Failure to commit is my life’s purpose. My wish is to earn a living with these words. My other wish is to enjoy the fruits of my bougie life. These two wishes conflict. So I live on the fence top neither writer nor cube rat.
I want to be one of the rare writers who can pay his bills with his content. But I won’t give up my bougie life. Also–bougie guilt. There is a lot of well-publicized trash talk about white privilege. Somehow, because I am a WASP with middle-class parents some folk blame me for their misery. The answer is to trash my life and give all the perceived privilege to someone more downtrodden. Woo.
Give up my house, my car, my two smartphones, a full fridge, lawn mower, and other treasures so I can live on what I make as a writer? Kill me now. Something you probably know: my kin and friends respect people with careers. Our proper place is in a cubicle running the rat wheel 8-5, M-F. White privileged middle-class people are your engineers, architects, lawyers, doctors, middle managers, and cubicle denizens who you don’t see but also can’t do without if you want your Whole Foods order to arrive on time.
To Bougie or Not to Bougie
Where is the conflict? Why didn’t I stick to my caste and follow my Dad into some bougie middle-class career and all that goes with it? My Dad escaped the misery of his upbringing. The mistake some make is this: some of us are edge cases. I am my father’s son and a benefactor of his success. It goes deeper, though. My Grandma was a socialist. My Dad accomplished the mid-century American Dream in spite of his upbringing. I didn’t honor my father. I honored my red diaper roots. Those roots are the source of my lifelong conflict.
So it goes like this: bougie is evil. The way to not be evil is to destroy all that feels bougie. I can’t honor my father and not be evil. Or . . . that’s the bitter root judgment I’ve carried my entire life. But I loved/love the things that come with being evil/bougie. Living evil means my bills get paid, I am debt free, and I own the expected inventory of status symbol goods. Living bougie means I can be comfortable. Writing? For most writers, fealty to their craft means some level of discomfort.
It’s been four hundred years since creatives could reliably work for a patron. Most writers don’t find a way to get paid to write. We write and die unnoticed. Our toil is vanity. This site is at least seven years old. There is a paywall. I have five unpaid subscribers. The rest of the world can read one post per day for 336 days without paying. So nobody pays, so far. I may have been born bougie but I live at the poorer edge of that life. Yet I am judged evil because of an accident of birth. I feel that judgment and the guilt that comes with it.
Here I Am
Failure to commit became a commitment. My last hope of fulfilling my Dad’s wish for me failed because of a 1996 misdemeanor battery conviction. I was a Lyft rideshare driver until last month (April 2023). I’ve drifted through over forty years of aimless living. Writer, cab driver, developer (I learned to code), and field service engineer (whack-a-puter). Homeless more than once, jailed for beating my son’s Mom, a graduate of a few “get-it-together” programs to help the mildly mentally ill, and now, old fart. I ran out the clock vacillating between furtive efforts to be the bougie man I was born to be and near-do-well. Near-do-well won out.
In less than two years I reach the expected retirement age. I retired at age 19 when I told my Dad his life was the problem. I was headed west to seek fame and fortune as an actor. Yeah, so . . . oh crap. That meant years of misery while I did the needful to achieve that. But . . . I refuse(d) to be miserable. I would not/will not sacrifice my comfort for the needs of creative success. Thus, forty years of failure to commit to creative authenticity or achieving the bougie life of my Dad.
The writers that make it fully commit. They pick up a pen and a legal pad and start. Then they keep at it. John Grisham committed to writing one page per day. It took me over seven years to produce 336 posts because I’m not disciplined. And . . . that conflict I have between my Socialist roots and the good behavior of my bougie upbringing. To fully commit I have to embrace the conflict and work through it.
Creatives and clergy share something. There is no halfway. You either commit to your choice or you don’t. Writing a page a day means sticking to the schedule you make for yourself. Meeting with editors and publishers comes ahead of every other commitment. Married? You better make an agreement on when you can write and stick to it.
Me? I’ll put 50+ hours into gigs for Roadie and then mess about with my XBox until it’s time to sleep. Years are sliding by. My reservation date on Charon’s yacht is approaching. Then the other thing: driving for dollars isn’t working for me. Social Security? I qualify for $1100.00/month. My monthly spend is almost triple that. Plus I hate Uncle Sam and will starve a long time before I accept his money. Roadie pays about what Social Security would pay. It’s not enough. But for now, I’d rather do Roadie.
The Scent of Hope
“And then things work out” as they do for the last forty years. In spite of my failure to commit I am here, healthy, housed, with a reasonable share of bougie trappings. My friend Tina Ramirez is campaigning to be the Republican candidate for Virginia’s District 12. I endorsed her in this post. Early on the left-wing trolls attacked. Best thing ever for me.
So I jumped in. I became a top fan of Tina’s Facebook campaign page. Early on it was the usual slings and arrows thrown at those who dare to drift away from the strict orthodoxy of the Woke True Folk She was accused of racism, of religious oppression, a villain of the Rainbow Alphabet tribe (LBGTQ+2A . . .), hates old people, wants single mothers in the ghetto to live out of shopping carts and starve, an advocate for the mass murder of children by assault weapons and so on. These usual accusations went nowhere. It’s hard to make slams like this hit home when the target is a Latina single mother who launched a successful NGO teaching religious freedom. I am a stronger writer because of Tina’s trolls.
Then a week ago someone close to Tina’s campaign hinted that getting paid isn’t impossible. ? What?! Really?! Holy crap. Yes, please! He did say that before that possibility we have to get through Tina’s campaign. AYE AYE! The District 12 Republican Primary is June 20th. The election is on November 7th. So I have to hang in there until this fall.
“Get a job”? Sure. Compete with people decades younger than me for entry-level field service so I can run my time in another cubicle. Drive for dollars? Been doing that. About quarterly I find myself in trouble again. So the rideshare services suspend my account. It’s a rough month while I wait to see the result. Until this spring I’d get reactivated and return to work. Two things happened to end that. I was beaten up by three passengers two years ago. But there is more. Uber dropped me because I was accused of asking for sex from a passenger. So I shifted to Lyft. I’ve been with Lyft until this spring. It’s been too eventful. Two accidents, one my fault, another not. Negative consequences are escalating.
About a month ago Lyft did a routine background check. This isn’t something to worry about if your background is clear. Normally I’ll hear that they did it and it’s fine. It wasn’t fine. This time they went back as far as they could go and found my 1996 conviction for misdemeanor battery. I am deactivated by Lyft because of that conviction. My days driving passengers for dollars are done.
I still have my Roadie gigs. That’s what I am doing for money. All this is relevant because I’ve aged out of career building. The only thing left is to take the shot with writing. Here we GO!