By Amber Robbin
I feel a bit overwhelmed and lost these days amongst the fields of career-dom. I try my best to remain calm and take deep breaths while I sort through audition postings and the likes of craigslist. I try to make the job search fun, kind of like how my mom used to make doing homework fun when she would sometimes help me. She’d set up target points throughout my assignments: “When you get to number 20, take a break and we’ll dance to some Billy Ocean. Then you gotta focus till problem 40 though!” So now I light a couple candles, put on the fan, open a bottle of wine, pick some super cool indie artist I know nothing about (whose cd I don’t even have, so I have to listen to their tracks one-by-one via YouTube), and of course, bring up Facebook on a layaway tab on Safari in case I should be blessed with a disturbance at any point while drafting my cover letter.
I found this one posting under the “ETC.” section on craigslist for a sleep study. I got really excited and thought, this is something I can do! It requires you to stay at a lab for 10 days over about 7 weeks, and you only have to stay up part of the night (the whole night sometimes), but you get $2000 at the end! Sleep deprivation was some of my best work during my last two years of college; some would even say, my only work. So needless to say, I applied. Said I thought I’d be a good candidate cause I’m healthy and the right age and reliable…there’s only so many reasons you can give for why you’d be a good candidate for a sleep study. Everyone knows you just want the 2000 bucks.
Other options I’ve considered: theatre and dance are what I went to school for, but I just don’t know how I feel about that now, at least, that’s what I’ve been telling people. Now I say NON-PROFIT ALL THE WAY! Hit the pavement! Get down with the people! It seems like a good option, seeing as that you can’t feel BAD about such a career path. After my all too emotional rebellion against theatahhh, I need something a little less image-obsessed and a lot more morally reassuring.
And then, sometimes, I just resent the need to do anything. I wanna travel, I say. I wanna see the world, have enriching experiences, meet new people, broaden my horizons, and all that jazz. AND I DO. Eating ice cream is just such a less-involved solution.
Maybe I really need to think outside the box. Start something new. People make businesses out of all sorts of things. Patty Stanger has revolutionized matchmaking. God, I love and hate that woman. And one of her clueless millionaires had a whole company based on buying and selling photos regular people take of famous people! But I wouldn’t want to get involved with anything like that…or hospitality…or buying and selling things…or silly services…and I’m not sure how profitable businesses that help people are, since they all claim to be “non-profit.” I do love writing, but who the hell gets paid to do that??? That’s not gonna stop me from writing, I’m just saying, I’d have better luck being an actor.
Things I KNOW I do well: we already covered superhero-esque abilities to go without sleep, eating of ice cream, and dancing to Billy Ocean (I am actually very good at that). If you looked at my resume, it would say that I can act, sing, dance, hostess, kiss your ass, and occasionally do charity work. But it says nothing of my amazing talents with a HULA HOOP! Actually, my theatre resume does say that. Acting is so silly. BUT, I am also very knowledgeable about chinchillas, the city of Chicago, dust mites, curl cream, musicals, vegetable steamers, Jack the Ripper, Paul Gauguin, Leo Frank, oldies & disco & Motown, having extra bones in your feet, John Hughes movies, the trials and tribulations of gingers, and the Cracker Barrel. In addition, I have many cute dresses to my name and obsess over my relationships, but as many a boyfriend has taught me, nobody gives a SHIT about that. Anyway, the point is…my aunt says it’s all about transferable skills when looking for a job, so I know there’s a way to use these things, even if it isn’t obvious.
Honestly, what I care most about at this age of 22 is being happy, even if that sounds simple or cliché, which I assure you, it is anything but. The other day I made myself spend my entire train commute of 23 minutes attempting to meditate, and it actually did do me a lot of good. I have a lot of trouble unplugging myself or even walking without listening to my iPod. My mind just takes over, and I think that this is a huge part of why my contentedness is often so fleeting. It’s no wonder that when I usually try to write, despite the fact that I have a lot of good ideas, all that comes out is analytical mumbo-jumbo. No one wants to read that. To tell the truth, what I’ve really been doing this whole summer, while I say I’ve been “soul searching and figuring out what’s next,” is missing people. I go on Facebook and see that all of my friends are moving to New York and then spend a whole day feeling like I’m in the wrong place. (I’ve also been doing a lot of stupid, reckless things that would kill my father. Pushing limits, just to see if I could I suppose. Check.)
Ultimately, it all comes back to that existential crisis you may or may not have been lucky enough to have. Let me break down mine for you. It was my junior year of college and I was just starting to question my ability to devote my whole self to the theatre gods. You know you’re really in a whacked out environment when such a realization leaves you feeling like you have no other options in the world. Anyway, I started to ask myself the question what is the point? After much crying and moping and bitching and complaining, and many a depressing Pandora station, I decided that life is only what you make of it, so make of it what you will. And along with that, I figured I might as well make the best of it I could. So I suppose that’s a good enough reason to put some thought into what I might do with the rest of my life.
I’d like to say that there’s nothing I couldn’t do, but I’m pretty confident I will never be great at drawing or math, so that helps narrow things down a bit. My roommate’s going to be a dentist. I’m cool with my teeth, but I don’t aspire to pick anyone else’s. I’m afraid of spending time in a cubicle or on an assembly line. That rules out most jobs in this country. I should have known that process of elimination was my strong suit. I like to consider all my options and take them down one by one. That just seems to be too rigid a system for such a thing as this. Such a thing as this that can shift and change and evolve over time. Over a lifetime.
Funny thing about “doing things with your life”: you’re doing something with your life each and every moment you’re alive, but sometimes it seems like you’re only doing something once you’ve planned on it. 3 AM on a Monday and I did something, not sure what. I made sure of my candidacy for that sleep study, that’s what. And wrote a 3-page dictum of my intent to figure out what to do with my life. And after all that work is done, someone else has to figure out what to do with your death. Maybe that’s why people have kids. Remind me not to go that route. That’s a shitty thing to do to the thing you did with your life.
Amber Robbin is the creator of Tumbleweed Diaries. She is passionate about languages, world travel, and currently working on a book about her adventures in Italy.