In order to go to Hawaii, Graham agreed to work for something like nine days in a row upon his return to make up for lost hours. He’s salaried and all, but kitchens are different from offices and working until you go insane is just part of the deal. When he first told me about this welcome home schedule, as it were, I thought about not getting a day off for essentially two working weeks. It’s not that I’m lazy or anything, but if I had to work that long without a break at my job, I’d lose my mind. I would literally lose my mind because there’s no way I could deal with that job and those people for that stretch of time. And then I thought about how nice it is that I get to work a sucky corporate job, because although it is, like I said, sucky, I at least get the weekend and silly holidays like Columbus Day off. And then I thought about the period of time where I didn’t get days off ever, and it seemed like a million years ago.
When I first moved back to St. Louis, I had an apartment and a car but no money or job to pay for them. This is something that only 23-Year-Old Me could have done, because 29-Year-Old Me would have considered the situation and just given up. Back then I was young and brash and exhilarated to be on my own again, and when my parents told me that I could just live with them for awhile until I got my shit together, I used this youthful dumbassery to say no thanks, I could do it by myself. Which I did. I got not one, not two, but three jobs, all of which totaled about 80 hours a week. I worked 7 days a week for all possible shifts, and I considered Sundays my day off, because even though I still had to work, I only had to work at one job and only for 7 hours.
I actually lived like this for nearly a year, and it’s ultra-unbelievable when I remember that when I wasn’t at work, I was probably at a bar. In addition to re-programming myself to accept an 80-hour workweek as Just Something That Had To Be Done, I had somehow altered my brain chemistry to accept four hours of sleep per night at the most, but usually less because after stumbling out of an Eastside bar at sunrise, I would sometimes nap for an hour before dragging ass out of bed to sit in a cubicle and get yelled at by people all day. This isn’t healthy and I wouldn’t recommend it, but the upside was that I could just leave on my makeup from the night before and this is also when I started really liking coffee.
I made a lot of stupid decisions and met a lot of stupid people, but I also had fun and performed like a fucking superhero considering the situation. Like having three jobs, staying out all the time and acting like an idiot was Just Something That Had To Be Done. For several years, this stairway was sincerely (and mostly happily) the story of my life:
Nowadays, it’s hard for me to believe that I once lived like this. 29-Year-Old Me’s most precious possessions are sleep and quiet. I spend more money on books than I do on alcohol (probably because one of those three jobs I got way back when gives me alcohol for free). Instead of spending Saturday night working until midnight and then raging until 7am and then, only stopping out of necessity because all of the lesser humans had gone home to bed and there was no one left to party with, I spent last night watching Roseanne and drinking a bottle of wine by myself. I was in bed by midnight. I don’t even know what they play in the bars anymore, but I spent $30 on iTunes yesterday buying classical music (“this here’s a nocturne…you know, Frederic fucking Chopin?”) to listen to when I’m cooking and/or reading. I’m clearly not the coolest person in the room anymore, and for this I am only a little bit sorry. I’m not sorry that I once lived like that – like I said, I had a lot of fun, and I always hated people who experienced a little bit of stability and immediately considered themselves to be superior instead of boring – but I do regret a little that I’m getting older. I wouldn’t be able to live that way again. Like, physically-speaking, I would be incapable of that. I also don’t have the same attitude anymore, that indomitable thing that drives a person to work so hard for an indefinite amount of time just to get back from literally nothing. Now I get tired, and I get hangovers, and I spend my Sunday mornings listening to my 40-something dude neighbor sit in his backyard and yell over the phone that he doesn’t fuck around with liars and sluts, and “we are DONE, you stupid bitch!”.
I’m not sure why he’s in the backyard. It’s only 95 degrees out, although he does live with his mother, so perhaps she asked for some quiet time.