Curiouser & Curiouser

Life’s short. Get curious.

In Which I Return to Reality January 3, 2011

Happy 2011, everyone!

Tis I, your favorite unemployed writer/photographer/adventurer extraordinaire returned from the jungles of our nation’s capital and beyond. After three weeks of fairly solid R&R (my definition of which is admittedly a bit wonky and includes exploring the frigid streets of New York and Washington, learning to run hills because northern Virginia’s Escheresque laws of physics cause streets to only run on a steep, perpetual incline, and holiday activities such as taking our car to the mechanic twice and baking 657 cookies that I couldn’t eat  due to my Christmas-crushing wheat allergy….), I’m returning to reality with superhuman motivation.

Par example: In three weeks’ time, the cats had transformed our cozy little apartment into a DEN OF DESTRUCTION. It was like a feline Lord of the Flies – reduced to their primal instincts in order to survive (never mind we have automatic feeders and a friend was checking on them every other day…), they’d removed two-thirds of the Christmas ornaments from our tree and hid them strategically (or not) around the house, dragged the faux moss from one of our houseplants into their litter box and somehow managed to track litter into *every* corner of the house.

But, with the precision of two seasoned cat owners, Jeff and I tackled the wreckage in a matter of a couple of hours (eat your heart out, FEMA). Then it was on to more important matters – namely, that I am still jobless. And yet, somehow I’ve managed to rack up a To Do list longer than Bernie Sanders’ filibuster. The common thread among the items on this list? The shared goal of putting my talents (besides my ability to balances sixteen water glasses on a single tray) to work. Granted, I can see that if I don’t act fast to get myself some kind of temporary back-up, I’ll be running into an old friend I like to call Financial Ruin. But even if I’m stocking quilted duvets at Bed Bath & Beyond or (god forbid) waiting a table or two again, at least I’ve got The Machine whirring away in the background. The gears have been greased. My list of Things and Stuff is rolling. I feel like I’ve been playing the role of starving artist ever since college and that maybe all I really need to do is push it just a notch harder, work just a little smarter, shrug this idea off my shoulders that creativity is for the privileged few, and make. it. work.

I may be getting a little redundant with this line of thinking, but if it’s a pep talk I need, then that’s what you all get as well 🙂

Now – off to finish designing my business cards (finally finished my Photoshop tutorials *AND* got PS5 for Christmas!!) Oh – and today’s photo features Skipper, my canine companion in D.C., looking rather fearless, which I found apropos of today’s post. Also, he rocks a fauxhawk like nobody’s business and that alone makes it worth a look.

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Paper Trails December 6, 2010

Egad, what a week!

Never one to remain completely useless, I decided to spend my one week in between vacationing in Ohio for Thanksgiving and vacationing in D.C. and New York for Christmas working as an extra on the set of One Tree Hill. You’d be amazed how exhausting it is to spend most of your 10-hour work day waiting, standing, and/or having silent and fake conversations. Four out of 5 nights, I came home and fell asleep mid-conversation with Jeff. You’d also be amazed that the biggest divas on the set weren’t the actors, but two particular female extras we’ll call Peg Bundy and Tweedle Dumb. They were raunchy, loud, demanding and childish and I’m infinitely grateful to no longer have to spend very long days in a very small space with them.

But my point was, not only did I make a tiny bit of money (and was fed some mean grub – those people eat well and often!), I also read an entire novel (The Alechemist by Paulo Coelho), swiped a few tips from hair and makeup, and now have another possible means of picking up some extra dough (at least for the next few months before they wrap up the series for good).

No permanent job in site yet, however. But I keep applying and in the meantime have been thoroughly enjoying my time off. Just started the tutorials for Photoshop 4 (and after listening to Geoff Blake for a few hours, I’m not only proficient in Photoshop, I also can’t stop speaking with a Canadian accent…), I’ve got back into the 365 project which went completely defunct over Thanksgiving, and my cats no longer wake us up at 4 a.m. because I actually have time to wear them out before we all go to bed.

As for said 365 project, I did a little multitasking with today’s shoot. My two desks and files needed a good cleaning and reorganizing and I was left with a pile of papers from the past. A few were old bills and I dropped them in the paper shredder and something about that sound and the resulting strips of my former life was so satisfying that I began to shred, well… everything. Everything from the past that I’m ready to let go of, that is. Evidence of the fact that I used to be a very different girl – many different girls, from the looks of it. Paperwork from the restaurant I managed, applications, business cards, calendar pages from my planner, check slips from taking orders as a waitress, a few chapters from the book I once set out to write about the cover band I fronted ages ago, a collage I’d made for an ex-boyfriend for his birthday (the guy is of no interest anymore, I think I was just proud of my handiwork)….. all fed through those efficient little teeth. And what I was left with was a pile of meaningless paper. And by meaningless I mean it was fresh and blank and awaiting a new use.

