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.