While I learned a great deal during my 10-year* stint shilling cars and corn chips for The Man, so much so that I’ve finally realized I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, I’ve often wondered whether eight years would have done it…or five…or even three.
It was supposed to be three, after all: my initial “plan,” such as it was, was to use the three years in advertising as kind of a high-level day job while I figured out what it was that I really wanted to do. Strangely, or not, three years stretched into five and then eight, when The Chief Atheist finally talked me into chucking it, an act of kindness for which I will be forever grateful.
Of course, we do things as long as we need to, even if that seems overly long by some external form of measurement such as the Loved Ones’ Yardstick. While it was, I’m sure, patently obvious to almost any outsider that I overstayed my welcome in advertising (or acting, or almost every relationship pre-Surfer), it was anything but to me. Change is easy and obvious unless you’re the one who has to do it.
What I’ve wondered over and over, both here on the blog and endlessly, in my head, is what makes it so hard. Yeah, yeah, I know: fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear, period.
But there’s something else that’s stopped me over and over that’s less about fear and more about cluelessness: the way in which I wanted to change was so big, I literally had no idea of how to go about beginning. It was easier to lie in the arms of the devil I knew than to go on a hunting expedition for the devil I wouldn’t know if he walked up and stabbed a pitchfork in me. So I didn’t: when I finally leapt, it was into this manufactured idea of me as screenwriter, not into the adventure of finding my real, meaningful work. I was not much into organic growth and walking the path back then.
I’ve been revisiting the idea of change and resistance to it recently not because I’m uncomfortable walking the path career-wise, to the contrary, I’ve become almost frighteningly comfortable with not knowing what the hell my destination is from a work perspective. No, these days the change roadblock is all about how to move forward with my primary relationship from a logistical standpoint. The BF and I have been discussing cohabitation, which at this juncture would mean me moving in with him, as he has the big, fat, honkin’ house and I have the small (albeit delightful!) rent-controlled apartment.
House for apartment? Quiet for noise, roll-over commute for 11-mile pain in the ass, fresh air and a view for stank and the apartment building next door? SOLD, you say!
Not so fast, I say. While I’m all for the amblin’ path with my life’s work, complete with dead ends, misfires and back-tracking, there are additional physical realities involved in a move, and irreversible ones at that. Should I find this particular route is out, so am I, at least, priced out of Los Angeles’ still-insanely high rental market.
And why would this route be out? Putting aside my neuroses and my ferocious desire to cling to Several Rooms of One’s Own, there is the not small (for me) matter of horizontal vs. vertical space, and what should reside there. For me, the answer is “as little as humanly possible” and “fill ‘er up”, respectively; The BF, on the other hand, sees every flat surface as available storage space, and has some strange phobia prohibiting the installation of shelving. I shit you not.
Moreover, everywhere I turn, I see Opportunities for Improvement: a better way of managing everything from food prep to reading material; he just sees his house, and, most likely, me unhappy with it. (For as gifted an actor as I could be on stage, I am hopeless at hiding my actual human emotions, especially when confronted with three years’ worth of spent oatmeal tins in prime kitchen storage space. I may actually have cried a little when I saw those.)
The point is, we were talking BIG differences. A BIG difference in clutter thresholds (we are, amazingly, about even when it comes to tolerance of actual filth). A BIG difference in privacy needs. A BIG difference between what I needed to feel secure about thriving in a space and what I saw spread out before me.
Until, that is, the kitchen sink.
It is new, the kitchen sink (see above). It is white and it is shiny and it reflects light like a maniac, like a sumbitch, like that three-sided tin foil thing my mother used to stick under her Bain de Soleil-ed face back in the ’70s. (I have a thing about light that’s only grown worse as my eyesight has, too.) As a purchase, it was not strictly necessary, the previous, stainless-steel sink held water and soap and dishes perfectly well, albeit a little less glamorously. It lacked a spare outlet for the housing of the new water filtration system we’d agreed on to replace the ecologically and financially expensive bottled water delivery that preceded it, but as The BF pointed out, he was more than capable of drilling a hole right into the countertop to accommodate the bastard. Only I didn’t want to accommodate the bastard; I wanted it properly seated in its rightful place on an actual sink, where overflow water could be caught in an actual drain, not mopped up from the counter by hand. I am a girl, and I like things nice. I also had a need to be seen and heard and accommodated in some way. To his credit, The BF saw, heard and made an outstandingly generous accommodation. (For the record, that quick, cheap home improvement project is rarely either. And cast iron sinks are heavy.)
I am still thinking about how it might work (or might not), me giving up my little place and moving into this big one, but it does not feel as big or impossible now because we did one small, okay, medium-to-medium-big thing. Which, if I examine it carefully (and you know Virgos, we examine the crap out of everything), was really one medium-to-medium-big thing following some other, smaller things: me, test-driving a shared workspace in the office and extended stays on a bed not my own. Him, respecting my 12 square feet of horizontal desktop and finding me a smallish rug so my feet didn’t hit cold floor in the morning.
The small thing is the David to big, bad Change’s Goliath. Or, to put it two other, equally hackneyed ways, the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with one step, and doing one thing different(ly) really can alter your entire world.
You do not, as it turns out, need everything and the kitchen sink. Sometimes, the kitchen sink itself is more than enough…
*A small side note: the extra couple of years as an ad ho may or may not count, since I really was using it as a “day job” at that point, dropping in for a month or two to make my nut for three or four, and lather-rinse-repeating as necessary until my new vocation, acting, required my non-stop presence here in the City of Angles. (And no, that’s not a typo: you’d know it if you lived here, too.)