be fair I actually was some of them if that counts): classical pianist, blues pianist, jazz pianist,  electronic producer, composer of musicals.
  • I wanted to be a poet.  I did this for a while but my poetry became lost and/or wasn’t any good.
  • I wanted to be a civil rights attorney, a intellectual property attorney and/or an immigration attorney.  I’m sometimes told by others that I would have made a good attorney.
  • I wanted to start a nonprofit organization (mission undefined — once I find a mission I might still do this)
  • I wanted to be an actor
  • I wanted to be a software developer.  Mission accomplished on that one.
  • I still (despite what Dorian Corey might say) want to change the world in some way.
The rocket of the self

Mania: a short reading list

My family is no stranger to mania.  It’s killed or threatened at least one of us in the last three generations, and along with a corresponding (and perhaps causally related) tendency towards addiction of various flavors, it’s ruined and altered lives, both of those it has directly affected, and those who have had to live along side the manics of our strange clan.  Here are a few books related (some tangentially, most directly) to mania and its causes.  Each has helped me understand this disease from a slightly different angle.

Kay Jamison, a psychiatrist, found herself descending into mania and depression.  An Unquiet Mind is her story.
Marbles:  Ellen Furney’s amazing graphic novel about her journey with depression and mania.
While the City Slept, Eli Sanders’ book about the murder of Teresa Butz and the undiagnosed wasted life of her killer, Isaiah Kalebu
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Playing the Manic game — it’s an academic paper, but it’s a must read for anyone who loves someone with mania.



Mania: a short reading list