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.’

escape hatch from the psychodrama

Last night over coconut margaritas and guacamole my coworker was telling me how she think another one of our coworkers is a pathological liar because of the stories she tells about people she's met/fucked/etc in New York.

Then another coworker walked in to meet us and I was telling him about some of my freelance writing and I made my usual quip about how xoJane is the first place I got published for an essay about my hippie roommate stabbing himself while on mushrooms. The beginning of an illustrious career!

He (the coworker) goes “Oh do you know Cat Marnell?” and I was like well, obviously not personally but I know she has a memoir out now that's getting pretty nice press considering it's insanity. And he continues that he actually does know Cat Marnell personally, she came to his apartment to buy something (I think it was, in fact, not drugs but that's obviously the implication when one says 'to buy something,' but no I just don't remember) and they've been friends ever since, this was like seven years ago.

So I turn back to the first coworker and say “This is why I don't think (potential lying coworker) is necessarily a pathological liar. We live in New York! Anything is possible.”

Maybe the third month I lived here, my sister and I were out to eat at one of those dank noodle places where you order at the counter and take it on a lunch tray to cramped picnic tables in the back and everything is the perfect level of mad spicy. We were sitting next to these two guys who were talking about parties. The taller, more bedraggled looking one says, very casually, “Oh yeah on New Year's I was at Georgia Ford's party.”

His companion drops a noodle and says, “As in Harrison Ford's daughter?”

First guy rolls his eyes. (Rachel and I are trying to listen but not look suspicious.)

“Yeah man. I've been in New York too fucking long.”

Acting like you don't give a shit about famous people is definitely a space on “I'm a hip New Yorker” bingo card. And it makes sense! Waiting on celebrities got old after maybe the third one. It's not like you can chat with them and they'll just give you money and invite you into their circle of friends, at least not if you work at the bougie uppercrust places I've found myself employed by for the entirety of my time here.

Plus there's so many genres of “famous” people here. You can run into someone who your companion thinks is hot shit and they're losing their mind, and you're like I literally have no idea who this person is, they're just like anyone else. On Saturday I waited on a Victoria's Secret 'Angel' but I didn't realize or notice until today when I was Instagram stalking her husband! (He was a total dumb babe, and obviously I could tell they were married, but I still wanted to internet stalk him to try and gauge what type of man I'm finding attractive these days. It's been a rough few months in that department.)

What I find much more fascinating than seeing famous people (again it's not like you can just casually befriend them,) is seeing people in real life who you've only seen on the internet or only interacted with online. This is mostly writers, obviously. Because meeting actual famous writers is alas, about as exciting as waiting on celebrities. Sure, they're inspiring and amazing and listening to them speak is always a treat, but then you go to get your book signed and you tell them they're the best and, that's it. Without any opportunity to create intimacy it's just kind of a fun passing thing.

But when you meet people who you already have some sort of amorphous connection with, it's like oh, here, I'm seeing these bonds that have been implied come alive, and you're able to get a social context for the thing you're experiencing. And you're able to bond faster than you do with randos – I mean it's the same with anything. When I have a new coworker who I sense will be one of my people, it's easy to create that relationship because we exist together in this context that we can comment on and analyze. Or when I meet a writer who one of my teachers thinks I'd get along with, we can just hit the ground running because we already have this history of teachers and texts and vaguely knowing the same world.

It's been so funny moving here from California because almost everyone has some school or youth connection here where they have this whole network of bizarre social connections and I'm just like a secret infiltrator who has no connection to any of it. I'm surprised it doesn't annoy me—considering that I was somewhat recently dumped for, among many reasons, not being a part of this infrastructure, (“It's just like, no, I'm really sorry, it's just so amazing that me and [redacted] have this whole history of people who know each other so when we met it felt planned and like everyone was rooting for us and like it's a whole life—“ interrupted by Becca vomiting into a bush) but rather, despite that whole fiasco, I still find it all entertaining and strange. And because I have created a nice solo baby life for myself wherein I can escape from any social microcosm I'm a part of (restaurants, writing, other writing, dating, what have you) and hide in my cave until I'm ready to experience social things again.

It's scary, you know, or it would be if this were my whole life, rather than just one version of it. Having everyone know your business (I have a suspicion that this is true of pretty much any creative industry in the city, but it's probably especially creepy with internet writers and restaurant people, aka the kings and queens and princes and princesses of gossip) is a dangerous game if you're at all trying to hide things. Luckily, I learned to accept very young (thx hippie college) that if you just accept your lot in life as a crazy person, you don't get as upset when people find out about the batshit stuff you do. Or, if you tell the embarrassing stories yourself, you're in on the joke. That's some vintage Nora Ephron wisdom. I've been having a hard time with Nora lately too though, because the aforementioned human also invoked fucking When Harry Met Sally when dumping me, less than an hour after I said it was one of my favorite movies. (“Me and her, we just have this, like, banter, just like Harry and Sally!”) Like really man? You're already breaking up with me, have some tact and don't put my second favorite movie on your list of reasons that I'm inadequate!

It's funny too, I was rereading an old blog entry while writing this one, and I was joking about how I'd blog all the time when I was dating the California ex about how scared and anxious I was, and I was like oh my god Becca I can't believe you did that, what if he'd have read it! The joke being he would never read anything, he's not the googling type. But the most recent ex totally is the googling type. He went to my website and read half my articles like three days after we hooked up for the first time! Which is fine, I obviously endorse and participate in that type of behavior, but it's just funny because if I told a guy I did that they'd probably be in Montauk by now they'd have run so fast from me.

