Showing posts with label employment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label employment. Show all posts

baseline

In October of last year, while simultaneously applying for (and accepting) various writing gigs, I knocked together what I called a "lapsed server" resume. Because before I'd started dancing, in a previous lifetime, that's what I'd done. I waited tables, I worked counter jobs - I even did a brief stint as a barista in a cafe inside of Borders. (I'd also had a few retail jobs, but I passionately hated every one of them.)

It was actually a friend who pushed me in this last-resort direction, pointing to the acting community as an example of creatives/artists doing what they had to, to survive. He was right. It was one of few options I had. If I wasn't going to lie my way into desk job that I didn't want anyway, there wasn't a lot else open to me. At least, not a lot with the potential for decent earnings. I've worked for tips before. I am good at getting tips. For all my character flaws, I am pretty personable.

So I pitched myself as someone looking to get back into hospitality after years of working for herself. A friend who has made a fantastic career of high-end serving helped me write a creative, clever, and sincere resume that I felt good about. Actually going out and applying with it - now that was a truly humbling experience. If there's one thing I learned last year, it is that LA does not give a fuck about anyone's career expectations, whatever that career is.  LA is a city full of hungry, hustling people. Even the most basic serving jobs are shockingly competitive.

After bouncing around interviewing for a couple of weeks and spending two horrible days working at a "mom and pop" sandwich place run by an angry control freak, I got lucky. A spot opened up in a restaurant pretty much exactly where I was hoping to land. The exact neighborhood and in fact the exact location in that neighborhood.

Now, I've thought a lot about whether I want to share where I'm working. I've had the experience a few times now of strangers recognizing me (or Chaucer, hilariously) from my blog and stopping me on the street to introduce themselves. And don't get me wrong - I find it flattering and for the most part a really cool thing.

But I'm not so sure in this case. The idea of someone coming by my work just to gawk, just to see me in all the un-glamour of waiting tables...that isn't particularly appealing. Not that any of you would. But I've had some freaky social media encounters over the years, and some less-than-positive attention directed my way. (As I myself have put less-than-positive vibes out into the world.)

So while I'd love to throw myself open to local readers and say, "Come say hi!" - I can't.

Suffice to say I work in an extremely popular, very trendy place that is almost always busy, with multiple vendors and restauranteers in a single space. Celebrity chefs. Laid back atmosphere. Sustainability and ethical sourcing. All in a neighborhood that is rapidly rising in popularity and price. Employees like myself - lots of twenty, thirty, and forty-somethings with "other things" going. Artists and musicians who wait tables or work registers to keep themselves afloat while they navigate concurrent creative lives.

And I love the job.

The money ranges from good to truly spectacular. It's largely a location, location, location thing. Which is not to say that we don't offer great stuff, and have a solid reputation. We do. But our real estate is prime, considering the target demographic.

And I love the people I work with. It's taken some time to really bond with everyone (thoughts on why that is to come in a future post), but I'm there now and it is wonderful. Coming to work is a pleasure. No stress, good energy, easy, and mindless in the best way.

Timo calls this my "baseline" job. That's a good name for it not the least because, perhaps unsubtly, it reminds me that serving is not my end goal. And while it has been a massive relief to have reliable income with a regular schedule (in fact I have pretty much the exact days/shifts I requested) for a few months, it's definitely time to get back to pursuing my own concurrent creative life.

So I'll talk about where that's at, next.

in which I set a porklord straight

The view count for my last few posts has been approximately ten times what is typical. I tried to dig around and find out why, if maybe my blog had been mentioned somewhere big or something. But I'm not seeing anything. So I have no idea what's driving all the traffic, but hello to anyone new!

I did, however, see that someone had added to the SOMI thread about me on GOMI. And I tried to log in and just reply there, but for whatever reason, clicking the "Click Here to Post A Response" button doesn't do anything.

Which leaves me two options. Ignore the post, or reply to it here. Here's the post:


It is of course entirely possible that Headpat Junquie knows someone that knows me IRL. The world is small. But I haven't really socialized a ton in LA, other than with my small, long-standing group of friends. Also, I only started working outside of my apartment early last year. So I dunno. Possible but improbable, from where I'm standing. Then again, who knows.

But oh man. The idea that at my age I could still be dancing? I mean...thanks?

Alas, those days are over. I do have a job, which is what I actually logged on tonight to blog about, until the curiously high numbers distracted me. But it is not dancing. Far from it.

Re: the "pretty disastrous choices" - really not much I can say to that. Indeed I have made some lousy decisions. Dancing for way too long. My marriage. The abusive relationship in Tucson. Moving in with Terence. Not working for years. Lots of big lessons in those mistakes. Lots of compassion and gratitude and perspective gained, too.

Anyway, just wanted to set the record straight. The only dancing I do these days is in front of a stage, not on one. Fully clothed.

