“When I ask what’s next, it means I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?”
– The West Wing, Season 3 Episode 9
In the dwindling days of my college experience I fantasized about what it would be like after college when I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. Nothing could hold me back now! I would have a degree and the world would be my oyster! I could finally dive into books, writing, auditions, training, spending emotional energy on the things I love instead of serving an institution I despised. I had summer and fall work lined up and I was ready to disappear into the mountains for half a year. I thought it would be pretty impossible to kill that momentum, but as of today I’ve been unemployed for exactly two months.
So far, it’s been pretty insufferable. I’m lucky that I’ve paid off my rent, otherwise I’d be homeless right now, but as it stands my home has become my prison. If I was working, I’d have a reason to leave the house but as it stands I can barely afford to get coffee or grab a beer, let alone get lunch with friends or spend the evening on the town. Most days, I don’t even change out of my pajamas. I just got approved to start Ubering, but that’s a choice between something that gives me heart-pounding, teeth-grinding anxiety (driving) and paying bills, buying food, and funding my writing habit. It’s hard to learn, write, and create when I’m pacing the floor trying to figure out how I’m going to pay my gas bill, so I guess making money takes the top spot in my list of priorities. If I was working, I’d qualify for utility bill assistance—one of the many lovely benefits provided by the state of Indiana to its poorest working-class citizens, in addition to SNAP and subsidized healthcare costs.
This is not the level of glamor I pictured for my post-college life.
I have really big dreams: writing plays, acting in Hollywood movies, the bright lights of Broadway, all that jazz and more. Sitting in my pajamas on my couch in Bloomington, this seems further away from me than the moon. I read interviews with people I admire—Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jonny Sun, Chris Hayes, Chris Arnade, among others—and they seem so astronomically out of my league. I read their wikipedia pages, I try and figure out how I get to there from here. I don’t have Ivy League schooling, I can’t get into grad school, I don’t think anyone would ever pay me to talk about anything (what would I even talk about??)—I feel so incredibly inadequate. I want to do the hard work, the shitty jobs, bet my entire life on my own success, but I don’t even know where to even start. I don’t even know how to contact these people to ask them.
So, in August I’ll be moving: New York, Chicago, or LA. I figure I lack some of the connections that get me a fast pass to the in-crowd (Ivy League education, nepotism, a trust fund, a smokin’ hot bod) so my best chance is to put myself in the center of the crowd and make myself heard. As an extremely poor person, the thought of living in any of these cities terrifies me (I can expect my rent to DOUBLE or TRIPLE (!)), but that’s what needs to happen.
I’m from the Chicago area, so I know the rules of the game there, but I don’t have the faintest idea how to move to New York or Los Angeles. Even those cities feel far out of my league. Wherever I end up, it will be a practice in the power of self-confidence: lots of odds are stacked against me and the only thing I can really control is my work ethic, my self-ethic, and my attitude. I just hope that’s enough.