The longest era, the longest thing I had ever done since graduation, came in at just under 10 months: Unemployment II, the period of dark nothing that came after my internship. I don't have any explanation as to why it lasted so long. It's like asking a man why he was drowning for so long -- because he can't swim and that's how long it took until he caught a line. I was about to crack, again, and had lined up a food service interview right before I picked up a pretty decent administrative job. I am typing at a coffee shop across the street from work, passing time while the freeways clear up.
"Pretty Decent" is probably the best way to describe it. It's not inspiring work, but it is challenging in the way that everything is an unending logic puzzle. Although I've been here for 3 months, I don't yet feel like a hot shot wiz kid, which is something that's happened in some capacity everywhere else I've worked. I haven't proven myself to be invaluable in some specific way. The pay is completely acceptable, more than I've ever been paid, and is allowing me to not just buy things, but to save and build towards things.
This is, by all accounts, what I wanted. It is something far enough away from home to create moving out pressure. It is something that, if not in my chosen field, is within my capabilities but doesn't kill my soul. At the worst of Unemployment II, I could pass the time just fantasizing about mundane things: going out to dinner, investing into my aspiring writing career, buying books on how to do shit and then doing it. I dreamed of living a life where a parking ticket didn't mean I had to skip lunch all week.
So now I'm here. In one or two paychecks, I'll hit the all-time high score on my bank account, which isn't much, but it means a lot to someone like me who struggles with an irrational obsession with money management. But all those fantasies I had, about using this newfound security as a launching pad for the real work? That's harder to initiate than it is to plan.
It's only been three months, yes, but sometimes that's just a lazy coward's excuse for complacency. Even when I do make moves toward the future, I am always running into new things. Not really obstacles, but little nuances about this pre-production stage of my life that I have to figure out.
First, enough isn't enough, and I think I knew this would happen. When I was making $8 an hour, I thought, "if I just made a few dollars more, I'd be in the clear." Now that I make a few dollars more, I think, "if I just made a few more dollars on top of my few dollars, I could really get somewhere." It's the typical evolution of human need, that I am sure will only end when I'm a playboy billionaire psychotic on par with Bruce Wayne. The tag team of capitalism and human nature is funny like that.
Secondly, there is the time factor. Full-time work is great in that there's now a reason to get out of bed in the morning, but it comes with a cost. The commute should only be 30 minutes or even less, but as this is LA, and that is the 405, it is usually an hour going one way. If there is an accident, or even the tiniest bit of precipitation, then it is an hour and a half. Going back is a similar nightmare unique to the Angeleno. All of this is to say: I lose a lot of time to traffic. In-between work and commuting, that's 10 hours out of my day. When I get home at 7 PM on most days, that leaves me 4 or so hours to do what I need to do for the day: Iron laundry, eat dinner, read book, write thing, whatever. Depending on what is on my plate, it is often impossible to do all of it in one day, so then it gets added to tomorrow's queue.
So now the game is: If I lived closer to work, that would save me a bunch of time in the long run. But at my meager pay, that's going to be an unbelievable rent burden, so if that's the plan I'd have to do some serious finance wizardry. Mostly, I just come to the conclusion to make due with what I have. Use my time wisely, make every second count, and fine tune my discipline to make efficient use of my time. I'll let you know if it works out.
My writing world is a mess with no clear priorities. My dear Dropbox has 64 idea files that need to be fleshed out and evaluated. I have upwards of 12 short fiction things that haven't been touched since their second draft. I'm supposed to take this whole blog thing to 'nother level soon and revamp it as my professional home base for future writing employment and opportunities. And as always, I should really read more books, and faster.
It's not that starting is the hardest part, or even knowing where to start. It's that when there's so much to do, so many ways to work on launching, it can all seem so intangible and unreal. This is all pre-production and setting the foundation, which means I'm not really doing anything. Building this future is a slow, blind process and it lacks the motivation of outside validation. While you build in the dark, you can only rely on yourself to know that you're on the right track. It's a thing that drives me nuts time and time again. I have plans for the future, but in this stage when it's all just ideas that you want and possibilities that make you a tiny bit happy, it's hard not to be worried that you're falling for the pipe dream.
I don't know if this memory is even remotely correct, but there might be an episode of SAVED BY THE BELL where the gang goes surfing except for Screech who says he has to wax his surfboard first. Except he's waxing his board the whole time, as a stalling measure, telling everyone he'll be right there. In actuality, he doesn't know how to surf, he just wants to fake it until the social pressure is gone. He's a fake, and we laugh at him for it.
I may be making up that whole gag, or it may be an amalgamation of several similar gags from film and television. But it represents my main anxiety these days, the thing that surfaces when I don't keep busy. I used to worry about not being good enough, or about the steep odds of success. Those things are still there, but in my limited time away from staring at Excel spreadsheets, I worry that my fancy, high-falutin designs for the future are just intellectual posturing. Failing is a miserable thing, but being a fake is worse.