The joy of the Stupid Day Job

Despite the calculated gloss of fabulousness that's got you all dazzled, for most of her life, the communicatrix has been better counted as one among the sheeple than the bright and blazing solo artist she has always longed to be. As I said when I (gladly) moved from my Park-Slope-adjacent (but really "shitty Brooklyn") life to a cramped but safe bunker in midtown Manhattan, I yam not a pioneer. Especially when living on the edge includes such delights as resident rodents, draughts that bring on the consumption and having to pee in a jar because you can't pass through your roommate's bedroom while she's shtupping her boyfriend. In other words, given the choice (and really, isn't there almost always a choice?) I have generally elected to go the tried-and-true Good Girl route, college, "career", marriage, rather than risk parental upset or the scorn of the material world by striking out on my own.

Oddly enough, the tide started to turn when I met my ex-husband, to whom I forever owe a debt of gratitude for showing me that I would not, in fact, die if I was no longer able to give a seven-word summation of my life's work (i.e., self-worth) at a cocktail party. In hindsight, of course, the choice seems obvious, I never much cared for cocktail parties nor the people in attendance who subscribed to the seven-word summation theory of self-worth. But I'd successfully passed for someone who gave a damn for so long that it felt natural to move in that world.

Now, even as a Corporate Tool I was open in my admiration for the more intrepid wanderers. However, the thought of actually being one, or, rather, an "unsuccessful" one, was anathema. Or rather, the day job that came along with "unsuccess" was anathema. Me, make copies? Cold call? Sling hash? I was a highly-paid creative profeshunal; how could step down and take a Stupid Day Job?

But there came a time in pursuit of the muse when I did, and gratefully. L.A. nest egg gone, I'd been flying back and forth to Chicago for two years to make bank and tend to my dying mother; when Mom finally died and my so-called acting career demanded I actually be here for little things like auditions and gigs, I went to one of my father's friends, hat in hand, and asked for employment, any kind of employment, he could give me.

The job I got, unglorified minion in the research department of a large media-buying company, offered little in the way of mental stimulation (or compensation, for that matter). But there was insurance and a steady paycheck and an odd sort of relief. All day long, I made copies, filed, ran out for coffee, ran to the mail room with packages, basically, anything that anyone asked me to do. It was humbling, certainly, to fetch and carry for people ten and fifteen years my junior, but it was also wildly freeing, once I got over the embarrassment. People who liked me liked me for me, not because I might be their boss next month. And believe me, brother, I never took that job home. Not once. Ever.

I rarely worked through lunch, either. Instead, I'd either eat with a friend or browse the local bookstore or take myself on walks that were insanely long and arduous by L.A. standards. All that time I didn't have to have my brain fully engaged in solving "creative" problems meant a lot of time for...well, stewing. Ruminating. But also, for the first time in my life, for real creative thinking.

Don't get me wrong, when the time came that I could make rent with a combo platter of acting and low-end graphic design (the unwitting genius in my learning PowerPoint is a post unto itself), I walked away and never looked back. I like calling my own shots and am willing to put up with a certain amount of stress in exchange for that freedom.

But if my circumstances ever mandate another day job, I don't think I'd look at it as the hellish punishment I once did. Instead, I'd see it more for what it is: opportunity clad in a different guise.

With benefits, of course.

xxx c