Way less profitable, but way more fun.

the one you'll not want to skip

Hello again.

It has been incredibly difficult for me to get back here; the only obstacle being, as ever, myself. Whenever I am stuck in blogging, when I push it to the corner or hide from it, it is due to fear of some kind. Or overwhelm. Or both. In this case, I have wanted to write a massive end-of-year tell-all, about everything that went down in 2016, so that I can start 2017 with a clean slate - creatively and emotionally.

But there have been things holding me back from telling all and getting to that clean slate. Namely, shame.

There is no point in hanging on to shame, though. It's doing nothing for me. I don't have a time machine, and I can't go back and undo any of my bad decisions. I'm where I am now for better or for worse. So let's do this. Let's just unload all of this crap and move forward.

2016 was by far, without competition, the worst year of my life.

I spent the first six months still living with Terence, even after we'd broken up. And it was so, so bad. A nightmarishly toxic situation that made monsters of us both. I was unrecognizable to myself. He was unrecognizable, from the man I'd met two years prior. We brought out the absolute worst in one another. Ugly, raging, middle of the night screaming matches. I broke my own heart with how awful I was. I hated myself. But we were stuck.

So there was that.

In March I started working for a man as his personal assistant. I wrote some about this. This was what gave birth to the Riley series. I alluded in general terms to his difficult personality, to how demanding and angry he was. What I didn't get into was how quickly I fell into a weird, semi-codependent relationship with him. I was his employee, and he was my boss. But he didn't need another employee. The "work" I did for him was nothing he couldn't do for himself. What he needed was a friend. And that was my real job. Being the confidant, the emotional validator - the crutch, really - of an exceptionally unhappy person. And I got paid for it. So I stayed. Because I needed a job.

Because I had run out of money.

That's right. That's the big secret I have been mincing around for the better part of a year now, the one that has made blogging with honesty and openness all but impossible. Because if I am dishonest about the basic circumstances of my life, there is no room for authenticity or real feeling. It's just me trying to represent some version of myself, as I want to be seen.

So here it is, here is the terrible thing that I have spent the past six months coming to terms with, in a sort of slow-dawning shock: I blew through not one, but two inheritances. My mother's (small) and my father's (not small).

There was no reason for it to happen this way. None at all. No excuse in a hundred thousand years that can justify it, though my therapist disagrees (yes I am in therapy now and I'll get back to that shortly). But there you have it. Gone. Where did it go? Well, it went to four years of rent. Mine, and for half of the time we lived together, Terence's (he paid a third of what I did). It went to food. It went to entertainment. Festivals and concerts. It went to clothing, and caring for Chaucer.

It disappeared, because for four years, I didn't work. I didn't save. I just spent. So if you want to know how to blow through six figures in less than half a decade, that is how you do it. You just freeze up. You just become paralyzed about how to move forward with your life. You refuse to face reality and start at the bottom of a career path. You lie to yourself that tomorrow you'll start fresh. Make a plan. Figure it out. You tell yourself that lie day after day after day, for a thousand days.

And then all of a sudden, your self-sabotage will coalesce into exactly, precisely the disastrous ending you think you deserve: you'll have nothing. You'll be jobless, facing a dwindling checking account. Panicked but in denial. Sleepless with anxiety but totally clueless what to do.

Imagine that going on, while at the same time living with an ex-boyfriend whom you despise. That's where I was when I was introduced to an eccentric millionaire inventor who needed a roll dog and a whipping boy.

But here's a fun detail you don't know about that: the person that introduced us? Well, that was my girlfriend/neighbor, who also worked for him. And oh boy. Oh boy oh boy is this the point where shit gets interesting. Because I had spent the better part of a year, as her friend, listening to her complain about him. About how much he screamed at her, about how abusive a boss he was, about how she was just going to take advantage of him as much as possible and then get out with a cool million. About competing products she had in mind, to threaten him with. Per her words on a weekly basis, he was the absolute last person on the planet anyone should work for. Her job was miserable, because of him. And it wouldn't be until months later that I saw just how much he had informed her attitude about life, with his negativity. She truly is the most unhappy person I have ever met, and I suspect it's because of his daily (hourly, really) influence.

Anyway, the drama with her started immediately. She was, I guess, threatened by my sudden stature as preferred employee (a honeymoon phase that didn't last). She began to act coldly to me. Passive aggressive in the extreme. I confronted her, tried to have an honest and open dialogue about what was happening, but she dug her heels in. She blamed me for making her life more difficult, her job more challenging. The fact is that working for this man requires a delicate dance of diplomacy and tact. He doesn't always make decisions that are in his or his business's best interest - and sometimes he ends up pitting employees against one another. Vague I know, but the bottom line is this: I was nearly broke. In extremely dire financial straits. So I had zero choice but to do the work as it was prescribed to me. Follow his instructions. He was my goddamn boss, after all. She, however, wanted me to be more subversive. Risk my job (and his wrath) to make hers easier. A job that was providing her with an extremely comfortable and secure lifestyle, with plenty of money in the bank. She wasn't in danger of any kind. I was. She didn't care.

