On My Education, Job, & Other Things That Make Me Question My Worth

So yesterday my work made me go home early. At first I was pissed because I had work I could be doing. They just didn’t feel like paying me.  But I got home and read some blogs and listened to some music and had a pretty good day.  I even did some chores.

Today before I was supposed to go in I called and asked if they would need me all day.  They didn’t have an answer.  This is what doctors on call must feel like.  Except doctors make way more money than I do and are saving people’s lives.  I’m a nameless seamstress not even worth of appearing in a program.  Truly I haven’t had my name in a program since college.  Which is a little depressing. 

I’ve been depressed for the better part of the last decade. Which is in itself depressing.  Because I’m an approval seeker.  And the whole wide world likes to tell me that I’m doing it wrong.  Whatever “it” is.  I went into theater because I thought that I’d finally found a people so accepting of societies marginalized populations that surely they would accept me. This was my experience through many years.  Through high school. Through summer stock. Through amusement park after amusement park.

But Academia? Forget about it.  I figured if this is what I wanted I would have to go to school.  Hone my craft.  Build my resume. Then I could make a happy home in a network of like minded people from everywhere.  I could be happy.  I could be accepted. But when I went back to college my peers ignored me.  Although I was continually told that theater was a collaborative process I worked on show after show and continued to feel disconnected. 

To be fair I’m awkward.  But so are a lot of people.  I made friends outside of the department, which was kind of discouraged.  Apparently to make it through college theater you need to live work and eat with your peers. But they didn’t want me. 

While professors told the other students that they should be readying themselves for grad school which they wouldn’t have to pay for because of their talent. The schools would pay them to go there. To help teach classes and run shops.  I was told I would never make it through grad school.  I was told that my continual amusement park work was just hurting my chances of ever getting into “legitimate” theater.  How pretentious is that?  Also, summer stock pays around $200 a week.  Amusement parks: closer to $450.

I had to work through school.  When I was 18 my father lost his job and they moved to the exact geographical center of no where. 

If one more person told me to not work summer stock for the money but for the EXPERIENCE I swear I was going to ask if they were willing to pay for my food the next semester.  Forget RENT.

I guess it was good enough because I haven’t worked outside of my field since graduation with the exception of a week long stint at a coffee shop between jobs.

I was desperate for approval.  For someone to say “good job! I guess you way wasn’t wrong it was just different!” “Way to take the path less traveled!” My former class mates were busy jetting off to LA or New York.  Working so hard at their “Day Jobs” while they tried to dig careers out for themselves.  I think if someone would have just been proud of me I could ignore the truth of the situation.

Which is: My job, in my field, is killing my soul.  I am constantly admonished for breaking rules I was never told.  I have exactly one coworker that tells me I’m doing good work.  One of my supervisors will occasionally be glad that I’ve finished things but never comments on the quality (unless its not good enough).  Which is fairly often because we are constantly being told to sew faster.  If I make a mistake and try to fix it before it gets down the line and someone has the chance to be upset about it I then get in trouble for taking the time to rip out the stitch.  I should let someone faster, better rip out the stitch so that I can redo it.  How will I ever get better or faster if I’m not allowed to make and correct mistakes?

I was told when I started working there that head phones were not allowed.  Except that now several people listen to them and no one says anything to them.  The sound of a room full of industrial sewing machines (for anyone who’s never heard one) is a terrible cacophony of different pitches of banging, rattling, whining, like a million little jack hammers. People are routinely fired for god only knows what. So I’m a little afraid that it’s just that no one has noticed the other people’s head phones and if I try it we will all be thrust jobless into the street.  I can’t even claim ignorance.

Recently I had the chance to work the local leg of a national tour.  Positions are given based on seniority.  I was ecstatic for a moment til I was pulled aside and given the, what some of us started referring to as, “35 ways to get fired” speech. 

  1. You must be on time to work, and then on time to call: or we’ll have to fire you
  2. Don’t touch the props or anything that isn’t a costume: or we’ll have to fire you
  3. Don’t medicate the actors; not even aspirin: or we’ll have to fire you
  4. Don’t befriend the actors because they’ll turn on you like that.: and then we’ll have to fire you.
  5. Don’t argue with anyone: or we’ll have to fire you.
  6. Always do as you’re told: or we’ll have to fire you.
  7. Don’t have opinions, ideas, or suggestions: or we’ll have to fire you.

You get the point. I’m sure “don’t blog about this list” is probably on the list. Like the first rule of fight club. 

It was a lot of fun, however exhausting, and I didn’t get fired. I’m pretty sure my emotional health was damaged further by constantly worrying that I might confuse a prop for a costume (for those of you still reading that aren’t in theater the area is grey).

Meanwhile, my husband was finishing his degree sans a job because I didn’t want that for him.  I could support us both.  And I did.  And part of me was looking at my father going “look I can support my family! Just like you! Aren’t you proud of me?” but he just criticized the fact that we lived in the ghetto and it wasn’t safe and my husband should have a job so we could live somewhere nicer.

So we moved somewhere nicer.  With out a roommate.  “look daddy! I got approved for this nice apartment all by myself! Aren’t you proud of me?? Isn’t nice?!

“Well its an improvement but there are an awful lot of black people aren’t there?”

My husband graduated and got a job.  Not in his field but it pays well.  I sometimes find myself belittling the fact that its not in his field because it makes me feel better about my situation.  Which is wrong and awful and sometimes I hate myself for it.

Our lease on our nice little apartment with too many black people is almost up and I think “a house! We’ll buy a house!” I don’t know how to do that exactly.  I ask my father.  He’s an expert. He’s owned around 7 houses! “Well, first you have to be able to put a down payment down. 10-20% and you can’t start with a nice house.  You have to start with a little cheap one and move up from there. And you’ll have to start saving money. Cutting corners.  Do without.  Like those cell phones.  You’ll never save up any money with those cell phone bills.  Can you get more of those gigs doing shows? Didn’t that pay well?” “Well yeah but selection is based on seniority so probably not this year.” “Well did you do well at the last one? Make yourself known?” “I tried, but it doesn’t work like that” “I wouldn’t stay at a job where I couldn’t schmooze my way to the top.” “Well there’s really no where up to go at my job…”

I never did learn to buy a house.

Maybe if I had a baby?!  It sounds to me like that is what my parents expect next. And then that I should stay home with it.  (My mom doesn’t care which of us stays home with it but one of us needs to.  My dad thinks it has to be me because I’m a woman) However, I am simultaneously criticized for having these animals that I can’t take care of.  But I can. I do. They’re healthy and happy.  They make me happy and healthy.

Today I watched Amanda Palmer’s TED talk

And now I just want to say “fuck it”

Fuck trying to make other people approve of what I’m doing with my life.  Fuck my professors, fuck my peers, fuck my father, fuck society.  I’ve been trying my whole life and getting basically nowhere and I’m not happy.  And the few people that are generally proud of me (my mom, my grandparents, my aunt, my husband) are going to be proud of me no matter what I’m doing and they probably want me to be happy.

I’m not %100 sure what that means yet, but if it means packing my animals into an RV and visiting all of the 48 states in a year and earning money selling art and accepting donations, training dogs, darning socks, then that’s what I’ll do.  I’ll find people who will accept me for what I am and not what I’m doing and if I don’t well I’ve still got these dogs.



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