“A sheet’s protection’s all you need to calm you down
you keep yourself from worrying
about the overwhelming stress
you can’t relieve as you just
curl up in bed, curl up in bed and close your eyes…
Tired of sleeping in too much
with no desire to stay awake
only to face the same mistakes
that you thought might resolve themselves
while you were waiting in serenity
for nature’s opportunity
so just curl up in bed, curl up in bed
this is the opportunity to momentarily forget…”
I’ve never been a big fan of change. Other people always seemed to weather the storms of life better than I did, so I developed this tough, capable mommy-to-everybody fake badass hard candy shell to deal with it, and then I’d go home, crawl in bed, and sleep off the anxiety. One of the changes that’s happened lately is that I lost my latest, longest restaurant job of many years (insert AWWWWWW here). The funny thing is that I was so relieved for it to finally be gone – I am the kind of person that will take more than a few punches (figuratively, of course – hit me once for real and oh HELL no.) and stick around in any given situation usually much longer than I should, because I try to see the good in everything and everyone, try to get everything I can out of something before I leave it behind, and want to walk away knowing I did everything I could… guess it’s the ‘our kids don’t quit’ mentality that’s been instilled in me. Dammit, I STAYED on that soccer team the whole season when I was 7! I just had to find the place I was most useful, which after trying every position on the field was obviously on the sidelines fully accessorized, cheering on my teammates and handing them orange slices at the half. It’s a blessing and a curse, and this combined with what’s left of my Midwestern girl niceness makes for a good bit of doormat-itis sometimes. Which I hate. Which I proceed to get pissed about after the fact, and boomerang back with my inner super rageface bitchmonster (also known as the sneaky hate spiral from Hyperbole and a Half, see below), usually at the wrong person (my husband, my mom or my best girl Auddy on the phone). Totally healthy. It’s taken quite a few years for me to be able to step back and recognize this about myself, and to start to change it. Change. That shit is TOUGH.
Starting a little over two years ago, I was plastered to my couch and/or bed, hating my current path but deeply terrified at the thought of starting on a new one and with no idea what that path would be. Then the hubs and I started writing music together, we got engaged, started performing and writing with our dear friend Justin, I went to school for and got my nail tech license, my mom got cancer and then a cure, my parents separated, we got married, I lost friends, I gained friends, I got a new job managing a fab salon, we moved to Brooklyn, my brother adopted a little beauty, my job at the salon morphed into something even more challenging and exciting, and throughout it all, I’ve had this same ‘money job’. Restaurant work has always been a constant in my life, the bane and the balm, the way I pay my bills and the reason I sometimes don’t want to get out of bed. I hate it. I am good (no, annoyingly great) at it. It is easy to the point of mindless for me, and although I walk in the door and hate my life, there is something oddly magical about HAVING to be sweet and upbeat to people that almost always changes my mood as well, not to mention the pay! It’s an escape from my ‘real’ life and all of the expectations I have of myself in it. There is a distinct joy in making people smile, in making someone’s night go from total shit when they walk in to markedly happier when they leave. There is a very different, distinct joy in dealing with the assholes and the bitches who come in and act a fool, and you walk away the better person, happier than they are and laughing inside (and with your coworkers) at their ridiculousness while pocketing their money. There is also the nagging feeling that people look at you with a certain sense of ‘she’s a nice girl, she’s smart, why is she stuck working in a restaurant?’ pity that I recoil at the very thought of, that the people who work with you are either old burnouts or in their early 20’s going to school or looking for the big job and that I’m stuck somewhere in between those two and getting closer to the former every day. Harsh truths, baby! I’m all about them now. And looking back at all of these years spent chasing dreams I wasn’t sure I wanted and paying the bills with a job I almost always hated, I to the CORE do not want another day of that. However. I am a musician. So… yeah. As I said earlier, change used to force me flat on my back. The thought of being unsure of the future sucked the joy out of everything – I was the kid who competed in and won EVERYTHING, who was most likely to do exactly what she said she’d do from the time she was 8, the annoying overachiever with the loudest voice (and clothes) in the room (see Rachel Berry in Glee, minus the peter pan collars, plus planet pants and glitter everything, or just look below for proof), who never had an OUNCE of doubt as to where she would be in 20 years. Seems dumb to most, but I really, truly believed all of it. All the way until about 5 years ago (HARSH TRUTHS FTW) when I realized that the depression I started battling my junior year in college was due in large part to the fact that I had a creeping suspicion that this very specific dream I had rushed headlong and heart first into maybe wasn’t exactly what I wanted after all. So… SHIT. Now what?! What will the ENTIRETY of my hometown to whom I proclaimed I WILL DO THIS to in no uncertain terms think?! (no one cares, I realized, inner mini Tara AGHAST at the very idea) My mom and dad who drove me and clapped for me and paid for lessons and competitions and a MUSIC MAJOR for a kid with that ridiculous GPA? All of a sudden (not all of a sudden at all, but when you pretend that everything is okay for so many years it seems like it) it was ALL up in the air. What the F@#% was I going to DO? Then I looked at the man sitting beside me on the couch and thought, ‘oh’. Duh. But our music doesn’t pay the bills (YET) and so the restaurant work continued. Must… pay… bills. Would you like fries with the despair I’m shoveling into your face with every sarcasm-dripping word, sir? The salon is GREAT experience, but the amount of money you get accustomed to being handed after every bar shift makes it hard to live off of that amount alone. Tom has a great job teaching guitar all over the city that he loves, but it’s not enough on its own. Having lost that old safe little standby Upper West Side job, I feel like I took a huge emotional dump, but I still need to bring in the cash to replace what’s been lost, and the thought of picking up a new bar gig is… I can’t. Soul crushing, kiss of death, the worst thing possible, etc, and with all of this CHANGE that’s been thrown my way the past few years, it seems like a change is imminent in this part of my life too. OMEXISTENTIALCRISIS. I’m a character in Girls, only I’m old. GUH.