I did have a classic moment a month or so ago, I was supposed to be meeting this guy from one of the apps, probably Tinder, and he just texts me and goes “I made a mistake. I found your Twitter.” and I laughed for a long time, because, boy do I not care. Find it now! It's much better for you fools to discover Single Slut Central (my affectionate nickname for my Twitter) now than later when you've concocted an idea of me that is, surely, false.

But you know, that's part of the whole thing. You move here, you fuck a guy who tells you that the Brooklyn dating social satire you read at the gym in San Diego is actually a parody of flesh and blood people you've met and taken classes with in Brooklyn, and you're high and start to panic because the guy you're fucking writes about the same topic as the man who the protagonist of the book is based on and you're also an oversharing internet writer like the woman you met in real life, and all you can think is this is not my fucking beautiful house this is not my fucking beautiful life.

And it is, it was, but it also isn't. Because then six months later you're back where you've always been, alone in the bed with the books writing about it all with the perspective of, one of my older lady writer friends told me last week over wine after a lecture, (she was commenting on the breakup tweets from Single Slut Central) “a victim and an expert. You get what's happening to you as it's happening. You aren't taken unawares.”

And it's true, I think, because the thing about going to the tiny college with the incestuous social ties is that you learn. You learn young and you learn quick. That you can live the life, you can meet the people and chat and gossip and fuck and get drinks and 'socially network' and you can do all of it, but you need your escape hatch. And you have to use it liberally. And in the cave where you hang out when you've used the escape hatch, you need the things that are just yours and not everyone else's. Not that other people don't do them (we all read and write in bed, I'm sure) but yours in that you do them with yourself and they aren't dependent on other people. And in the cave you have the old friends, and the new friends who are irrelevant to whatever world you're escaping, and family and burritos and a picture of the Kennedy brothers and the Frank Lloyd Wright blanket and old Hoofbeat sweatshirts.

I was trying to coach a friend through a hard hour recently and I said, “you have to always remember your core. Because people are going to fuck with you so hard.” (we'd both been recently been v steamrollered) “and it's going to get confusing what was yours and what was theirs. But that's why you need your core.”

It's a little schmaltzy but I think it's true. And at least when I'm here, in New York, trying to make this weird psychodrama work for me, my core is my time at Johnston. Where I not only learned how to life a life wherein I do what I want and am not beholden to structures that have rejected me, but also learned how to play the game a foot out the door.

I think someone is going to read this and be like "girl seems like from what you've described the dirtbag person you referred to could definitely plausibly read this.” true. I don't care. Be thankful it's on a blog that I update very rarely and not in an essay. One day. Or not. Who knows.

While working on my novel-cum-memoir-cum-autotheory-cum-whatever about Johnston last week, I dug through my email archives to find the absurd choose your own adventure esque essay that I wrote for nonfiction senior year about this guy I was into for like, half of college. (Flan! Shoutout!) It's too weirdly formatted to actually use in the book, but I wanted to get at my detailed memories, and that's where they lived. Of course, I had a little embarrassment while reading it (so much for the idea that I wrote everything good senior year of college—I now see that I've written nothing good ever) but I was also struck by the fact that I was so willing at that age to take something that other people had written off as silly and really interrogate it creatively and take myself seriously, when no one else would.

It made me think about something I've been pondering a lot lately: it all matters. As women we're constantly told that our emotions, our heartbreaks, they're little and petty and they don't deserve our time or attention, let alone other people's. Well, fuck that. It's your life. It's what's happening to you and how you react to it, viscerally and primitively. If anything, modulating those reactions is the immature thing, because you're fitting your lived experience into a proscribed narrative that has nothing to do with you.

I used to get so angry that it seems like men oftentimes don't experience the icky painful outpouring that comes after a parting of the ways. Of course, many men do experience the emotions. But now, the ones who don't—I'm not jealous. It leaves the ick inside. When you process it, feel it, it comes out, and for me especially it takes a long time, but then eventually you're free. I'm sad for the men who didn't grow up with the emotional vocabulary to learn to process these things, who had their tears policed until they stopped coming.

My emotions still scare me. Especially when they veer into the obsessive. But I'm so proud that I've found a way to live my life that makes space for both my emotions and my creative work and my money work and a social life, and, of course, the cave of solitude where I sit and recover from all of the above. People who I haven't seen in a while sometimes try to introduce me like I've accomplished a lot in adulthood (lol, she writes from bed pantsless on a Monday afternoon while procrastinating) but I always want to stop them and be like no, no, here's the accomplishment. I'm living independently in a really difficult city and haven't been ruined by my own tendency to destruct everything in my path. That's the only accomplishment.

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.  

Work vs Work

It was shockingly easy to get a serving job in New York. Most people had prepped me by saying it would be difficult, because I didn't have any 'New York experience,' but that proved to not be a true inhibitor when I got approx five jobs within two weeks of looking. I picked the job that I currently have for a variety of reasons: female management, stellar neighborhood, ethos and business similar to my beloved Hash House, innovative menu, et cetera, et cetera. The job didn't start for a while because it is a new restaurant, so I had some time between accepting job and restaurant opening to chill and work on writing and explore the city.

You may notice that in the last paragraph I was uncharacteristically evasive – 'the restaurant,' 'the neighborhood,' 'the job I currently have.' I'm obviously not actually trying to hide where I work, if you speak with me at all I'm sure I've told you the name fifteen times. However, I've been thinking lately about the relationship between the different types of work – the work that I am paid for, at the restaurant, and the work that I moved here to pursue, the writing. They're not inherently at odds, but as I grow more serious about both (a feat in and of itself,) I continue to find ways in which keeping them and the worlds they inhabit separate is probably a good idea for the health of everyone involved, at least for the time being. 

