by Tess Adair
My mom and her partner came to visit me for Christmas.
I almost never pay for my own food when a parent comes to visit (or when I visit them,) and I end up eating out a lot more often than usual. It’s one of those weird aspects of privilege that we don’t talk about much--the occasional financial boost of someone else buying you nice dinners for a week. It’s such a minor thing you might not even notice the effects--but I always do.
The trouble with structuring your life around pursuit of a dream is that you often remove yourself from the pursuit of greater and greater capital in the process. Translation: if you want to be an artist, sometimes you have to starve.
To be clear, I’ve never really starved. What I have done is a sort of calculated dance with hunger and desire, balancing life in the background of chasing my goals.
I have moved across the country on my own. I have supported myself on 37 hours of a minimum wage job. I have given up better paying jobs in favor of jobs that gave me more time and energy to write, just as I have given up going out every weekend in favor of utilizing said energy for said endeavor. I live close to the wire a lot of the time, painfully aware that a single malfunction in my well-oiled machine could result in a total shut-down.
So I always take note when I get a free meal.
I feel like every single meal on someone else’s dime is like a miniature vacation onto itself. For the duration of that meal, you are freed from the normal adult responsibilities of taking care of yourself, by yourself.
It’s definitely especially vacation-y if you’re going to a fancy restaurant--the kind that’s not technically out of your reach, but that would maybe require a little budgeting to be truly feasible.
I’m not a meat-eater, but I’ll go to town on some seafood every once in a while. (For those of you using my blog as word-of-the-day toilet paper, the term is PESCETARIAN but like 80-90% of the time, I just do veggie.)
There is some expensive seafood in this town, let me tell you. And most of the time, I don’t even go near it. I mean, what do I look like, a fancy vacationer? Right now, I’m wearing a sports bra and sweatpants that might disintegrate at any moment, so no, trust me, I don’t.
But then my mommy came to town.
It’s so weird and exhilarating going to the kinds of restaurants I always think I’ll go to when I’ve made it, whatever the hell that means. I actually think it brings me right back to being a kid again, and going to a Chevy’s on a special Friday night. Money was always tight when I was younger, so going out anywhere felt special. Now I think that only a small part of that feeling was about the food itself. Most of it was just how it felt to be able to go. That excitement. That feeling that things were okay, things were good. It made me feel optimistic about the future. It made me feel connected.
It still does.
In the past 3 days, I’ve gone to 4 restaurants, 2 of them completely new. That’s as many new places for me in 3 days as I’ve been to in over 4 months. Which is not to say that I haven’t left my house in 4 months--just that, for the most part, I’ve only gone to places that are completely routine by now--work, my pole studio, friends’ homes.
On some level, even that seems excessive to me. It seems like I should be able to bend myself to as monk-like an existence as possible while I’m in pursuit of the muse. While I’m working on my art. While I’m creating.
And you know, I think I could. If it were as simple as that. If I could walk out into the woods and find my way to some monastery, where all there is to do is chores, exercise and body upkeep, and write--I could do it. I consider all of those activities to be innately fulfilling on some level, to contribute to an individual’s overall well-being. If I could devote myself to them, I would do it.
If it were as simple as that.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. Art doesn’t even work like that. Not anymore.
I have to have a job to sustain myself. I have to maintain a web presence to increase my profile. I have to query over and over, I have to update my query letters, I have to chase down writing contests and submission spaces, and I have to keep track of what’s submitted where and when I’ll hear back, and where I’ll submit it to next.
For the sake of my art, I can’t abandon myself to art.
So instead, I impose a schedule on myself. I don’t go out to new places very often. Every night is planned and determined in advance--I know when I work, I know when I exercise, I know when I socialize. And for the most part, I go to bed on time in my little cave-like bedroom.
But sometimes, somebody gives me a free meal.
And like Amanda Palmer told me to, I take the donut. I enjoy the holiday.
And then I go back to my little cave.
(And if you don’t get the donut bit, I totally recommend The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.)