Field Notes In/On Transition
The Roller-Coaster Of Life
So. I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a week or more. I know my last entry, and many of my subsequent facebook posts have not been of the most hopeful variety; try as I might, I am having a very hard time staying positive in the face of unending changes that seem to be happening in my life. Obviously I am participating in these things, they are not just happening to me. That is exactly what it feels like much of the time, though. I have taken steps, am doing things but I have no sense of control or agency.
What I have been working towards in the last week or so is making actual moves to make my situation less stressful and to have an “endings are new beginnings” kind of attitude. This does not come natural to me, this kind of positive thinking. It is real work for me to keep smiling and to actually do things to make something out of where I am and what I have to offer. This maybe is the kind of thing I could have been more thoughtful and proactive about when I was younger, but it is where I am, so.
So, I say again, let me get to the point. My last day of my current job is June 27th, then I am getting laid off. I should have no problem getting EI, as the idea that maybe there is a shortage of work at a video rental store (yes they still exist) is pretty sound. They can’t afford to have a full time manager anymore, and really they don’t need one. Back in the glory days of 2009, when there were 12 people working there, sure; but now with 3 including my self, 4 with the owner, who is doing shifts, not nearly so much.
I want to see the store survive, and am a willing casualty in that fight. I am ready, and have been for some time, to transition, as it were, out of retail and into something that has actual meaning in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are doing retail, a video store in my mind is the high end of that kind of work. But in the end, it is still a sales job, that exists so others can make more money than I likely will ever see. I want something of my own. To that end, I am yes, already looking for other rent paying gigs, and even have a short term job lined up for September. I had really hoped to get that library gig. And nothing anyone can say will make me feel good about not even getting an interview there. That test they make you do made me feel like an idiot. Do not ever have hope is what that told me. Make your own work.
That is what I really want, not to be reliant on others to pay me to do things that maybe I have some little interest in. I am not a kid, I want some value placed on my work, on myself as a worker.
Sadly that value is almost exclusively measured in dollars. I wish to hell it weren’t but it is. I am reining in my spending (I hope) and I am moving into a shared accommodation with a friend, in August. Still in the neighbourhood, but far from the core where I have lived for six and a half years, in my own place. I had a real struggle with my pride on moving. I really want to have my own place, but have many years of sharing space with others under my belt and know I can adjust. I see it as temporary though, maybe a year or two, at most, I hope.
It’s hard but essential to try and see these things that have already broken my heart as steps forward instead of failure. And, I am trying to do just that. I will be saving almost two hundred dollars a month on rent. That really isn’t a big enough savings for living on EI, so I need to find something as soon as possible. I have applied for a few things that sounded interesting and suitable, some writing gigs, some other store manager things (uggh though really) but have not heard boo from any of them, except getting as far as that library test. I have suspended paying into my RRSP, which for me is another failed venture. I have 15k in that thing that likely I will never see a dime of.
The more I stress out about this stuff, the less energy I have to create my own art, to write as much as I want and need to. But that is what needs to change most; I need to somehow figure out how to write, paint, make movies, publish my way to a living. I admit though that my heart, my courage, and my will are not quite together enough yet to make that happen. I will need to work at something for someone before that happens. I make quick decisions, like accepting the layoff and moving, but these are of course, things that have been in the back of my mind and motivations for a long time.
I don’t know if this post is telling anyone anything they don’t know, other than myself that is. Something that I have come to realize with all these changes happening seemingly to me, is that I am tired of ‘working for the man’ as it were, not that an indie video store is the man, but you know what I mean. Working to pay someone else’s rent is not for me. Probably I will always have to do this unless society somehow changes. The hardest part of selling myself (which sadly is how being an artist in the 21st century is seen...everything is monetized.) is that I am a factotum as much as I am an artist: Writing, Photography, Filmmaking, and now, Painting (at least an ‘ipad painter.’) I also would love to delve into more crafty maker type things, like jewelry and other physical art forms.
There’s a quote attributed to Dorothy Parker that says: “I love having written, but I hate writing.” Funny, but for me it is the opposite. The only time I feel any agency or really like I am doing something valuable is when I am creating something. The end product is almost always not nearly as interesting to me as the project I am doing at the moment. I am not saying that I think that’s the only way I want to earn, or produce whatever money I need to live, which by the way is all the money I desire; enough to live on without constantly creating more debt. I don’t mind a zero sum at the end of the month, as long as the bills are paid.