So use it I did. I put together my self portrait shoot in my bedroom, using only a 3 x 4 ft. sheet of white paper on the wall and a garbage bag’s worth of paper shreds dumped all around me. Enter those makeup tips I’d gleaned during the week, a dress I haven’t used since this summer, a few lights set strategically around my tiny set, et voila! Today’s self portrait.

It’s no job, that’s for sure. But I do love unleashing some creativity on the world from time to time and I have to believe that someday it will serve me well.

(Side note: Am I just a huge nerd, or does anyone else get all melty inside when it starts snowing on WordPress??)

 

Job Markets in Neverland November 5, 2010

Filed under: adulthood,happiness,life,photography,thoughts,work — curiouserx2 @ 5:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last night, while driving home from work, it occurred to me that I am still not a full-blown “grownup” and in all likelihood, I never will be.

Exhibit A: I happen to know from experience that pinot gris pairs well with Chex cereal (but only the cinnammon kind – accept no substitutions).

Exhibit B: I left for work yesterday wearing a black dress, heather grey tights and (wait for it…) galoshes emblazoned with smiley-faced blue whales (and it took quite some self-coaxing to change into my black ballet flats when I got there).

Exhibit C: I still take playing dress-up quite seriously (see here)

Not that I necessarily find this to be a flaw. On the contrary, plenty of people have found ways to capitalize on their refusal to grow up: comic book writers, video game creators, Betsey Johnson, Amanda Palmer, Tony Hawk … Peter Pan.

So it’s possible, but I haven’t exactly got the hang of it yet – which makes me slightly envious of those who have some sort of built-in shut-off device for all of their “childish” leanings. Their desires to explore and adventure and create and play were shut down at a crucial time by some innate “Override,” allowing them to smoothly transition into an office, a company car, a nice salary with benefits and football and beer on the weekends and not too many questions asked. (Or the other type – the rocket scientist or mathematician who’s greatest love translated into a cozy career).

Well someone forgot to install my switch, so it’s up to me now to use my remnant love of bubbles, dirt and sparkly things as an asset rather than a handicap.

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this quest. I found out last night that my Fedex delivery guy moonlights as an upright bass player in one hell of a jazz trio. One of my bartenders not-so-secretly dreams of making a living off her designer hair flare and I recently had my hair done by a local stylist who’s not so far from making it as a bigtime hair and makeup artist. One friend of mine even quit her lame customer service job to start a handmade decor business and, after a slow and scary start, is making it work. I’m sure that all of us have, at one point or another, been told to get serious or at the very least to focus our efforts on getting a “real job,” to relegate our “hobbies” to the weekends.

Our talents may be considered fluff to some, but blended with a lot of hard work, innovation and drive, I think any of them can be transformed into successful careers. So here’s to discovering the perfect combination of creative genius and business savvy and here’s a big, fat raspberry for all the naysayers.

Cheers!

 

Well That Was Fun… October 25, 2010

I return to you, dear readers, on the eve of my leaving yet another job. I know you’re asking yourselves why I only seem to be interested in blogging when I’m on the verge or in the midst of unemployment, but I swear it’s purely coincidence. To be completely candid with you, I’ve missed you. It’s not that I don’t get a good dose of writing every day when I update my 365. That’s nice and all, but there’s much more to life than photography (understatement of the year) and I don’t think any of that’s been getting properly addressed.

Par example: My ever-lengthening list of  “Jobs I’ve Quit Despite the Shite Economy.” Just thrown another shrimp on the barbie, giving my notice at the tapas bar I’ve been managing. It seems it’s not just particular restaurants (although the hibachi definitely took the prize for unhealthiest workplace ever), but the entire industry that I’m not particularly in line or in love with. And yes, I’d worked my way through the ranks very quickly in this latest endeavor and I’d finally paddled hard enough to get my chin up above the poverty line, but in the end I found myself working harder than ever, earning less than ever, and forever feeling like a fish out of water. To say I’m not the most polished person in the world is to put it kindly. The reality of it was I didn’t have enough money to dress the part, and it was becoming too difficult to act like I liked every one of my my guests and loved being there.

