September 28, 2011, 7:46 am
Filed under: insight, when I grow up | Tags: ,

“You’re the new playthings in town, the new girls.”
“This is not my first rodeo.”
“I’m just saying – they only want to get you in bed and then they will break your heart.”
“How do you know that I’m not here to break hearts?”

So I got a non-industry job, got on a bus, and found myself in a small town an hour away from the ocean. I have no idea how to take a bus out of town, but I’ve worked every day since arriving in some capacity anyways. There is a nice coffee shop, a well stocked grocery store, a pool and a bunch of people my age.

The worst has been confirmed: I like it.

I had wanted to take a job outside of what I had been doing for the past five years to remember what it felt like to do some other kind of work. There was no way to do this discreetly at home, so the other side of the world it was. Conveniently, the recession really is just an idea out here and wages are delightfully high. Most of us at this gig sort of fudged our experience and some of us are not exactly what we represented; the guy in the kitchen has an Art History degree with a thesis on Prehistoric Cave Drawings.

The idea of whether or not I should attempt to re-enter the industry I left in about a year and a half begins to weigh. At a wedding this summer, one of my parents friends (half-cut) begged me not to waste my education. I promised not to (half-cut). But the suit I brought just in case hangs in my room like a halloween costume. I think, in the end, the problem for me was the Big Pretend.

Last week a friend sent me a message about being interviewed by someone from my class. They asked for the inside story. I flashed back to first year, the parties, the friendships. That year remains one of the best of my life. It was such a raw year for all of us, honest and sometimes hard. It was the year before anyone really started acting the part or looking at each other as serious competition. Answering the message, I realized I knew the most intimate details of that classmate’s life. In fact, I knew intimate details from most of my classmate’s lives. Who and what they loved, where they had been, what they had done.

By the end, most surfaces had changed. People bought different clothes, got different haircuts, but more importantly developed different mannerisms and ways of dealing with others. We imitated until we made it. I think for a lot of my classmates it was more natural, either they had grown up with a close family member they were emulating or their personalities meshed well with the demands of the job. For me, the big pretend was on.

Rather than selling just my knowledge, I had to sell myself and make myself into the product everyone was expecting. I was encouraged to get hobbies and join groups that would make me more enticing. My image became a bunch of clothes that, although much more expensive, felt a lot like the grocery store deli uniform I was forced to wear at sixteen. My social life involved attending parties and events where I monitored what I said and which jokes I told and whose jokes I laughed at. In a different universe I probably could have rolled the dice and just been myself, but I felt like doing that would jeopardize my opportunity to see if this was what I wanted.

Now my life is my own and only my time is for sale.


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