On September 30th, the contract for one of my three jobs ended. I know that doesn’t sound horrible, but I am a freelancer, and I need three jobs to survive. I can’t remember not having three jobs. I can’t remember not always searching for a new job, perhaps a slightly better job, or perhaps just something to pay the bills. I can’t remember not being broke.
Indeed, I am underemployed and living on my best friend’s couch. Two overflowing reusable grocery bags, filled with my belongings, sit on her easy chair. A pair of flip-flops, a pair of flats, and my running sneakers are tucked beneath. My friend has begun calling me Kato.
To be fair, I was living in Adrienne’s apartment for the entire month before I lost my job. At first, she wasn’t here; she was vacationing and I was performing valuable services: watering her plants, retrieving her mail, making the place look lived in. Then she returned, and I stayed because it was an opportunity to hang out—we hadn’t seen each other in over a month! Plus, I could cook and clean for her. I love cooking! I love organizing! And my friend really doesn’t, so again—valuable services. But, at this moment, as I sit at my computer in pajama pants and watch her get ready for her job at a big, corporate law firm, the fact that I have no work today makes the situation feel ever more pathetic.
In high school, I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” Now, my ten-year reunion is approaching, and my goal is to have health insurance before I attend. Why this impending reunion has suddenly motivated me to acquire a healthcare plan beyond band-aids and my friends’ expired prescription drugs, I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m fearful that seeing my former classmates married, with children and homes and pets and full-time jobs, leading peppy suburban lives, will send me over the edge. I’ll drunkenly take off running and wind up smack into a metal traffic sign, ending the night with a concussion and in desperate need of stitches and a tetanus shot.
I try to remind myself that I have chosen this. I am an artist. I have chosen to live this hobo/ boho lifestyle, free from job security and most of what modern medicine has to offer, but also free from suits and meetings and moral/political compromise. I get to make art. And sometimes, I get to show the art that I make. I get to help other people make art, and teach people new ways of artmaking. I get to be an artist. And so, on the brink of an anxiety attack, I repeat this mantra: This is my life. This is my choice. Breathe.