This morning, I rolled out of bed and went to work in my PJs. Such is the life of a freelance writer, and one that I am very grateful/lucky/blessed to have because I pretty much suck at everything else.
I know a lot of people say, “Oh, I’m so bad at math” or “I couldn’t hang a picture to save my life,” but, seriously, I can’t do anything really well except write, and maybe the Macarena. Other than that, I’m fucked. So it’s a very good thing that I am able to write for a living and that editors and other nice people keep hiring me.
But my route to working as a writer wasn’t an easy one. It was meandering and confusing and frustrating, much like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. I hated those stories when I was a kid. I always chose the one that ended with going into a time machine and having to do the whole thing over again, or I turned into a hot dog.
From my late teens to my mid-twenties, I held many odd jobs: grass cutter, waitress, dog walker, usher, grocery store cashier, wine store associate, and just because the universe can be one funny mofo, a hot dog stand operator.
I was really awful at all of those things. Like, really bad. How bad? As a dog walker, I’d carry—not walk—the dog (in my defence, he was a mini Dachshund and his legs were really short). As a waitress, well, there were too many incidents to recount, but my motto was basically, “Hello. My name is Brianne and I will be looking after you tonight whether I like it or not” (and it was always not). And while I worked at a wine store or manned a cash register at the grocery store, I always hoped for it to be so sloooow at work so I could get cut and go home. But my coup de grace? Well, that happened while I worked as a grass cutter and killed a small bunny family akin to the ambush on Sonny in The Godfather. (Again, by accident!)
It’s not that I didn’t try my best, because I did. But there was always a resounding dissonance every time I put on my apron/name tag/safety boots. I knew I wanted more for myself, but I just didn’t know how, or what, that was.
During those years, I was pursuing an acting career and under the impression that one must pay dues, a.k.a. endure a really sucky day job in order to get ahead. I was living in New York City, and, well, if you’re familiar with that place, then you know that you try to get rich, but most of the time, you die tryin’. My security always came before my taking any risks. I was so caught up with obtaining food and rent that I couldn’t listen to what my heart was beckoning me to do.
I was twenty-five when I finally shut all the noise off and went within. I was working at an Italian restaurant in the West Village at the time and just before I closed up for the night, my manager ordered me to clean out crumbs in the pastry case using a toothpick. A fucking toothpick. Do you know how long it takes to clean out a pastry case with a toothpick? Fucking forever and a day. I had been asked to do worse before, but for some reason, that did it. As Oprah would say, I had my “aha” moment that night hanging out in a pastry case. I recognized that not only had I lost control of my life, but I had lost me—the essence of who I am and what I have to offer to the world—somewhere between cleaning up rabbit guts and cleaning out Tiramisu residue. I knew intuitively what would get me back on track, and that’s when I started writing again.
I had always written. As a child, I was the annoying kid with the longest stories that never seemed to end, and in high school, I would spend endless hours on our family’s Compaq computer, writing fan fiction for The X-Files and ER. During university, I continued to write, but my love for it waned sometime after first year, and I don’t know why. I liken it to breaking up with someone you’ve loved your whole life, needing to move on in order to discover more about the world and yourself before you can continue to have a more well-rounded and evolved relationship.
Once reunited, I started writing plays. Compliments from my peers and mentors encouraged me to continue and gave me the confidence to approach different publications to pitch stories. I was so intent to never settle for a job I hated, or that sucked the life out of me, ever again, that I pushed myself to write anything and everything. Things started to snowball and, well, here I am.
I don’t regret the path that I took. My jobs make for interesting stories, and I met some fascinating people, including life-long friends. (And I know how to tip like a baller now).