I’m So Proud And Happy And Successful That I Just Hate Myself And Everything Around Me.

A brief word before we begin. The following post is the kind of narcissistic self-important nonsense that people start personal blogs to rattle on about, and I imagine most of you will find this exceptionally boring. It doesn’t have a lot of cursing or humorous observations on life or photoshop doodles of boobies, it’s just sort of an update on what’s going on with me. And most of you don’t, you know, actually KNOW me, so if you wanna skip this one, I promise I won’t hold it against you. Promise.

So I was cleaning out my purse just now, and I took this glamor shot of some of the stuff hanging out in there:


My tape measure. The binder where I keep my measurement sheets, my rental paperwork, my to-do lists. Programs from my shows.

That’s the binder I started carrying around in early September. I designed all of those shows in about two months, and this photo feels like a major achievement. It’s representative of some of the work I’ve made happen in that time, and the people I’ve been so grateful to be working alongside. It’s been an incredible fall season. I’m surrounded by thoughtful, smart people who want to make art with me, and I pay my bills by working with them to create and build things together. I hung out with playwrights from London, directors from New York, and tons of people who prove to me repeatedly that Philadelphia is an artistic hub to rival any other city. How did I get to be so lucky?

Then I thought about it for a minute, and I took a second photo. The unfiltered, actual contents of my purse.


To the untrained eye: tampons, pads, safety pins, gum, paychecks I haven’t cashed yet, my handout on basic human proportion for the college class I covered last week, hand mirror, birthday cards, kitchen scissors, tweezers, receipts, ID badge for my part-time museum gig, lipsticks, nazi uniform star medal?, vistaprint coupon, script I haven’t read yet, bill for car repair, wallet, two mismatched broken earrings, and my favorite pair of sunglasses.

This is probably why I have back problems.

This is maybe why I have other problems, too.

In these two months of working constantly and consistently, I can’t help but notice that there are some really bad habits creeping in that I don’t like. Things like not doing my laundry for weeks and weeks. Things like letting my dishes pile up in the sink. Things like collecting coffee cups in my car. Things like letting my purse serve as a metaphor for my life’s gross, chaotic messiness.

Things like measuring my work and my worth in quantity instead of quality.

Is there truth to the idea that I took all those jobs in two months in order to pay all of my bills? Yes. There is. I did take on all this work, plus the other stuff I do (museum gig, teaching some classes, graphic design, writing this blog) and I’m still barely keeping my head above water financially.

But there’s also truth to this: I’m tired. My feet hurt. My brain feels foggy, a lot of the time. And I’ve begun to care less about each project because I simply have to focus on getting it all done on time, under budget, on deadline. I can feel myself making easy choices and sloppy work, and I hate it, and I have to cut that shit out, now.

When you follow your passion to the point where it’s making you cranky and miserable, something’s wrong.

And then sometimes the universe hands you a blessing. Specifically: as of tomorrow, when my latest project opens, I’m totally unemployed.

Okay, not totally. That’s not totally true. I’m just not booked, really, other than the museum gig and the occasional prep meeting, for the next six weeks.

I’ve never had a break in my schedule like this before, not since deciding I wanted to freelance full time. Not since college. Not since ever.

Part of me is terrified. I have no idea how I’m going to pay for anything. I saved up a little, but not enough.

Part of me is also relieved. So, so, so, so relieved.

But the biggest part of me is excited. Incredibly, spine-tinglingly excited, in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.

Why? Well. In a week I’m going to get in my car, and drive around the country for awhile. I’m going to spend time with friends in New Hampshire, where there is a room where I can write, and friends who want to help me edit what I write. I’m going to drive to a big house in rural Georgia, where there is a room where I can write, and a friend who is hosting me on my first real DIY writer’s retreat. (She told me that we could sit down at her table and formally talk about my growth as an artist and how writing in an unfamiliar place aided my process in unexpected ways, but my favorite quote from our planning meeting was, “Oh, I’m gonna put clean sheets on the bed for you, hooker,” so I think I’m in really good hands.)

I’m going to get in my car and hang out with my brother in DC. I’m going to drive to my family in upstate New York, where we’ll have Thanksgiving dinners and spend time in a room together.

