all information is good information

I’ve been thinking lately about how restaurant industry people have a terrible reputation, both in terms of general attitude and propensity to party. I have been thinking about it because every time I tell my bar coworkers stories about my ‘creative’ friends, they’re like ….what the actual fuck. Who are these people. 

After the retelling of a particularly harrowing interpersonal tale, my old British bartender Phil just looks at me and says: “That guy is crazy.” He said more but I’ll refrain so you will have no idea which of the men I interact with my beloved bartender referred to as crazy. It was funny in the moment, but it was also a little shocking—not because calling someone crazy is such an egregious insult, of course it isn’t, it’s just that he was so quickly able to read a situation that I’d been through and yet was still having trouble parsing. I don’t even know that I think the situation or person in question IS crazy, at least more so than I myself am insane. 

I appreciate the cold reads that my industry people have on all the other people I know, because I’m not so good at assessing people clinically. I think about how I feel around them, I think about what we talk about and what they say to me and I analyze the way they interact with the world, but I generally don’t get judgmental until someone has crossed a certain threshold of poor behavior. That threshold is, uh, a bit farther along on the spectrum than is perhaps healthy for me. 

I’ve been worried lately that I’m not really getting anything out of therapy, and every time I have that thought I end up in a conversation with a friend who tells me something that is more insightful and better advice than my therapist has ever given me. But I love my therapist! But back to friends:

“I know this means fundamentally changing who you are as a person, but I need you to get better at protecting yourself.” 

I can’t disagree. There’s a time in my life when I would have gone on a discourse about how being open and vulnerable is good and tenderness and the way of grace, but I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s not that I necessarily think it’s false, I just don’t know and I don’t want to invest my energy in having a specific systemic belief about how best to interact with people and the world. 

She’s a better person than me, my friend. When I tell her stories of people who upset me, she’s sympathetic but she tries to get me to understand their side of the story in a way that is illuminating without negating my pain. She tries to get me away from the people who are forces for destruction. And she’s mean! I love it. A few months ago she said to me, “My opinion of you lowers every time you talk about him, to see you so hung up on someone who doesn’t deserve your respect makes me question the person I believe you to be.” It was so harsh but it was so important. I get so caught up, I need someone to tell me what it looks like from the outside.

I was complaining yesterday about how annoying it is to have so many friends who pay attention to my social media shitposting, particularly on twitter, because it makes me censor myself in a way that I never had to bother to do on that particular platform, or when writing in a personal blog. Trying to write about your life knowing that others will read it can bring a transcendent level of understanding to a situation, but I've had to accept in the past, say, two years, that there are hard limits that I won't, can't cross. I value loyalty more than transparency. But still, I think about the way I wrote about my interactions with Californian, what, three years ago? Knowing he would never google me, and knowing that writing about my feelings towards him had no impact on his life. I miss that freedom. 

Theoretically I could say his name now, there’s no way anyone will ever find him. He’s so incredibly offline, which is strange for me now that everyone I interact with is so very very logged on—but it was strange at the time too. I’m going to refrain from making any sort of commentary on whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ that there’s this meta-universe of social media now, because it just exists. I never want to hear another diatribe on it, it’s just pointless. 

But yes, it felt odd even at the time that he was so untethered to anything I could trace. That being said, I’ll still refer to him as the Californian—I respect his privacy of course, and it’s a fun Jonathan Franzen joke, and it’s the past. It’s relevant in that it’s my history, but I no longer think of him as a named recurring character. That gun has gone off too many times. There’s a point where you have to accept that the enrichment someone offered your life, and vice versa, is over. The way we dragged it out was not necessarily damaging, it just reached the point where it was silly. I’d be snapping him pictures of my boobs while working on a book review. He’d ask me to retell things that happened two fucking years ago. There are only so many stories. 

I remember earlier this year when I first started really hanging out with other writers frequently, I would get anxious at the outset, but once I started talking to people it was always very easy and I wouldn’t get stressed, it was just like a parade of potential. I always wanted to feel more comfortable and know more than say, one face in a room, but now that I know many faces in many rooms it comes with it’s own set of difficulties.

It’s the context that builds when you see the same people everywhere, I guess. And I love that context, it’s the stone of any social experience, but it’s hard. There’s so many things to be mindful of, and I don’t want to be paying attention constantly.