And here's another dumb detail of this sad story: she was furious about Riley. She told me that our boss was "her" story, and that I had no right to write about him. Mind you, in the six years she had been working for him, she had never once written a word. Not one word. But for some reason, all of a sudden my fictionalizing my experiences with him (for creative release and therapy, really), triggered her.

Anyway, March flew by, then April and May, and things escalated. Our friendship dissolved completely. My work life consisted of running around on a moment's notice, performing inane tasks and busywork, driving an inebriated boss home to his Bel Air mansion after tagging along on his dates with socialite models, and occasionally going to some "glamorous" event either with him or in his stead. Things I could never blog about, but holy shit. It culminated, the day before everything turned, in my attending a charity event at the mansion of a very well-known reality TV star. I sat at a table with soap stars I'd grown up watching.

Then, the very next day I believe it was, my boss snapped. We'd been arguing about a raise he'd previously agreed to, and he just lost it. He swung his very heavy bag at my head, and the metal clasp cut my skull open. Actually, that's not the whole story. What happened was this: we had been arguing at a cafe near the office, and he lost his temper and fired me. So I said, great, okay, I'll just gather my things and you can pay me, and I'll be out of your life forever. And he said, no, fuck you bitch, I'm not paying you. At this point I was scared. I'd seen him throw things before (he once threw a phone at me), and I could see him tossing my laptop out the window. So I rushed back to the office to get it before he could. Only he followed me, right on my heels, calling me a bitch the whole time.

And when we got to the stairs of the office, I was steps ahead of him. Maybe fifteen seconds. And on the steps I ran into a man whose office is right across from my boss's. It just so happens that this man is an award-winning film producer, who had become my friend in the previous months (another thing I could never blog about). And I said to this producer-friend, please don't leave, please wait and make sure I get my things safely, my boss has just fired me and is threatening not to pay me.

And my boss arrived at this scene, heard what I was saying, and just exploded. He swung his bag at me full force. It's actually amazing it didn't send me spiraling down the stairs. But no. It just knocked into me, stunned me, and cut my head open.

I could write volumes about what happened in this moment. And I'm not even talking about the logistics and the legal fallout, which I'll get to here in a second. I'm talking about what it did to me, emotionally. In short - and this is how fucked up my state of mind was last year - I felt I'd deserved it. I was so disgusted with myself, with the thousands of terrible, irresponsible choices that had led me to be working for a violent abuser, that I thought, more or less, "Yep. This is about right."

But of course, it wasn't right. It was the wrongest of wrongs. And after a surreal five minutes where he desperately tried to act like he hadn't just committed a violent crime, I scrambled my things together and left his office. And I called one of my best friends.

And so here is where the story takes another sad turn, because this call was the beginning of a whole other sub-chapter of drama. Here is the broad strokes of what happened: my AZ (college) friends rallied around me when my boss attacked me. Big time. They made calls, they researched my rights, they told me that they had my back financially until whatever would happen was settled. They gave me money. A lot of money. Which - can you guess? Can you guess what I did with it? I blew through it. Again, 100% because of not working. In my defense I was trying. I was interviewing, I was applying. But I didn't know what I wanted to do, only that I wasn't cut out to be a fucking administrative or executive assistant. And the time I spent figuring this out was on their dime. So they were pissed. They are still pissed. I don't blame them.

Christ, this story. Have you ever read anything so loaded with sad, tangential drama? Ugh.

Anyway, an Instagram friend (who happens to be a very talented and well-connected attorney) put me in touch with, no joke, probably the most feared trial attorney in the fucking city. I can't tell you the huge, high profile cases this guy has handled, but holy hell. Holy hell. And this attorney met with me and agreed, because of my connection to his friend, to handle my case pro bono. So yeah. That was pretty unreal.

A settlement was obtained. And I didn't have to give a dime of it up for legal fees. But can you guess what I did with the money?

That's right kids. I spent it, because I was still. not. working. Had I had a fucking job by this point, I could have used it to pay my friends back. But nope. This was August/September, and I had lost my job in June, and I still wasn't working. One of my friends cut me off completely, he was so disgusted. I have been trying to fix things with him, but it is the source of enormous, gut-wrenching heartache to accept the fact that nope, he's pretty much over me and my friendship.

And I don't blame him.

So let's see. Where are we? The settlement. Oh! I forgot to tell you some more of the gross details, namely that this former girlfriend of mine, the coworker, did everything in her power to try and prevent me from getting a settlement. And this - this is the thing that almost above all was just...just mind blowing. She called up the police detective who was handling my case and told her about my Riley posts. Why you ask? I have no idea. I mean, I do. I know she did it to curry favor with our boss and ingratiate herself...but good grief. All I could do at that point was laugh. So, so, so unnecessary. I cannot for the life of me understand why this person was continuing to meddle into my life and my business, and why she wouldn't just leave me the hell alone, but there it was. She just couldn't live and let live. I don't know if she knows how to do that at all.