There's a lot for me to unpack as I think about this. (Literally as well as figuratively – I just moved to a more permanent apartment in Williamsburg, but anyway,) the first thing being why I'm getting more serious about my paid restaurant work in the first place. The restaurant I'm working at now is absolutely, undebatably, a serious place. The owners, chefs, pastry chefs, bread bakers, pretty much everyone above me on the food chain, is well known and highly regarded in the industry. You may ask – why can't I just be a normal artist and get a job at Joe's Down the Street Bar where you walk with over a hundred a night just from peddling drinks and not giving a shit about the food or the business or the humans?

That's a great question. I don't know if I was even angling for a serious restaurant when I got my job at Hash House. I don't think I even knew what a 'serious restaurant' was. I can certainly say that I've always been attracted to intense, immersive experiences, whether that be recreational (Hoofbeat, although I suppose the years that I worked there can't really be filed under recreation,) educational (Johnston,) human (all my beloved friends,) but I've also been known to shy away from 'doing things I don't want to do,' which up until this past year or so has certainly included many of the aspects of working in the types of restaurants I work in, like getting up early, cleaning, having to act a certain way, being polite to rude humans, not lying down.

But I know that despite the aforementioned qualms, I loved working at Hash House. I miss it so much. From a conversation with a Human Who Had a Weird Amount of Involvement in this Saga -

“I have a bunch of days off work before I leave, I don't know what to do with myself”

“Do your favorite San Diego things.”

“....but my favorite San Diego thing is working at Hash House.”

(and friends, but this blog is about work, so anyway)

But that doesn't answer the question of why I loved it, does it? I realized one morning on the way to work there – I was not unhappy. That seems so small, but it was so large, because honestly up until that point I hadn't had that many experiences in life in general where I was on the way to going to something I was required to do and wasn't filled with dread. (Aside from anything in college, obviously.) Even though the hours were long and the work was hard (may I never forget the feel of a steel chair hitting me in the shin as I try to move it to vacuum,) I just genuinely enjoyed being in the restaurant. It has never bothered me that I spend 40 (or 50, sometimes 60) hours a week walking around a room carrying plates, because I was moving, because I was talking, because I was calm, because I was content.

Although the new restaurant is a bit stressful right now what with the opening, I truly believe that it has the potential to end up being a place that I end up treasuring and enjoying as much as Hash House. For many of the same reasons – as I said, that's a big part of why I took the job, but also because I'm really excited to be around such serious people who are so engaged in their work (hard to tell on that front with the other servers thus far, but speaking of the chefs / bakers / management / etc)

I love being surrounded by serious people, no matter what their medium is. It's inspiring, and people who are serious and successful also tend to be interesting. Others at work think it's intimidating, but I honestly don't care about that anymore. I'm not afraid of people who take their jobs seriously, I'd rather talk to them and be interested and engaged in what they do and hear about how baller they are than waste time being scared off by the fact that they sometimes are intense.

So at this point you're probably like cool, we get it, you're weird and like having intense jobs, fine, just go forth. I wish it were that simple, but alas, I feel that it is not.

The thing about serious jobs and serious businesses, is that there's a certain way in which you really have to keep tabs on and be in control of how involved you're getting. Because if you don't keep track of it – they certainly aren't going to. A job is unlikely to stop you from throwing your entire self into it, because they need people to do the work. Nobody's going to be like 'Becca, you're doing TOO MUCH for us! Go home and write tonight!'

At Hash House this was a non issue, because I needed the money. At the end of the day it didn't really matter that I was skimping on my writing to work 11 day streaks, because the money I earned from those insane hours was going to my savings account to move here, and moving here was in service to my writing. So even though I neglected it in the short run, I was really serving (lol) it in the long run.

Now I have to be more careful. Of course, I still need a shitload of money to survive in New York, but I certainly don't need to be working 6 or 7 days a week or picking up shifts every time someone asks or generally getting over invested in the job. I need to be really cognizant of how I'm working to preserve my writing time, because as I mentioned, certainly no one else is going to. Nobody would stop me from throwing myself completely into this job, just as nobody would stop me from never writing again. I'm the only person who gives a shit about either of those things.

And to be honest, I'm just extremely wary of getting institutionalized. Not in the sent to a mental institution because I've been working too much sense of the word, in the 'drinking the kool aid' sense of the word. Again, I'm sure this is just as prevalent if not moreso in office jobs than in restaurant jobs, but it's so easy to become a kind of lifer / spokesperson / cronie / cog in the machine / whatever word or metaphor you want to use.

So there's the element where I have to be very careful about how I allocate my time, to my writing and to my job, but I also want to be cognizant of keeping the two separate in other ways – mostly, the internet. As I publish more writing online, I want to be intentional about how I relate to my job. Of course, the dream is that everyone will eventually find out that I'm actually a serious writer and be like 'oh my gosh yay good for you look at your articles you're great we love them,' and there will be no conflicts of interest and everyone will be happy and joyful and maybe we can all become friends and drink together and laugh (which would be great because I need friends,) but I want to keep in the back of my head that that's not the only possible outcome.

I don't exactly know what a negative outcome would be, but you know, it could happen. So as much as I want to show my cool hip managers that I am also hip and cool by telling them about the recent articles I've published, I'm going to sit on that information. As much as I want to facebook friend everyone so I can stalk them, I am going to stick to scrolling through instagrams of people I don't follow and hoping that I don't accidentally like a picture. As much as I want to instagram every piece of food I eat or take home from work and tag the restaurant so they can repost it, I'm not going to for the moment. Because I'm kind of a weirdo on the internet. There's a good chance that everyone will accept that – everyone at Hash House did – but I don't know. And I have to make money. And I like my job.

