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.
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.