After the settlement, my boss reached out to me and apologized. He said he didn't blame me, that he would have sued, too. He offered me my job back. And I took it back, for another month, until I found the job I have now.

I know.

But here's the thing. This man? He is not evil. He is just damaged. He has been through some really, really bad shit in his life. And at times he can be so generous, and try so hard to be a better person.

I still speak to him. He knows everything, of course, including about my blog. He doesn't care, and he doesn't read it. In fact I occasionally do small writing projects for him. Letters or press releases or whatever. It isn't a big deal. I do them remotely. He pays me well. We know we don't work well together. But he has helped me, too. Written checks way beyond what I was owed, to help me as I got back on my feet.

So that brings us to now. And me being on my feet. But because this post is already way, way too long I will end it on four things that I'll expand upon, completely, next time:

1) I have a job that I am good at and that I enjoy very much.
2) Timo and I are back together.
3) I have a new place that I am wildly in love with.
4) I started therapy.

I am, by all measures, finally back on my feet. Happy new year to you, and to me.

Therapy For People Who Won't Go to Therapy

Since I posted the other day about maybe setting the blog to private, I've gotten several emails from readers requesting access, none of which I've replied to yet. I'm so sorry for taking so long. Seeing my inbox count tick up with cheering subject lines like "SO IN" and "longtime lurker saying hi" was about the greatest boost ever. Thank you.

Some of you also took the time to give me a little extra in the way of encouragement and support, complimenting my writing, or even telling me your favorite post. That was pretty spectacular, too, especially in cases where the post was an old one. It never fails to amaze me how long some of you have stuck with me. I should have certificates printed.

Also incredibly gratifying are the messages I've received thanking me for my openness in writing about depression and anxiety. To that end...

The past few months have been a psychological crucible, and continue to be so. Leaving my job and completely reassessing the direction of my life has brought back to the surface the full monty of my emotional issues. I basically spent every day from June 15th until about a week and a half ago in a tail spin; 3+ months halfheartedly pursuing a line of work I'm completely unsuited for was a massive waste of time, money, and emotion. I procrastinated, self-sabotaged, and lied to myself every day. Then at night I'd feel like shit for not having accomplished anything.

I told you about bailing on The Big Interview, a decision which left me feeling simultaneously shattered and relieved. I said I went back to the drawing board, but I didn't explain. Well, this is the drawing board: I'm going to try and do the thing I've never done, largely because I never needed to do it. And that is write for money. What kind of writing, you ask? The short answer is fucking any, though I do have ideas about what I'd most enjoy and, you know, actually succeed at.

When I made this decision, the reactions of people whose reactions I care most about were mixed. One said, "Right the fuck on." One said, "Hm, okay. How exactly?" One said, "LOL, good luck with that." I'm trying not to be unrealistically encouraged or unduly shaken by these reactions. I'm trying to focus on concrete actions. I wrote a new, truthful resume. I created an online portfolio. I used a mind-mapping app to brainstorm every option I can think of. I'm figuring it out.

Writing for money, however -- writing full time, for a sustainable income -- is the long-term goal. Right now work period is the goal. And I'm not sure what that will look like. It might involve an espresso machine. And I am so totally okay with that, for reasons I'll detail in another post.

But to circle back to where I started: this summer tested me pretty badly. I was absolutely paralyzed with anxiety, but I wanted to keep moving forward. Unlike my deep depressions of years ago, I didn't want to curl up in the fetal position and quit. I could feel the fight still inside of me, but I definitely needed some help to get it going. That's when I started collecting new resources. New coping mechanisms.

I want to stop briefly and say something regarding the title of this post: There is no substitute for professional therapy. If you can afford it, and if you can bring yourself to do it, get it. Please. Just fucking do it, for yourself and everyone you will ever care about. All of us can benefit from therapy, even those who didn't suffer any major trauma. We all have our shit, and we all owe it to ourselves to unpack it and move past it.

I know, though, that not everyone will, for whatever reason. I know that for some, even those that need it most, professional therapy seems out of reach. They just won't go, because they don't think they can. And I get that. I so, so get that.

This summer I was in that place. I didn't feel like I had the time or energy to start delving into anything serious, in any structured way. I just needed some encouraging voices. Strategies. Perspective. Positivity. Black humor, even. Anything that would recast my problems as manageable, surmountable, even funny. I'm grateful to say that I found those things, and have been taking advantage of them for a few months now.

