Hello Goat House friends, and Happy New Year,
It’s the wee hours of the morning as I write, and the ocean sleep soundtrack I’ve got playing can do nothing to combat the all-powerful awakening strength of the full moon. I just looked it up to see if my analysis is correct in scientific terms, and tonight is, in fact, the “Wolf Moon.”
A great anticipation sits in the air in the expectancy of a Big Snow. 3 people were killed in an avalanche on Wednesday at Silver Mountain in Idaho. Now we’ve got a “Winter Storm Warning” in effect for Spokane, even though the total projected accumulation from this particular storm is only 4-7 inches.
Personally, I don’t care how much it snows, as long as the ground is covered. The more, the better, however. If it’d stay cold enough to not all melt away, to subvert the soul-crushing Cold Rain we’ve been having and to give me True Winter, that’d be my preference.
I woke up around 4:12am, with my brain pulled instantly back to its near-all-consuming puzzle of what I’ll be doing with this new year and decade. 2020-2030 will take me from 30 to 40 years old. I wrote up my New Year’s Affirmations, and I was specific — but perhaps too much so.
With two parents whom I’ve termed “Nomadic,” and no siblings, it’s always felt hard to be rooted. My parents were divorcing between my freshman year of high school and my freshman year of college, and my mom and I struck out on our own early-on in my high school career. We obtained several different apartments together, and I experienced what it was like to have my first roommate.
But even before that, I was impossible to pin down. My mother always wanted me to be a musician, and during elementary and middle school, she put me to the task of taking up an instrument. My cousin, meanwhile, had already shown prodigious talent in the realm of piano. I, on the other hand, flitted rapidly through piano, then recorder, clarinet, then Opera, and finally guitar lessons, barely pausing to take a breath before I was bored and ready to move on to the next endeavor. I obviously never got good at any of these pursuits. I think part of my indifference was that I couldn’t get good right away, and I never had the patience to wait. I loathe mediocrity in my own performance, even whilst tolerating it sometimes infuriatingly well in others.
When high school was nearing its conclusion, I, like so many of my peers, was told that I Needed to Go to College. I was completely ambivalent towards the situation. I knew I couldn’t get into the top tier schools, because my participation in drunkenness was far more dedicated than my participation in anything else throughout high school. I also knew I wasn’t legacy or Wealthy (with a capital W) in a sea of classmates who were. I was a terrible athlete.
By three-weeks-to-graduation, I had been accepted at several schools and had put down deposits to hold spots at Emmanuel College and UMass Boston; both felt too close to home. The most promising offer I probably got was from University of Miami, who wanted to pay a significant portion of my way and put me into advanced classes from the start. Still, the thought of 101 courses in lecture halls full of automaton students gave me late night chills and shudders.
I told my high school English teacher, Mr. Cashman, about the situation one day. And that’s how, three weeks before graduation, I entered a rolling admission application to attend St. John’s College in Santa Fe. The all-required, no textbook/no test, discussion-based format seemed to answer many of the fears I had about the other schools, and Santa Fe seemed far enough from my somewhat infamous past. I still didn’t want to go, at all, but I also didn’t feel competent enough or like I had enough guidance to do anything else. So in September of 2007, they packed me up and shipped me off to College — neglecting, it importantly turned out — to fully elucidate the financial implications of switching my intellectual trajectory to an institution that offered no performance-based scholarships.
St. John’s provided the perfect platform to continue my course of non-commitment to any specific path, discipline, or interests in life. I was released in 2011 with the same lack of direction I’d gone in with, albeit perhaps with improved writing skills. From there, I got a series of jobs with a capital J.
My First Day Out was when my dad told me if I wasn’t coming home, I had to pay for my own apartment. I got a studio and a job selling art for a 73-year-old man who was Jewish from Iraq. Day after day, I lugged carpets, bronze statues, and amateur paintings of women’s legs outside to display them atop adobe walls on Canyon Road. Despite crying outside in the desert sun under the umbrella where Adieb used to sit every day drinking his coffee and swearing under his breath in Arabic at the tourist customers, because Adieb chastised my inability to be “Tiger with Sale,” I stuck with it. Eventually, Adieb and I forged a bizarre friendship that involved this surrogate-foreign grandfather proposing a life of luxury (“I pay for you everything: car, insurance, shoes, clothes…”) if I would only come live with him, every several days, but also me driving him to Costco and him shelling pistachios for me while I navigated his red Volvo, so I could snack without endangering us in traffic. When I finally threw in the towel and made for Back East, I slyly talked him into gifting me one of my favorite paintings, which still hangs in the Goat House now. It was part of his private collection, a piece by an artist named Farrington, whose work was supposedly collected by members of the Rat Pack including Frank Sinatra.