Going back to the splitting of the times, if I can manage to be a baller 'restauranteur' and a baller writer, that'll be the dream, because I'm sure it would be a more stable income than just being a baller writer, but I know that if in ten years I realize that I was more invested in someone else's dream of a restaurant than my own writing, I'd want to set myself on fire. I didn't spend four years and thousands of dollars to go to alternative college so that I could become an executor of someone else's business. I hope that what I learned in alternative college was how to make a living and help excellent people in someone else's business while supporting my art and always keeping it as my primary motivator. 

Compilation Selves

Today I was on a run, and I was contemplating how life and I have been on great terms since I moved to New York. It's been a little over a month, but already so many things are happening, and so many opportunities are presenting themselves, that just make me excited to be involved in the world and to finally be in/at a place where I can actually take concrete action to create the type of life I want.

I've known for quite a while – since the end of college – that the primary thing I want in life is not in the realm of traditional measures of success or finances or weird domestic trappings. At the core, what I want is to consistently be interacting with interesting, intelligent humans, having fascinating conversations, while concurrently consistently producing good work that I am proud of. To always be thinking and engaging, alone and with company. To have an equally rich private life of making and consuming art in tandem with a thriving social life, talking about said art and the making and consumption of it.

Now, I can feel that I am relatively close (comparatively speaking) to achieving that. At least, I'm taking the steps I should be taking to make that happen, and the days are rich with possibility and joy. But then, of course I have to reflect on the time since college that was spent, somehow or other, not doing that, even though I have known this was my goal for quite some time.

The things that happened to me directly after college certainly aren't tragic, or dramatic enough to warrant a memoir, but they are good examples of Person Not Having a Great Time and Not Being in the Correct Location. You know, quitting the summer camp when half the horses coliced, being a sad human with no friends while traveling, lots of interaction with idiots, lots of anxiety and crying alone, whatever, dumb. (And some great things, like awesome friends and interesting jobs, but whatever life mixed bag)

I don't regret anything that I did in the past two and a half years, because it got me to where I am now. If there's any 'lesson,' it's that not all environments are fertile grounds for consistent dank conversations and art making, and that once you realize an environment isn't a fertile ground for what you want, you need to take the steps to get to a new environment. 

But now I think of how I'm finally at this place in my life where I feel close to the point of being able to be my best social self, which I haven't felt since college, and it's crazy to me that all the people I've met and gotten to know and love in the past two and a half years don't even know me at my best social self, the one where I'm making weird ass connections and applying social theory to parties and taking the steps toward building literary community. The friends I made at the summer camp, the people I met while traveling, the people I worked with at IHOP, and of course, my lovely amazing coworkers who I miss SO MUCH from Hash House – they never knew this version of me. And that made me sad!

But after two minutes of being sad about that, I also thought about all the strides I've made as a person in that time frame, and how the people who knew me at my best social self, in college, did not know me at my best taking care of myself self. I used to be well known for being late, and always rushing into things at the last minute. Now, I am generally early or on time. In my second month of work at Hash House, someone called me punctual! What! I exercise regularly, I take care of myself – I actually shower these days. One of my professors from school didn't recognize me the last time I went to visit – in her words, because I looked 'so polished'- the nice way to say thin, recently showered, wearing a nice dress instead of a bandeau and booty shorts. I have a skill (a meager one, but a skill nonetheless) that enables me to go to work every day and make money to pay my own rent and pretty much whatever else I want at any given time. These are all small things, but put together they make me into a person who can accomplish what I want to do without having to worry an excessive amount about if my lackadaisical habits are going to get in the way. These things were probably necessary in the process of becoming a functional adult person.

So perhaps it isn't that I lost my best self in the past two years, but that I had to spend some time concentrating on other aspects in order to be able to move forward and be a productive adult human. And a great thing about having all that time not spent socializing, was that I spent that time doing something else – being a huge nerd and researching on the internet about writers and writing and, eventually, New-Yorky things.

I went to a writing workshop last weekend with Chloe Caldwell and Emily Gould, two badass women essayists who I am obsessed with. Of course, that was a crazy invigorating and intense day and I left with so much inspiration but also so much hope for the future and all these overwhelming emotions, and of course I listened to Welcome to New York by T Swift and started crying on the sidewalk.

My immediate reaction to my own tears was – who do I thank for this? Do I thank my professors, or my writer friends, or my family? But then I thought about it, and I thought – who told you to read Emily Gould or Chloe Caldwell? Nobody. I sat alone in my bed in San Diego and went into internet wormholes looking for great current female writers, and I found them myself. Who gave you the money to take this workshop or to move to this crazy city? Nobody. You worked six days a week at Hash House and put that money into the bank. Who sat with you while you wrote words and blog posts and essays and emails? Nobody! You sat alone that whole time, and it was lonely at first but then it was good for you, and then it became necessary, because learning how to be alone was just as necessary as learning how to charm strangers or throw a kick ass party.

And of course I'm so fucking grateful to my professors and my writer friends and my family, for so many things. I absolutely know that I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for my parents and my friends and my professors, for giving me books when I was five and teaching me how to socialize appropriately and giving me the attention and creative spaces to hone my writing (respectively, but also overlapping.) And there are people who have directly helped me with my life here already – my friend Abby who invited me to the facebook group that connected me with a bunch of these things, my sister and uncle for living here and existing, the friends who have chilled with me, the people I've met who have been so kind and welcoming. I will always be looking for ways to thank the people who have been there for me, but I also acknowledge that I owe a lot to myself, to what I've done while sitting alone.