In hopes that some or all might help someone else, I hereby offer up this list of incredible, free resources for those who could do with a bit of guidance, structure, support, and humor - as found outside the doctor's office:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Far and away the thing that has helped me the most is The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast. Host Paul Gilmartin is self-deprecating, compassionate, relatable, and just plain soothing to listen to. He's like a smart, funny, wonderfully supportive friend who listens, asks great questions, and ultimately helps you laugh your blues away.

I've been listening to the podcast almost nonstop since I discovered it. It is just that awesome. Hearing others open up about their own struggles - and victories - has been an invaluable source of comfort and inspiration. In between interviewing guests, Paul reads short submissions from readers, and wow. Hearing these "Struggle in a Sentence" and "Awfulsome Moments" entries is the perfect antidote to self-pity, and a reminder that so many others have it so much worse.

The greatest takeaway from The Mental Illness Happy Hour is its overall message: "You're not crazy. What happened to you sucks. It's understandable to be angry or sad about it. Now let's talk about ways to let go and move past it."

My favorite episodes so far are his interviews with Luke Burbank, Danny Hatch, Cassie Sneider, Maria Branford, Matty McVarish and Judy Gold.

Unstuck

From the website: "Unstuck is an in-the-moment digital coach that's ready every time we're feeling stuck. The app helps us see and solve situations with fresh perspective through provocative questions, targeted tips, and action-oriented tools. It's an approach that works for all kinds of issues, large and small, so we can live better every day."

The first time I used Unstuck, I was floored by how accurately it nailed me. The questions and prompts helped me winnow down exactly what my issue was; why I wasn't moving forward. And once you know what's in your way, you can start building a bridge to get over it. The interface is clean and simple; it almost makes your issue feel like a fun puzzle to work through.

You can save your "stuck moments" to revisit as needed; they're represented on the website as balled up wads of paper. About a week after the interview I skipped, after I'd written a new resume and finished my portfolio, I went back to Unstuck and realized I could get rid of that earlier "stuck moment" ball of paper. I wasn't stuck anymore. And I'd only been stuck because I'd been on the completely wrong path. So yeah. Trashing that wad felt pretty damn great.

The School of Life

There are now two things that, once I get going on, I can evangelize about until I'm blue in the face. LSD (though naturally I do so with a great many qualifiers) and The School of Life YouTube channel.

I don't even know where to start. I'm basically in love with Alain de Botton (who created the series) and I'm not really sure how I survived without him until now. I have intellectual idols, writing idols, and now, thanks to him, I have an emotional idol.

Think of anything you struggle with. Self-esteem? Shitty childhood or parental stuff you're hanging on to? Career anxieties? Relationship worries? There is a School of Life video dissecting it with clarity, insight, warmth, and good humor - and I promise you will feel better after watching it.

Grid Diary

Grid Diary is a lovely little app for writing short, quick daily journal entries. It has an aesthetically pleasing grid-style template that you can use as is, or make over with your own prompts. This summer when my inner (and one or two outer) voices were psyching me out and pushing me down, I customized my grid with questions that have helped me stay positive, pause to reflect on the progress I'm making, and focus on gratitude. I actually consider my prompts extremely personal, because I know some people would scoff at them as, I don't know, pathetic. Self-congratulatory.

But what the fuck ever. My self-esteem hit an all-time low this summer (and my anxiety an all-time high), and Grid Diary was one of the things that helped me get my head on straight. Filling it out every night has become my new favorite bedtime ritual; it's an incredible tool for self-reflection, perspective, and that most powerful of attitude-changers: gratitude. My prompts:

What positive things did I do today? What traits should I be proud of? What would I tell myself if I wasn't me? What am I more worried about than I should be, and why will it be okay? What am I grateful for today? How was Chaucer awesome today? What am I looking forward to right now? What issue am I working on right now, and how?

Productivity

Productivity is a simple, visually appealing habit-tracking app. It's incredibly easy to use, and, I don't know, not intimidating? It doesn't make the idea of setting and achieving goals seem overwhelming. You can set habits to be accomplished daily, weekly, monthly, or just a certain number of times per day/week/month. For instance, you can establish a habit of drinking eight glasses of water a day, or blogging three times a week (TRYING TO GET THERE, GUYS, I PROMISE). And there's a pleasing little ping! and congratulations message when you meet goals.

It's a great app for those who need to work on the whole "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" thing, because even logging in one habit a day feels better than none.

Calm

Another app I relied heavily on this summer. Guided meditations that you can play over a background of soothing music and serene visuals. Subjects range from gratitude and happiness to self-esteem, stress management, and sleep. A few times this summer when I was absolutely crippled by anxiety, just listening to the calming background music with headphones helped me crawl through whatever terrifying task I was struggling with.

Kiwake

Kiwake is an alarm clock app that you'll love to hate. First it forces you out of bed by making you match a picture from another room, then it wakes up your brain with puzzles and motivational reminders.