An aspect of this joy that can be only found in creation, is also part of what gives me joy while doing more mundane tasks. If I can have a good conversation(on any topic) while getting a cup of coffee, or renting someone a movie, it makes my day. I have been teaching myself to take home from work, and life those brighter moments, rather than say a curt short transaction out in the world, or a negative one. It is so easy to let one bad bit on conversation ruin your day, when the rest of the day was either innocuous, or good. the conflicts can easily overshadow cooperation for many people. I am often one of these people, but i am striving every day, not to be that person anymore.
So what all this comes down to is, that, like many, so many, of my friends have said to me on facebook: that all these endings can be/are new beginnings. I prefer though of course to parse it in my own still positive way. Rather than endings and beginnings, I am trying to see these things as part of my transition. The video store was Joe’s job, this apartment was Joe’s place. Its time for Josie to transition out of Joe’s places and into her own places, and find where her path diverges, so to speak. It’s not like I am getting rid of all my stuff, or eating in different restaurants or changing anything other than where I live, and how and/or where I work.
Oh and the thing I keep trying to get to about being an artist is that I have my whole life done bits and pieces of many and varied artistic endeavours. I have always thought and have ben told that I need to concentrate on one of those things, to sustain any kind of success that I might have. I don’t believe that at all anymore. I am still writing, taking photos, painting and expressing myself in whatever form the expression takes. I am determined to make at least a small go of all these things. I have decades of male programming, class programming, and artistic programming to debug out of my system. And these big scary moves I am making this summer, are part of that process.
I hope to survive it all intact. But my preconceptions about what it takes to make a living and to have some sense of personal agency in a money and violence driven world are dwindling, and I am remaking, transitioning not just my body, but my mind, my emotional state, and where I fit into the culture where I exist. Tall order. I am trying really hard not to be in such a hurry. I am a slow learner, rote has nothing to do with me. I see myself as a sculptor of words, images, culture and more. I hope to eke out a living being authentic and who i really am, for the first time in my life. I might have to take so-called “Joe jobs” (no irony there at all for me, at all... :P ) to make it all work. It bothers my pride, but you have to survive to thrive.
Every day, I tell people at work, that I am leaving, and the first thing every single person asks is “where are you going/what are you going to do?” I honestly tell them that I have no idea. And this is the truth. I do not know if it will all be okay, if I will land on my feet. Maybe I will never find another “joe job”... to my mind that would be just fine, as long as I could find a way to pay the bills. There are a myriad of scenarios available to me, I think, if I look hard enough and keep an open mind. I am just stepping forward into whichever scenario presents itself as welcoming. I continue to create some kind of art every day, and my plan is to get more and more serious about that, and less and less about getting ahead financially.
A friend of mine who recently passed away used to carry a t-shirt in her store, that had a skeleton standing on the moon, its mouth agape, screaming “What was I saving all my money for?” Exactly.
Live in the now, not the past, not the future. This is what I desire to be able to do. I am a very slow learner though. I am trying, I really am. I might be a complainer, but that doesn’t mean I am not doing something. As far as I am concerned, vocalizing your concerns, getting input is all part of ‘doing something.’ It is possible to do both. That old saw “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” has merit, unless your squeaking somehow offends someone, and/or they have a lot of assumptions about you that have no basis in reality.
I am going to end on this story, as I have of late not been doing enough storytelling in this blog, it’s all philosophy, not enough drama.
About 20 years ago, I was a Stage Manager. I was a really good stage manager, but, you’d never have known it to look at me. I have no poker face, and stress shows itself on every part of me. I was doing this show, for some friends, at the fringe festival here in Vancouver. This show had a ludicrous amount of sound cues (that really worked wonders when pulled off) and there were no digital boards back then, for that many sound cues, you needed a separate cassette tape for each one, maybe also some back ups in case a tape broke or whatever; “be prepared” is the SM motto, as much as the scouts.
Anyway, the producers didn’t like all my cues on separate tapes and put them all on one tape, and I just had to hit pause. Of course, I didn’t get the tape until the opening night, and of course, like the stage manager predicted, the tape got eaten partway through, and could have screwed everything up. I had to do many of the cues with my own voice from the booth. I nailed every freaking cue.
The Tech for the venue said to me afterwards that he had never seen someone who looked so much like a deer in the headlights the entire show, yet still nail every light, talent, and sound cue. There was a standing ovation. The producers gave me shade for messing up their tape. The House tech, again stepped in and explained to them how I nailed everything and saved that performance. That was the last show I stage managed. I still might look or sound panicked sometimes even today twenty years later, but I always pull it off. That is the moral of that little bit of my past. And it is something I hang onto in the dark moments.