And yet insofar as I complain about the emotional toll of the context, the prospect of entanglements, romantic or platonic, without any context becomes increasingly meaningless and boring to me. There’s a guy who I was seeing for a little while in the summer who’s attempting to reappear, texting me a few times a week seeing if I’m around, and I have no ill will against him, I’ll probably put aside my malaise and get it together to see him soon, but the fact that he just exists as an amoeba with no connection to the rest of my life makes him seem boring, not attractive. 

I think my younger self would laugh in my face at the way I complain about the men who pursue me. She had been pursued never so didn’t have any conception of how it can be so meaningless and frustrating when it’s not coming from a source that you value. I still have so much sympathy for young me since her and I still share so many of the same questions about the habits of the general population, which I still feel very separate from. 

I was at a friend’s house the other night after we were out at the bars and she brought a guy I’ve expressed interest in before. There weren’t many of us there, and he and I paired off fairly quickly with the usual flirty touching and whatever, eye contact. It was so easy, and not stressful. I used to spend so much time questioning whether or not men were attracted to me, and it’s strange to not really have to do that anymore. Of course, in that problem’s place all the other problems with trying to create intimate connection between two lives full of their own context arise. And back again to: problems one can’t write about publicly. 

Last year around this time I was joking with one of my old professor homies because she posted an article about a certain area of study and I sent her one on the same area of study by someone I was sleeping with. I told her as much—people always think it’s weird when i say things like this, but my professors were, are, my friends. And c’mon, it’s funny! When I said “too much information?” She said, “All information is good information.”

The more time that passes the more I believe this. You’re entitled to having a base of knowledge about a situation before you involve yourself in it, so you can decide if you want to proceed. As a not very private person I know it could seem irrelevant or self serving for me to say that, but I think it’s actually a separate issue to your own standards of modesty. If you’re asking other people to be even minority involved in your life, they deserve the basic knowledge of what that does or doesn’t mean. The only way to attain an equal playing field is through the transmission of information. 

So yes, I personally believe that means freely offering the information that people you're choosing to interact with need in order to make decisions. Women have been trained to shield so much about ourselves, and the women’s work I love the most is the work that removes that shield and works to display the context that makes up a story and a life artfully and with grace, no matter what the content itself is. 

Sometimes when I read a book like this I end up so engaged that I start to feel in the mindset of the author, and have to remind myself of the differences. I just read How to Murder Your Life, and Cat Marnell is such a beautiful shitshow, and everything is just a mess and I’d stop reading and think like oh yes I totally get this, I’m a mess too!

I make a lot of jokes on soc meds and in real life about not having my shit together, and I think those jokes are funny so I will probably continue to make them, but as soon as I’d be like hell yeah Cat, shitshow sisters, I’d step back and look at my life and think, wow, my shit is pretty much together. I make good money from several steady sources, I’m responsible in my jobs and my personal life. My art is on the exact path that I want it to be on, to the point where I don’t really even get anxious about it anymore, which is huge. I rarely feel like I’m at risk of truly fucking anything up. I worry about the effect that the mad outer world will have on my ability to sustain a stable life, of course, but if it were left up to only me I would not be worried at all. 

If anything, I think that the restaurant industry has shown me how deep my ability to be a dedicated and responsible person is. At the type of jobs I have, there is no room whatsoever for fucking up. There is no leniency. I’ve had to train myself to be dedicated to something that is, in terms of belief, so irrelevant to me as to almost be antithetical. And then I think, imagine what I could do with that level of dedication and structure, instead of giving it to a system that I generally abhor but utilize for it’s financial stability, imagine if I could give that to a person, to a life with a person. It would be beautiful. 

 

to fund your future idiocy

I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not going to talk about the news at all, but rest assured I am freaking out about the news both International and domestic at nearly every moment of the day, but I know for me personally it really escalates my anxiety to read other laypeople speculating about the future implications of the current horrors at home and abroad, and I don’t want to inflict that on y’all since I know I’m predisposed to anxiety, paranoia, and alarmism. But rest assured I’m freaking out! So instead I’m going to do something other than refreshing google news which is talk about my life.