It's these reminders that constituted my resource/coping mechanism. They're customizable, so first thing in the morning you can read whatever inspirational words will help you start the day on a positive note. The very first one I made was something my friend Bill said to me several months ago: "You don't have to be married to your next job." The next one I made was "Get your shit done early in the day so you can hang out with your amazing new boyfriend at night." Another one was "The best way to improve self-esteem is to perform esteemable acts."

Yep x3.

getting better

Well, hey there old friends. I've missed you. So much has happened since last we talked. Some of it wonderful, some of it terrible. I'm just going to dive in, get you caught up as quickly as possible. The sooner we dispense with the past, the sooner we can spread a picnic blanket out in the sun and enjoy the present.

I moved out of downtown into a new loft in Koreatown, in the middle of a heatwave, with no AC. Now, you're probably thinking, How the hell did you manage to do something so stupid, Ellie? And I'll tell you: I do not know. Maybe because of everything else that had been going on, it slipped my mind. Maybe because when I'd visited the apartment previously, it hadn't been so hot as to make me notice there was a problem--or would be. Or maybe I am just an absolute imbecile. Either way: no AC.

I quit my job. I could write volumes about why and how, but in the end it doesn't matter. It wasn't a good fit for me, for many reasons, but strangely the straw that broke the camel's back was the hours. I hated the late hours. I hated coming home at ten o'clock at night, or later. I hated missing every sunset. I hated not being able to go to dinner, to happy hour with friends. And, frankly, I wasn't being paid enough. So I bailed.

I was the victim of a crime. It's nothing I'm going to talk about though, because I'm fine now and I just want to move on.

I came into some financial difficulty, thanks in part to my own bad decisions and thanks in part to some major mistakes made by my accountant, in the filing of my dad's estate taxes.

Those are the broad strokes. But there was a lot more to it all. A lot more ugliness and a lot more struggle. And I've thought and thought about how much I want to go into it, how much I want to share. And I've come to the conclusion that I just want to press ahead. There are two main takeaways, though, from my past two months: 1) that my friends are among some of the most loving, patient, devoted, and generally incredible people in the world, and 2) wow did I have some growing to do.

The one good reason I could name, to open up about everything that's happened recently, would be so I could explicitly describe all the ways in which my friends were there for me. Because we're talking boots-on-the-ground there for me. Picking me up, dusting me off, and putting me back on my feet several times a day there for me.

When I found myself walking dazedly out of the police station, my face stained with shocked tears and unsure where to even go, my phone blew up with a group text. Three of my best friends had already conferenced privately before teaming up to reach out to me, ready to walk me through every difficult thing I needed to do next. They were, collectively, furious about what had happened to me, and their anger and indignation was the one thing that made me feel not alone. They helped me locate the resources I needed. They checked in with me every step of the way. They cracked jokes when humor was the best medicine, and they reassured me in those moments when I lost faith.

When I froze up at having to look for a new job, they came through again. One of them started my resume for me. Another made a timeline for me to follow, with due dates for submitting applications and securing interviews, and for creating a new personal budget. One of them called me almost every day on his way home from work, to coach and cheerlead me back into action. And they all sent me money, or offered to.

When I couldn't find an AC unit anywhere in the great metropolis of Los Angeles, one of my friends MacGyver'd me a fucking rolling cooler AC using copper tubing, an aquarium pump, and a fan. He brought me loads of groceries and bottled water which, not having a car, is a perpetual challenge for me to keep stocked.

Another of my friends connected me to an attorney who ended up being the real unsung hero in this story. Lots of unsung heroes in this story, unfortunately.

---

And then there is how all of what I went through has affected me, emotionally. And how I've changed because of it. How I've grown. And that is much more difficult to write about. But here is some of it:

I almost broke, but I didn't. I mean, I did break. I broke down. So many times. So, so, many breakdowns. Oh god, you can't imagine how many tears. How much fury at the world, at myself, at others. How much hopelessness and despair, despite the love and support that was given to me. How many times I gave up, for days and days at a time. Hid from scary responsibility. Delayed the inevitable. Procrastinated difficult choices.

I broke a little, but I didn't break to the point of not being able to put myself together again. That I did not do. Slowly, eventually, the crying spells turned into quiet spells. Thinking spells. I decided I needed some new tools. New coping resources. New ideas about old bad habits. And those are the changes I'm in the middle of now.

I've started meditating. Honest-to-goodness meditating. Oh boy would that piss Terence off, but there it is. I've started journaling privately, focusing on gratitude and self-esteem. I'm learning the simple but astounding power of deep breathing. Of taking five minutes - the length of one carefully chosen song, to listen to through headphones in the bedroom, out of Chaucer's view - to cry when I need to....but no longer than that.

No longer than that.

I'm reading Unstuck, and I'm addicted to The School of Life YouTube channel. In both cases, I'm amazed at how long it's taken someone to say such important, helpful things so beautifully.

