Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conversations With (Not So) Hideous Men

When I was little, I used to despise getting up to go to elementary school, a sentiment I'm sure we can all relate to. In the span of time between the first time my mother came in to wake me and the second (because it has always taken me 15 to 20 minutes to wake up and get out of bed), I used to lie there and have waking daydreams about a place where people could lie in beds all day, in a room surrounded by books on bookshelves, do their learning and reading in bed, clack away at a computer from the comfort of under their down comforter, and have food delivered and eat in while still in their pajamas.

This is why I became a writer. I chose to be a writer so I could be doing what I am right now-- sitting upright in bed after waking up at noon, still naked, eating cold leftover lo mien out of the carton, answering work emails and making money. (Plus, if you haven't caught on by now, writing is just kind of what I do. If I didn't have hands, I'd write with my toes. And if I didn't have toes, I'd teach myself to hold a pencil in and write with my mouth. And if I couldn't learn to write with my mouth, then I'd go out and buy a tape recorder and wonder why I just hadn't done that in the first place. But you get the point-- it's an as uncontrollable love and reflex for me as breathing or eating Annie's white cheddar macaroni and cheese.)

I'm theoretically as lazy as when it comes to "real world" writing work as I am about exercise. I mean, I'll get up, shower, go into an office and put in my 10-6, just like I'll get on a treadmill and pound out a mile and do some chest presses and back extensions-- I'll do it if I know it's going to get me somewhere or get my 4-pack back, but it's not like I have to enjoy it. My father was self-employed for most of his adult life, and among other things, I take after him in that I'm happiest when I'm being my own boss. And I'm never going to be happy unless I'm doing something that I'm going to find useful.

Grad school is one of those "useful things." I recently and unexpectedly met one of the writers and talent scouts for Saturday Night Live, and before I knew who she was, had given her a brief run-down of my resume and objectives. After the fact, she commended me on my choices of schools, and my resume. "By the time you get your Masters," she told me, "Don't be surprised to be looking at $80,000 a year salaries in New York, if you keep doing what you're doing." (She also, by the by, used to be a sex, love, and relationship writer in college, MOM.)

Now, money is one of those tricky things for me, and as I am reluctantly growing up, I recently sat down with a projected list of living expenses, current bills, and my income. I figured out in order to live someplace in New York where I won't have to fear sharing a one-bedroom with an infestation of roach roommates, pay my bills and college loans back, buy the occasional pair of shoes and feed myself a few times a week, and keep my horse, I need to be making a minimum of $30,000 a year. So yeah. Grad school. It's gotta get me there. And if it can be with give-or-take $50,000 to spare, hey-- I'm not going to protest.

Because it's only mildly important in developing the rest of my life, I did the only reasonable thing I could do when faced with some questions about one college no GRE prep book or grad school website can answer: I called my ex. Having grown up about 2 hours away, I suspected he knew the area a little, and could give me a basic idea of what it was like, and if he could see me living and studying there.

Scary? Yes, a little. Weird? When you don't talk so regularly anymore, yeah. When he beckoned me into the other room, was I not sure if I were about to get verbally chewed up and spit out? No, I was considering it a possibility. After all, harsh words have been traded in the not-so-distant past. But did I follow him? Yes. Because when it comes down to it, there's one thing you have to keep in mind-- "I know what this person looks like naked." And that little thought is enough to make anyone seem more human and vulnerable again. When you can trace someone's moles from memory and know the stories of their scars, you can't help but remember that at one time, neither of you wanted to hurt the other.

That's the thing about maintaining people in your life-- if someone has been inside of you, they generally know other intimate things about you, like your likes and dislikes and have a pretty good handle on who you are as a person. And if they're good people, even after the whole "we are not together anymore" thing, they'll still try to do right by you. So when he said, "I can't really see you enjoying it there," I listened. I also listened when he said "You've got the ambition, and if that sort of networking is what you want, then it would be a good place to go."

I used to burn bridges and recklessly discard people and exes like used plastic utensils, but along with the whole "growing-changing-thinking-about-my-future" thing, I've also realized what a bad move it is. Some of them are people I'd still lay down a lot for-- why would you want to alienate that for yourself? Not the smartest move a generally smart person could make.

So play nice and work well with others. What you put out is what you receive back, after all, at running the risk of sounding like your Zen Yoda master.


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