Last night I was drinking with some friends at one of the friends uncles apartment because the uncle is out of town. It was a very old man chic Greenpoint apartment with weird adult furniture like footrests and massive quirky collections of books and music. It was raining but we stayed outside in the backyard for a while anyway, until the rain started seeping through the patio umbrella and into our drinks. Then we went inside to sit on the weird adult furniture.

At one point someone goes “Do you ever think about what it’ll be like to look back on your youth and be like ‘wow I hung out with the New York creative scene of the twenty teens?” I refrained from saying “No because I don’t know if we’ll live that long” (I’m trying to be less fatalistic because I don’t think it’s productive or good for anyone’s anxiety.)

Then someone said “Yeah like are we going to talk about knowing XXXX way back when?!” 

Of course I interrupted here to joke, “No, you’ll be saying we knew Becca Schuh way back when,” because I’m an asshole. But it qualifies as a joke because I’ve accepted that I don’t have the mass appeal to be a famous writer because I don’t have any expertise to make it as a journalist or any universal social lessons to impart as a novelist, so I’ve settled for ‘niche appreciation’ as an achievable goal. 

Then we ate kielbasa sandwiches and finished the grapefruit rosé and switched to Tito’s, because luckily I’m only friends with fellow drinking masochists. We talked about Sleep No More for at least thirty minutes and then gossiped for an immeasurable amount of time because gossip knows no time constraints and then it was two am and I for one had to go home because ya girl still stays out till two when she has to open the stupid bar at 10:30 am the next day. 

I was happy though, so happy during that night to be ensconced in a room with people just chattering and drinking and talking shit. It’s not that I’m unhappy normally, I love hanging out alone and reading and writing and editing and whatever else I do on a daily basis, but it’s just very nice to be surrounded by humans once in a while. 

Today while at work battling my hangover I had conversations with two of the friends present at said gathering recapping conversations had the previous night, and I didn’t realize it at the time but remembered later that this is one of my favorite activities. Recapping social situations a day later is it’s own social situation, the esteemed alternative college graduate says from her pulpit. 

Other than sneaking off to the bathroom to text, work was very boring, very slow. After work I went to Central Park to meet another writer who I guess is into befriending me. I wanted to have an hour between work and hanging out with her because I get overwhelmed when I have so many hours that aren’t just me and my thoughts (work is too much outer focus to count as me and my thoughts time) but then I stuck around work drinking a beer and texting so I had to go straight to meet her and was still late.

It was nice though, other than seeing a play a few months ago I hadn’t been to Central Park since last fall, aka fucking up hardcore. It’s such a lovely place to lounge! We had a nice time but it was refreshing to be alone when I headed home. 

Thinking back, there are only a few people I’ve met since college who I’ve been able to hang out with for more than an hour or two without getting overwhelmed and stressed out. Maybe two friends from Hash. The two guys I dated, unfortunately, gross. Bri, of course. And then a few from restaurants here. I have some new writer friends who I think it would be nice to spend that much time with and I think I’d be okay but we haven’t done it yet because that’s weird, you know, if I were to be like “Hey I don’t really like hanging out with people for more than two hours but I think I’d like hanging out with YOU for more than two hours so shall we give it a go?”

I’m going to start calling these post-bac friends, people who have graduated from casual friendship and seem to be interested in the inner sanctum which is FRIENDS FOR LIFE, (like all my college pals sorry guys it’s too late to escape.) 

When I got home from the park I went grocery shopping and bought some things that a normal person might use to make meals, i.e. greens and mushrooms and frozen vegetables and eggs and shit like that. I haven’t cooked really at all since I got really depressed in San Diego while in a problematic non-relationship, and stopped preparing food as I don’t know an act of resistance to couples making food. (It was more complicated than that, obviously lol) I’ve never really got back into it but I’m going on an international trip in October, my first since I traveled in 2013, and thus I need to actually figure out how to conserve some spending.

