I am a giraffe
in an empty, endless sea.
Always sticking out my neck
in places I shouldn’t be.
I am a giraffe
in an empty, endless sea.
Always sticking out my neck
in places I shouldn’t be.
A fleeting gasp of opportunity. And I grabbed it and I ran with it. I ran so hard and so fast I couldn’t breathe. I was sweating and heaving and my legs started shaking. I felt like I was going to collapse. But I kept running.
Because I wasn’t going to let go of the good thing this time.
There is a part of me that understands this may be The End.
But the rest of me is electrified. Brimming with suspicious possibility. Perhaps it is a fever-induced hallucination. Or it might be a premonition. Either way, it is a goal to be attained and attended to.
Something good may follow something unfathomably destructive. Like new growth in a fire-ravaged landscape. Or maybe it is only darkness. The only way to find out is to push through. The only way through is a determined press of stubborn intention. Setting goals and climbing toward them, slowly and painfully. Perhaps stupidly.
Flashes of painful shit each day, some times more debilitating than others. Nothing can prepare you for it. The overwhelming dread and disgust and regret. The knowing. So you put your head down and press through, like walking home in a Nor’easter after your car breaks down. Toward warmth. Toward safety.
Toward the possibility of more. Of a future. That ampersand at your back, reminding you that this isn’t the end, even if you thought it was. Even if you hoped it would be.
I made the mistake of deciding to be happy. And for a brief period of about four and a half months, I made the mistake of believing in myself. It was a short-lived, singular experience, because I have never truly believed in myself or my abilities at any other point in my life.
And I know why, because look where it has gotten me.
It was an exuberant rush, though. The optimism and the go-getter-ness of it all. I felt like Mary Richards, a low-key, wide-eyed badass. It appears however, that I am more an Act III Blanche DuBois than a Tyler Moore flagship, and despite my love for Tennessee Williams’ work, I can’t shake the disappointment.
Instead of strangers, of course, I am reliant on the kindness of my family and my fiance. This I find to be more repugnant because I am taking advantage of people who love me, with no end in sight to the situation I have placed myself in, and no way of being able to return the favor. My grandmother tells me, “You’re going to be rich soon, I can just feel it!” And I snap at her on the phone to cut the shit because it isn’t helpful.
She hangs up, sounding dejected, after telling me to relax. I feel like a jerk, but how am I supposed to relax, I wonder?
Oh, right, I am supposed to write a wonderful novel or a brilliant movie and sell it and make a million dollars, which is what she always tells me is going to happen. I forgot it was so simple.
Drift away in the waves,
I let the riptide take me.
Feel my toes brush the sand,
the burrowed crabs who scrape me.
I float along out at sea
as the sunshine bakes me.
Until I sink to depths
and the darkness takes me.
I sit alone in the silt
there’s no one there to save me.
I fall asleep in the deep,
I let the pressure break me.
I wrote that little ditty a long, long time ago. I don’t even remember how long. Sometimes, I hum it when I am overwhelmed.
It popped into my head today for the first time in a long while because I’ve finally used the majority of my savings & I still haven’t gotten a single interview for a new position, or any interest in one of my pitches, or any responses to the editing jobs I’ve submitted proposals for.
I have applied to positions that pay minimum wage and positions that pay $50k a year. I have been called in for none of them. My record thus far is 70 applications in a single day. But it doesn’t matter how many applications you fill out if you don’t hear back from any of them, huh?
Even worse than the radio silence was the one person who claimed on multiple occasions she wanted to bring me in for an interview, only to never respond when I answered her regarding my availability to come in (any day over a two-week period).
And even worse than that are the people around me who ask questions like, “Well, are you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for?” and “What did you study in school?” as if I am not capable of knowing my own qualifications. And while I know others are trying to help when they tell me, “Don’t worry, I just know that something will come along soon!” I mostly want to punch things when I hear it.
I am reaching the end of my sanity, and will soon have to take a job. Any job. Regardless of whether it makes me any happier than the last one. Any job that calls me back, even if it’s one of the super-scammy commission-only cold-call positions I see posted on Craigslist with titles like “UNLIMITED WEEKLY SALARY FOR DEDICATED WORKERS!!!!!$$$” and “MAKE CA$H YOUR FIRST DAY!”
I feel guilty for leaving my job even though it made me miserable. I feel guilty for believing in myself when I made that decision. I feel guilty for thinking I am worthy of gainful employment, when the rest of the world is clearly not in agreement.
If you are out there right now, looking for a job, if you are trying your hardest and nothing is working out, if you are struggling to pay your bills because you feel like it isn’t asking too much to have a job where you can feel safe and respected and make a living wage, I am sorry. I want to give you a big, giant hug. I want to tell you, “Everything might be okay soon, but I don’t know for sure. Regardless, I care for you & I respect you & you are worthy. And having a job or not having a job is not the most important thing about you, even though it feels like it is.”