So what I hope now, is that this is not the end of a self (the self sufficient, clean, hard working Hash House self) but the compilation of many selves, my social self and my efficient self and my creative self. All I really want is for this to be the start of that process, of learning to balance all the different aspects of my life, and not having to pay so much damn attention to each one, so they can all serve the grand purpose of making good art while having great conversations. It takes longer than I'd have imagined, but I can certainly say now that I'm on the way.  

Just me interacting with some humans I admire

Today, I took a truly excellent one day writing workshop at Catapult with Emily Gould and Chloe Caldwell. Anyone who has listened to me nerd out on contemporary women writers over the past two years can guess that this was a v meaningful experience for me, that may or may not have involved a cup full of tears while walking down 6 Av listening to Welcome to New York afterwards. But I'm going to save that particular bit of emotional absurdity for another time.

We did a bunch of short generative exercises, which was actually perfect for me right now because I keep trying to work on these large expansive essays that say so much about my experience as a college educated service industry professional and gentrification or sexual dynamics in the 21st century, which are all important topics but really hard to focus in on. Thus writing these short really focused excercises really reminded me that I can just – write. And, coincidentally, my sister and I had a hilarious time last night which just happened to translate very well into one of the prompts.

I've decided to transcribe it here, because getting back into blogging and New York times and writer times and the things that happen.

So we were writing based on our horoscope from Friday, and mine was something along the lines of - “you're inspired to connect, have an intense evening, but you shouldn't start conversations that won't end well.”

Here she is -

“My sister and I stood outside Cowgirl, on the corner of Hudson and West 10th, debating over whether to go inside.

“I mean, I think it's fine,” I said, “There probably isn't a wait and you are impatient.”

“But it looks like they're serving the food out of baskets...” she said.

Suddenly, a distinguished older woman rushed past us, looked at the restaurant, blurted “Yes!” and ran inside.

My sister and I locked eyes and immediately followed her.

Rachel and I are not normally prone to making decisions based on the choices of elegant older women, but we'd immediately recognized this particular one as Sharon Olds, who we'd just seen read at the Pushcart Prize 40th Anniversary reading.

We put our name in and took a seat at the bar, ordering one strawberry margarita and one habanero.

“It's been a while for her to be in the bathroom,” I said. “Do you think she's actually eating here?!”

“I assume so,” my sister said, gesturing to a back room just out of sight.

“Wait...do you think they're ALL here?!” I said, quickly calculating that, if this were the case, I would be in the same breathing space as Zadie Smith and Ben Marcus for the second time in one night.”

“Dude, that's what I thought when we followed her in here!” my sister replied.

We began taking turns canvassing the restaurant – pretending to look for the bathroom or being on our cell phones. I recognized with my superior creeping skills that about half the people working the event appeared to be eating in an anterior dining room, and a few more trickled in, waiting for another table.

“I want to buy them a drink but they're probably already on an expense account, so it would be pointless.” I sighed. “And I don't want to be a total creep.”

'Total Creep' around distinguished people was, however, in my repertoire. I'd befreinded all my college professors by schmoozing with them at free wine events, eventually asking them out to fancy dinners with the generous help of my best friend. We'd ended our senior year with telling one of them the details of the keg race tournament we ran for the rest of the school and possibly revealing the names and relative transgressions of underclassmen we'd had certain relations with.

As it turned out, not everyone involved with the ceremony was at the after dinner – aka, Zadie and Ben never reappeared. I speculated:

“Zadie lives in SoHo so she probably went home, and Ben splits his time between here and Maine and I mean I'd probably want to get home too if I was married to Heidi Julavits...”

My sister replied: “Yeah...it's probably good that you didn't have the opportunity to talk to them again.”

Instead, we made a strategic plan for how I'll convince my new restaurant to host after event galas for authors in our private room, thus giving me a future excuse to speak to the people I admire with a good reason: I'll be serving them food.

And plus, Zadie Smith had already given me the most affirming line of the night: when she was signing my anthology, I told her:

“I sent my ex your essays, and you're the first woman writer he's ever loved.”

She gave me a quick look, and then said in her deep, posh accent: “Well it's good that you two broke up then.”

 

Welcome to / Here is / I'm in New York

“Suppose nothing happens to you. Suppose you lived out your whole life and nothing happens you never meet anybody you never become anything and finally you die in one of those New York deaths which nobody notices for two weeks until the smell drifts into the hallway.”

This is the voice I keep hearing in my head. Harry / Billy C on repeat, goading me that it's entirely possible that nothing will happen to me in New York, where I have finally arrived after many moons of planning. It's not as if this anxiety is a surprise. I knew I'd feel this way; or at least something along these lines, when I arrived in New York, I never saw it as a solution to my problems, rather that my problems were past the point of needing to be solved, that my life was on such a pointless course that solving the problems would solve, in effect, nothing, and thus I may as well go somewhere and gain a new set of problems, and where better to go to gain problems than New York, home of the 99 most famous problems. 

Thus far, (only a week and a half so don't quote me on this) it has not been as hard as I expected it to be. I probably sound both naive and like a jerk saying that, but I mean it in a different way – the logistical things about moving to New York have proven themselves to be easier to solve than the mental logistics of what it means to actually be attempting to, as they say, follow one's dreams. People mostly talked about A. how expensive everything would be, B. how hard it was to get an apartment, and C. how hard it would be to get a job without New York serving experience. 

