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Building Bridges

Tag2244Maybe it's age and the supposed wisdom that comes with it but I haven't felt like talking about myself much lately. That likely a blessing because I'd only bore you to tears. But this whole mess did originate as an online journal, not a happy go lucky blog, so indulge me for a post.

Recently I've been waking up feeling simultaneously blech and panic-stricken. It's probably normal to have bouts of self-doubt where you feel ineffectual and hopeless (though I bet these corporate goths never question themselves). The problem is that when you're busy and bogged down with a soul-crushing job you hate there's little time for dwelling. Now that I'm only working sporadically part time (just three days this week, probably more next week) I have the free time to do anything I'd like (I mean, creatively, not shopping, traveling or dining decadently, duh) but there's not an ounce of inventiveness in me. I'm as leaden and dull as a human can get and that's really annoying. I don't want to be the kind of person who needs a steady job to feel ok and secure. I've only been freelancing for a little over a week and I'm becoming all too keenly aware of my ingrained lack of self-motivation and direction. I'm so not a go-getter, I'm barely a get-out-of-bedder.

Free time is like that, though. If I remember correctly, I was unemployed in most of 2000 and 2003 and I didn't do shit. I have nothing to show for it except huge credit card debt (I think I'm trying to scare myself into action. Even though I know my short-term income will be spotty I went nuts on Sunday and paid off one of my credit cards [I have three] with the smallest balance, which was around $2,500. I might be hurting for that $2,500 at some point but I just couldn't stand having it around anymore and I was racking up a $50 or so monthly finance charge). And I know that I'm capable of more than shit. I swear, this is why people have children. At some point people just give into their mundane-ness and pin their hopes on the next generation. It's the circle of life(lessness).

I'm really jealous of passionate driven people because I swear if someone told me that I could do anything for a living that I wanted to (unrealistic or not), I'd be stumped. There was some promo for I don't know, maybe PBS, where a kid who was maybe ten was obsessed with building bridges. He wrote letters to companies, his family visited an engineering firm while on vacation (the staff even presented him with a bridge cake) and now he's all gung ho on doing well in school and taking the right courses in college. How do you get so set and focused like that, as a tot, no less? I don't begrudge those bridge-building types, I'm in awe. It's the ones who succeed because they've always been surrounded by financially supportive families that disturb me.

I feel paralyzed by the '00s and I'm sick of looking at and keeping up with food writing/blogging. I don't even like food writing. Everyone knows everything and it seems impossible to have a new thought. Or maybe I just don't have any. Every day a new site sprouts on the amateur front as well as the pro side (The Times recently went bloggy, then last week defunct print mag Chow launched The Grinder and New York started Grub Street). I can't keep up with all this shit and watch TV too. Yesterday, I was trying to come up with fresh pitches (I can usually rely on the section of the NY Post that I write for, for select items, but am trying to expand my scope) and getting exasperated because I'm not an insider or connected in any way to the food scene and I hate networking so it's hard to grab trends first (actually, I think this is a NYC dilemma because everyone is so hyper critical and snarky and the standards are insanely high. It got me thinking that I should look at markets outside of the city). I don't even know that I want to write about food, at least not in the precious produce fixated or family traditions ways that are pervasive and currently admired. (From this week's papers: Vegetable Love, Requited, Back to the Ranch, When Life Gives You Apples, Make Pie. Hmm, now that I'm looking The Chicago Tribune has some nutty stories about taste testing chain pizzas and how McDonald's might start serving breakfast all day. Weird place, that Windy City) I want to write about fun things. NYC is many things, but a funny city it is not.

Here's an example of how much things have changed in the last ten years. Before the Food Network hit big and everyone became an expert via blogs, writing about food wasn't terribly trendy. When I first moved here, I recall seeing Pete Wells's byline in Time Out New York quite a bit. He's become prolific and well-respected since then (and recently ruffled countless food bloggers' feathers when he essentially declared most of them a waste of time, which I'd actually agree with even though I'm also guilty of near-daily drivel. I'm not a food blogger, though, and I don't document my meals because I'm an aspiring food critic. It's just a compulsion that occurred to me around 2000, the same geeky impulse that had me tracking Henry Thomas's every move as a twentysomething and writing reviews of every Ray Bradbury short story in a notebook as a teen.) Now he's about to become the editor of the New York Times's dining section, which most would agree is a pretty big deal. So, I searched the Time Out NY archives to see what sorts of food topics he covered in the '90s and it was very telling.