The Jobs after this were based on this First One: I had established myself as a Saleslady, by virtue of the fact that I had no other relevant experience to advertise. From there I sold cars (Lexus), cloud-based electronic medical records and billing systems, credit card processing disguised as restaurant technology software, and Very Expensive Business Cards. A series of Jobs that took me from running around a used car lot getting sworn at by 40 year old men in terrible suits, swiftly to the more sedentary life of sitting in office cubes or “open workspaces” behind several computer monitors with Free Snacks in hand.
I never liked these jobs.
There were aspects I liked. Every time I started a new Job, I enjoyed the first few months — the time during which I was learning new systems, challenging myself in new ways, and achieving new goals. With Sales specifically, I took some sort of perverse satisfaction from each new summit of potential awkwardness in cold calling, delivering “Word Tracks” and scripts, and bamboozling unwitting customers into agreeing to meetings or purchasing products they’d never intended to. But quickly, the initial months of growth would fade and then blur into a series of repetitious tasks so mind-numbing that I often wondered when life would cease so that I could be released from the sheer monotony of it all. If I was working to work, why bother? Other Things were not necessarily taking shape in my life, as they were in others’. The standard motivations to Stay Put, Be Successful, were not in place. Neither of my parents lived nearby anymore. There was no career trajectory to something I’d actually enjoy, and I wasn’t about to mortgage myself to the Eternal Servitude of children. Nevermind that I lacked any romantic relationship of stability to route me in one direction or another. So eventually, I Quit.
That’s when I moved to Spokane. I entered Graduate School. I bought a home, and started The Little Goat House. I thought, maybe I could make it. Maybe I could be the master of my own waking hours, and produce enough income to live.
Whenever I talk about my Old Jobs, my mom always says: “Those were Good Jobs.” What my mom means is: the Money was Good. She also probably means: the Work was Easy — or maybe more accurately, and a little less severely — the Work was not Hard. And in a physical way, it was not. (Other than office desks and chairs never being the right height to accommodate my hobbit-like stature, and eventually resulting in 3 years of searing, chronic lower back pain from 40 hours a week in various hunched or contorted desk postures). But psychically, emotionally, the work was Toil.
When my mom says: “Those were Good Jobs,” she has her own frame of reference in mind. It’s a good frame to consider.
My mom never graduated from College. She worked up from minimum wage jobs driving taxis to eventually driving bus tours of people across New Mexico for Greyhound. As I’ve learned more about my Grandma’s life since my mom relocated her to Spokane two years ago, I’ve understood more fully the severity of her and my Grandfather’s poverty when they were first starting out. Starting out from nothing, and then, my Grandfather contracting Polio, and them supporting four kids.
I did not start from nothing. I attended private schools, I had a credit card attached to my father’s bank account while I was in College. But in the sense that my dad didn’t work at an office, I never felt the reality of that life. My dad owned his own business. He went into his store when he wanted — more than any of his employees, often working through Important Family Time — but it was still When He Wanted. Ultimately, my dad had no recourse to anyone, in his working life, other than Himself. I never heard about the drama of work politics, shitty, impossible bosses, or deserved but unearned promotions.
Maybe that’s why my tolerance for Good Jobs was always so low. Or maybe, as my critics might say, I’ve just Always Had it Too Easy. Either way, it seems that I’m at an inflection point. I could continue to traverse this same line, to hold fast and try to succeed as a Small Business Owner, not knowing whether the slope of the line is headed in a positive or a negative direction, quite yet. Or I could Reform, and attempt to boomerang back to a life of Steady Paychecks and Good Benefits Packages. But at this point, I’m not sure that life will take me back, regardless.
The Goat House Fam,
Tanya, Petunia, Shop Kitty, John Waters, and David Lynch