We Interrupt This Mediocrity…

I would like to interrupt the mediocrity of this blog by telling you what is really going on, and why I have not had shit to say in a month or more.

I’ll start with lunch at the college caf, where after many emails and calls I rounded up my main college girlfriends, Rowan and Heather, for stir-fry, sweet tea and rice krispie treats.

I looked at the three women at the table. We looked like shit. Dark circles and bags under our eyes, grainy skin, zits, ratty hair, sloppy clothes, and the lovely Rowan is putting on weight. Three ordinarily happy, healthy people looked like slugs extracted from under rocks, withdrawing from sunlight and talk as if it were something new.

Good god.

I’ve gone and lost my groove again, and I probably would not have had the courage to say so if it weren’t for my sistergirls, whom over lunch I saw to be as isolated, unhealthy and burned out as I am.

Being working students has kicked all our asses. In different ways, but an ass-kicking is still an ass-kicking, no matter the method of delivery.

Rowan feels disconnected from her studies and uncertain about her future as a wellness professional. She wants to start a family with her boyfriend and is wondering if she wouldn’t find greater happiness being a more equal partner in his fledgling production business and helping him start a new side career as a realtor.

Heather, who works full time as a waitress on top of being a full-time Spanish student, hates her job. She also works part-time as a chemistry teaching assistant, and loves teaching chemistry (she wants to be an MD). She wept over her portabello mushroom slices with jerk sauce at how she feels she has put all her friends on hold but they love her so much they wait happily for her.

[Note to Heather: Some things are worth waiting for.]

And Jen, the freelance writer, the self-employed, the infrequent dater, the one who does homework until 9 or 10 p.m. mostly due to being inefficient and burned out, she spent fall break in bed and one the couch, mildly insane from depression and isolation.

Three bright spirits were growing dim, caked with the filth of loneliness and overwork. We are not whiners, me and my friends. I don’t think it’s whining when you are dying inside, and recognizing it at last, and desperate to change.

Rowan is thinking of quitting school. She’s also realized that favorable conditions never come, so she’s planning to soon stop taking birth control and try to have the baby she always dreamed of with the man she plans to live her life with.

Heather of the bright blue eyes, tired of canceling dates with her friends and feeling overwhelmed by her studies, is quitting her burger-bar waitressing job and taking out loans and damn the consequences of more debt. I told her to send an email to the chemistry department, positioning herself as an o-chem TA for hire next semester. She already has such a reputation as an assistant that teachers are starting to ask for her in particular.

Jennifer of the amazing disappearing groove plans to start making time for life, no matter how her schoolwork suffers. I’m hoping to start a knitting group to meet weekly at my house, going to lead the movement for us ragged nontraditional college chicks to gather regularly for lunch, going to make time for regular quality time with two friends I miss, and am going to try to involve myself in the local political scene.

Also, in the back of my mind, is a dream I always held.

I’ve always been fascinated by communal living, and regretted, once I bought my house, how hard it was to find a person to share space with. Unable to find the right roomie, I live in a house with a vacant room. There is so much vacant space in American life. We are an isolated nation, and so much of our isolation comes from the way we live.

What if I sold my 2-bedroom house for a 5-bedroom house? What if I had a bunch of roomies who liked each other, who shared chores, who kept the air of the house alive with human sound? Right now the only sound I hear is the space heater. As it is the weekend, I will see no one I know unless I make an effort. In fact, with very little effort, I can easily, in fact typically, see the face of a friend once a week.

Is this any way to live?

I know it is easy for me to romanticize the idea of a communal household. I know it won’t be the perfect solution I envision, here in the quiet, where over and over again I have described myself as the queen of a lonely castle. Sweet house (that overwhelms me weekly with all the little things undone, from dirty gutters to mysterious leaks), beautiful (neglected) yard, happy and well-loved pets, undersocialized person lying on the couch nearly insensate with loneliness and the uniquely modern boredom that comes not from having nothing to do, but no one to do it with.

Something I learned from Rowan’s boyfriend the budding comedy impresario is that sometimes you don’t have all the answers, you just know what you want. You start walking towards that thing, and you deal with the bullshit on the way.

He wanted to have a comedy festival, and despite the fact that he is a waiter who drives a shitty car and lives in a poor neighborhood and had absolutely no production experience, when he lucked into a few thousand dollars in an insurance settlement for his totaled pickup, he turned it into Asheville’s first successful comedy festival.

I would have had analysis paralysis about putting on a comedy festival. When to have the show? Where? What ticket price? Greg just did it on the fly. And like a fucking tsunami of hope and Red Bull, the momentum of the show washed us all along for an amazing ride none of us will ever forget.

