Tag Archives: opportunity

“But You Know: It’s All in a Day’s Work.”

Oh, so it’s gonna be one of those:  A slowly crawling, rainy day best spent under the covers, with a book, after a rare discovery that today, you have absolutely nowhere to be.

You’ve gotta earn a day like that.  There is always too much work; work that often works  you — not the other way around.  The work of Gotta.  The work of Must.  The work that should not be rescheduled:  It could be delayed — but it’s gonna cost cha.  So, it’s always best to deal with the work now, for it might go away if you don’t.  People have choices, around here.  They might take their business elsewhere.  So, you say yes — and take the work.

I wish I knew it to be different, somewhere else in the world.  But I didn’t start working until I landed here:  In the Land of Work.  Some call it “Opportunity”.  Sure, it is.  The possibility of that opportunity tests the desire and sometimes pushes the limits of your capability.  But If you seize the opportunity, it becomes:  More work.  The work of Should.  The work of Must.

Perhaps, it’s more desirable work — work you wouldn’t mind doing for free.  Ask any artist:  an undercover poet or the girl musician with purple hair that works in the front of your office as a receptionist (but mostly, she makes your coffee and keep unjamming the copy machine).  Ask a cashier at a framing store or the teenager with dreamy eyes that bags your groceries at Trader Joe’s.  Ask anyone from the army of these tired kids working night shifts at your restaurants:  They know the drudgery of free work all to well.

Some may still have enough gratitude to go around.  If fuels them to keep showing up after a day spent chasing the work.  There is enough passion in them still — to find the reasons to peel on their hideous uniforms every day, right around three or four, when most people start watching the clock for the minute to call it quits.  But the tired kids report to work in which they rarely believe — but which they absolutely must accept until another “opportunity”, for work.

I know one.  I study her bounce around the narrow sushi joint I frequent weekly.  Every night, and sometimes during the weekend brunch, I can see her doing the work.

(Ugh, “brunch”!  If you’ve ever waited tables in Manhattan, for the rest of your life, there is no more dreaded word in your vocabulary.  It’s enough to lose your appetite for “brunches”.)

She’s got a regular name.  It’s sorta pretty, but I always forget it, and I want to call her Clementine, or Chloe, or Josephine.  She is perky, quick and funny, always ready for some improv with a willing customer.  When she appears at a booth, she tends to find a nook into which she fits her soft places like a kitten agreeing to your caress.  But you better know how to touch her:  A slight degree of nervousness or clumsy inexperience — and she bounces off, while waiving the tail of her gathered hair as a woman used to being watched every time she walks away.

Scarlett Johansson for Vogue

“You want — the salads?  Is that safe to say?”

I know for certain that just a register away, therein lies her bitchiness.  She is too tired from the work to tippy toe around me, for her tips.  And I bet she can tear into a man with eloquence and composure even grown women don’t have the courage to possess .  But she is always nice to me, at first; until she remembers my routine — and she begins to flirt.

“Are you an actress?” I hear the booth filled with older men ask her.

They look like they work in production:  There is a certain air of exhaustion, long hours, terrible diet and lack of exercise that I can smell on them.  There is always too much work, for these guys; so much of it, most end up childless or divorced. They are this city’s doctors:  Always on call.  Always ready to take the work.  Because if they don’t, the work might go away.  So, they say yes.

Clementine says yes.  But she shifts, from one foot to another.  The lines of her curves change in a warning that she may let ‘em have it, in case of their commentary about the work she doesn’t mind doing for free.  But thankfully, the men know better than to ask her the civilian cliches of:  “How is that going for you?” or “Have I seen you in anything?”

They do know better; for they have sacrificed their forming years on putting in the union hours — sometimes, for free — in a dangerous bet that the work would pay off later.

Later.  They would build their homes — later.  They would marry nice, patient, pretty girls — later.  

But the work may not have happened later.  The “opportunity” had to be seized right then.  So:  They said yes.  

Now, newly and happily married, or unhappily divorced, they still find themselves chasing the work.  And in the midst of their private miseries, they chase the fantasy of Chloe’s possibility.  Like me, they find her youth titillating.  But it is her fire — that formed in her pursuit of the work — that makes them hope she would stay by their table just a little bit longer.

But Josephine must go:  She must go do the work.  She has to earn herself the “opportunity” to do her other work, for free.  And she has to work enough to earn herself one of these:

A slow, crawling, rainy day best spent under the covers, in a tired body, with a book; after a rare discovery that today, she has absolutely nowhere to be, and that her conscience is finally at rest — from all the work.

“We All Live in A Yellow Submarine, Yellow Submarine, Yellow Submarine.”