In the interest of being transparent about money, I’d like to explain how I’m affording to go to Italy for this writing workshop (which I am very excited about and rest assured I will speak about it much once it happens.) When I decided to move to New York, I set a goal that I would save $10,000 before I departed San Diego. I was able to do this in about seven months because I was working at a very popular brunch restaurant, where I had basically limitless ability to pick up shifts. I generally worked six days a week, sometimes seven—my record was working thirteen days in a row. In California the server minimum wage is $9 an hour and I always worked over fifty hours per week. So I’d get a weekly paycheck around $200, as well as anywhere between $150-$250 per day in tips. So, on average, I was netting $1000 per week. My rent was still high (about the same as it is here) and I still did the normal stupid shit I do like drink a lot and eat bougie food, but from March to when I moved in September I saved $12000. 

When I got to New York in October, I got a job right away but it didn’t start until December, so I had a period of time where I could burn through cash knowing that money was coming in soon. I’d say in those first two months I spent about $5000 between securing apartment, rent, being new to the city, etc.

I’d just started saving again when I left High Street for mental health and insane GM reasons, so my savings account was sitting at around $7000. Which is to say, all of my savings were from the months that I worked nonstop in San Diego. It’s still insane to me that such a short period of time enabled me to jump start the life I have here and provide a backbone that made me feel like it was not a life-ending decision to leave a job like High Street.

In the past year and almost a half, I’ve been making enough money to pay rent, goon around a a bit, etc, but I'm always worrying about money and certainly not saving it. I stopped taking writing classes and buying clothes and books and well I still drink but alas going out is like the only thing that keeps me from constantly staring at the news. When I got the opportunity to go to this workshop in Italy, initially of course I said I can’t afford it—if I’m not making enough money to even afford like, twenty dollars a month in my savings account, how could I justify a trip abroad?

And then I started thinking about the whole health care fiasco pretty much nonstop. I mean, duh, what else could anyone think about all summer. And I thought wow good thing I have some meager savings in case I ever get sick!

And then I spent my days reading the terrible stories of what healthcare costs if you don’t have insurance, and I laughed at my naivety of a week prior. If I lose my insurance and get sick, not just my tiny savings account, but any assets I theoretically would have to my name as well as the assets of anyone in my immediate family would obviously be promptly liquidated. There’s nothing a fucking waitress can do to financially prepare for that nightmare scenario. 

This is probably an absurd way to make a decision, but it happened and here we are I am spending about half of my savings account to go to Italy. It’s probably a stupid decision. And yet it’s the one I’m making. 

I think often about the year and a half that I lived in San Diego. It was in so many ways sad, because I was extremely anxious and depressed. But I don’t hold any resentment in my heart for the city or the jobs I had or the friends I hung out with. I love those people more than most others in my life because they dealt with me when I was at my most cantankerous and still love me to this day and at least to my knowledge don’t begrudge me for how miserable I was. 

I think too, of what gave me my lifeboat there. And it’s the writing I was discovering on the internet that, among other things, led me to believe that I could at least attempt to live in New York.

So much of me didn’t think I could do it. I’d fantasize about an abstract life here, but there wasn’t anything concrete. I knew the myths of young female writers in the city, but nothing about how they were in reality today, instead of like, whatever, when Joan Didion did it. So I had no idea if it was something feasible for me, or if I’d move here and just sit alone in an apartment all day and never make friends (or meet anyone the line from When Harry Met Sally suppose you never meet anyone etc) 

My life isn’t anything out of the ordinary by New York standards. I work at a bar. I work on a book in my spare time and read books by writers that I admire and by writers that I think are overrated. I go to readings and events at bars and I gossip with other young idiots and I try to forget that the world is a trash hole for 1-2 hours and then I go to sleep and wake up hungover. 

But I think about sad former me in San Diego who couldn’t really make it through a day without crying or having a panic attack and who decided to leave all of her friends on one coast to try and make a little life (omg I'm sorry did I just make an A Little Life pun please drag me) based around writing in this big dumb babe of a city and I think she’d be like ‘you know what, it’s fine, spend half your savings account to go on a writing trip to Italy. This is why I’m working those 10 hour shifts slinging pancakes missy, to fund your future idiocy.’

someone vomited on the train and then I thought

Today after work I got on the train and smelled vomit, and then I looked five feet further and there it was: a big ole orange splotch, in front of one of the doors. For a moment I recoiled and considered going to the next car, but then before I even started turning around I just continued to an open seat. It's not as though I had to touch the vomit, and I'd only be on the train for two stops.

