Thursday, January 28, 2010

As a history buff, I find myself frequently caught up in history books or biographies about kings and presidents and the like. I've just finished one biography of Anne Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir and I've just started another The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn but Eric Ives.

The Weir book is highly readable and provides insight into the rise and fall of the most famous consort of them all. The Ives book is already proving more scholarly, with endless footnotes that cite sources in Latin and such. But both books (and, surprisingly, the Showtime sex-and-blood-filled series The Tudors) have made me realize in a new way something which I have long ago acknowledged about myself. I have no ambition.

Now mind you, I do have ambitionS (plural). I'd like to write a novel. I'd like to buy a house someday. That sort of thing. But I have no ambition about the acquisition of power. I look at stories like Anne Boleyn's and I thank god that I live in the 21st century where my father couldn't marry me off for political reasons or, worse, whore me out in the quest to win king's favor. But I would never have the ambition to push myself into positions of authority just to flatter my ego and to have power over others.

I cannot imagine selling out my beliefs, morals, and self-respect in return for a title or a manor house. I can't imagine giving up life in a quiet setting with someone I love in favor of non-stop scrutiny, malicious gossip, and a naked scrambling for power that has friend turning on friend and families divided. I just don't possess that kind of ambition.

The Boleyns seem to have turned ambition into the family business. Anne's father, Thomas, was a noted courtier who learned how to play the game and earn his way into the inner circle. Along the way he pushed not just one, but two daughters into the path of Henry VIII in the hopes of currying favor. It worked. Anne's sister, Mary was Henry's mistress for a while (and rumor has it Mary also had an affair with King Francis of France and Burgundy). In fact, one of the excuses Henry had for declaring his marriage to Anne null and void was that he had had an affair with a close blood relative of his wife's and, therefore, the marriage was incestuous and against the laws of the church.

Anne herself became a willing participant in the ambition game, and seemed to have done a good job of stringing Henry along with the right amount of seduction and refusal to keep his interest for six years before they married. While queen she happily used her position to reward her brother and other family members but along the way alienated people with her high-handedness. It was the alienated ones that eventually got their revenge on Queen Anne.

All this lust for power is completely out of my scope of feeling. I know many people who have ambition. Who are willing to sacrifice family life in order to earn a bigger salary or a more important job title. I have known people who are total ass-kissing yes-men because that's what gets the rewards. How can you live with yourself when you're like that? Is it all worth it in the end.

I know I'm weird. I have quit two extremely well paying jobs because I was either bored or I hate the work/people/or atmosphere. I just wasn't willing to give up liking who I was in order to keep making six figures. So now I'm earning no money, have no job title, no fancy office, no sexy career. I had that. I worked for Apple, one of the sexiest companies around. But I was miserable. And now I'm incredibly happy. Why? Because I, apparently, have no ambition.

1 comment:

FinnyKnits said...

I think what you're doing now is more ambitious than working for a company that doesn't fulfill your life's desires.

It takes ambition and bravery to step away from the paycheck and toward those things that make you truly happy.

In fact, Bubba and I have discussed what it would take to get us to a place where we could do the job hand-off that y'all do, so that we could individually seek out our soul's desire beyond the confines of work.

I may be asking for tips some day.