The day after I close on my house, I invite some of my closest girlfriends over for an indoor picnic.
(From a marketing standpoint, “indoor picnic” sounds much better than “sit on the floor and drink cheap wine” right?)
“I have no furniture and no food,” I tell them. “But we’ll sit on a blanket and it will be very quaint and very Bohemian and I have an entire case of Three Buck Chuck from Trader Joes.”
(If you’re one of my Philadelphia friends reading this and did not get an invite to the indoor picnic, don’t be offended. It just means that you are someone I actually want to impress, as opposed to someone who I can subject to sitting on the floor and eating cheese sliced with a paint scraper. I will have a proper housewarming as soon as possible and you will definitely be invited.)
The European joins us later in the evening and after my other friends leave, he and I bring our wine glasses out to my back deck.
(Yes, I have a back deck. It is lovely. At least it will be, once I finish painting and reupholstering the pair of ice cream chairs I found at the thrift shop.)
I’m feeling elated about the house but uneasy about a new teaching position I’ve just accepted. Then there’s the issue of the fact that I now have a mortgage to pay. And that I’m an adjunct, and that adjuncts have very little money and even less job security.
“I don’t know what to do,” I tell The European. “I need the money but I don’t think this new job is a good fit. And then there’s the dance company. I spend so much time managing the damn thing that I don’t even like performing anymore!”
He nods. Then he starts asking me questions.
What do you actually want to do with your life?
How much do these teaching positions even pay?
Do you have any idea—ANY IDEA—of what a gifted writer you actually are?
“You don’t even realize it,” he says, shaking his head in frustration. “Because it comes so naturally for you.”
He goes on, telling me it’s great that I’m passionate about the arts, and about education, and that I’m altruistic by nature, but it’s not great when I end up letting people exploit me as a result.
Exploit me? Me?
“You have this talent,” he continues, “and you’re not valorizing it.”
It takes me a while to comprehend what he’s talking about, but then I realize I’ve heard it before: from my parents, from my favorite college professors, from my brother, and so on.
It just helps to hear it from a rather sexy, rather successful man who is seated across from you on a deck you now own. Because if you are capable enough to own a deck, surely you are capable of more.
By the end of our conversation, I’m in tears. The European, however, doesn’t know me well enough yet to know that I cry ALL the time. Even when I’m happy.
He leans forward in his chair and wraps his arms around me. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ve said the wrong thing.”
“No.” I tell him. “No. You have said exactly the right thing.”
The next morning I do exactly what you’re not supposed to do when you’ve just bought a house: I call my new boss and I resign. I start to make plans for “phasing out” the other aspects of my life that no longer serve me, such as stepping down from my role as Executive Director of the dance company I’ve spent the past three and a half years building. I stick with the teaching gigs in which I feel respected and valued (here’s looking at you, L&L, BCC and NK!) and I make myself a promise: new house, new life. None of my old crap comes with me here. None of my old fears, none of my old insecurities, none of my old excuses.
I send an email to one of my old editors. “I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything but here’s the thing…”
Then I power up my laptop and fill out two applications: one for a new passport and one which I’ll tell you about tomorrow.