Just in case anyone out there is thinking of doing the same thing, allow me to bestow upon you this piece of advice: Unless you are intensely resourceful, creative or independently wealthy, consider moving a few states away in the spring, summer or fall. Pretty much anytime other than right before Christmas, in other words.
But I survived. I braced my family for the cheap approach to gifts that I’d be taking this year while also pinky swearing with John that we’d postpone gifts for one another and a big fat New Years Eve until we were both gainfully employed. Everyone agreed to the terms more or less with my 16 year old niece getting into it by cranking out a few paintings for my mom and me. I managed to spend no more than $13 on each member of my family at most – that’s 10 people to buy for, not including John – and nine of them got something handmade. Everything from pillows sewn to paintings signed, I pulled the creative cork out of my rear and got to work as soon as the birthday weekend ended. It went well and I may even be commissioned by my brother-in-law to do something large for his office wall. Sidenote: naming my price is really difficult for me, always has been. I know I’m good, I know what materials cost, but for some reason unless I’m writing it down and sliding it across a table like they do in the movies I feel like a jerk.
Christmas was wonderful. That’s two in a row where I was actually sad to leave my family to catch the train back to the city and frankly, if I wouldn’t have had John with me I’m pretty sure I’d have stayed overnight both the Eve and the night of even though it means sleeping in bed with my mom because the house is too full. I miss those family nights and mornings. I miss crawling into bed with my sister and watching Christmas movies. This must be what happens when you grow up and realize your family isn’t the source of anxiety like they used to be, or maybe I grew up and things roll off easier.
But then the parties end, the Bears lose, the ornaments are put away, the bills come and I realize that as happy as I am to be home and as much as I love this city with every cell and fiber of my body, it is expensive. The resumes fly out of my computer daily and have in earnest since November, but not a peep. Not one. Well, that’s not true, I have had two interviews for a chef who needs an assistant to deal with her uncataloged recipes, interviews and media stuff. Truth be told it’s the grown up restaurant job I have actually wanted. That is, until a friend and I went out for pho one night shortly after I returned..
I loaded my bowl up with Sriracha and yammered on about how working administrative jobs will pay the bills and while no, it’s not at all what I want for my life and yes, it does make a mockery of my creative degrees but you know, cell phone and groceries and all… My friend put his chopsticks down and waited for me to finish. When I did he smiled graciously and said something like, “Penny, stop it. Don’t work those jobs. Don’t become an Executive Assistant because no amount of the $80K salary, benefits and potential travel [yes, this sounds horrible ouch stop it oh heavens] is going to keep you from going home at night feeling like someone’s bitch. Keep applying for design jobs. Stick with it”… chew…chew… nod. He was right. He was exactly right. Though like many people tried to tell stubborn art majoring Penny, quixotic creative aspirations do not in fact, pay the cell phone bills. Then again, I’ve never worked a job that pays 80 grand.
His words of optimistic yet realistic wisdom shook me, it’s true. I immediately went home and changed my LinkedIn profile from Administrative to Creative and almost exclusively applied for graphic design positions from there. There have been the occasional administrative hail Marys chucked since, just a few to keep my fingers nimble, but I’ve pretty much stopped standing on the employment street corner waiting for the HR johns to slow roll me.
When I get stressed out, I spin a little. I get tension headaches and my guts start to get angry so sometimes I just need distraction. I meant to go to the art museum which advertised a free day today but when I got there, it turned out they are doing them next week instead – a shrewd move to thwart the folks still out of school and work, no doubt – so I turned away with a mental note and proceeded to walk around my city. It was cold, mid-20s maybe with a wicked lake-induced wind chill. My fingers sang angrily at me for exposing them to it while snapping off shots, but they were just going to have to deal because well, the sun was setting and I was inspired.
I stopped at Trader Joe’s and Target to pick up supplies for dinner once the sun went down and my hands had had it. John has been coughing all week so as to sound like a retired miner on his third pack of the day but still has it in him to cook for us, bless him. The least I can do is lug a gallon of milk and some sundries a few blocks.
** This post is dedicated to and was inspired by Katherine who writes a blog called Eggton. She’s clever and funny, makes meals that gives Food & Wine a run for its money and you should definitely get to know it.