It’s been a long time since I was here typing on this blog. I almost gave it up for good. You’ll notice it’s unlinked for now. (Those of you who have found me are genius treasure hunters, and I love you to pieces!) That’s because I’m actively looking for work, and the thought of all those hiring managers looking at me blubbering away on my blog scares me. I’ve always been a really open person, and I don’t think I can change. What you see is what you get. I tell my stories openly here to friends.
I’ve had a lot of failures and hard times lately, and I worry that talking about them might keep someone from hiring me. So I’ve been hiding them. I’ve been hurting and wanting to come here to share so someone can tell me I’m not alone. I’m not a complete failure, and everyone is having hard times…But I’ve been scared. Twice shy, once burned? Something like that? I’m always shy and always burned.
A few of you on Instagram recently said you missed me. Those words are like a hug and an invitation to coffee in my favorite coffee shop. I’ve been so alone and scared, and you still care about me. It blows my mind.
I had to get off social media for a little while because I consumed it like an addict instead of a creator. It’s tricky for me. I can stick my toe in, but I can’t swim in the river of social media without getting my own voice drowned out. I want to be online to create, but then I get sucked into home-makeover videos and cute cat videos, and next thing I know, I’m crooked over like the hunchback of Notre Dame in my bed rotting, and I’ve lost hours and hours of precious time.
So here I am. I’m back. Nobody blogs anymore, nobody reads anymore… but who cares! I love creating pictures and telling stories, and this is where I do it. I do it for myself. Some day, all this will get turned off like a light switch, and that’s okay because it was here for me when I needed it. I’ve made so many amazing friends here. I’m so thankful.
Let me tell you about this past month, scratch that, make it: this past year. It’s been one of the worst years of my life. I’m calling it The Year of Rejection. But you know what? It’s also been a year of self-discovery, dear friendships deepening, new friendships forged, old friendships discarded…I’ve been tested in ways I never thought of. It’s just like everyone says: failure is a huge step backward and a colossal step forward simultaneously. I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this year. I’m old and wisened. My heart has grown three sizes.
I met up with three high school friends in the desert a few weeks ago. A friend was in from out of town, so we had a little reunion of sorts. It was so good to see them. They are all artists, and we speak the same language at top speeds. We stayed up until 2 a.m., standing around in the parking lot in the middle of the desert in the light of the big blue moon, just talking and talking and talking. Nobody was tired. No one wanted the night to end.
I almost didn’t go because I was in the depths of despair after not getting yet another job I had interviewed for. My dear friend, Tamie, talked me into going. She covered my gas, my food, and my lodging. We had a girl’s night at a hotel. It was awesome. How am I so lucky to have friends care for me when I’m so down and out? I am thankful. It was healing.
I’ve had so much rejection with work. I’ve begun to doubt myself, and it’s been hard. Freelancers are only as good as their last job, and the only way we get new jobs is by selling ourselves. Trying to sell yourself when you’re nursing the fresh wounds of rejection and low self-esteem is like going to the dentist repeatedly for ineffective root canals.
That visit to the desert was an infusion of positivity and creativity. I was reminded of who I am and what makes me happy. My friends are struggling, too. Being an artist isn’t all fat paychecks and cool disco lighting. It’s actually blood, sweat, and tears, and hardly anyone ever really “makes it.” I’ve been lucky a lot. I felt like I was with my people, and it propped me back up to go back to trying. I need these kinds of gatherings often. I need my tribe.
Bug has really been here for me in these dark times. She is growing up into an adult. Every day, I see different versions of myself in her. She is so much wiser than I was at her age. She’s working now and spends much of her paycheck supporting us. She’s working at Trader Joe’s and buys us food with her discount. It’s pretty much impossible to live on a single income where we live, and Bug is stepping up to help out. I’m proud of her. I raised a good one despite all my shortcomings.