The first piece I found was from 1996 and was about where you find restaurants with fireplaces. There's no way in a million years that anyone, including Time Out NY, would accept that idea today. It's way too simplistic and there isn't any newsy, hot trend angle. It's just, hey, it's cold out, here's where it's cozy. I also found another about where to eat in Coney Island, which I suspect would also be a no go today. Coney Island isn't as creepy (well, my sister's husband who apparently loves Wales, thought it was depressing if that means anything) and off the beaten path as it used to be. I'm not saying New Yorkers go their in droves, but now they have the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Siren Festival, and all sorts of urban renewal in the works. What's uncharted now? The Bronx and Staten Island definitely don't make it into many food sections. Hey, there's an idea…

Anyway, enough boo-hooing and overthinking. Whenever I get into a slump a little old fashioned cyber stalking always perks me up. I put my newly gained news library sleuthing skills to work and deduced that the guy I stalked in college who broke my heart (I still feel an itty bitty pang when I think about it) must've finally broke up with his girlfriend (wife?). They moved into a house she bought in 1994 and it appears that he moved into an apt. in S.E. Portland in 2002. There aren't any records for her with a newer address than the original N.E. Portland house, which I guess could mean that she's living with him and not on the lease but that doesn't really make any sense. Part of me would love it if their relationship dissolved because I firmly believe that everything eventually falls apart for everyone even though I really, really want to believe in true love forever. I mean, eight years for a college-started relationship is long is enough (though he was 24 and she was three years older, not exactly spring chickens, which is strangely NW). When I got out of Portland in the late '90s I was scared of all the settling down mid-20s freaks buying houses, gardening, microbrew drinking, dog walking and the like. Of course, now I'm re-facing the same issues a decade later which was bound to happen because 30s are all about that stuff. Talk to me in my 40s when I'm a real crab.

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  1. Meredith #

    I HATE this feeling with a passion. That feeling where you start to wonder if you have a purpose in this world, besides simultaneously supporting the gin, potato chip, and cable industries… I’m kind of there now myself. I just started graduate school 5 weeks ago, and I find myself saying, “What the fuck?” about every day. I guess it’s a good thing, but at the same time… I don’t know, I’m so unmotivated to get anything accomplished anyway, I should just become a bartender and say fuck it…

    Also, the whole “buy a house, get married, get a dog, have kids, wear mom jeans” thing is a nightmare (maybe worse in the midwest …). But I’m unclear by your post whether theses are things you might want, or you’re facing the “same issues” meaning you don’t want them and you’re abnormal because of that fact. (Also, I love microbrews… I didn’t know that fit into the stereotype.)

    Whatever happened to your crafting? I remember about 3 years ago you were doing some sort of decoupage table and other assorted items. Did crafting fall out of favor? (1. Can you see how long I’ve wanted to comment? 2. Aren’t blogs kind of awful when random people can comment on your life [or do I just have no manners as a commenter]?)

    September 22, 2006
  2. I don’t mind microbrews now, but Portland is the microbrew capital of the world (or so they say)so everything there is beer-centric. You get burnt out on it.

    No, I definitely don’t want dogs or kids or mom jeans but I fear they’re going to haunt me decade after decade. See? The fact that I couldn’t even coherently convey that shows how muddled my brain is.

    I still do crafty things, but I get nervous devoting too much time to purely fun past times when I should/need to be coming up with money making sources.

    I like comments. I’m trying to get into the spirit of commenting more, myself (on other blogs, duh) but I’m not cyber social that way.

    September 22, 2006
  3. Portlandgirl #

    Krista! I am so blown away by the honesty of your latest post. Thank you for writing it. It totally captures a feeling I have had many, many times.

    All I can say is hang in there. The early 30’s anxiety is f-ing awful, but it does go away, and you don’t need kids to force that to happen. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and being yourself, and in a few years your brain will expand like a supernova, and you will be unstoppable. Trust me.

    As for the $$ thing–you should be a paid writer. I know there’s a potential horrible trade-off when one gets paid for writing or music, etc–but all I can say is, no one writes like you, and I don’t care how many writers are out there-no one says it like you do. You are a truly unique voice, and those of us who like to read need you.

    Since I discovered your ‘zine (and later, this blog) I have been a fan and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading what you write. If you had a tip jar posted I’d totally throw some change your way–you definitely deserve it–better money spent on you than on my furtive _Vanity Fair_ binges (ugh, I can’t believe I just admitted that).

    This is the first time I’ve posted to anyone’s blog. I just wanted you to know you’re not alone with that feeling, that you’re braver than most of us for being able to express it, and– no pressure or anything—please don’t stop writing!!

    September 23, 2006
  4. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t sometimes think like this. The scary thing would be if you were ignorant of life’s limitations and compromises and went on living without any sort of reflection and critical thinking. Don’t doubt yurself. Keep on writing please.

    September 24, 2006
  5. Thanks for indulging me in my self-absorbed sappiness. I try to keep it to a minimum these days but sometimes it leaks out anyway.

    September 26, 2006

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