Especially the nightclub. Watching people with more money than you (whether they earned it or not) blow said money and act like complete assclowns to the same, mind-numbingly awful 40 songs (it’s amazing how slightly altering the order fools people into thinking they’re having a different experience each week…), cleaning up after them when they dribble red wine all over the women’s restroom (or worse), helping them find the lost camel jacket (worth more than my entire wardrobe) that they left on the dance floor, getting the really wasted ones into cabs at the night’s end whether they like it or not (or, in one case, getting shoved aside by a grown man who insisted he was fine even as he stumbled to his car), returning their wallets – complete with credit cards and $700 in cash – to them when they return in their limo later and graciously accepting the $15 reward they offer you for doing so (wow. thanks.), and eventually crawling into bed (literally – because have you ever worn heels for 10 hours straight??) at 3 or 4 a.m. with your ears ringing loud enough to make it hard to sleep.

Awesome.

Who wouldn’t want this job?

Strangely enough, there are people who aspire to such things. I am, conclusively, not one of them. And, as if I needed another reason to quit, the night schedule had me missing out on far to much life. Having a schedule quite the opposite of Jeff’s had us literally missing each other. He’d be up and off to teach just shortly after I’d gone to bed, and I’d come home long after he’d hit the sack. Even my days off didn’t align. While it’s totally sweet to be able to run your errands or hit the gym or find parking at the beach while the rest of the world is working, the cost is resigning yourself to doing all of these things alone. Lesson learned: I don’t need as much “Me Time” as I once thought I did.

So what will I do? A very good question. I’ve got a few applications in at the university already and I’ll be taking some Windex to my resume and sending it out. Wilmington’s not exactly the Land of Opportunity, but if I gleaned anything from my managing job, it was the art of networking. It is a small town – and you can cry about it, or you can use it. I’ve met enough people now that (god willing) when word gets out that I’m leaving, I can at least get some advice or leads on where to start.

If nothing else, I plan to use the time off to work on 1201. I’m starting to do pro-level work now (granted, there’s a vast spectrum of “Pro” photography out there and I’m still hanging out in the middle somewhere with plenty of room for improvement), and if I’m going to ask for payment for my work, the business had better look like a business. Obviously, I can’t sink a lot of money into it right now, but the website needs a little spit shine and I’m in desperate need of a good business card (and thanks to work, I know a guy who knows a guy).

I realize that I’m in the same boat (it’s got to be like an ark or a cruise ship by now) as so many other people my age, creative people, intelligent people, extremely capable people who are stuck finding a way to make a living doing what they’re best at. Plenty ahead of us have figured it out. Maybe we’re late bloomers, or maybe the shuffle board and Mai Tais are keeping us on that cruise ship a little to long. As for me, the game’s over and I just got cut off, so I’m jumping ship and swimming to shore with every hope that land is close.

And not inhabited by cannibals.

(And –  just because – a little something from My New Favorite Web Comic: Hyperbole and a Half )

 

I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye April 26, 2010

Grown up version of playing in the sandbox??

Day 100 of 365

Hello again, mes amis!!

Were you starting to think I’d abandoned you?

Never fear, I’m still here, still making it and things have actually been looking up. Steadily. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that I can maintain this forward motion sans stalling out any time in the foreseeable future. I’ve been working like a  maniac, both at the restaurant where I’m moving up slowly through the ranks taking on increasing responsibilities daily it seems, and on my 365 project (it appears some of you have been keeping an eye on my Flickr photostream to the right there – thanks for checking in!).

I can’t think of any other creative outlet that so perfectly encompasses the way I try to live my life. This project gives me all the excuse I need to be adventurous, creative and, yes, often ridiculous, every single day (that, and every bit of camera shyness I once had was obliterated sometime around Day 26. Bonus?).

I’ve just passed Day 100 of this project, and already, less than a third of the way through, I’ve become so much more familiar and comfortable with my camera, with my post production software and with the art itself. The first time I opened Lightroom on my computer, I had a minor meltdown. I’m a creative type with an aversion to technical guides or owner manuals of any type. But I realized my creativity would drown in a pool of cheap gear if I didn’t give it the boost it needed in post, so I broke down and read up a little and spent many hours playing with all of Lightroom’s tools.  So my confidence grows, my imagination gets a pretty tough workout, and I definitely put my problem solving skills to the test. How DOES one fake a home studio when you don’t own a single professional grade light? The answer, so far, includes everything from hording every lamp in the house in the bedroom, shooting in the bathtub (or closet), using bowls, mirrors and poster board as reflectors, and the occasional single bare bulb in a dark room.

