Happy birthday, brother.
Date: March 6, 2016
Days Spent on Project: 1110
Location: NW Portland, OR
Person I would have sent it to: TBD
Music I listened to while sewing: More Carly Rae Jepsen.
“Warm Blood” on repeat today.
Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: An admission, I guess.
A month ago, I applied for a job in Pittsburgh. A friend of mine from grad school suggested that I’d be good for it and that I might like Pittsburgh and that I should get back east. I have a brother in Pittsburgh. I thought about it for a few weeks; one weekend I sat myself at my computer and filled in the necessary forms and sent the necessary resumes and letters.
A week after sending that information in, I got a request for a Skype interview. I accepted; we scheduled. I interviewed sitting at the desk in my apartment on a Friday morning, the day before my 37th birthday.
I heard back from the team of people I interviewed with on Friday; while they enjoyed the interview and thought positively about me and my work, they were choosing to advance a few other candidates ahead of me for the next round of “in-person” interviews. I didn’t get it.
Here’s the admission: I’m relieved.
After the interview, I sat in my apartment with my dog, before walking him back to my job, and thought about the road I was heading down.
I didn’t want the job. While I knew I could do it and do it well, this new job seemed like a step to the side and then almost a step backwards. Would it have advanced me towards getting more design work? Being seen as someone who could design? Being in a position to mentor or work creatively? No, it didn’t. If anything, it seemed like it would require MORE working hours and less creative input. More time at a sewing machine. More time spent being a “mothering figure” (their words). [P.S. I’m a guy, if you hadn’t already clued into that fact yet.] After the interview, that weekend, I decided if they wanted another interview… I’d politely decline.
So, not getting it? Yes, I was disappointed. Hearing that you weren’t quite what someone wants is always a bit frustrating.
But, I feel okay.
Moving to Portland cost me at least $3000 of moving expenses that this theater didn’t cover. I’ve bought some furniture since being here; if I had to move across the country, I wouldn’t donate those pieces (like I did back in 2014 when I had to move here in two weeks), so I can only assume the cost of moving would only increase.
I’m not ready to move yet.
Talking to my friend yesterday, over several hours spent in one coffee shop, my costume shop, Powell’s bookstore, and then a brew-pub over dinner and pints, I admitted to her and myself out loud: maybe it isn’t as bad as I let on… maybe… this is okay.
Yes, I want to be paid more. I wish I didn’t work so many hours. I wish I had more friends here. I wish I was dating. I wish I had a place to go and be and enjoy. Yes- yes to all of that and more- there are things that feel lacking here.
But it’s not yet been 20 months.
Lord, do I miss my friends. Lord, do I miss some people in New York. Lord, do I miss the subway and the different neighborhoods and the resources and the crowds and the randomness of everything being so densely located and the overwhelming nature of it all.
But I don’t miss the constant anxiety under everything of being a freelance theater artist in that city and the hustle and the hope that a company would pay you when they said they would and the check would clear so you could write your check at the last minute for this month’s rent.
I do not miss having to figure out ways to get a new prescription for my asthma medication and then having to put something so integral to my being on my credit card… because I couldn’t otherwise afford to have an inhaler.
I do not miss feeling alone in a city of over 8 million people. I do not miss understanding how awfully brutal that can feel.
Standing wedged between one person and the next in a subway car during rush hour, pressing into someone you’ll never see again, it’s absurd to think that you’re surrounded by people but simultaneously alone and invisible.
Strangely, in Portland, walking down sidewalks and streets that are deserted at all hours… the solitude isn’t insulting. It’s just what it is. This is Portland. This is normal.
I do not miss making annual vet appointments for my dog, and dreading his needing a shot or medication or some service… because it’ll only add a hundred additional dollars to his bill that I can’t pay.
I do not miss feeling under utilized, as in not being able to find work- enough work- any work to pay the bills consistently and keep myself busy.
I do not miss having to re-prove yourself and your abilities with every project because there was always someone else trying to get the work… and would undercut you in any way to get it.
I miss the opportunity. I miss feeling like there could be Something around the corner for you that would change everything. I miss that inspiration could be anywhere. I miss that ambition wasn’t a luxury; you have to be ambitious to survive. I miss the randomness and irresponsibility of that city. I miss the invincibility and the confidence that bordered on arrogance that living in New York gave you.
He was right: If you can make it there, you really can make it anywhere. Happily and sadly, that statement is incredibly true.
This job in Portland- and also Portland in general- has helped me to move mentally away from simply trying to survive.
Twenty months into this new journey, I’ve realized I’m now trying to learn how to live.
When you’re not constantly trying to figure out what the next job is, when the paycheck will arrive, what you can afford for dinner, how can you just exist and be a person.
If you’re always concerned about survival on a very basic level, how can you live fully? How can you live at all?
Anyway, somehow I was living and I did live there.
And I’m still living and my life is so different now than I ever thought it would be.
So, in the end, I’m not sad that the Pittsburgh job didn’t materialize. It would have paid more, and while that would have been awesome, I know deeply and personally that if I had pursued it more fully that I would have sold out. Less responsibility. Less input. Fewer resources. Fewer opportunities to be the designer, to be the creator, to be the one in charge?
I would have been selling out.
I’m still managing to understand my feelings about not being the designer anymore… and wrapping my head around the idea that my design (and creating and creative) career is actually dead… but here in Portland, there is a chance.
There is a chance.
Sorry if this seems to ramble, if you’ve read this far, but know this:
I’m staying in Portland for another year. Next season is going to be difficult (money is tighter next year, which means my staff will feel the repercussions majorly). But I think there is opportunity. But I think there’s a reason for me to be here. But I think hope isn’t all lost.
As I admitted to my friend yesterday: maybe it isn’t as bad as I feel it is. It’s not perfect, sure, but what is? Maybe this is okay for now? Maybe learning to live- and not trying desperately and constantly to survive- is more than good.
For now. Not forever. But certainly for now.