It all started when a colleague told me she only worked Monday through Thursday, “because why not?” I was immediately intrigued and jumped at the idea. The way I could control my hours and my work. The fact that at many of my full-time jobs, I spent so much time waiting for someone or something…that I didn’t get anything done. The idea that I could feel free to spend that time not feeling guilty about doing non-work things was very attractive. Even more so that I would be paid for the hours that I actually worked. At a rate that I set. All golden!
Then fast forward to 2016. I finished my book and despite another novel in the works, I am hesitant to continue freelancing. Having a job does help me focus, especially in writing. Writing becomes less of a chore and more of a hobby. The kind of thing that I could say “let’s do it…just for fun!”
So I worked hard to find a full-time gig. That one? This one? What’s going on? Let’s talk. Let’s figure out something together. Let’s fine tune this. Until ready for it…I got an offer.
I am not sure what will change and what I will have to do differently. I am not sure what it means for my professional career. Or my writing career. Or how this will function. But what I have to do is to make a decision. And that’s all I can do.
The SUV blocked our way. Two women, not of the hipster variety, blocked our path. We were turning left, and they were turning left from the opposite flow of traffic. But our paths intersecting. Who was supposed to yield? Who went too far? Who drove without anticipating and arrived there unceremoniously blocked our path? Honk, we yelled through the car’s windshield. It was a clear statement: we can’t move, because you’re in our way. But you can’t move either, because you’re in our way. And we don’t want to get in an accident do we?
Inside, I felt a flow of irritation. Back up!
But this is what I would have done.
Like toddlers in tantrum, we would have stood still, locked in a dead stare. No gas. Just brake. If you want to fight, I’ll fight. We’ll stare each other down, giving the control to the car. I am in no rush. You don’t want to hurt me, and I don’t want to hurt you. I can stand here all day. I would be calm and collected, as you wave your arms in the air. After all, the fact that I did nothing is simply not illegal. We both had the right of way. And it’s more likely that you’re in my path. Traffic obstruction? You’re more likely to have yielded to me, because I have more endurance.
Instead, we reversed and let the SUV go. And the anger flared. The irritation at an inconvenience continued as cyclists barreled through intersections and pedestrians jaywalked on a red light. I grasped my cautious self—a natural desire to play it safe constantly no matter what I vehicle I used. preservation first, and stand your ground.
“There’s nothing you can do,” I said. “There’s nothing you can do.”
…a fierce shadowy leopard. The claws are sharp and pierce deep into the cloak of hope. You thought for a moment that it was all safe under there. You were optimistic that everything was working out. After all, nobody talked about the leopard and its black sleek coat that would dazzle you at the same time as it would shun you.
They tell you to always stand tall and ask for what you want boldly. But when you arrive, you sense the leopard, so you walk round and round it. You wish that you were like the others who don’t see the leopard and march boldly in. Their skin is so thick, their cloak already has been cut, but they have thick armor now with nicks that underneath, they don’t feel a single thing even if the leopard strikes.
You want to run away because you don’t have that armor yet. But you turn away for a moment, blinded by the sun, and you go ahead. Then you open your mouth to ask and there’s the leopard again. Before it even strikes, you feel the pain and you quickly acquiesce as if you were expecting to be struck. You know that it is possible to get struck, but you know for certain that it’s not every time. Yet this time, you cower in fear even before being struck as if you expected it. The pain is overwhelming, but after it subsides, the wound smarts and now you’re angry that you didn’t wait until it struck. You’re irritated that you allowed yourself to be struck and worse of all, you invited it. Where was that armor? Where was your own fierceness? The white leopard that was inside you to strike back?
“I am going to be mad at you for the rest of my life,” Cheryl Strayed said during a disagreement with her husband.
Amused by her statement, her husband wrote it down and stuck the note on the refrigerator, where it sat for a decade.
I first heard Cheryl describe this scene on the Dear Sugar podcast. She mused that at first glance, the statement sounded like perpetual rage. Yet when she looked closer, her intent is that she chose to be with him despite the rage. That there is nobody on earth that deserves that rage, that anger, that disappointment.
And to me, that was a beautiful sentiment.
Relationships are messy. Long gone is my former belief that love was this magical thing—the kind where two people spot each other from across the room and bam, a spark rumbles into a rolling fire. Besides the fact that this moment never happened to me (if it did, it certainly was not mutual), I learned that persistence and endurance is what matters in relationship. In the face of conflict, it is the partner that one can blame. Because simply put, the partner is there. They witnessed all the drama, the rejection, and failure, how can they not be partially to blame? Because they were present? Of course what I mean by that is they chose to be present and not to leave at the sight of conflict. That the nuance in all of this is the madness of persisting and enduring. That we chose one other to be mad at for the rest of our lives. Because without that other person, nobody will ever know that we existed.
I couldn’t but respond just so.
Because in a former era, I relished the way that people clashed and conflicted. Having spent my younger years always so guarded, I wanted to be involved. So involved I was. But the drama, I learned, wasn’t worth fighting and playing. So I quieted down and prefer to remain on the sidelines. I matured in other ways.
But I am sure that my younger self would not like that. Plus with all my thinking.
Even without that generalization, my younger self would probably be in admiration. “You have all this?” she would say. “And you weren’t afraid? How did you become not afraid? How did you still get to what you wanted to do? And stay true?”
I would tell her. But she would also be disappointed in my habits. “What happened to writing every day? I write every day,” she would tell me. “I never have stopped once. Because it’s what I do. It’s who I am. So then, who are you?”
Not about that foul odor in the living room. Not about that now.
But rather I smell the yearning from someone. It doesn’t feel right, and I don’t know why. In conversation, by the words and their behavior, I immediately know. It’s as if their goals were copied from someone else—like the way I used to admire another girl in school and had told myself that I wanted to be like her in the 7th grade. I sense the desire that intensifies with every year. It starts with a bit envy and collapses into dangerous jealousy. But it curbs slightly, because he or she realizes that steps must be taken. So steps are taken, they are moved forward quickly, often without full knowledge. It’s lacking the true depth, because those steps were taken to achieve the goal. It doesn’t come with the usual path, the usual journey.
And I suppose that’s the definition of a poseur. And yet, perhaps the reason that I can smell one is because I smell it on myself.
Today, I spoke to a designer who claimed to have more than 10 years of experience. But I was surprised by her lack of knowledge of the industry and the typical design philosophy. We don’t have to be all alike, but she behaved as if she already had the experience, already had the roles, but she didn’t, and it confused me.
Over the weekend, I stood at my booth (most of the time) to engage people. No sunglasses (unlike my neighbor who for some reason wanted to hide her blue eyes which were quite evident on her cover). No phone (unless I was trying to social media-ize my tent) or perform a sale transaction. I stood and engaged with people, asked them about their ice cream experience—where they have gone, what they have had, what their last ice cream was.
“Do you like ice cream?” I may start. Or “I assume that you’re an ice cream lover? I hope so!” Or “Do you like ice cream? Or…do you love ice cream?”
Most of the time, it was resounding yes. Most of the time.
But during the lulls, I watched Chris spin his pole with an attached inflatable ice cream cone to hopefully drive passerbys into the booth. Spin once. Thrust. Catch. Wave. Circle. Fall.
A little self-promoting never hurt anyone, right? Find me this weekend’s Bay Area Book Festival, where I’ll have a booth to promote my book, Ice Cream Travel Guide.