(Trigger Warning: suicide, talked about from the P.O.V. of a 5-year survivor…)
Two months ago, I had a lingering, silly sort of pride to say: I have worked in the service industry for 11 years. Then, a woman and her colleagues came in for a late dinner, two-or-so months back, on a night when we were very busy–so busy that our wait list extended such that we were turning tables away two-and-a-half hours before closing time. Short a hostess that night, I was mid-swipe with my sanitizer cloth on table three when I felt this woman at my elbow, which she cupped with the tips of her bony fingers as if to physically spin me around. She asked: “Excuse me, but how long on our food?” I sort of surveyed the restaurant with a look of near-shock that she’d even ask: every table was full, and for how busy we were (not to mention Chef’s dislocated shoulder, or whatever), she hadn’t seemed to have been waiting very long, but what did I know?
“I just checked,” I said, “They are plating your order right now. Everything will be out in less than five minutes.” I was not lying, or exaggerating–in fact, I felt relieved: certain that such news as “less than five minutes” would send this lady away appeased.
She exaggerated to pause, though she hadn’t been speaking–as if she were waiting to hold her breath or scoff at me: “Five minutes,” she said, “we’ve been waiting a long time.”
I shrugged at her: her food really was coming, and how long she and her colleagues had been waiting altered the fact that it would be “in less than five minutes” not at all: “Sorry, Lady,” I seemed to say, but said nothing.
“We are very important people.”
“…” (I paused)
(She paused) “Okay then,” she said with the kind of reluctant disappointment in the voice of someone who’s just failed to land a business deal. She seemed peeved for a moment. Then, she waved me off and returned to table one. I turned my neck away from them and stood un-speaking…my hand on the sanitizer cloth, un-moving.
This is the night I decided to quit my job and leave off waiting tables–for real this time: I was going to be a writer. Call me an artist, a blogger, a full-time student, but don’t you dare call me a “server” again, I thought. This fucking lady, I thought: I’ll show you important. You do shit, don’t you–down there at the UW Vet program: Very Important People. (Okay, sorry, I’m sure (?) this was an isolated incident.) I could have left just then, but her unwillingness to take me seriously wounded me: I am a sensitive woman. “She’s right,” I would tell myself, and I didn’t need her in my head to do so: it is plenty difficult to take creativity very seriously these days without the V.I.P.s of the world, thank you very much, Lady. It is this thinking that would keep me on two months more, but I did it. I left the service industry. I’ve been out about a week…and, boy, am I screwed.
Writing is the hardest thing I do–though no one would ever believe that I’m not exaggerating or looking for something when I say such things: if one does not write, one does not get it. Why I do it is a question I ask myself as many times as I fall in love each day, and the answer has little to do with choice: THIS is a hunger. It doesn’t matter to me that I could lose everything, nor that I am my “fallback guy,” nor does it matter that, were anyone else in need of a “fallback guy,” I am the last person I’d suggest. I write because I must.
So, we’re here: The “About Me” section I’ve put off writing for weeks because I know absolute shit about blogging, and I can tell you that–though my fear had me sending texts to people at the restaurant this very morning, a week out (“Let me know if you need anything covered! So glad to be free of the restaurant world!” — …i.e. fingers crossed, please hit me up: I am a DROWNING BROKE GIRL!), that though I’ve already picked up an application to a pub in my new neighborhood, an application I’ve thought to fill out three or four times now–though all this: I can tell you that “I am not a server, dammit. I write.”
I suppose I’d heard it said too many times that it sometimes pays to be brave; to leave your day job; that no amount of money will make a miserable woman happy at the source of its misery; etc. etc., and I suppose I decided that that is probably true. Now, however: it’s Ramen city and I’ve a half-half gallon of milk in the fridge, a Tupperware of poorly wrapped leftover baked beans, and no source of income, no security net, no father and mother to cry home to. BUT(!), that strong will to write.
I have made a grievous error. What was I thinking?
