Growing up, my home life had two speeds: Busby Berkeley musical and slasher film. By the time I was a teen-ager I spent the majority of my time in search of a more consistent genre (and sometimes coke and ecstacy) so was often too busy to pay attention in, what is commonly referred to as, “school.” I was a terrible student and the only miracle that took place in the four years I attended Sisters of the Presentation College Prepatory was my graduation. To this day, the mere word “graduation” sends me into fits of giggles. It was my first hustle.
A few months after convincing Sister Helene that now would be a good time to remember her vow of charity, overlook my academic record and let me pass on personality alone, I thought about my future. I was seventeen, rudderless, and, owing to a generous grant from a grandmother who had always appreciated my “moxie,” freshly home from several weeks in Europe. I arrived back in the States to find that A) my room had been given to my younger brother and B) pretending to speak Italian fluently cause I had spent most of July there did nothing but aggravate everyone in the room. It was time to make a plan.
I took stock of what I had: a Ziploc bag full of European coins, a diploma boasting a 2.1 GPA, and a tan. I was surprised to discover that none of these gems secured me a spot in college, so I headed out into the world to find passion in work and, of course, money for the coke and the ecstasy. Problem was - career wise - nothing fit.
I backed into everything I tried. Never so much choosing a direction as accepting one. Inevitably, I would reach a point at every job where my boredom grew so large that without notice to anyone, including myself, I would walk into work on a seemingly normal day and quit on the spot. Then, when I was 32, and woefully resigned that passion and work would never coexist in my life, something wonderful happened.
It was the year 2000 and I was a rep for commercial directors, making more money than I could spend and, as usual, hating every second of it. One particular Sunday I watched the Super Bowl with my other rep friends. We would talk during the game and amp up during the commercials, each of us yelling over the other to announce, “This is one of mine.” In the middle of the melee, a new monster.com spot came on featuring Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:
“… I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
I stole off to the bathroom and cried. Money be damned, once again, I was nowhere. I was sitting on the toilet, staring at the hostess towels like they held a clue, when a quiet but fertile seed planted itself in my brain.
My mother is an amazing poet and a literary life was greatly prized during my formative years. I had always written too but I never thought to choose the profession for myself. Writing was something you suffered for, something done under cover of darkness with a huge snifter of Brandy and, as my ghetto-adjacent childhood proved to me, there was no money in it, but for some reason, the morning after the Super Bowl, I went online and started to research writing classes.
Sitting at my desk that Monday morning, I discovered that my favorite poet - Stephen Dunn - was teaching a workshop in my favorite place – Mexico. The deadline for entries was THAT day. I looked up Frost's poem, cried a little more and spent the next hour bouncing back and forth between the poem and the workshop application.
I made myself a cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette, visited with my colleagues, then went back to my desk and wrote a poem about a woman trying to live a lie while serving tea to her inner “monsters.” I sent it to the editor of the workshop. At 3pm, I received an e-mail saying I had been accepted. At 4pm, I quit my job.
That was 11 years ago and I have never looked back.
I’m thinking about this because today The Early Girl turns one and, like all toddlers, I’ve been falling on my ass a LOT lately. Emotionally, I've been having a rather rocky, “Jesus, take the wheel,” couple of weeks but the only thing I can think about is how grateful I am for that Super Bowl. For Mexico. For my mother. For the written word.
Writing, something I now do in broad daylight and with great exaltation, turns out to be my greatest hustle ever. Other than Dash, it is also my greatest love. For the first time, what I do for a “living” (read: no money for a bikini wax) and what I do for fun, coexist. It can be, at times, an ear-splitting harmony.
BUT, for me, there is no greater professional pleasure and I miss the weekly Early Girl posts. I am tits deep into the script, and maybe it’ll reap many financial rewards, but on this auspicious occasion I just want to say that I miss you.
Thank you, so muchly, much for reading. At the time, walking away from the security of that repping job was the hardest decision I had ever made but, just so we're clear, you are a big part of why being brave so many years ago was the best thing I ever did.