I was clearly very serious about being the best at everything. “Screw smiling. I’m going to WIN at EVERYTHING FOREVER.”
All of this is to say that nothing has changed, I obviously don’t have the answers, but something has changed. Tom and I have options, all of which are pretty equally appealing to us for different reasons at this point, but all of which are drastically different from the life we’re leading at this moment, which makes my inner 25 year old Tara start to curl into a fetal position and crave a quilt and some daytime TV, but more than anything, makes me feel EXCITED. Which is BEYOND weird for me to feel when it comes to situations like this. It feels similar to the thing I had the #1 no question hardest time getting used to when we started playing gigs, even after years and years of being on the stage (and doing it pretty damned well, I might add, even if it’s not my focus anymore), which was LETTING GO. There’s an aspect of this in every facet of performance, and I remember directors telling me I needed to do it and me not really understanding what they meant, to let go – I would white knuckle through performances for that moment of hush right as the show ends but before the final applause, the rush of ‘I did my best, that was awesome’ and the ‘thank GOD it’s over’. When it comes to the live performance of your own music, however, it’s just you and the band, and at the start it was… terrifying. My own words? No sets?! No one else to blame if we suck?!? My first few shows, I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I sounded fine, but I knew something was off, and no matter how much they tried to explain it to me, it wasn’t until a few shows in when I felt it happen. Justin counts off, and the groove sets in; Tom comes in, fully engrossed in what he’s playing, and here it comes, my cue, my wave to catch. I can feel it, see it coming, and although there’s that old little bit of panic, if I just take a breath and jump in – the song carries me, I finally ‘let go’ and feel and sing and scream whatever the moment brings me and then let it go, letting it wash through me, around, and past me, making way for the next one and the next one and the next one until the ride is over, I find myself on the sand, and all I want to do is run back in for another one, and we do, over and over (or at least until the sound guy makes us end our set). That’s what my whole life feels like right now. Riding the waves, a constant shifting under my feet, but I’m just not that scared anymore. I’m just now realizing that this is what life is, this is how it feels to live in the moment, and I’m just now getting it. I’ve lived challenge to challenge, experience to experience, a ‘win that and thank god it’s over and enjoy the down time before the next wave comes and hits me and I scramble to find footing’ way of life, to be perfect, never truly happy, always chasing solid ground. But DUH, life is NEVER still or sure. It’s never going to slow down to let you take a breath. And if I don’t continue learn to change with it, I’m going to be stuck chasing a safe place to huddle down and let it all pass in vain until it’s… gone. So WHAT if I have to work a restaurant job, there is no shame in it, who gives a shit what anyone else thinks, and how dare I think that when I am surrounded by amazing people who do it for a million different reasons, and I’ve done it for so long. And if I don’t? That’s great, but the next job will have its own pile of bullshit to deal with, too. No job is perfect, no relationship is perfect, and I will never look around at my life and say ‘OKAY. All of this is PERFECT. I will now freeze it this way for the rest of my life.’ I totally thought that was in some way possible, as crazy as that sounds, that that was the end goal of life, that that was success, and as I read back what I’m writing it all seems so Hallmark-card-inspirational-poster obvious, but it’s just crystallizing for me now. Nothing is different except that I’m shedding the fear I carried around for so long, which makes everything different.
Maybe I’m finally growing up. Or maybe change just doesn’t suck as much as I thought it does. All I know is I chose this path, I wouldn’t change a moment of what I’ve gotten to and been forced to experience, and getting to play music with the people I love is worth any bullshit that comes with it, at least for now. After that, who knows? And saying that doesn’t even make me want to puke. Change is f$&*ing awesome.