Yes, it could have all gone wrong. Yes, he could have lost his investment and gone into debt on top of it. But he didn’t, and if he was lucky, he was also brave.

He saw what he wanted, saw no compelling logical reason not to give his dream a try, and he went for it. Now he’s making thousands of dollars in a single night, and certain freelance writers (especially the ones with hidden pasts as actresses, singers and musical theatre performers) are rediscovering the old pleasures of performance, showbiz, and cold pizza late at night in the green room.

Certain freelance writers are wondering when life will come alive for them again.

Existence is a lonely business. I can accept a life of lying on the couch, feeling my brain slow its workings in the stifling sludge of isolation that is the all-too-occasional lot of the overworked, single, self-employed, undersocialized 38-year-old college student. Or I can see a thing I want and just walk there, just as Greg did, fording the rivers and climbing the mountains as I come to them.

Rowan wants a family.

Heather wants to trade waitressing for teaching o-chem.

Jen wants a life with more people in it. I want help and talk at home. I want to spread the burden of keeping up a house and share the joys of using space collectively and well.

I also think I need to get going on a documentary screenplay and my total abandonment of singing, but that, friends and readers, must wait for another blog entry.

11 responses to “We Interrupt This Mediocrity…

  1. Moments of clarity are great – even when the clarity tells you it’s time to turn the ship around and chart a new course.

    Coincidentally I am looking for a room to rent. Wanna set up an interview?


  2. Very nice entry about living communally. I like to ‘step out in faith’ but I think Kurt V says it best of all.

    “We have to keep jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” ~Kurt Vonnegut

  3. Amen Susan. Check out this blog about a Greensboro woman and her dumpster-diving 6-member anarchist commune:


    Don, I accept your offer of an interview & will shoot you an email shortly!

  4. Jennifer, four years ago, my family and I left secure jobs in Raleigh to follow our hearts to the mountains. We had no job and no house and just about everything that could go wrong went wrong, but we have never regretted it for a moment. It was particularly difficult because we had two children depending on us and pretty much all our family (and some of our friends) were very discouraging. And then when so much went wrong, some said, “We told you so.” But we had been through so much and felt the overwhelming need for change. So we forged ahead and we are so very glad we did. Is our dream everything we hoped it would be? Nope. Not by a long shot. But we have a sense that we are in the place we are supposed to be. So what I’m saying is, “Go for it.” Just keep your eyes wide open and your heart, too, for that matter. I like what Edith Wharton had to say: “In spite of illness, in spite of…sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”

  5. Go for it Jennifer!

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness… there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and materials assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

  6. Excellent. I’ll wear my Sunday best when I answer your email. ;-) DM

  7. Jennifer – you know some of the intricacies of my life. You know it is strange, surreal, complicated and leaves many blinking in disbelief. But weird though it is, and weirder though it’ll get in about 3 weeeks time, it beats hands down the years sitting in isolation and inertia where all I did was think about “What if…”

    Like Beth, I say “Go for it” cos one thing I know is that the only regrets I have are for the things I didn’t do!

  8. You completely speak my mind about communal living. One of the reasons I haven’t jumped on the home-buying, white-picket fence bandwagon is I’m holding out for a little dream of mine. I would like to own a building in an urban area with other like-minded people. In this dream, we all have our own section or even apartment, but we share the upkeep of the building. We share child-rearing and babysitting, we share cooking. This building has a courtyard, kind of like the movie Singles, but maybe looking more like Melrose Place. In the dream, each of us has a talent to share with the rest of the group that fulfills a neccesary role of keeping up with a building and a community. I’m a believer in compromise and shared space, and although I’m a strong personality I truly believe I could do this. But every time I look up, one of my friends has gone and bought a little home of their own. Far from me. This is the first time I’ve seen this dream in writing, and looking at it now, it feels right.

  9. After SERIOUSLY considering living on a commune, I jumped into home ownership in part because I didn’t think of a third option — cohousing. While I’ve got an absolutely adorable modest home, the sad truth is I am not happy here. Home ownership may be what “everyone” does and is supposed to do, but it wasn’t right for me and my life.

    In my dream, the cohouse has an outdoor area, a porch or something, that serves well as a sort of amphitheater for listening parties and comedy shows. And I LOVE your idea of shared childcare, and your Marxist talent idea.

    Your dream sounds right to me, too, and I sincerely wish you well in making it real. Let’s keep each other posted and see what we can do to help each other make the living arrangement we dream of a reality.

    (Melrose Place, LOL!)

  10. Thanks for your comment to my comment, and I accept that challenge!

  11. You’re on! And as per the request you just made to me privately, NO PROBLEM (and OOPS, SORRY!).

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