I’m going to get in my car and visit my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. I miss them, deeply and crushingly, more and more so as each year goes by.

I am so grateful for all of the good in my life. I am so grateful I can pay my bills doing what I love.

Until I realize that I haven’t seen my family over the holidays in years, and I become violently lonely and sad, crying in my car, surrounded by coffee cups and clutter. Crying as I drive to work, driving farther and farther away from the people I love most in this world, thinking, I love this job, I love this job, it has to be all worth it because I love this job.

And I do love this job. But it’s time for a break. It’s time for a change.

It’s time for me to start writing for real, because suddenly that’s all I want to do right now, and the only way I can think for me to do that is to go away and write for awhile. So if I call my trip a ‘writer’s retreat,’ it means that pressure’s on me to write. If I tell the entire internet about it, it means that pressure’s on for it to be good. And if I give myself the mandate that I’m going to share the stuff I’ve written with you, it means that I’ll actually do it, as opposed to spending the next six weeks watching Parenthood in a snuggie.

So thanks for reading. I’m going to spend some time away, and then I’m going to come back with more stuff. Hopefully it won’t suck.

And thanks for listening.

I’ll be back soon.



UPDATE: A few of you in the comments suggested that I might want to think about adding a kind of virtual tip jar in the sidebar. I got really squirmy about it for awhile and then thought, ok, if the worst thing in your life is that strangers on the internet want to support your writing habit, you lead a goddamned blessed existence and you should shut up already and just do it.

So I did. It’s filed both in the blog header and in the sidebar under “Shameless Whoredom,” which I think sums things up appropriately. It should work properly, but let me know if it doesn’t. Also, please don’t feel obligated to contribute or anything. I’m so bad at asking for things. It would, um, just be cool if this blog could help pay for, like, a Christmas present for my mom this year. It seems like the least I could do.

Once again. Thank you.

37 thoughts on “I’m So Proud And Happy And Successful That I Just Hate Myself And Everything Around Me.

  1. Good God, I love your blog. Your voice is fresh and engaging and true. Even though my circumstances are kind of completely opposite from yours (in that I have kids and assorted domestic obligations up to my arse), my coffee cups take over my car, my purse is a biohazard, and I just want to write for real. Because I suspect that THAT’s what/who I really might be, a writer chick. Oy. Not practical! At any rate–I love your work and I’m so glad your writing is getting some serious attention. You soo deserve it! Drive carefully and put a “tip jar” app on your blog, maybe (a gal needs gas money). I”ll be wishing your all excellent writerly juju on your journey. 😉 Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

    • how do I write this so I don’t sound like a stalker? I guess starting it like that is a good try. I suspect this Regina is the same Regina I know and probably knows you in real life, because that is how Philly works. Regina, as you probably know took the summer of 2013 by storm and I sat at my cubicle desk stalking her FB posts. I loved watching her freedom and travel and life choices and wheedled my way into her summer of bliss for a few short days at the beach (not nearly long enough btw). I watched so enviously, all the while knowing the underlying exhaustion and frustration with the career in theater. I took a sweet full time designery gig many years ago and now, it has transformed into a 9 to 5 desk job of purchasing for industrials. And it is a little soul crushing dead end with 2 weeks vacation and then on the other hand, the regular paycheck. ah, enough blather, what I mean to say is DO IT RIGHT. Visa/ Mastercard can handle all the gas and coffee, the six weeks will fly and when you look back in 5 years you will be just as fraught over the monthly bills and think “why the hell did I think $50 was too much money for a day stop at Viagra falls” . Time is better than money. Also, I hope you blog about all your travels. So, in the end, I guess this really ended up more like, “I am stalking you and here is why”.

      • Cybele: it’s totally the Regina I know and love in real life, ’cause that is EXACTLY Philly works, and two: I suspect you meant “Niagara Falls,” but now I cannot — CAN NOT –escape the mental image of what “Viagra Falls” looks like and I can’t stop laughing. I suspect fifty bucks for a stop at Viagra Falls is actually a pretty good deal.

  2. Not boring. I was pretty riveted. I’ve read books by artists, e.g. The Artist’s Way, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, and now looking for time to read my latest: An Artist Empowered: Define and Establish Your Value as an Artist.