As for A, there are some perks to moving to the most expensive city in America from the fourth / twelfth / whatever most expensive city, all the lists are different, but San Diego is definitely up there. Thus far, prices have been relatively similar, and I no longer have to take Lyfts ever so that cuts out a huge expense. Also, can't forget the whole being single / having few friends / no kids / no pets perks of my financial situation. 

Maybe it will be hard to get another apartment, but I got this first sublet very easily. I thought to myself, hm, I bet people who have a weird sublet length will be more willing to have someone who is moving to the city. And then I found a six week sublet. And then I emailed them and then we talked on Skype and then it was mine.

As for jobs, it's not like I'm going to be working at Per Se or Les Halles, but plenty of places have been happy to interview me (I've actually turned down some interviews) despite my lack of 'New York Experience' and two of them have offered me jobs, so I'm actually more anxious about picking a job than about getting one. Again, they aren't the dreams (pour one out for Hash House) but I'm happy that someone is just willing to pay me and that my amazing interview skills haven't worn off in the past year. 

So it's strange that even though I seem to have the three main concerns on lock, I'm still very anxious and overwhelmed. I guess part of the anxiety does have to do with the jobs, with picking jobs and knowing if I'm making the right decision (historically a challenge for me) but still different than what I expected. What else is the anxiety and overwhelmation about?

Back to my opener – this fear that even if I do everything right, get a job and an apartment and feed myself, and not go into obscene amounts of credit card debt, I still won't meet anyone or do anything exciting and that living here will be just a carbon copy of living anywhere else, that I won't write anything or meet any writers or find any artistic companions or get involved in the arts or generally do anything that I came here to do. No adventures, no accomplishments, no interesting conversations. And that would be worse, in some way, than not having those things in San Diego or wherever else I could have lived, because in that case I could write these things off as not existing in any given city, but here in New York I know they exist I just don't know if I'm going to find the access points to tap into them myself. 

I guess it makes sense then why I'm more anxious about that than I am about logistics, because the internet is very helpful for logistics. Pretty much everything one would worry about logistically can be worked toward through Craigslist. Like you can make progress within an hour on Craigslist towards jobs and housing, and even if you don't find them for a few weeks, you still know you have this consistent option.

But there is no Craigslist for finding adventures, or artistic companions, or intellectual stimulation. There is no Craigslist for a fascinating life. Sending out a resume, even if you get no response, seems like a step in the right direction. I don't know what the steps in the directions are to the above amorphous qualities. And even when I try, I don't know if they're going down a path, or down no path, or possibly worse, going down a stupid path. I have no idea. And then, how do you know if the logistic choices you're making to facilitate a living are cutting off choices in the other areas? They probably always are at some level, for those of us without magic benefactors, but there's no way to know which things that you're cutting off are mistakes and which are necessary.

One thing I'm grateful for is that I haven't given much / any thought to anything that happened in San Diego, re: regrets or sadness. I mean I miss my coworkers from Hash House, and I miss Desmond (may he rest in peace) and I'm sure that eventually I'll miss the sun, but I don't have any lingering preoccupations or the sense that I left anything before it's time. It's almost as if the answer to every question there was just to let it go. I already was missing the person that I'll miss, being across the country is actually simpler. In terms of the people I saw on a regular basis, well, all the people I love are already spread out across the fucking country. Like when I lived in San Diego I had x friends and I missed y, a, b, c, and d friends and e and f family. Now I am closer to b friends, e family, far away from x, still far away from y, a, and c, but that will be my life forever after Redlands. I'm sure that everyone I love will never be in the same place again, so I'll always be missing some and having others. Plus, I always hang out by myself anyway. 

Let Us Now Praise (the advice of) Female Writers

As I'm sure most people who studied writing with in undergrad spend a huge portion of their time doing, I think (worry) pretty constantly about how (if) I'm ever going to “make it” as a writer.

I don't even know what I mean by “make it.” I don't know what I want, and I know even less of how to get there. As far as I can see, there isn't a handbook out there for this. Most of the advice I get is “keep writing,” which isn't bad advice. It's great advice in terms of life, but it isn't step by step giving me any idea of what to do next. And alas, it isn't providing me any concrete plans for how I'm going to get the hell out of waiting tables.

It shouldn't shock anyone that being a server is frustrating. Beyond the well known difficulties of the job, it adds another layer of frustration that my specific restaurant stresses me out so much, because now that I'm out of college and in the land of the jobs, I have to spend a lot of time at work and numerous hours of my time not at work thinking about work. I really dislike that aspect of capitalism, that we're so tied to what we do to earn our money. I also dislike that I have literally no options right now for doing any kind of work in the things that I love.  I don't have any of these supposed 'networking connections' that everyone talks about. When people wax poetic about networking they seem to forget the millions of people who don't have the privilege to have anyone to network with. Oh, the hungover guy who I was hamming it up with today at work who was complaining about his contracting business? Yeah I'll ask him for some advice about making a life in the arts straightaway!

I plan on expanding this in another essay, working title - “The Bullshit of Networking.”

All I'm doing now is throwing myself in any area I can see. I write every day, I take the steps that I can to decrease my stress from work so that it doesn't ruin my ability to do my real work, of writing and painting. As the months pass, I'm realizing that I'm willing to ease up on things I used to love like going out and generally spending too much money to preserve the things that I don't just love, but that are the thing that beats inside me, the arts that I practice. I'm trying to get involved in the arts community in San Diego – it's happening slowly, but getting my piece accepted for the VAMP showcase this month was a start. I loved doing the reading, met some cool humans who I'm going to creepily email for more advice and ideas, and remembered how great I feel when reading in front of a crowd.