Most importantly, though, I feel a deep satisfaction in what I do with a good deal of my free time. Not a minute of my life feels wasted, and there’s a massive body of work (100 images deep as of today!) to show for it. Should you be so curious: http://www.flickr.com/1201photography/sets/72157623087853539/

Hope you’re all finding your own ways to explore your world. Here’s to all of us staying afloat and staying curious!

 

Here We Go Again… January 22, 2010

Filed under: adulthood,happiness,life,photography,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 10:06 pm
The days off aren't hurting either...

365-7 (Self-portrait while driving)

Not getting my “dream job” and quitting the hibachi has done strange and wondrous things to my life. The rapidfire sequence of these two events combined with the arrival of a beautiful piece of camera has set the gears of my mind reeling in such a random, new and intriguing direction that I can’t help but feel the most motivated and energized I’ve felt in a long time.

And frankly, I think it’s thrown Jeff for a bit of a loop, but I’ve already apologized and told him to bear with me.

Suddenly my life has been consumed by the camera, Lightroom and Flickr. By books on professional digital photography, post-production software, starting your own business. By logos and business cards, blogs and web sites. In short, I want something more than I’ve wanted something in a long time. More, quite possibly, than I wanted the job with Yelp (and if this all pans out, I’ll be thanking a certain regional manager for passing on me).

As I’ve tended in the past to throw myself into many a field of interest, I fully expected my parents, Jeff, hell – everyone I know, to be a little dubious my new foray. Surprisingly, though, my mom seemed unfazed, Jeff (after the initial shock) is on board – as much as a full-time grad student can be – and supportive and my sister’s volunteered (after some coercion) to be my next model (my portfolios admittedly thin and the next couple of months will mostly be spent fattening that puppy up).

Meanwhile, there’s a lot riding on this new job at the tapas bar. It has to be my bread and butter through all this (not only supporting me, but creating some capital as well), and I have no idea how lucrative it’s going to be.

In the meantime, though, it’s full steam ahead. Suppose I got tired of watching other people make a living doing something I told myself I loved but could never make a living at. You never know if you don’t try, and while I do plenty of wondering about what my life would be like if I’d taken the safe route, safe just never was for me. I’d like to go out someday knowing I spent my life doing what I loved.

 

Escape Plan January 4, 2010

Filed under: life,photography,work — curiouserx2 @ 8:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

After a brief and somewhat severe tutorial on the proper way to affix tea urn nozzles (after which said nozzle continued to drip because it’s CORRODING FROM THE INSIDE AND NEEDS TO BE REPLACED), something in my overworked, under-appreciated and definitely underpaid little head snapped.

I do not belong here. (Or anywhere within a one-mile radius of here for that matter). Despite all my efforts, this restaurant is going down in flames. It’s dirty beyond my control, disorganized and run by a paranoid manic-depressive with questionable ethics.

Not to mention I’m a writer?

Oh yeah – that. Not only do I write with a vengeance, I’m a musician, a photographer – in short: a creative type. So when 2009 came to a close and the shiny new year presented itself I decided something must be done. And that doing must be taken seriously. Serendipitously, Jeff and I received a new digital SLR for Christmas and that was about as much impetus as I needed to consider pushing past my amateur status as a photographer. My college photojournalism course and the hours spent ceasing time in a darkroom instilled in me all the enchantment with the art that I needed to continue pursuing photography as a hobby. And when I lost my manual SLR in one of many moves since then, I continued to work with photographers and to critique and edit the work of others. And looking back on all of this it begs the question: so why again wouldn’t you consider this as a possible career path??

Well I could think of no good answer to that, and so consider I did. Again – not an easy career, but then are any of the creative fields? So while I won’t be quitting my piece of shite day job anytime soon (sadly), I will be using my free time educating myself, practicing with the new equipment and building up a body of work to eventually create a portfolio in both photography and photo editing.

To get the ball rolling, I’ve created a new blog to focus solely on this endeavor. It’s called 1201 Photography (named for the beloved address in Victorian Village where Jeff and I spent a good deal of time last year) and can be found at http://www.1201photo.wordpress.com – also in the links at right).

My New Year’s Resolution this year was to try harder – at everything I do. I think 1201 is right in line with that, and I hope you enjoy its fruits.