The Bonfire of My Ego

40 Days of Writing/Spring 2017/Days 2 & 7

Lately I’ve been going through the motions of my life as if I were in a series of scenes in a TV show. Here is a scene of me getting into the car and buckling my seatbelt. Here is a scene of me rolling over in bed, blinking awake. Here is a scene of me sitting at the computer, fingers on the keys, blankly looking out the window to the right.

This morning the camera came in when I was doing arm circles, which I’ve recently added to my morning tea-kettle workout.

Tea Kettle Workout: the largely countertop-based ‘workout’ I do while waiting for the kettle to boil. There are some squat-then-stand-up-on-toes things, some bend-over-and-kick-the-legs-out-backward things, and some pushups. Against the countertop, as I said: I’m no Rambo. Soon after I started, those weren’t taking long enough so I began counting to 12 for each instead of ten, then 15. But my kettle takes a while, I guess, so I left the counter and added jumping jacks because they make me feel like I’m a kid again, then big and little arm circles because they make me feel like I’m the Sports Instructor at Van Buren Youth Camp again. My arms were really buff then, and I always assume it was the arm circles.

So here is a scene of me doing arm circles, then stopping, sighing, looking around, feeling a little lost. I slowly put away dishes, almost dropping a whole stack of our Dollar Store bowls. My oversized black and white cardigan, the pattern of which someone recently described as ‘Aztecian’, is making me sweat, so I fan the sides back and forth in front of the kitchen peninsula, while thinking about how I really need to get a job. I picture dropping off an application later today, as is the plan, and I try to shove down the ‘failure’ clowns trying to creep up into my head. Also the ‘what are you, 19? Dropping off applications again like a college dropout?’

I should stop here for a sec to mention that in my scenes I possess just the tiniest bit of black girl attitude. I am super white, I know this, but over the past couple of days I’ve been unintentionally but very pleasantly steeping myself in black woman pop-culture. First, I watched a full web series called Brown Girls because my friend’s wife posted it on Facebook along with the warning that if we didn’t watch the entire thing right now we were racist. I have as much white guilt as the next white person, don’t get me wrong. I mean, All those Spike Lee movies didn’t just watch themselves in the 90’s, you know? So I did what she said, and it was so good (please make more!). Then I was sick enough to justify spending an entire day in bed, which happens once every three years or so, and I watched a shit-ton of TV on my laptop, thanks to a gifted HBOgo code. I watched one episode of Big Little Lies (meh), two episodes of Girls (a little less meh) and the entire season of Insecure, which was so, so good (please make more!). Oh, also, while climbing the mountain of being sick enough to be in bed all day I’d abandoned the book Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe after 25 pages, and had replaced it with I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi. So, yeah. I tend to very slightly take on the tone of books I’m reading and shows I’m watching anyway, so add to that having just watched Brown Girls and Insecure back to back, it’s pretty safe for you to assume that my inner dialogue will be that of a strong black lady for the next several days.

So anyway, I’m standing there at the kitchen peninsula, picturing myself dropping off an application. Then of course getting the job because it’s not what I want to be doing with my life but trying to do what I want to do with my life has left me with $600 in my bank account and I am freaking the fuck out, hence leading me to applying for jobs like a high-schooler who snuck her mom’s credit card and is now being forced to repay the damage. So I get the job, and it’s my first day of work, so I have to get up early which my body is like “whaaaaaaaat the fuck are you doing to me?!”, and when my boyfriend tells me to have a nice day I burst into tears because how did I even get here? Ugh.