But still, every day, I worry that it isn't going to go anywhere. That I'll be waiting tables until my knees give out. That my livelihood will depend not on the things I know I am skilled in, but on the whim of strangers who do things like not tip me after they find a hair in their bananas foster and I comp the entire dish – when the short black hair clearly didn't come from my obviously long blond head. That the majority of my social interaction will always be with people who bark “coffee” at me when I ask them how they're doing, instead of the creative and energetic people who I know I love being around from my time in school. That the possible years of this will erode what was once optimism into what's become humorous cynicism about the human race into a true pessimism that will fundamentally change the person I know myself to be.

Tonight I was so stressed out by my job that I utilized some of the creative techniques that I've taught myself to escape anxiety – turning on playlists I made in college, the most comforting time to remember, and reading gobs of things from my writer crushes on the internet.

I know myself well, and the tactic didn't disappoint. After sending emails filled with worries about the future, I followed it up with “Oh my god you have to read this interview! I wish she was my friend! You will be able to tell all the ways it eases my stress!”

This all in reference to Emily Gould, who, if you speak with me, you know I'm obsessed.  I knew a guy I went on a date with was destined for doom when he asked what she wrote and I said "Now I'm reading a book of her essays," and he asked what a book of essays was.   

I went from the interview to Gould's blog where I read an entry that literally soothed my pounding heart. And inspired me to write this post, giving love and gratitude to the only people who can truly calm me down when I worry about this – people who I've never met, women to be specific, writers I admire who say literally the exact right thing to the youths out there who have no idea what is going on. Emily Gould, Cheryl Strayed, and Mary Karr, Anne Lamott – to name a few.

I would highly advise reading the Emily Gould blog post that almost made me cry, because I'm too afraid to quote it here because I know very little about copyright and what's okay in terms of quoting even with links. Because the nightmare would be to upset someone who I greatly admire, am I right?

The blog post is on www.emilymagazine.com , entitled “It's the Good Advice.”

http://www.emilymagazine.com/?p=914

You know the feeling when someone you respect and admire literally says the things that you repeat to yourself in your head every day, hoping to a god you don't really believe in that they're true? That's the feeling I got when I read the the post. It reiterated my thoughts about why I'm here, in San Diego, working at a restaurant and emailing strangers in the arts instead of holed up at home trying to write so I can apply to grad school – because I know, for me, going back to school right now would be hiding. (And because I'm afraid paying for another degree that won't get me a job.) I know it makes sense for some people, but not for me, not right now, not for what I want to do. I didn't ask to love narrative nonfiction writing. Given the choice, I probably would have picked something that isn't seen by men and the world as narcissistic. I probably would have picked something that would let me be content with a normal 9-5 job and normal people and a textbook life.

Except I know in an even deeper part of myself that that isn't true at all. I wouldn't change a thing about any of the things that I love, because as hard as all of this is, I could never live the alternative. I don't want to be content in the ways that that type of normalcy implies. I'm glad there are people who are, because the world can't be full of people like my friends and I (I think it would explode) but even as I sit here, alone at home on a Saturday night because I'm too stressed out by a circumstance from my work to go out, every fiber of my being tells me that I'm doing something right. That's echoed by my friends, two of whom I spent the majority of the night talking to. Finding my school and the friends I made there is the sole factor that's made any of my life make sense thus far.

The friends, and the professors, who have become friends. During my senior year, I was serving on a sophomore grad contract committee and two of my favorite professors told a student not to become a high school teacher if she wanted to be a writer.

“Then...what should I do?” she replied in a panic.

They looked back at her and said “Write. Work at a coffee shop. Do anything that gives you the mental space and time to write while paying the bills.”

Without knowing it, they literally went on to endorse the life plan that I had begun to formulate in my head that fall.

I knew I was never going to get an office job. There's still time, but I know I'm not going to get a career track full time office job in some random field – if I do, I'll temp, or something. I applied for them, sure. I also interviewed for residence life jobs and quit a horrible summer camp job two weeks before it was over. But some part of me has known for a long time that I was going to join the grand tradition of starving artist / customer service 'professional' / picker up of random jobs that give you the time and money to practice what you love without being mentally drained.

The obvious reason is, of course, because I'd be terrible at an office job.  I'm really terrible at most jobs, but I can fake waiting tables pretty well because there's a high enough charm component.  Moreover though, I knew it because I somehow knew that it was part of the path of my life. That spending so many hours in a week with my favorite cook Miguel and learning to be patient, to listen and understand the stories he tells me, was a necessary thing to happen to me. That cleaning a milk machine with a toothpick was a vital way for me to make money because even though I'm not privileged in having familial connections, I'm incredibly privileged to have gotten a mostly free undergraduate education. That my skin needed to thicken from someone who I would have never have looked at before working at a restaurant putting my job in jeopardy by complaining for 20 minutes to my manager on a day I could barely walk because I had such bad cramps.

I'm terrified that this will be the rest of my life, but when I get past the fear, I can almost believe it won't be. I have too much faith in the world to believe that. It's the same thing that I tell myself when I fear (frequently) that I will end up alone – if out of all the colleges and people in this huge ridiculous country, I could be drawn to Redlands and Johnston in ways that are so obscure and random that they literally feel like magic, finding the humans who I was meant to be friends with, the only people in the world that make it okay that I live here, if that can happen, I won't be waiting tables for the rest of my life. I don't know how or why or when it will happen, or what will happen, but I can feel it out there, this nebulous future that keeps me going when strangers are so rude to me at work that I can barely stop myself from screaming, crying, or both.

