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Today I asked my mother what she was going to do today, and she said, “I don’t know… Maybe paint the cheetah?”
She was referring to her golden cheetah statue, which she found in someone’s apartment after they moved out. Why in the world anyone would move away and leave their beautiful cheetah statue behind is beyond my comprehension, but my mother, as an apartment manager, has scored a variety of quality items in just this way.
It’s a job she never imagined herself having, but it turns out she really likes it. She has a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities, and she gets to spend a lot of time out at the properties instead of sitting at a desk all day. It’s a good balance.
“What color are you going to paint the cheetah?” I asked. I wasn’t sure how I felt about my mother painting him a different color.
“Oh, I don’t know. Blue, maybe. Or purple. I can just keep painting him different colors every once and a while.”
I guess we’re all looking for ways to mix things up.
Earlier today I was talking on Skype to my friend Kaila, who recently quit her job in New Orleans to move to Italy for a few months and spend time working on her art. (You can see why we’re friends, can’t you?)
“My goal is to never have a nine to five job again,” Kaila said, and it hit me right then that perhaps that might be my life, too. I have two jobs right now that I can do from anywhere, and they are both pretty flexible as far as days and hours. I had thought when I started this year of writing that eventually I would have to go back to a full-time job at a school or a university, but now I’m realizing that maybe I don’t. I can keep creating my own mix of random jobs forever. And I can make sure to add in a healthy portion of writing to the mix.
Kaila is trying to make sure that art is a large part of her mix. Her plan for now is to sell her art at all the local art markets in and around New Orleans, as well as start teaching yoga or meditation or other wellness classes.
I told her it sounded like a great idea, and she told me this was why she’d been excited to talk to me. Because I understand. And I do. Kaila and I are in the same sorts of boats right now: leaky, creative boats of our own making, but boy is it fun to be out on the water instead of stuck on land!
Of course, at times this new life of mine has been hard on my ego, especially when I imagine what other people might be thinking about me. Maybe things like, oh, that Eva, she had a good, stable career, and now she’s just gone off the deep end and is living at her mother’s house trying to be a “writer.” So sad.
“I’m sure your Christmas was like mine,” I said to Kaila. “With family members frowning and asking, ‘now what exactly are you doing? And where exactly are you living?’”
“Yep,” Kaila said. “Because, of course, from the outside, I had this nice life and this good job, and now all they see is that I’m broke and barely scraping by.”
But the thing is, Kaila hated her job. For years she was absolutely miserable. We used to get together for coffee in New Orleans, and she would sigh when I asked her about work, her pretty face falling into a look of utter despair. Now she seems full of energy and optimism. I asked her about her future plans, and she laughed and threw her arms into the air. “I don’t really know.” But she sounded happy about it.
What’s crazier – quitting your job and moving to Italy to make art, or staying at a soul-sucking job you hate because you’re afraid of what other people think?
I know that not everyone can – or wants to – have a random, mixed up, abnormal life like mine or Kaila’s. But every now and again you have to stop and ask why you’re doing the things you’re doing. If the answer has anything to do with what other people think, it might be time to reconsider your priorities.
And if you decide that the stable, normal life is what you want, that makes sense, too. Even I’m looking forward to eventually having a little bit more stability in my life.
Just promise me this: every now and again, go on a trip or take a class or do something strange and out of ordinary. Find a cheetah and paint it blue. Because you gotta find a way to mix things up from time to time.
How will you mix things up in the New Year?