Matt’s been down twice since I last checked in. It’s always good to see him. He takes me out to dinner and spoils me rotten, which is such a nice mini-vacation from the grind.
Lots of dinners, flowers, and farmer’s market dates. Sigh…I do love my long-distance relationship.
Bug and I have been going on more little dates together, too. Now that many of her friends and her boyfriend are also working, she’s finding she has more and more home time. That means she’s stuck with me, and I am “Muber, the mom-taxi again.” She’s forced me out a few times, and I begrudgingly went and was thankful afterward. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably stay in my apartment all day long. Rotting.
We love our local museum. It’s only a few minutes away and always great for taking photos and getting a drink. (Virgin, of course, for her!)
I also cut my own hair! I just sawed off the blonde with this razor blade thingy I bought. It’s funny because I did a blind hack job on the back, but because of the two-tone mottled tortoiseshell coloring, it doesn’t look half bad. I never wanted blonde-tipped hair, but it’s better than dull gray hair or bleached-out, stiff-straight cabbage patch doll hair. I’m calling it a win. My hair is an ever-changing art project. I never know what look I will be stuck with, and it’s never boring!
You know what I’m going to say next, I bet. Cody is my constant companion. He has been my faithful friend through many bouts of tears. He follows me around the house from room to room, never leaving my side. Sometimes, I take him with me on little adventures because I love him so much. We go to the beach, we go to the park, we go to Starbucks.
He is probably my biggest anti-depressant. He is a big hairy ball of shedding love, raining blonde hair all over my house, my clothes, and my car…His hair is as abundant as his love. He covers me with it constantly.
I don’t know what I’d do without him. We’ve had a lot of quiet moments of reflection, he and I.
Now I’m to the hard part. My big news is that I must move out of the apartment I love. I’ve officially run out of money. My savings are gone, and my royalties have dropped by three quarters. They were inflated because of the pandemic because so many schools started using my books in their curriculum. It was awesome. But I made the mistake of being optimistic and assuming they would continue on that trajectory. They obviously didn’t, and now I’m stuck living beyond my means.
I’ve fretted about this exact scenario since I moved here. I’m lucky I stayed here as long as I have. I could say I’ve failed, but I’ve also lasted longer than I thought I could. I’ve been living on hope and faith, and I can’t continue. I have to move home with my parents in the Sticks, and Bug has to go live with her dad. It’s ripping me up, but there is no other way she can finish high school in this expensive town. Nobody can live here on a single income—definitely not an aging out-of-work freelancer with fewer and fewer clients and a Trader Joe’s afterschool wage.
However, there is one more thing I will try before I ultimately give up. I’m going to open up a pop-up flower shop at my one remaining client’s place of business. He has an office on Pacific Coast Highway in San Clemente (a cute beach town) that gets plenty of foot traffic. When I’ve worked there, many people have poked their heads in the open Dutch door, asking if we had anything to sell. We didn’t. The office is the headquarters for a margarita truck catering company. In front of it is the cutest brick patio with a hose and plug-ins for electricity. It’s perfect for a little flower cart. It’s very visible and ideally situated. I don’t have any money to invest in this idea, but my client is fronting me. It’s good for him because it will bring interest to his business. It’s good for me because I’ve always wanted to have a flower shop. We’ll try one pop-up and see how it goes.
I’ll tell you more when it gets closer. Say a prayer for me!
Friday was a terrible day but also, in a strange way, a sweet day. I didn’t have work because another one of my clients laid me off. More and more of my clients are cutting their budgets. I was even taking a pay cut because I loved working in his office, but now that has dried up too. I miss going to work every day. I’ve been sad about it.
It was good that I didn’t have to work, though, because Bug needed a new copy of her birth certificate and social security card, which meant I needed to drive around to get these various documents. Toby lost her originals. He says I lost them, I say he lost them. You know how it goes with divided parenting… Maybe Bug has them in her room? Who knows. But we had to get new ones because she’s starting her first real job next week. I’m so proud and excited for her!