Honestly, I don't think that it's a coincidence that all this advice has come from female writers. I haven't read any words like this from a male writer, and my experiences with male writers in person are even more disheartening. An extremely famous humor writer told me I should work at Hooters. Funny, but is it? (Not really, for those of you not used to the rhetorical question IS IT?) The author of several of my favorite books was more interested when I told him about the egg mixture that breakfast places use in omelets than he was engaged when telling me to keep writing. Those are both writers who I still love, but I think that something about male privilege, especially the fancy East Coast privilege of the Ivy League and being taught by famous writers, disables you from giving deep and empathetic and honest and heart healing advice that Emily Gould or Cheryl Strayed or Mary Karr or Alisa Slaughter or Leslie Brody give.    

A Portrait of the Waitress as a Young Artist: The Fear

I get asked on a fairly regular basis why I don't have a 'real job.' (Or told to get a 'real job,' depending on the rude level of the person I'm talking to.) I'll address the use of the term 'real job' later. Their reasons have ranged from: I should get on a career path, I'll have to start at the bottom if I want to go anywhere, waiting tables will never give me benefits and/or a retirement package, I'll never be able to get a job I want if I don't start getting experience, et cetera, adult things, typical rat race mumbo jumbo, et cetera.

My responses have varied each time I've had the conversation. Sometimes I talk about the stark reality: I'm trained for nothing, I have no connections, I don't know where to start with looking/applying and nobody has been able to tell me. Other times I go with the logistical: I probably couldn't find a traditional office job where I'd make more than 10 to 12 dollars an hour, and I can't survive on that right now with my rent where it is.

I also have no particular interest in the jobs that people suggest to me. I don't want to write product descriptions or pamphlets or whatever else copywriters do.  I respect it as a profession but unfortunately I don't think I could manage it - my traditional schooling didn't go so well, so I don't think being required to write textbook words about random things would go so great either.  The only other job that people have suggested to me is random office jobs, which due to their lack of detail sounds like a not real thing anyway.  Even if they do exist, why should I do them over the job I have now? People say it could get my foot in the door somewhere, but where? What is this elusive door and where would my foot be eventually leading to?

I don't see the point of getting a job with the purpose of using it as a stepladder to this idea of a future job, when I know already that I don't want that future job at a random office or copywriting for anyone.  I'd rather figure out how to do the things I want for money than get a job that will only lead to working in an office for the man.  Sure, there might be office-y real jobs out there that I would enjoy, but a random job as an assistant or copywriter isn't going to put me on the path to those anymore than working consistently on my writing in my spare time is.

These were the reasons I always cited when having this conversation, but I knew that there was something else that made me feel it was the correct choice for me right now. I figured it out the other day: it's the fear. If I put all the energy toward getting a 'real job' that I put toward my writing, my art, and settling into my house, I'm sure that I could find one. I probably wouldn't like it, but sometimes I don't like waiting tables either. Maybe one day I would like it, or at least be content with it. That contentment is what I don't want. If I grew content with a 'real job' that paid well and seemed like it was on a socially acceptable path, I might accept that life for myself, in whatever field I ended up in. I'd have weekends off, so I'd probably spend them hanging out with my friends instead of how I spend my days off now which is generally working on writing. I'd grow used to the 'real job' and the lifestyle it offered, and I might forget how important an artistic life is to me.  I'd probably be all set up for a decent life, and I wouldn't be afraid that all my other efforts wouldn't pan out.

That's the thing. I'm terrified that I'll be waiting tables for the rest of my life. I'm terrified about turning 26 and not having health insurance, and that in ten years I'll still be where I am right now. But I need that fear. Because of that fear, I think constantly about how I'm going to get myself to the type of life I want as an artist. Because of ze fear, I spend almost as much time working when I'm not working as I spend at work. (Figure out that tongue twister.) I write, I paint, I read, I try to research how to make these things go anywhere. That research part isn't going so well, so any help there would be appreciated. I look for ways to get involved in the San Diego creative community, I've contacted strangers to ask if I can be involved in a literary magazine.  (And they said yes!  Stay tuned for future news on this.)  

If I got a 'real job,' then I'd know I wouldn't be waiting tables for the rest of my life. But it would be no guarantee that I'll eventually find a way with writing or live the artistic life I want. And in the end, that's the real fear. A 'real job' would be a nice way to placate the fear and learn to accept another life, but I don't want to do that. I want to figure out how to make it work with writing and art, and the fear that waiting tables gives me is the best way I know how to push myself every day. I don't want to get so comfortable that I forget how important this life is to me.

And that's not even touching on the fact that with this supposed 'real job,' I would probably have far less time to pursue art and writing. If in five years I'm still waiting tables but have produced a large body of work, it will have been worth it. There's a grand tradition of creative types supporting themselves in the service industry, and I'm happy to join it even if it's getting less common with the techie-rat race-longing for traditional forms of success-thing that seems to be happening now.

Lastly, fuck 'real job.' I've been using it because it's the most common term, but seriously, fuck that. I not only work hard, I also am becoming practiced in a myriad of skills that although I don't know how to list them on a resume I probably wouldn't get from this elusive office job people tell me to get: dealing with insanely rude people day in and day out, prioritizing six tasks that all basically need to be done immediately, walking and working and smiling through cramps and other forms of pain, sacrificing holidays to go to work and generally have people be assholes. Working with people from very different walks of life than myself and spending 30 hours a week with them, learning just how real this job is in their lives and getting close to them. So let's retire this phrase, yes?