by Tracy Soren
A few years ago my mother found some of my elementary school papers hidden in a night-stand drawer. As per children who made it through the trials of kindergarten, there was an abundance of sloppy drawings, last ditch efforts of sad brown crayons, and my name scribbled across the top as if I was writing it left-handed or drunk. As I’m sure many sentimental folk react when we are presented with their childhood chicken scratch, I allowed myself to enter a nostalgia-induced coma, and found myself quite surprised.
Nothing has really changed.
In that yellowed stack I found a few “About Me” booklets. Our first declaration of “THIS IS WHO. I. AM.” to the world. Teachers tasked tiny humans to express who they were before entering a world that dumps, shits, and dumps shit on them for it. I discarded my first “About Me” because I plagiarized the entire thing off my friend Nicki. Nicki wanted to be a waitress; she loved pizza and the color blue. I evidently wanted to be Nicki. Nicki was a good family friend who had an actual Pac-Man Arcade Machine in her basement. My favorite doll was (and still is) a Woody the Wood Pecker knockoff. There was no choice but to peek to my left and start scribbling.
Moving through the pile, I found another “About Me” that was filled more with my heart’s desires and less with early ‘90s arcade fantasies. I loved yellow and green. I exclaimed my taste for eggs and cream cheese. When asked what I want to be when I grow up I stated boldly, “I want to be a comedian!” This “About Me” was one of the realest things I did as a high-kicking eight-year old, and I was proud of it. I was very happy that I didn’t follow any crowd, I clearly knew what I liked and I stuck with it. My favorite color is still a tie between green and yellow. I still eat a nauseating amount of both cream cheese and eggs. As for what I wanted to be when I grew up, well, I wouldn’t connect the dots till I was sort-of in the workforce. And I had to enter it to sort-of be in it at all.
Graduating college sucks. It sucks even more when you graduate before all of your friends, in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and move back in with your parents during the midst of a mental breakdown. Leaving my university in New Paltz to come home without a clear plan and a sincere fear of working a boring job doesn’t bode well for someone with a high level of anxiety. Having severe anxiety is something I’ve had for as long as I can remember and, as most anxious people would tell you, it only gets worse when there is a big change.
To jump into a long-term job I didn’t know I’d liked was akin to eating a barrel or fried scorpion or trying to “enjoy” techno–I couldn’t bare it. I had an unresolved fear that if I started a job, I would never be able to leave it.
“You’re not stuck there. Just apply for some things you might like. You could always leave at any point,” my mom would say.
“But what if the boss is nice!?” I legitimately thought it was ill-mannered to leave a job because it would be “mean.” I am a three time winner of sleep-away camp’s “Nicest to Know”.
More paralyzing was this idea that if I took a stable job, I wouldn’t be on a path to a creative career. At the time, I was heavily involved in the college spoken word community and was about to compete in my last national collegiate poetry slam. Despite having graduated, I was still allowed to be on the team because I was enrolled during the school year. I didn’t want to give up any time for practicing, writing, or competing. Even though I wasn’t sure poetry was “it”, I truly believed I was meant for a creative career.
While I was freaking out about a job, poetry, not to mention my relationships, I was watching my bank account slowly dwindle into a pitiful ash. I have never been comfortable taking money from my parents or being financially dependent. I worked during college, on breaks, during the summer. I graduated before my friends because I chose to graduate early. I knew I wanted to study abroad before I was even accepted to college so I worked out my course-load to graduate in three and a half years to equalize the cost of four year schooling. Being at home, with no income, and with my parents covering my health insurance wasn’t working.
I know most people who are trying to write, act, or do something unconventional just forego health insurance but my loving parents wouldn’t allow me to be without it. Us Jews are a kind and friendly people and we like us some good healthcare. It is my experience that the American Jew is highly aware that he or she could go down at any minute. Although my parents help was and still is a multi-faceted privilege, their footing my bills wasn’t sustainable for either party. I wanted stable money and I wanted it soon.
One day my friend Ari and I were talking and she told me how she found her job through temping. Although I’d heard of temping, I didn’t know what it entailed. She explained that I’d have to go through an agency and they would set me up with job openings; they can be short-term assignments, long-term, or temp-to-permanent. I would just have to give them my schedule weekly and they would call me with any openings.
“Temping! That’s it!” I thought. “I will be paid to eventually leave!”
It really was a perfect match. I could be non-committal and have time for my creative goals (which were changing–a random act to sign up for a class at the Upright Citizens Brigade would solidify that). Why was I only finding out about this then!? I wanted someone to sign me up. Count me in. Give. Me. The. Key.
Ari hooked me up with her temp agency and I was set to be interviewed the next week.
My mother consistently reminds me of another “About Me” fact. Since I was a child, I have protested working in a cubicle. I went as far as saying I would never work in a cubicle. NEVER!
I have ended up working in a cubicle and I have seen many-an-office. From their fluorescent lights to their employees repeatedly thanking God that it is, in fact, Friday, I have signed in at a myriad of security desks as a temp. But, let me say now, a temp isn’t a fly on the wall. Temps are flies with switchboards and lunch breaks; we are invited-in and asked to dress appropriately. But if you’re a fly like me, the business suit doesn’t quite fit. Working in a corporate atmosphere needs to be taken seriously. And as my eight-year old self already told you, I don’t want to be taken seriously.
I want to be a comedian.Tags: Business, Comedy, Performance, Poetry