Yes, it’s a hard way of being:  Living as an artist.  But then, again, I wouldn’t want to be living — in any other way.

And I’ve tried.  In all honesty, I’ve tried to be many things:  Anything else but an artist.  An administrator, a teaching assistant, and a secretary.  A proofreader, an academic, a critic.  A manager.  An accountant.  A librarian.

“Oh, you!” my college comrades used to say.  “You and your jobs!  You’re always changing jobs.”

They had known me for years, and for years — they had seen me working.  They had watched me giving a very fair try to living for the sake of a different profession.  A “normal” profession.   A job.  And they had witnessed me change my mind.

Back then, I wasn’t really sure which profession it would turn out to be, so I would try everything.  And instead of entertaining things, I would satisfy my curiosity by leaping into every opportunity.  Because I always felt I could be so many things; but I wanted to make sure that I couldn’t be anything else — but an artist.

Being an artist resembled an exotic disease — a dis-ease of the soul — and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t one of its victim.

“So, what’s your major this morning?” my folks teased me during our phone calls.  I was prone to changing my mind, and the flexibility of my American education confused the hell out of them.

“Still English, I think,” I’d say.  “But with a slight concentration — in journalism.”

“Well, at least, you’re getting an education,” my best friend comforted me.  She always comforted me.  And it seemed to bother her the least — my proneness to change my mind, because I felt I could be so many things.

Come to think of it:  It should have been easier, in my youth.  During our college years, that’s exactly what we were meant to do:  To seek.  To learn.  To experiment.  To be — so many things!

But somehow, my contemporaries seemed to be more certain about their paths.  They would be teachers or administrators.  The more city-savvy types were going into investment banking in New York.  And I’ve even known one biologist and a chick who went to work for Fox News.  But mostly, they would be teachers.

“How can they be so sure?”  I wondered.

Because I wasn’t sure.  I could foresee the pleasure in having a day job with which I could identify myself for a couple of years; but the romance of its routine would expire as soon as some bureaucrat’s ego would begin dictating procedures to me, on a daily basis.  Some of them didn’t like my language, or my dress code.  They handed me time sheets and forms, along with the lists of appropriate jewelry.  Some wanted me to tame my hair.  Others preferred I didn’t call my colleagues “Loves”.

So, I would leave.  I would always leave, but with enough notice and plenty of disappointment noticeable on my employers’ faces:

“It’s just that you had so much potential!” they would say.

“Then, why did you break my balls about my headscarves?” I would think in response.  Still, I would leave with grace (even if I was leaving over burning bridges).

After college, I would be the only one in my class to leave for an art school.

“But you should teach!” my academic mentors insisted.  “Most of your contemporaries teach!”

Everyone had an opinion.  Everyone but me.  I still felt I could be so many things, but I really wanted to be — just one!

Some seemed to be quite disappointed in my decision to stick to the arts.

“What are you gonna do — with an art degree?  You could be so many things, instead!”

And I wasn’t sure.  I still wasn’t sure.

“And how can everybody else — be so sure?!” I wondered.

After the first semester in my MFA program, the uncertainty about my profession would remain.  However, the overall vision of my life was becoming clearer:  I would be an artist.  I WAS an artist.  And it was starting to be enough — to be that one thing.

And so, there I was:  Willing to risk my life’s stability — the stability about which my contemporaries seemed to be so sure — for the sake of seeking daily inspiration.  I would take on projects that would fuel my gratitude and curiosity.  I would begin spending my nights in companies of others who shared my exotic disease — the dis-ease of the soul; and I would attend their shows and poetry readings, and loom in front of their paintings in tiny New York galleries.  And none of us were still certain about our destinations; and yes, we were still filled with angst.  But we did share the same vision:  Our moments of happiness were simultaneous to the moments of creation — the moments of dis-ease.

Throughout the years, some of my contemporaries have disappeared into their professions:  They turned out to be successful administrators and great teachers.  Wonderful teachers, as a matter of fact!  I would watch them moving with seeming certainty through their honorable daily routines.

“Still:  How can you be so sure?” I would interview a few of them, years later.

I had succumbed to my disease fully by then, and I would learn to maneuver the demands of my survival jobs.  I had surrendered.

“Are you kidding?!  We aren’t sure at all!” some would answer, honestly.

And for the first time, in their tired and good, decent and honorable faces, I would notice a slight glimmer of doubt.

“Oh!” I would wonder.  “So, no one really knows, for sure!”

Strangely, I would find no comfort in their doubtfulness.

But I would find great ease in knowing that I myself had fully surrendered to my disease:  The dis-ease of my soul — of an artist.

Man vs. World

“Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone.

