Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I Will Never Have a Real Job, or, Life After the MFA

November 7, 2007: Two weeks before my 30th birthday. It had been a struggle, but I finally had what I thought I always needed - a real job. I was Deputy Director of Cassidy's Place, a non-profit integrated pre-school program for disadvantaged and special needs children. I had actual responsibilities. I was making grown-up money. I had just moved into a one-bedroom apartment by myself. I was leaving my twenties behind and walking full-force into an adulthood that included novelties like a savings account and furniture I didn't inherit from roommates past. A la Mary Tyler Moore, I was going to make it after all.

And then I got laid off. Six months into my first real job, I was called into my executive director's office and told that, unfortunately, they couldn't afford to maintain my position. (Did I mention this was two weeks before my 30th birthday?) I could feel my future (and my self-esteem) circling the drain. The void in front of me was so large and unforgiving that I could not imagine how I was going to move through it. I cried for days.

Depressed and in need of a drink (or twelve), I went to my friend Christian's early Christmas party. As I walked in the door, he said, "How are you?"

"Unemployed," I said.

"Congratulations!" he said. "You've just received a six month government grant to stay home and write."

I haven't been depressed since. Those six months were some of the best of my life. I finished a screenplay. I took trips to Vegas and the Bahamas (probably not what the State of New York had in mind when they asked me if I was "actively seeking work," but whatever). And I got my head screwed on straight. I'm a writer. It's the only thing I'm even remotely confident about. Well, that and my ability to live on the cheap. I know what I want to do with my life, and how I manage to make money in the meantime is only a minor detail.

I've pieced together several part-time jobs since the unemployment checks ran out. I went back to the same non-profit, but for a different job with less pay. I spend my summers working for the Southampton Writers Conference. I occasionally ghost write for my mother or hire myself out as a production manager. I moved from my one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom with a roommate. What matters is that I'm writing more now than I have in years, and I'm happier than ever. The part-time gigs are not perfect or permanent solutions, but they work for now. You know, until I become a famous writer.


Claire Dawn said...

YES! That, right there!

You just took my secret dream and told it to everyone!

Charmaine Clancy said...

Excellent attitude :-)

Sheila Lamb said...

Sounds familiar! Not too get too new age-y, but I do think if you're headed in the right direction, things will fall into place :-)

Sally Jane said...

Claire Dawn: Ha! Live the dream!

Charmaine Clancy: Thanks!

Sheila Lamb: Yeah, I really feel like the universe was trying to tell me something - "As much as you may think you want this real job, you don't."