    You are doing what these people talk about in their books. I am only reading about it. So that’s why I am following you, as you are actually DOING it and telling us how it’s going, what it’s like, and how it feels.

    For this I am very grateful, and look forward to every new post on your blog.

  3. So, hi. I know you don’t know me. I’m just a faceless person on the internet leaving a comment. But my life tends to look a lot like yours, right down to working in theatre and not doing my laundry/dishes or seeing the people you love because WHERE IS THE TIME, and when you do have the time you just can’t get up the energy to do anything about it.

    For what it’s worth, I think the choices you’re making (and that means all of them) are awesome. And I want you to know, from one stranger to another- I’m proud of you.

    There are many other things that I could say, that I would say, but I thought that one might be the one you needed to hear right now. Have a lovely day 🙂

  4. I’m glad you’re focusing on the writing because I certainly enjoy reading it. Definitely set up some kind of a kickstarter or something so your supporters can help a bit. Your voice – and purse and coffee cups – resonate with a lot of us (SO embarrassed to give my boss a ride home yesterday with the coffee cups and eggshells on the dashboard from my hard-boiled-egg-last-minute-protein-fix-while-driving breakfast. SO gross.)

    Keep up the great work and congrats on the opportunity, travel and change of scene. Have a fantastic adventure!

    • Yes to all of you here who also have all the dishes from meals past riding on the floorboard of your car! Sometimes for days at a time . . . let’s not talk about the kitchen sink . . .

  5. Recently and unexpectedly, I found some personal life insight in the book I’m reading (Recycling Reconsidered by Samantha MacBride) that relates to this, and to my struggle with my own work ethic as both blessing and curse. From the introduction:

    “I call this condition “busy-ness.” Busy-ness is a fulfilling sense of work and achievement that often brings positive side effects but fails to reach the central effect. If progress is a flowing stream, busy-ness is an eddy, moving vigorously but not forward. […] Busy-ness is a handy method of maintaining the status quo yet is simultaneously active, optimistic, and often makes people feel better. For this reason, to critique its diversionary aspects tends to come across as nay-saying, discouraging, or failing to advance a constructive alternative. In this book, I explain why I think such critique is necessary and why it does not have to lead to dismal nihilism.”

    While she’s speaking specifically about issues in solid waste management, there are pieces of environmental justice rhetoric that ring true outside the discipline. On a national and personal level, is GDP or how much we produce the best measure of progress? It’s certainly the easiest measure, but certainly not the most useful.

  6. It has been a long week and I am out of comical responses, so I will simply say that you hit a thick nail square on the head. You are not alone with the overwhelming feeling of unmade beds, dirty dishes, piles of mail, things that we were once so organized with. Apparently, it happens. Let go and enjoy your ride! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi there,
    It has been a long week and I am running short on wit, please accept my standing ovation for recognizing and sharing this experience. I too struggle with the sudden overwhelming-ness of simple tasks like bed making, mail opening, and sock pairing. I hear it’s what happens as we get older. To you I say hang in there and enjoy the ride. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hey there, just wanted to say that I’m a fairly new follower of your blog but have enjoyed every post so far. Including this one. It probably seems crazy but I admire you and am jealous of you in equal parts—because you seem to be incredibly capable of doing exactly what you want, when you want to. As a recent college graduate who’s definitely not “following my dreams” at the moment, it’s inspiring to see someone else doing it and revealing all the messiness that it is. Cheers.

  9. Girl, I’m on the other side of the country but you and I are so much alike.

    But there’s also truth to this: I’m tired. My feet hurt. My brain feels foggy, a lot of the time. And I’ve begun to care less about each project because I simply have to focus on getting it all done on time, under budget, on deadline. I can feel myself making easy choices and sloppy work, and I hate it, and I have to cut that shit out, now.

    I have so been there. Hitting that point was when I decided to stop freelancing in theater full time. I was so tired of having to take the boring, crap gig that payed well and pass on the passion-project type gig I wanted to do just because I needed to pay rent. So, now I have the full-time day job and free-lance on the side. Obviously I’m not discouraging you or suggesting you should do this. Another huge realization I had at this time was that as much as I love the theater work, I just do not have the personality to be a free-lancer long term. It pretty much gave me an ulcer. If you aren’t having that reaction, keep on going! 🙂

    So, enjoy your break! Good on you for realizing you need it! Write lots! Have fun! Good luck!

