Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cubicle #84

First, I realize it's been over a month since I last wrote. It's terrifying how quickly a month passes by, because although it felt like it had been a while since I'd written I had no idea it had been THAT long. It's like one of those movies where a guy wakes up and says, "Man, that was a good long sleep. I wonder what time it is." And it's five years later.

There are a variety of ways he can find out this information. He can look at his calender instead of the clock, and realize that he's missed five seasons worth of "Dancing With The Stars." He can find a newspaper on his doorstep with the current date and the feature article on the cover that says "Local Man Lets Newspapers Build Up for Five Years," and then he'll notice that he's standing in a five-year pile of newspaper. He can roll over, look at his cell phone and see that it has updated from a 5G to a 10G. The signs that this man has slept for an ungodly amount of time are endless.

But time travel is not what I want to discuss today. What I want to talk to you about is my day job because talking to you about what I do from 8-5:00, Monday through Friday will lull you into a good long sleep and then you can tell me about the interesting ways that you woke up only to discover that you've been napping for 100 years and that your cell phone is now also a hover craft.

I was just talking to my friend Tom about my job yesterday. Tom is a talented sculptor who also has a day job and I believe that our conversation went something like this:

Tom: What are you up to this morning, man?

Me: Getting ready for work.

Tom: Me too.


We both have similar sit-in-front-of-computer jobs that have nothing to do with the ways we are gifted. Tom should be welding kinetic art sculptures and I should updating silly things on my blog more often than once a month. And marketing my novel, working on the next novel, and writing more personal essays and short stories. Goddamnit, I should be Dorothy Parker, only not drunk and not dead.

To be honest, some days I feel trapped. I leave at 7:00, get the kids to school, get myself to work, leave at 5:00, pick up the kids, go home, we eat dinner, prepare for the next day, and by the time they're in bed I'm exhausted. Assuming I ignore my friends who call and text me in the evening, I can write. But I don't ignore them most of the time, and then I make deals with myself that I'll wake up at 5:00 to get writing done. Which incidentally is what I did this morning, and why I'm writing now. And it's 5:44 so I have to stop writing in 16 minutes and get ready for my mind-numbing job.

But on my good days, I find hope in things....hey! Wake up! I didn't say to fall into a five year coma yet, I haven't even described what I do during the day. Anyway, I remember that I do write whenever I can and though the novel and essay writings are slow, they are definitely steady. And then I remember that I am NOT trapped. I can look for writing jobs again. I'm just afraid to. I'm afraid of trying and failing, or trying and getting a writing job and not being good enough for it. Or starting my own free-lance writing business and living in constant stress because the work isn't steady enough. So some days it's easier to sit in my cubicle and reset passwords for frustrated doctors and update patient records because it's something I know I can do and I know how much money I'll make every two weeks.

The problem with that is that after three hours of that work, my face which is ordinarily sunny and attractive begins to look like this:

And though you might be thinking that's not so bad because that's the Crimson Ghost and The Misfits adopted that as their trademark and they are super cool, it's not cool having that on your face. It's particularly upsetting to coworkers who come to ask me questions some time around 11:00.

Innocent Approaching Coworker: Hey Gen, Dr. Jarron called and - AAIGH! What happened to your face??

Me: Cubicle.

This is my Cubicle Face. This is what happens to it when I realize that I've settled for the job that I promised myself as a Misfits-listening-novel-writing-black-nail-polish-wearing teenager that I'd never have. There are no colors in my office, which is an expansive gray space with precisely 105 cubicles. I'm number 84.

So this is what I've decided to do. I have a picture of Carson McCullers that I'm bringing in with me this morning, and I'm gathering some pictures of my kids. Yeah, I have no pictures of my kids on my desk. There are some days that thinking about them is the only thing that makes the job bearable - because I know they need me to work a steady job. They give me purpose when I've got Cubicle Face. So I think I need to do a combination of writer and child pictures for #84. It will remind me why I'm there, and that I still haven't lost my talents or stopped using them.

Plus, as I pointed out to Tom, most of the best artists I know had to have a day job. T.S. Eliot was a banker. Amy Tan was a technical writer before she hit it big. People painted into works of art also work.  How many paintings and photographs have I seen of workers? People who don't know why they have the lives they have, and you can see it on their faces. How good of a writer would I really be if I didn't know what it's like to struggle?

And when it comes to that, how much do I REALLY struggle? I don't have a job like this:

And a lot of people in the world do. They don't even have a choice about it. I'm at my desk, not straining my back, not getting rained on, risking heat stroke, or afraid that if my body gives out I won't be able to work anymore and my family will starve.

Also, right now I'm doing my absolute favorite thing in the world. I'm writing to you (take five to swoon). Without an audience, what's the point of writing? Then I'm just telling stories to myself in the mirror. But that is what I do when I let the fear take over, and all that self doubt.

It's 6:00 am. I need to wake up the children and gather pictures of them and my favorite writers. To work!

PS- You can find Tom Harold's rolling ball sculptures here: Though he is also an 8-5:00 cubicle drone, he made this beautiful, brilliant thing:
Triangle Twist by Tom Harold Stainless Steel ~ 17.25" x 18.75"