Driving in downtown Santa Ana and dealing with parking and waiting rooms is NOT my favorite way to pass a day. I was dreading it. Surprisingly the courthouses are new and shiny. Much to my delight, the new buildings were huge and well organized. We walked in and were breezily registered. I filled out an online questionnaire and was sent to a desk where a woman printed two copies of Bug’s birth certificate for a fee. It was so simple! It was awesome. I had whined and complained about how much of a pain in the neck the process would be on the drive there, and then it was nothing.
But of course, we still had to go to the Social Security Office. Social Security offices are known for being horrible. They even have large signs on the wall forbidding handguns because everyone wants to shoot each other when you are there. It’s a brutal look into the down-and-out and frustrated populace of America. Bug and I texted comments to each other as we listened to tall tales from the desperate people pleading for this and that from their assigned government workers. It was sad.
Finally, our number was called, and we were led to a back room full of empty cubicles. A woman looked at our documents and approved for Bug to get a new social security card. It was a simple task, not counting the hour-and-a-half wait in the third ring of Dante’s inferno waiting room. Phones and TikTok make this waiting infinitely more bearable than I remember it being years ago when I had to change my name after I got married.
It was long past lunchtime by the time we wrapped things up, so Bug and I decided to reward ourselves with a lunch out in the artsy side of Santa Ana. The artsy side of Santa Ana is trying so hard to be artsy, but it’s not entirely pulling it off. You can tell things are happening during the monthly art walk, but the afternoon on a Thursday was pretty grim. Nobody was out, and everything was closed. We found a place, though, and had a nice lunch at The Den, formerly known as The Gypsy Den.
Before lunch, a parking citation officer had been looking at the parking meter next to my car. I had paid with my debit card, so I knew I wasn’t getting a ticket. I asked him if I was okay, and he dismissed me with a wave. I should have known something was up because a ticket was on my windshield when we returned to the car. Right when I went to retrieve it from the window, I simultaneously stepped in some hot gooey chewing gum. There I was with long strands of gum stuck to my shoe and trailing behind me as I looked at the ticket and saw how much I would have to pay for not having a front license plate.
Yep, I got a ticket for not having a front license plate. I have not had a front license plate since Toby took it off in 2006, claiming it was for aesthetic reasons. I never questioned it. I should have put it back on when he gave the plate to me many years later, but I never got around to it. I figured I’d gone years without it; it wasn’t a big deal. Apparently, it is a big deal when you park in downtown Santa Ana where government operates.
I couldn’t believe my bad karma. Bug and I laughed at how ridiculous the whole day had been. I haven’t even told you about all the times I took the wrong exit off the freeway or how many times Bug got mad at me for not listening to her when she talked. It’s like my brain was on another planet yesterday.
I’ve been so stressed about work and not working that I haven’t been operating on all cylinders. Half of my brain is too busy worrying at all times. I’m up at night worrying, I’m worrying all day. I’m not on my game. I’m just a worry monster.
The good part of yesterday was Bug. She was so patient with me. She’s seen me go through many ups and downs. I try not to share how much I’m worrying because she has enough to worry about on her own, and I don’t want her to have to parent her parent, but sometimes the stress seeps out of me no matter how hard I try to cover it up. It seeps out when I’m not paying attention 100%. It seeps out when I get frustrated easily for missing an exit on the freeway. It seeps out when I mention things repeatedly without remembering that I already told her. Bug is not stupid. She knows.
So when our car cd player rotated to the Bob Marley album and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” started playing out of the speakers, she turned it up and sang a little for me. There is nothing like having a moment with your near-adult teenager. I just looked at her knowing smile in the afternoon sun. She knows me, I thought. She knows me better than anyone. Soon enough, she’ll be grown, and on her own, so I cherish these moments. Yesterday might have been my worst day in a long time, but it was with Bug, and I knew someday it would make a good story.