But most notably, I'm in the throes of an epiphany and its concomitant conclusions, and it is this: I've always self-deprecatingly referred to myself as a self-saboteur, but I never realized just how serious a condition it is. And I get it now. And I get why I am: I am used to success in many realms of my life. Friends, health, fitness, romance, creative endeavors. But career? Nope. That is an area in which I have always stumbled. And because of that, I actually shun success. I run from it it. And that has been the biggest hurdle for me to clear, in getting past this difficult time in my life.

Example: I had a day where I got three leads in a single day, as a result of having applied to four jobs the day before. And rather than excitedly pursue all of those leads, I froze. I didn't return calls. I found reasons not to want the jobs anymore. (Eventually I returned the calls, and even got two interviews out of them.) What the hell, right? But it's because I'm unused to professional success, so it feels weird and foreign and scary to me, like the bottom will drop out any second. Like disaster is lurking right around the corner, waiting for me to fuck up.

Anyway, that is a very abridged picture of what my past couple of months have looked like. I didn't feel like blogging. I didn't know what to say. It would have been an endless stream of complaining, of bad news. I couldn't have faked it. So I didn't even try. But I'm back now. I'm almost totally on my feet again. Things are moving along, and though I don't have a job yet, the reins are firmly in hand and I expect to very soon. Hooray.

Oh. There is one more thing.

I met someone.

And because I know he'll see this, and because I can already picture the nervous smile spreading across his face, I'm going to be very clear in saying: his privacy shall be of my utmost priority, no matter what, no matter how badly I want to share. Because...he's kind of amazing. He's kind and smart and considerate and incredibly affectionate. He's the best communicator with whom I have ever had the delight to engage, in every sense of the word. He's expressive and caring and sexy as all fuck, and I am so enjoying his company, which, to brag about one tiny thing, I shared this past weekend at a bungalow deep in the hills of Malibu.

So, yeah. It hasn't been all bad. And it's getting better all the time.

soul searching

I've been doing some soul searching lately, and it was a relief to confirm that no, I still do not appear to possess one (because woo boy would I be in for some cognitive dissonance then, eh?).

But I did make some discoveries about myself that I hope will be of some use, because I'm staring down a pretty massive fork in the road. I've actually been camped out at this intersection for quite a while, hoping that one or another of the paths in front of me would suddenly light up with a neon sign saying This way, Ellie!

Alas, this hasn't happened.

Here's the deal: I want - I need - to get a full time job. And I'd like to stop right there and say how terrified I am to write this post, because I know what the world thinks of bloggers who don't work. But let me tell you that there is no criticism of me, in that regard, that you can levy on me that I don't levy on myself on a near-daily basis. I've been through some shit, but there isn't a single good enough excuse as to why I haven't already gone back to work, full time. It's on me. It's all on me. And I know how exceptionally lucky, rare, and privileged a position I am in.

So here I am, bundled up in my little one-person tent, watching all the normal people of the world march past, confidently (or not so) continuing down their own career paths, doing what they need to do - you know, like normal people. And I lie to myself. And I berate myself. And I make promises to myself. But I don't take any kind of constructive action, because I am absolutely frozen in the face of deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life. Whee!

I do know some things. I know that I haven't really enjoyed any of my attempts to turn my hobbies into full time, paid work. The blog design shop I started back in 2008 was fun for a while...until it was miserable. The freelance writing I've done under the direction of others has been painful, too; even when I produce good content, it feels inorganic and inauthentic to me. Occasionally someone, over the years, has offered to pay me for (of all things) photography, I guess based on some decent stuff I've lucked into here and there. And I resist that, too. (I resist all of it, in fact, so much so, that I've barely touched the portfolio website I started working on last year. Ridiculous.)

And the worst part is that when I do engage in employer/client-directed artistic work, I almost instantly hate - or at least tire of - the thing I once loved: writing, design, photography. And once I strip myself of the ability to enjoy the things I'm passionate about, what then? It makes me think that maybe I'm better suited to work that, while allowing for some creativity/problem solving (which was the thing I loved most about the tiny bit of web coding I did), isn't wholly creative, per se.

My mother spent most of her life working for various airlines. Great benefits, steady, predictable schedule (at least until 9/11). And she loved it. And she was an extremely creative woman. But she also thrived - as I have in the past - on the sort of work she could leave at the office, at the end of the day. I feel like that's what I want, too. I'm constantly consumed by creative energy, whether or not I release it. I'm always thinking of things I want to write or draw or photograph. It's fucking exhausting, honestly. And I think it would be really good for me to not feel compelled to be always "bringing my work home" with me. I want to leave a job, come home, and be able to fully devote my attention to Chaucer, to my partner, to my home, and to my other interests, as time and energy allow. I want to still love those interests, at the end of the day.