Last semester, rather than taking a full credit load of degree classes, I took a semester of honor’s projects. Two of them. The first: a graphic non-fiction project titled Memoir of a Suicide about my ex-boyfriend Devin, who committed suicide on my 21st birthday (November 5th, 2013); the second: a linguistic analysis of live-action tutoring sessions (recorded and transcribed by me) of me and various community college students (because, dammit, I write and I used to tutor writing, too). That same semester, my closest friend and I took classes to become certified to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). And, just before the start of the semester, over the Christmas holiday, I read a book called “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them,” which effectively convinced me that one not ought to under-employ herself.
So, I guess that is what I was thinking, I deduce daily now, and I continue to eat Ramen noodles for–well, basically every meal.
I tell myself I could apply to that pub,
just work weekends, and leave the restaurant industry
Then, I worry I’m backing out on myself (and my fallback guy) and I need to get savvy: find another angle, sell my books, eat off-brand Ramen, literally anything–and keep writing. It isn’t a matter of pride, I know that’s what you’re thinking, but I swear that isn’t it. It’s a matter of trusting my passion and my intuition and my belief in myself as a writer, because it’s ALREADY too easy to become crippled by various other aspects of the job: having to scout the contests and journals in the crevices of time between classes and the gym; the threat of limbic system takeover and the stalling of the process that happens, just regularly; the fear that it isn’t good enough and never will be; etc. If you write, you know them…if you don’t, you’re lucky.
So, who am I? Say it with me: “NOT A SERVER.”
My name is Mary Marks and I write: fiction, non-fiction, academic essays, poetry, mind-bending reviews on ancient literature (no, these are not for the public eye…eat your heart out), graphic non-fiction (in my case: art that is not quite a comic book…but close), lists, notes, postcards, on the toilet wall. I write (and read) because it is important to me to improve my ability to quickly (or more quickly, as occurs with practice) grasp challenging and complex aspects of literature; I write to free myself from past agonies; I write to reach an audience I KNOW is out there; I write because I used to become very troubled when confronted with the need to speak and it makes the words come more easily, more readily–better; I write because I am hungry to do so. On this blog, I hope to provide readers with the following:
(I had been calling these totems in the time that I worked as a server AND writer, and I don’t know if this is a thing amongst the world of blogging, but these are my totems and right now, my blog will have four)
- Writerly Things
- ESL (will include things such as: teaching strategies, grammar points, lesson planning)
- The Business Side of Things (my novice experience with the business side of writing: resources available to aspiring writers (links to contests, etc.); reviews on writerly books which have helped me to develop a useful writing-as-business routine; productivity tips & tricks; and posts on the importance of taking yourself and your craft seriously (i.e. commitment to your art)).
- Fiction/non-fiction/poetry prompts & tips
- Writing MOTIVATION (time-management & discipline, destroying the myth of inspiration, how to deal with all that writerly despair, am I right?)
- Probably Lists and other whatsits of my life.
2. Memoir of a Suicide (M.O.S.): Contrary to what people might argue (that I probably shouldn’t share this project on the internet before publishing it), it IS my most-treasured W.I.P. currently and I find that it will be helpful to someone in it’s yet-unfinished form. So, I aim to find the best way to navigate this blogging world and to share what I feel comfortable with.
- Under this heading also: my grief journey: my experience with it, my acquired fascination for its’ many faces, and using writing as a vehicle to drive away from it in.
3. I AM A READER, TOO:
- Reading Challenges
- Book Reviews
- Other Bookish Thoughts
4. Self-Care/Health & Wellness: I’ve a long history with the struggle, so it’ll come up:
- My weight-loss goals (and my consequent successes and failures)
- Exercise routine
- But, also: getting out of debt (Financial Fitness)
- Self-care rituals,
- And–because I want to run a half-marathon this October: my what-are-sure-to-be-ridiculous attempts at training for that.
Thanks for making it here (tl;dr). Welcome to my blog.