I think milestones in a person’s life come when one least expects them. My 21st birthday? Bitch, please. I’m from Louisiana, remember, so I had already developed, indulged, nursed, and remedied an alcohol problem before I was legally eligible to do so. 21 was not it. My 25th birthday? Not it. So not it. It was fabulous, but not life-changing. Getting married? Not it, actually. It was a big party with a huge price tag, and all of the stuff leading up to and immediately following it have been a total hassle (the thank you cards I painstakingly wrote out to all 11,000 of my relatives and spent a small fortune mailing? All mysteriously returned to me by the good folks of the US Postal Service. Joy of joys). But, I think I’m finally coming up on the first major milestone of my adult life: I’m in the process of buying my first house! It’s exciting, but I also can’t really believe it. It doesn’t feel real. At all. It feels like I’m momentarily borrowing a more fortunate person’s life, and I’m still not used to her cute husband, her nice sheets, her fabulous skin (that’s another post, though), and now, her soon-to-be awesome home. I realize it’s kind of Eeyore of me, or whatever, but I just never thought that I would ever be responsible enough, have enough money saved, or simply have the desire to be- a home-owner.
I thought my fate was such that I’d be some kind of perpetual drifter, couch surfer, flophouse dweller, 12-roommates-to-a-4-bedroom-house-er, lease-breaking, security deposit-losing SLACKER. My bleakest future forecast saw me bobbing around Bohemia in search of “the perfect rental”
The rent-controlled off-campus bungalow. Near that pizza place, that burrito place, the head shop, the bar with dollar Hi-Life night, and the chicken fingers joint that stays open late. The one with a mudroom where I can put my pottery wheel. The one with the ample windowsills for my 58 cats. The one where visitors coo politely over homey touches like my blown-glass “tea set” (made from recycled bong parts!), but then refuse to eat or drink anything I offer them while also not sitting down and taking plenty of care not to touch the walls or furniture. The one with the overgrown yard of wild grasses that I assume is perfect for shielding my nude front porch sunbathing sessions (the neighbors, the caretaker of the cemetery across the street, passers by, and the local police department will later inform me that it is not so) and for peppering with my boyfriend Gary’s scrap-metal Freya sculptures. The one with the stucco walls that I can paint up in all the colors of the New Age rainbow. The one with the cool college-kid neighbors who sell me their keef and are so considerate as to always leave me their Bob Marley bottlecap murals and blacklight posters when they move out. The one where the landlord’s kid is stuck in the rehab revolving door (I totally sold him peyote once by accident, whoops!) and thus doesn’t have time to give a fuck about the fact that I’m turning his property into my own personal Burning Man festival. BTW, I have no idea why my defeatist fantasies feature me as an aging, Wiccan hippie in the 90s, but there ya go…
I think self-doubt and its accompanying hilarious defeatist fantasies are just growing pains on the way to adulthood. And watching them go from probabilities to possibilities to unlikelihood’s to withering with the years before finally falling away and becoming the faded mythos of one’s past lives is one of the few real joys of growing older.
It’s funny for me now, how 10 years ago one of my worst fears was that I’d be stuck waiting tables for the rest of my life with all of the crackhead lifers of the restaurant biz. That I’d be “that guy”, the one for whom the charge “corrupting influence on a minor” wears like a shiny new sheriff’s badge. Maybe when I wasn’t busy stuffing silverware down my pants and filching $20s out of the bartender’s till, I’d be in the walk-in sagely teaching shamefully young Filipino busboys how to do whippits. Merit badges for the adequate cutting of blow to follow. “Job security” would forever be some kind of urban myth, like females with 6-pack abs and men who don’t equate “hygiene” with cologne application. The receipt of insurance or benefits by an employer would seem like a cruel joke to those of us for whom a “sick day” means maybe not having electricity for a month. But no, here I sit in my cushy cubical, smiling my healthy teefs and gums to the world (dental plan! Lookit meee!), typing away. There are moments when I miss the unpredictability of the restaurant world. Times when I resent the soul-crushing day-to-day tedium of cube life and sincerely miss all of the hookers, vagabonds, artists, drunks and colorful losers I used to sling libations to every night. But, I think the biggest distinction comes from wanting to be there versus having to be there, having shifting scenery but going nowhere versus slowly climbing while staying in the same place. Not wondering where my next meal will come from versus the comforting monotony of the regular menu of my home kitchen. I think I’m just not scared to be boring anymore.
It’s kind of funny how the domesticated, yuppie bliss of my present has so thoroughly eclipsed that outmoded fear of being too out-there, taking up residence in the outer limits of eccentricity. When I was much younger, when “conformity” was about as dirty a word as could be imagined, I was still gripped by a nagging fear that I’d die alone, cat-bedecked, an old maid with dreadlocks and toe rings. That my last will & testament would contain burial instructions to the tune of, “…Anoint the body with patchouli before reading the Deity Invocation… After drum/chanting circle, commence Operation Vikingsdottir… The thrall cat should be bathed, but not by human hands. Let her whiskers be licked clean by her brethren… Flaming arrows should be released during the first chorus of “40 oz to Freedom”, and finish up by the second chorus and song’s end.”
But that’s not how things have ended up (yet). The years spent toiling in professions of ill repute have actually paid off. Right now, my hair and teeth are brushed, there is no tie-dyed cloth or turquoise jewelry on my body, I own no 311 CDs, I’m in a stable marriage with a guy who doesn’t supplement his income doing battle reenactments at Renaissance faires, and I’m about to walk through the threshold of my first home. Which is not to say that when I walk through my front door for the first time I won’t have a burning bundle of dried sage in one hand. Just to chase the ghosts away. Just in case.