I was reading my book on the train, but my secondary thought process was still on the vomit. The guy across from me looked suspiciously ill, but I softened before judging him – I'm the type of person who would vomit on a subway. I'm actually surprised that I have not vomited on a subway since living in New York. I actually haven't vomited since the spring of 2014, which is certainly my longest streak since I started drinking when I was 16.

I don't give myself much credit for this period of pseudo health. I still have poor impulse control and love drinking. I just don't go out as much as I did when I was fun and young i.e. surrounded by my fun young yet maternal friends in the playground of joy that constituted college and the direct aftermath.

I've gotten a few bad hangovers here, but the past few months I've created a routine of control that for the most part keeps them at bay. The last really terrible one I remember – it was a Monday, I had writing class at 6:30 (very late in the day, obviously,) and spent most of the afternoon walking dizzily around my apartment wondering if I should go to the hospital. In the end it was not wanting to miss writing class that convinced me to just keep drinking water, not faith in my own ability to recuperate.

I think that was after a night at work where I received unfortunate news from a male and then convinced all my friends to sit with me at a bar afterwards, versus a night where I was steamrollered by my evil boss and questionable customers. Bosses, boys, bystanders.

I ordered whiskey and a beer back from the waitress, this was at Tavern on Jane in the West Village. This is something I never do. I'm not really into hard liquor but there's a narrative that tells you what to drink when you want to obliterate your feelings, for better or worse. I actually started to feel better, I remember, and instead of ruminating on the random dude who was rejecting me I got into a fight with the sous chef about polio. Fight might be a strong word – one of us (me, presumably,) made a joke that turned out to be eerily close to another reality and suddenly everyone else was quiet, watching us argue about polio. Then I somehow lost my credit and metro card in the cab home, which dropped me off somewhere in Brooklyn that was certainly not my apartment. There were no more cabs and the lyfts kept canceling on me, but eventually I made it back to bed – somehow.

That night was also one of the first nights I was talking to The Person I Shouldn't Have Been Talking To again. I knew then that I shouldn't respond to his queries, but I was sad. I could have guessed that starting that again would make me exponentially more sad later than I was that night, but I did it anyway. Don't we all?

I was thinking the other night how during the time period where That Person was ostensibly the most involved in my life, i.e. winter 2014-15, I would just get drunk alone at home and blog about it! What a joke! I can't believe he never saw it! But I can, because he wouldn't, and didn't, and presumably didn't find out even when I started publishing real articles in semi reputable publications. I'm not difficult to Google – I'm the first ten or twenty results for my name, you don't have to dig. But if you're not the type of person to Google, then you wouldn't know that.

Since I left the job at High Street, I haven't really been drinking – as in I have a drink or two every few nights, maybe get drunk once a fortnight, but this is significantly less than when I worked at High Street, or when I lived in San Diego, and certainly when I was in college.

Again, it's mostly circumstantial. I drank a lot when I worked at High Street because I was friends with a lot of my coworkers and we hung out after work. Same with Hash House, and though college wasn't really 'work' in the way these restaurants are it was the same principal. You're with people and you want to keep being with them so you go to the only place where continued adult hang outs are sanctioned; a place that sells alcohol.

The one time I tried to hang out after work with someone from my current job, he pulled his dick out of his pants in the middle of the bar and tried to get me to 'lick it' / 'suck it' / 'go with him to the park.' This happened three times before I extricated myself and said he was acting rapey. I should have left earlier, yes I know, et cetera.

I got an article accepted about it. It hasn't been published yet but the edits are through. My life would be more interesting if I was worried about my coworkers seeing it, but I'm not. We're not friends on Facebook and since they're not, you know, me, they likely aren't doing the periodic Google which is the only way they'd find things like this. None of them know I'm 'a writer,' or if they do they don't ask me about it. This is for the best. The fewer people who ask me about my writing, or worse, compliment it, the better. It's bad when people praise me because it goes to my head.

The reason I'm writing this at all now is because I realized that I've been spending a lot of time writing for other people, which means writing for some kind of formula. It's fine, it pays you money sometimes and it's good for learning control, but I also don't want to forget the natural rhythm of my dear brain, the one that connects vomit on the train to the polio joke night at work five months ago.