  10. Your holiday travels sound absolutely amazeballs with a side of bacon and carrot cake for dessert. Your blog is much the same, and if all of this means that you’ll be posting more, then I’m as excited for me as I am for you. I look forward to your posts and I get a laugh and some wisdom out of each one.

    I hope your writing takes off as well as your freelancing has.

    • And don’t feel ashamed for putting up the donation button. You’re trying to make writing into gainful employment. That level of writing takes a great deal of effort and you deserve to be compensated.

  11. Oh hey, it’s that girl from the Theatre Production class at Drexel who likes your blog! I definitely feel this in a way. My room has looked like a tornado hit it since I started rehearsals for my current show, and even though I love all the things I’m doing I’m ready for things to stop spinning. You are wonderful and your break sounds awesome. Have so much fun! Can’t wait to read whatever you come up with!

  12. Oh my gawd…I thought I was the only one with ancient relics (coffee cups) in my car…At this moment, there are about seven in my vehicle that need excavating. Oh, and half-written notes, toys, a blanket, receipts, etc…I imagine some people may believe I live in my car…

  13. Well, my inbox is going to be lonely without you! But as a fellow freelancer, I’m also really glad (and INCREDIBLY envious) that you get to do this “writer’s retreat.” Have loads of fun being all Thoreau-y and tromping around the gorgeous fall-time Northeast 🙂

  14. You know what they say – a change is as good as a holiday – and in this case, you get both!

    Good luck and godspeed – can’t wait to read the results!

  15. My older kids are married and in their 30s. My youngest is 13. How in hell would I know anything about twentysomething life if it weren’t for you? (BTW, the offer to adopt you – in case, you know, your parents change their mind – is still open.)

    And where in Georgia? (I’m in Atlanta.) And where upstate NY? (My Mom and my bro & sis-in-law live in Albany, which I grew up just outside of.)

    Best best best wishes on your new adventure.

  16. Y’know, you have bonded with a LOT of us out here in blogland. We’re all with you, waiting for the next installment (holding you accountable and looking forward to your next creative exploit)! Have a wonderful time with your retreats and your family. Feed your soul.

    PS As a self-employed decorative painter/refugee-from-20-years-in-the-corporate-world, I can say I am a lot happier now even though I don’t make as much money. I am fortunate that I put my husband through school, supported our family for years, and now he agrees it’s my turn. 🙂

    PPS I’d totally donate to your travel fund.

  17. Word of advice: clean out your car and your house so that as you travel and upon your return, you feel like there is a clean slate.

  18. Good for you Miss K!
    What better time than now, what better place than here. You will not regret this choice to take the time away for all or any of the reasons you’ve outlined.
    Please don’t put expectations on yourself or measure things in any other way than as experiences and emotions. It’s all going to become writing one day so it all counts.
    It’s 3:15 am for me right now and even though I want to donate to your tip jar it will have to wait until tomorrow…because I’m all comfy in bed right now.
    One thing though…you MUST use my donation towards the purchase of a nice bottle of bourbon. Or I take it back.

  19. Of all the blogs I subscribe to yours are always read. The time and value thing. In commenting for the first time, gotta say…..I love reading the honesty, freshness and “realness” of your writings. Enjoy your much needed time off.

  20. Pingback: I’m So Proud And Happy And Successful That I Just Hate Myself And Everything Around Me. | High Voltage Health

  21. This blog post pretty much sums what my roommate and I discussed on Wednesday as I had a minor break down after a fairly stressful beginning work week (which only got worse) and a fairly stressful tech week as stage manager where I was consistently getting 6 hours or sleep or less (I really only work well on 7 to 8). Thank you for summing it up so nicely!!

  22. Have a wonderful trip and a blessed Thanksgiving! The Philadelphia Theater Community will still be here when you return. Just enjoy the writing and the family love. xoxoxo

  23. Go write! And let us all know when some lucky publisher signs you on, so all of our book clubs can enjoy your work and we’ll call Oprah and make her come out of retirement to recommend your book.

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