There was a time in my life when all I wanted was to be an author–there was nothing else. I wrote with passion comparable to no one I’ve ever met. I lived and defined myself as a writer; writing was almost all that I was.
I am uncertain what caused the shift inside of me. Perhaps it was completing my first novel at 19. Maybe it was a series of bad relationships, the most recent being the worst. I have been the recipient of horrific physical violence, but little compares to the psychological manipulation I dealt with in my last relationship: something was wrong with me because I didn’t feverishly self-promote my work, I didn’t work fast enough, I didn’t make the most of my opportunities, I didn’t try to do this or do that, I wasn’t good enough, I wouldn’t make it, etc., etc., from my ex. He’s an artist (an unhappy one, who measures the value of his art on his public success). I am an artist (a happy one, who measures the value of her art on her internal success). Somehow, it got away from me, a little.
Writing found me, in the first place. I didn’t aspire to be a writer, I just all of the sudden was one: at 12 years old, hidden away in one of the spare bedrooms of my parent’s house, manically hashing out pages upon pages of what I (months into it) realized was a novel. I wrote the same way for the next twelve years. All of the coming of age stuff revolved around and was processed by the fact that I’m a writer.
My respite, throughout that entire relationship with James, was the restaurant. My day job. It was curious and inspiring and both contained me and gave me freedom. It launched my career–a solid, monetary one, with true measures of success. It was what moved me to New York. (Note the verbage: I didn’t say “lead me to New York” because my heart had been lead her for reasons I still can’t discern, but again, I couldn’t get here because of that relationship). My job back home in Savannah: I was the reservations and events coordinator of a Zagat rated, 220 seat fine dining restaurant. I loved, I loved that job. I hated that job sometimes, too. But mostly I loved it. I put up with a lot of shit, and there was not a single location otherwise I would have worked. My love was very specific. I knew that I wouldn’t work anywhere else, in Savannah.
Living in Manhattan has always been a goal. Publishing my novels (and short stories) has always been a goal. Getting married has always been a goal. Owning my own home has always been a goal. Slightly out of focus was the want to realize something new–to search and find something else that I loved, that I could have as a public career, that could support me so that writing did not have to. Somewhere within the past year, after nearly 10 years of working in restaurants, I figured it out: I want to manage a fine dining restaurant.
Right now, I don’t have the technical skills to manage at a white table cloth restaurant. I don’t have the wine knowledge, but these things can be gained. It’s important to accrue management experience and maintain a passion for food and beverage, for hospitality. I do. Getting a NYC hospitality job was supposed to be unheard of unless you have NYC experience. I didn’t, but I got this job managing a nice bar in midtown. Like anything, there are aspects that I really love: making decisions, problem solving, having absolute authority on reservations and where they go and who takes care of them, that sort of thing. A week ago, I ran an event I’d booked and remembered why I loved being in events.
I don’t love working in a bar, because going to bars is only secondary for me. My passion is at the table. I love dining, and I love restaurants, and I want to be back at a white table cloth so badly I’ve nearly quit my job without having a new one. Yes, there is a difference. I want to be a part of a restaurant group, not something on a side street in midtown. There are many moving variables inside this one, my career.
Lingering is this question about my life here. Part of knowing where you’re going is knowing who you are, right now.
Am I going to be a novelist, or am I going to be someone who manages a restaurant? I am telling you, I don’t know, but it is time to make a decision, and I keep getting little skipped heartbeats about knowing things you don’t know. About having insight into things. About being able to explain things through a make-believe story better than you could with your own factual words. The truth is that neither of these roles in life are easy. I sort of took for granted the fact that because I fatefully became a writer, I would always stay one and pursue that mission, dedicate my life to the purpose.
I sort of got mixed around in wanting other things: I wanted to get out of Savannah, at least for a little while. I wanted to grow as a person; I wanted to live in New York.
Now that I’m here, I’ve got to figure out what living in New York is going to be for me. It could be a high profile service industry job. I could rewrite my attitude on the job I currently have and sell the hell out of that space, wow my boss, transform my staff. Or, I could resign from the job, pick up something less serious and fling myself back into my novel. I am tenacious, loyal to both of my pursuits. It is natural to incline towards the thing I think will be the most successful, but the truth is, either of these things can be prosperous, as long as I have my heart committed.
Right now, honestly, I kind of want to coast. That’s not the point though. I’m here and I’m going to make the best of it. I didn’t want this long to fail or try to get out or go home. I have waited to move here and be a success.
So I’m going to do a couple of things: I’m going to apply for a lower position at the company of my dreams, at a property where I’ve already sort-of befriended a maitre ‘d. I’m going to go back to writing; I have a couple of short stories in progress that I think are interesting (one is nearly finished) and I’ve already started revising my novel–back to that, full force. Finally, I’m going to hang on to the job that I already have, do better at it, and skillfully consider my escape plan, starting now.