Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm really good at being mediocre at things.

As the title says, the only thing I seem to be any good at lately is being mediocre at everything.  Granted, my definition of mediocre is probably pretty subjective.  But, before you raise a hand to argue that I'm probably doing just fine, hear me out. 

I have been technically "unemployed" for going on nine months now.  I've figuratively gestated a full-term unemployment baby.  And... I'd like to think that nine months is a whole lot of time to get oneself together, to learn some new things, to change, albeit at a glacial pace.  What have I learned?

1) The first couple of months are really fun.
The first few months after cutting loose from a toxic work situation are FANTASTIC.  And terrifying.  But mostly fantastic.  You're sailing through your life, collecting your unemployment checks and feeling invincible, because you're no longer tied to a situation that was draining you.  You've got all the energy in the world, I daresay I was practically vomiting rainbows every morning while skipping off to the coffeeshop to write.  It was great.  You think that phase is never going to end, that that's what "creative self employment" is always going to look like.

2) The first couple of months are NOTHING like what "creative self employment" really look like. 
At least, not if you're me.  Was I employed creatively?  Yeah.  Was I master of my own domain?  Of course.  But the thing you tend to forget while you're munching your 90th egg sandwich and writing chapter 28 of that LOST fanfiction is that egg sandwiches and LOST fanfiction don't make you any money.  Egg sandwiches, in a fit of cruel irony, tend to COST money, actually.  And, let's be honest, your love for Ben Linus might carry you through a lot of things, but he's not coming to bail you out when your bank account is empty.  You need to do things that actually help your situation. 

3) (counterintuitively) Thinking about money all the time is a shitty way to do things. 
Sometimes you need to sit in a coffeeshop and eat an egg sandwich and write about how stupidly in love with Ben Linus you are.  Sometimes you need that.  After seeing what February did to me, hoo damn, do I appreciate the sweet, sweet sanity of egg-cheddar-sesame bagel and five hundred pages of surly glances and snide comments. 

4) I'm really good at being mediocre at things.
Guess what?  Full circle.  One of the biggest discoveries of... probably my life... is that you actually need to WORK on things to be good at them.  You need to put effort into the shit that you do.  You're all sitting there thinking "well, duh." but this is kind of a big deal to me.  You're talking to the kid who put ZERO effort into schoolwork for the first 12 years of schooling and still walked away with straight-A's.  The kid who had a nervous breakdown after having to TRY to be good at something (literally one thing) in undergrad, and then subsequently sailed through the rest of those four years working on NOTHING and predictably being utterly forgettable at everything. 

Fast forward to... this morning.  (Maybe not quite this morning, this concept has been boiling under the surface for a few days, really)  It's like an epiphany.  You want people to think you're pretty again?  Stop wearing shitty clothes and no make up.  (I mean, by all means, wear shitty clothes and no make up if you want to.  But it occurs to me that I can't remember the last time a random dude catcalled me on the way to the Jewel, and that shit used to happen every. single. day.)  You want to fit into your jeans again?  Quit eating the whole box of mac & cheese in one go.  Also, you're supposed to be training for a 5k.  You want to stop being so forgettable as a performer?  Maybe if you practiced, or watched your acts, or asked for feedback, or did any of the things you're supposed to do? 

I have a feeling it's going to be a ridiculously difficult habit to break.  Partially because it's so ingrained in my being.  Partially because living hand-to-mouth leaves very little room to think about the things that are happening even as far away as the day after tomorrow.  But, really, here's the last thing I'm in the process of learning:

5) Concentrating on living hand-to-mouth isn't really conducive to improving your life situation.
When you're spending all your time worrying about where your rent is going to come from... a week before rent is due... you really aren't spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to put enough money away so that this problem doesn't repeat itself next month.  Because that's a fucking fantasy.  If I can't even pay rent this month, what use is it for me to think about next month? 

But here's the thing.  You end up spending all your time taking jobs (ANY jobs) that will pay you a little money right now.  You sign up for that extra day on set.  You take another Stage Management gig.  You sign up for those asanine online websites where you can review songs for a whole 10 cents per song, or sell stock photography, or copywrite in your so-called free time.  You take the job that pays you $20 because you need that $20 RIGHT NOW, instead of using that time to run your acts a few times, or finish your props (FINISH YOUR FANS, MEGAN), or researching who you should be emailing to get more diverse bookings.  (how does that even work?  Really.  I have no idea.  I'm the worst freelancer ever.)

I'm not saying you shouldn't be taking those $20 gigs, because they do add up.  But there's a point where you suddenly realize you're exhausted, you can't remember where the hell the last two months went, and somehow you're still broke.  Maybe I could have just said "work smarter, not harder" and that would have sufficed. 

Maybe that's the biggest irony of all.  For all that I've always been a smart kid, I've never quite figured out how to work smart. 

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