Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
For years I hated autumn. I never knew why, exactly. But well into my twenties I would get depressed when September rolled around. Both serious breakdowns I’ve had in my life were in the fall. Fall of 2007 was particularly awful. I got fired from two shitty survival jobs; one as a customer service rep for a psychic hotline and one as a front desk “girl” at a pole dancing gym. I got fired from a pole dancing gym. My car got towed one night when I went bowling to try to blow off some steam. It cost hundreds of dollars I didn’t have to get it out of impound. And I spent hours sitting in the hallway at the psych ward of UCLA medical center waiting for a doctor to tell me to admit myself (I didn’t). I got kidney stones two years later. In the fall. Fall was not my season.
I can’t remember when, but one year in late August I felt my hackles go up as I braced myself for the onslaught of September, and I finally took a moment to examine why I was pre-freaking out. Future tripping. And I realized it was because I associated fall with school starting. Even though I was a good 15 years out of school, I still felt the same dread I’d felt as a kid, packing up my backpack and lacing up my off-brand high tops, to drag myself to that special torture known as school. All those post-school terrible autumns were, I think, due in large part to my belief that fall was a nightmare. Perception is half of life. Or something pseudo-profound like that.
Every year I’d buy a new Trapper Keeper and vow too myself that this would be the year I kept it neat and organized. Everything would go into its designated folder or pocket. And every year, by the end of week one that Trapper Keeper was a fucking disaster area. Papers everywhere. Plastic pockets ripped and rendered completely useless. A pencil hole right over Donnie Walberg’s face from when I absent-mindedly took my math class anxiety out on the Trapper Keeper’s pristine cover.
I’d be disappointed in myself. This year was going to be different, I’d told myself. This year I was going to be that person. And when I’d proven myself wrong, I’d give up. As though there were no coming back from a messy Trapper Keeper. Like promising yourself you’re only going to have one slice of cake, then realizing you’ve eaten half of it, and then finishing the whole thing because fuck it, you’ve gone that far, might as well finish the job. School for me was one experience after another that proved to me I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t organized enough, smart enough, disciplined enough, pretty enough, popular enough (or, like, at all).
When I realized that my hatred of fall was linked to my hatred of school I was able to rewire things enough in my brain so that when I did start feeling that inevitable panic as back-to-school commercials began to play I could remind myself that I wasn’t going to be going back to school. That I had, in fact, survived school, messy Trapper Keeper and all, and came out on the other side, and could now enjoy fall with its crunchy leaves underfoot and fireplace fire smells. And now I love fall. This year in NYC, it didn’t feel like fall until late October and that was a disappointment. The first day it really felt like fall was thrilling.
Now I find myself with a new conundrum. Every time I have an out-of-town gig I think, “This time I’m going to unpack right away. This time I’m going to get on a responsible, adult-like schedule. This time I’m going to wake up at a reasonable time each day. I’m going to take advantage of the free continental breakfast in the lobby. I’m going to go to the gym regularly (or, like, at all). I’m going to buy groceries and actually eat them. I’m not going to go out to eat. I’m not going to stay up late. Or drink too much. Or watch garbage TV. I’m going to write every day!
And I find myself on day four, sleeping until almost 11 a.m., missing the continental breakfast, looking at the groceries I bought and deciding to go out to eat, throwing out left-overs from take out I bought and didn’t eat, and completely not unpacked.
BUT, I am actively fighting that voice that’s saying, “Fuck it. It’s too late now. Just go all in. Spend all your money. Drink that whole bottle of wine. Watch another episode of Friends. Sleep until 11 a.m. Free breakfast is for suckers. Make your bed? For who? Rifling through boxes and suitcases is almost like rifling through organized drawers. You’re just going to have to pack up again. In a month and a half…”
My Trapper Keeper may already be a mess, but it’s not falling apart yet. I can salvage this. My utter lack of organization is not inevitable. I AM NOT MY TRAPPER KEEPER!
Or, more to the point, my Trapper Keeper is not me.