It’s not warm when he’s away…”

Fuck.  THAT.  Shit.

First of all, it’s the bloody desert out there today!  Look at it.  The sun has swept off the last of yesterday’s clouds to return the sky to that dreamy blue I had seen only on this coast; and give it a couple of hours, I’ll be basking in it, naked.  (Ah, but I ain’t telling you where:  It’s my secret spot.)Secondly, since his departure, my own comrades and beloved hearts — and all of my small world’s children — have swooped in, dusted me off (for I have not only bit the dust in this fall — I fuckin’ made a meal of it!) and have been taking turns serving me cups of hot tea to melt away my midnight shivers.

“You’re a’right,” they tell me.  They always tell me, never ask.  Not that they’re ever surprised by my strength or resilience; or my refusal to lead an ordinary life.

“It’s not becoming — for a woman like you!” one of my comrades commented on my tears the other day, in his laconic, Tony Soprano-esque way.  (SHIT.  Can’t an Amazon get a break?!  Nyet, apparently.)

“Always an inspiration,” uttered my East Coast angel before departing from me after this weekend’s visit.  She herself is far from shabby when it comes to the quality of her sought life; and soon enough, she’ll return that inspiration with a single postcard from some exotic coast with gorgeous brown people and white sand.  Not too shabby.

In my blunt Russian-ness, I must admit:  I am not really the pining type.  Nyet, I definitely don’t pine much.  So, okay, I’ll mourn the loss of a love while rummaging through my bookshelves for like-minded words.  I may even dwell in nostalgia a bit.  But even that — is more of a Russian thing:  I’m just another Olga, wanting to get to Moscow.  (Chekhov, comrades!  Check that Chekhov:  He knew a thing or two about humanity.)

Perhaps, being an only child had something to do with it:  for as long as the memory of my young self spans, I was always perfectly self-sufficient and often in preference for my solitude.  Considering my parents’ occupations (father was an officer, mother — a social butterfly), they left me to my own devices quite often and willingly.  And if ever one of them wanted to go parental on my ass and demonstrate how to do something, in response, they got my very assertive:

“MYSELF.”

According to motha, it was the first word I learned, and obviously — it was my favorite.  Yep:  While other infants were taking the easier, more natural to their tongues routes and learning to call out for their parents, I was already self-asserting.  To make this tale of V’s childhood even more poignant, I spoke of “MYSELF” in its masculine conjugation.  (Unlike in the English language, in Russian one must conjugate every word in a sentence; which makes our tongue quite difficult to navigate.  Try navigating Moscow, for Lenin’s sake:  Nothing we do is easy!)

When it came to my early life romances, I was a late bloomer.  Always a bookworm, in all honesty, I found the characters in my novels much more interesting than boys.  Between that and the adventures promised to me at the time by the Communist Party, the world appeared to be more tempting of an adventure than another single human being.  Here, I wonder if my men ever even had a chance, considering they had to compete with the entire planet.  But when my first Russian boyfriend announced he was interested “in seeing other people”, a month later, I won a full scholarship for my pre-collegiate studies in the United States.  He had other people to see — I had other places to be.  (I hear he lives in a hamlet now, married to a milkmaid and working for the “collective farm”.  Mazel tov, darlin’.)

In the history of my womanhood, I’ve treated every break-up as an opportunity to grow.  It’s kind of the way it flows in Motha Nature, don’t you think, my comrades?  When something old expires, it makes room for something — or someone — new.  And the more I live — the more losses I suffer — the quicker that interchange happens.

It’s as if I’ve become more connected to my own intuition; and I’m able to hear the voices off all other opportunities the world has to offer, no matter how loud the moaning of my ego and heart may be.  So, during this currently happening ache, there is a somewhat habitual thrill about everything new — everything yet unknown and unforeseen, yet somehow anticipated.  I may not know what this new shift is going to bring, but I suspect:  It’s going to be magnificent.

Because it has been, my beloveds, all along; every time until now.  Every departed lover was replaced by someone wonderful and better suitable for me.  Every old occupation gave room to sometimes humbling opportunities.  And the only part that I am obliged to play at this time of loss is to respectfully behold for my departed beloved — to wish him well, for the sake of my own grace — then, to grant MYSELF the time and space to heal; because give it half a phase — and that space will be flooded with the world.

And to quote my favorite sister Olga:

“Oh, dear sisters, our life is not ended yet.  We shall live!  The music is so happy, so joyful, and it seems as though in a little while we shall know what we are living for, why we are suffering.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some naked basking to do.

Love yous.  All of yous.  (And who said I couldn’t conjugate English pronouns?  I just did!  MYSELF.)