I decide to think about something else. The camera focuses on me looking to my left and a death stare taking over my face, then pans over to the recipient of said stare; a massive binder on the kitchen table, which holds my statistics book. There is a flashback scene to last night, me sitting at my desk, reading, re-reading, re-reading paragraphs but absorbing nothing, looking up and wondering if someone placed an onion nearby because my eyes are starting to sting, picturing myself slamming the binder shut and storming off to hurl myself onto the bed, where I will sob for a while. Instead I sit there staring at the words and numbers, skin prickling in panic, until finally my boyfriend (aka witness to patheticness) leaves, and I can relax. I fully intended to ditch the studies once he’d gone, but then realize he probably expected me to do this, so fuck him! I’m gonna finish. I manage to get so far as finishing my Lesson 2 quiz with only one incorrect answer, after which I pat myself on the back with a good ol’ boy hoo-rah, then quickly realize I have no idea what I just learned. None of it comes to me. What questions did I even answer? What were they about? I have to do this EIGHT MORE TIMES before I can even take the first actual test, and I’m supposed to remember everything from all ten quizzes? Well, shit.

I’m running out of non-depressing scenes. Subject change before the people realize it’s just not going to get better and they just wasted a whole lot of their precious time riding along with someone who is not going to get past their bullshit in this one, like that goddam awful movie Manchester by the Sea. Please do not get me started on that garbage film.

My therapist told me (because I didn’t already know) that it’s hard for me to just NOT try to solve the problems in my life. Like this is a fault or something. Maybe it is. His suggestion was to just acknowledge that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and that I’d like to know. That’s all. “Here’s a word for you,” he said. “Surrender.”


I tried it though, and I’ve gotta say: it was amazing. For two days I puttered around the house guilt-free — “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life! I want to, but I don’t! Surrender!” I read books on the porch, lolled around in bed, applied for lots of jobs in the writing and editing field (none of which I got, but SURRENDER!), applied for writing residencies, wrote in my journal, paid my rent, wrote lists of the intentional-living variety, paid my credit card, mapped out my perfect fantasy day and envisioned it all as if it were right now, this very day (living by DESIGN!!), saw my $600 bank account balance and then promptly fake-called my therapist to say “Fuck. YOU!” All this surrendering to the unknown has gotten me broke as a goddam joke so maybe I forgot to mention to him that only rich people can ‘surrender’ to the unknown because those of us who work freelance or three hours a week at the JC for $13 an hour can’t just sit around meditating and being all ‘Ommmmm’ and shit. Oops: key details. My bad.

While driving to drop off an application and a resume (because I am an adult in at the very least this regard), I got an urgent call from my boyfriend stating that he’d forgotten to get the parking pass we share out of my car. I turned around to meet him back at the house, wondering if this was perhaps a sign that I shouldn’t give up on my dreams. Whatever those are, anyway.

We got home at the exact same time, so I didn’t even have to get out of my car and therefore accidentally break my ankle and then have a valid excuse to not go apply for this job. I rolled down my window and handed over the pass. “How’s it goin’?” he asked me. “Mm, meh,” *sigh* “fine.” “What’s wrong?” “…nothing.” Pause. “I’m just…” *sigh* “forty.” “You’re 40?” At this point I started to roll up my window and back out of the driveway because that onion thing was happening again. “I gotta go apply for this job, so…” “Okay, I love you.” For the record: I’m not actually 40.

When I got to the business at which I was applying for a job, I sat in my car for a few minutes, looking in the windows like a mad creeper. I really like this place. I spend a decent amount of time there, and buy things from them on the reg. It would be nice to get a discount, I guess. Even though the whole point of me getting a job is to pay my bills, not buy more of their wares. I gave myself a pep-talk about how it was okay to be applying for a job I actually already had twenty years ago and maybe yes that means I’m going backward but how exactly was trying to move forward working out for me, huh? My pep-talks often border on abusive.

As I was unbuckling my seatbelt, it started to hail. Hail. The sunshine had been in full-force when I parked my car. I don’t think it’s a stretch here to understand that I wondered, again, if this was a sign that I should just pack it up and not go get this job which I was sure to get. But I took a deep breath, and I went inside, I smiled, and I handed over my pieces of paper.

And here is a scene of the woman with the curly hair, smiling and taking my application and resume, telling me, very kindly, that they were not hiring. But best of luck.


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