Considering my background and skills, the kinds of writing or editing jobs I'd be suited for also repel me, when I read their descriptions of requirements and responsibilities. It all sounds awful. And that's a scary and depressing thing to say, considering that those are the careers I "trained" for, as an English major. But the limited experience I've had in editing wasn't enjoyable. I didn't like reading and correcting others' work. I found it tedious.

I'm also thinking a lot about the kind of workplace environment I'd enjoy. I don't do well on my own. I get lonely and distracted much too quickly. But nor do I want to be a widget in a huge corporation. My dream job would allow me to work with a small group or team of others, doing similar work, with similar responsibilities. I don't want to be a lackey. But I don't want to be a boss (which I was waaay back in college, when I managed a coffee shop), either. I don't like delegating, supervising, or reprimanding. I actually like answering to a boss, and the simple satisfaction of doing what he or she needs of me. That probably comes from the fulfillment I found in college, in the teacher-student relationship.

Then sometimes I think about how drawn I am to the idea of doing physical work. I envy people who are out and about all day, moving around, getting exercise, not chained to a desk or screen. But I think the ship has sailed on the majority of careers in which that would be a possibility for me. I also deeply envy those who have some specialized physical skill or trade, something they've developed expertise in, over years. But when I try to think of what, among those options, I'd be good at and enjoy, I come up blank - which makes me feel rather pathetic. The other day I mused to LeBoyf that a good exercise for thinking long-term about one's professional career would be to imagine what, if one was going to give a TED talk, one would want to speak about.

But I don't know the answer to that, either.

I'm looking at my friends, and the sort of work they do - at the things they complain about, or the things they enjoy. And the fact is that nearly everyone I know is at best satisfied with their career choice. Most are just ambivalent. Many are miserable. And this breaks down the same no matter if they trained for ten years for their line of work, or fell into it accidentally. The happiness people (at least, those I know well) find in life seems to be drawn from a variety of sources, including relationships and non-work passions. So the question becomes, what sort of work can I do that will allow me to maintain and sustain the sources of the happiness I already enjoy? I'm thinking a lot about lifestyle, about the one I have now (what I like about it and what I don't), and about what I want my life to look like in five, ten, fifteen years. What's important to me. What I can do without.

Last week I enrolled myself in some basic software classes. Truly remedial stuff, I'm embarrassed to say. But while I've been blissfully banging away on one or another MacBook for the past ten years, technology has marched right past my skill set. I haven't laid eyes on a Microsoft program in ages. For me to even be considered for 99% of the jobs of the world, I have some serious catching up to do. So while it shames me to admit to being so, so far behind the crowd, I am taking action, finally.

And I'm still thinking and thinking and thinking some more about my options, my dreams, my realities, and my possibilities. The soul searching will continue. (I'm sure I'll keep coming up empty-handed, but I'll let you know.)

next thing's next

Christ, I am so fried. I've been staring some iteration of this (or its innards) for the past three hours:
 


It's nothing fancy, I know, but that's how I want it. Just a simple, clean creative portfolio site where I can show off the MANY MANY HIGHLY MARKETABLE SKILLS I have (lolsob).  It doesn't seem like much, but I had to take a machete to the closest template I had, layout-wise, from Rainy Day.  And even then, ugh - I've gotten rusty. Forgotten so much CSS. I really wanted the sidebar links to be in hover-over bars, but I couldn't figure out how to do it.

I used to know, I think. I must have.

But it's ok. I think this is ok. I made the sidebar fixed, which I really like. When the wall-o-text on that welcome page scrolls up and the basic info stays on the side, I think it looks rully pruffess'null 'n stuff. I think I'm saying I think a lot.

Mucking around with the CSS got me all wistful about designing templates again. I'd love to re-do the shop with all new, very clean and simple designs.

Speaking of - if ANYONE, anyone at all has any outstanding, lingering issues from Rainy Day - technical, financial, whatever - please email me - elliequent {at} me {dot} com. As far as I know, all of those loose ends have been tied up, but it's been a fucking nightmare of a year, and I wouldn't be surprised if I've dropped a ball or two dozen.

fully unemployed

Last night I rode up to work and was faced with this:



An empty parking lot and a closed-until-further-notice sign on the door. I can't say I'm all that surprised. Things like this are not exactly uncommon in the industry, and I know this particular club was closed down for a brief time last year. It is a little odd considering that management had told the girls that we were on the cusp of a grand re-opening, with a new name and some major staff changes.

I texted a few people, trying to get answers. Got none. Then turned my ass around, biked home, and went upstairs to A.'s, where he was a champ distractor. He sat me in a chair, gave me a lap dance of my own (blame Chromeo), bought me an ice cream bar at Famima, then watched Unthinkable with me because, as I told him, I wanted to watch the darkest, most dystopic movie I could. One that would make me forget about my first world problems.

Such is my news, this Saturday afternoon.

And yes, I Instagrammed pictures of an empty strip club parking lot and a closure notice. I'm ridiculous.