And in the face of unbearable, overwhelming sadness, I will throw myself into as many all-consuming projects as I can possibly find to distract from the very real, but wholly unthinkable possibility that you will not be with me forever.
I am a planner by nature, and that means I am knee-deep in contingencies already. I have thought through each potentiality and I find none of them satisfactory. So I continue the search for possibilities I have not yet explored while I peel PACM from my kitchen floor, sweating through my face mask and my chemical-resistant gloves.
I painted my nails and I have no idea why, because the warmth is peeling the lacquer away already.
I wonder if in thirty years, I will regret removing this flooring. I wonder if it will kill me later on. But for now, it doesn’t matter because you are so much closer to death than I am.
Walking the line between hopeful optimism and fatalistic realism, I am prone to guilt because I recognize that the best case scenario is not the same as the worst case probability. Is facing reality the same as giving up?
I’m afraid that maybe it is.
Today is a grey day.
Today, my boyfriend could walk through the door after work, get down on one knee to propose and tell me he won the Mega Millions in the same breath, and I would still not be happy.
These days are the days I have struggled with throughout my life, and despite all of my experience, I still have not figured out a way to conquer them. I usually end up just writing the day off, riding it out, and trying again tomorrow.
It’s frustrating to think that just yesterday, I was feeling so good. I spent a large part of the day gardening in the backyard, and turning that mess into a lavender-scented oasis. I felt great! I went to the gym! I ate macaroni and cheese and didn’t even feel guilty about it!
And this morning, I felt pretty good too.
But, as is typical of the grey days, it only takes one small mistake for it all to turn hopelessly around.
I have been like this for as long as I can remember, and it is probably the single greatest obstacle I have come to meet on my journey to happiness and self-fulfillment. It is disheartening at best to know that any progress you make can be ripped away from you by your own brain chemistry after the smallest perceived misstep.
For now, I will do my best to be productive in some way as I ride the waves of this grey day. I will still go to the gym, but I will not eat macaroni and cheese.
And I will try again tomorrow.
I’ve never been great with managing my time. I tend to take unnecessarily long stretches to obsess over an idea; to think about it constantly. I will daydream in the voices of my characters, completing backstories I will never need instead of outlining my plot points. And then, just as time is running out, I will sit down and write it all in an caffeine-fueled fever.
It’s a rather Hollywood-contrived way to go about things.
If you asked my college professors, I’m sure they would tell you I single-handedly grayed their hair as they waited for me to miss the final deadline on project after project. I’m pretty sure they all thought they’d have to fail me eventually, though they never did. The professor who oversaw my senior screenwriting project said it best: “Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to watch you do this all the time? This is really good, and you wrote it in 42 hours. Imagine the kind of work you’d be turning out if you actually tried.”
But I’m still not trying. I’m still thinking. I’m still waiting.
I’m still too fucking scared to put in the effort.
I think my greatest fear is that my ability to write is intrinsically tied to my inability to be happy. And now that I’m learning to be happy, I’m afraid whatever innate talent I once possessed has arrived at a dead end.
My internal drive to tell stories has dulled over the years, too, which certainly doesn’t help. I have a thousand interesting characters and no resolutions for them. I have a dozen complete stories nestled in my brain, but not enough drive to write them all down. Where I used to spend hours and hours putting pen to paper, I now ignore that impetus more often than I give in to it.
Perhaps I should stop going to bed at a reasonable hour, and instead stay up all night until I am drunk on my insomnia. Maybe I need a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a half gallon of Wawa’s raspberry iced tea. I suppose it’s very possible my methods have not evolved as I’ve grown older; maybe being sleep-deprived and sugar high is just how I function best as a writer.
Or maybe everyone was just being nice when they told me I was good at it.
The worst thing anyone ever did for me was to tell me I was talented; it allowed me to excuse my own laziness, and to skate by without ever putting in the necessary effort. And now I find myself, 30 years old, without a portfolio, hoping to scrape up some semblance of a creative life, and I’m not sure I’ll ever adapt to the rhythm of a responsible career writer.
For now, I will likely continue to read up on the processes of successful authors and try to bend them to work for me. I’ll keep waking up at 8:30 am and putting in bid submissions for freelance work. I’ll keep telling myself that I will write that book tomorrow; that the screenplay can wait a week.
And maybe one day everything will click together and I’ll figure out who I am as a writer. The dream is that I will dig down inside myself and find the drive and desire to be successful as a writer; that I can make a living doing something that I love.
Or maybe I’ll go back to a desk in a dull office, answering phones and fetching coffees. I guess that only I can decide.