Thursday, May 13, 2010


Life has been a flurry of change.

I’m back in Berkeley. Actually, I never lived in Berkeley before but in neighboring Oakland yet it still feels like home to me. I missed this area so much that when I lived in L.A. I didn’t visit for I knew that my heart would always pull me back here. Strange it would seem that when I decided to return to Northern California that I didn’t immediately return here to what is known to the Bay Area residents as the “East Bay”. I wanted to yet I felt a pull to take me elsewhere. I looked as far out as Lake County but that I felt was too far away. I settled on Sonoma.

I never intended to stay in Sonoma long but I ended up being entranced by the rolling hills full of vineyards that changed with every season. After feeling crushed in L.A., I wanted to feel space. Sonoma has nothing but space. It’s an area in California where there’s actually still farm land. I loved it. I got used to being more car dependent because I lived outside of “town” or rather outside the city of Sonoma. My idea was that I would build my freelancing and work from home. My first week I toured around the area. I met a business woman in downtown Napa who just happened to be looking for a writer. I passed off my business card. This encounter made me feel like things were happening as I wanted. I then emailed her. I heard nothing back. Then the housing market collapsed and major panic about our economy gushed. I felt relived I wasn’t back in L.A. were I would have felt the crush of everyone’s panic. Sonoma seemed protected somehow. I continued to try to get freelancing work. No nibbles. I met a fellow writer who shared similar interests. I felt this was a good sign. In the meantime, I finished my website and worked on my book proposal. I met with some publishers who showed interest. Then the rejection letter came. And I still had no freelancing gigs. Desperate, I felt I had to go back to my standby of temp work. At my first gig the woman hiring me liked I was a writer. I could help with their website. Again, I felt this was a good sign. The actual job was being an executive assistant which I hated. And the work on the website never came to full fruition. I decided to leave this job because promises remained empty. I had a dry spell then I went to work at a marketing firm. Hallelujah. I adored for the most part the job and the company. Yet the work they needed me for ended and again I needed to find something to sustain me. All the while I wondered, if I had moved to Sonoma to do my creative work, why wasn’t I doing it. All my energy seemed to go to just survival. I hadn't worked on my books in months. Thanks to my writer friend, I got a freelancing gig. This gave me hope. But the work itself didn’t sustain me. I then got a two day a week steady temp gig. This seemed like a great solution. Still, it didn’t sustain me. All my expenses seemed to be going to just paying rent, which I kept getting later and later on.

Come April, my time was up. My landlords, although always gracious, wanted me to come up with a plan of how to get the rent money to them on time. They realized times were tough but I had been paying them week by week (as soon as I got paid, I would try to pay them what I owed). It was then I had to come to terms that what I was doing wasn’t working. I was trying to sustain something that wasn’t happening or could never happen. Meanwhile, my credit had gone to shambles.

Moving would have seemed the obvious choice. True. But I had spent a couple thousand dollars to move up there and I felt trapped. I didn’t have the money to hire movers and the reason I hired a professional moving company to bring me from L.A. was due to my hideous back surgery for a herniated disc 6 years ago. Moving by myself, which I often did in my twenties, meant using my back which these days I tried to use as gingerly as possible; but moving was the obvious choice. And it happened, with help of friends, I moved; and my back, though sore, survived. I felt like a lost part of myself was returned. I’m not as injured and broken as I had thought.

Most of my adult life I’ve felt money challenged but I recalled the times I felt flush with cash. That was in shared housing with low rent. After living alone for close to a decade, I thought about the adjustment. I also thought about a friend’s remark from my twenties about an older roommate of mine. My friend said, “I don’t want to be in my forties having to live in shared housing.” Consequently, this friend today has a nice house, two kids and a minivan. His comment reverberated through me because I felt that going back into shared housing meant that I had failed in being able to take care of myself as an adult & I was retreating into 20 something behavior. Which brings me back to Berkeley. Part of my decision not to initially return to the East Bay was that I didn’t want to retreat into my old life here which I fled for what I hoped would be a productive career in Entertainment. I’m now living in a room in a friend’s house which feels very similar to my old room in Oakland. I’ve been going to the library for wireless access. That said, I'm fighting the feeling of being a student. Perhaps that isn’t so bad. Perhaps being in the position of feeling like a student instead of an adult who is supposed to know it all will help me in my next phase of life – whatever that will be.

I’m still in transition. My current housing situation is temporary. The majority of my belongings are in storage in Sonoma and I have no idea really of where I’ll be in the next few months. I’m working on being ok with that. I’m also working through feelings of sadness of a failed vision in Sonoma and focusing on what could be the future here.

I am a person prone to melancholia. I view it as the creative’s purview. Yet I’ve always been able to bounce out of it from a sense of wondering and wanting to know what the future would be. In Sonoma, when things got very rough I just wanted out. I mean really out. More out then I’ve ever wanted before. I didn’t feel wonder. I didn’t feel hope. This lack of hope scared me most of all. I didn’t want to care anymore. Things haven’t exactly flipped over now that I’m down here but I can see the signs of change. There’s something on the horizon. And part of that is being open to the possibility of change and seeing the workings of what already has by just taking the steps. :)


mariblaser said...

Oh, I so relate to you Jem! It's not as if my teaching gigs were enough to sustain me, so every once in a while (that is, frequently) I get desperate and just want out.

I'm glad that you moved to a place you feel comfortable and attracted to, and I'm sure all will flow better and the muse will smile upon you once again. :)

Hey, don't be bothered about the rejection thing! Everyone gets those, so we must keep going.

Madabip said...

I really, really, REALLY liked this post. The most, I think, of anything I've read of yours to date. It's thoroughly frank and so honest. Wow. And your insight into your motives for moving from LA to Sonoma and now to East Bay ... I'm really happy for you.

I'll write more in an email.


Anne Tyler Lord said...


That is an amazingly honest and insightful post. You have been through so much. I can relate to the feelings and situations you describe.

I have often wished (always) to be one of those people who have the midas touch (if they are really out there) who can try any venture and it becomes successful - bringing financial security and creative freedom. What I got was a long series of sacrifices and difficult decisions - and many times of self-doubt and disappointment.

That being said. I have also spent a lot of time reframing my experiences and seeing them from different perspectives.

These experiences happened because of my searching, trying, experimenting, and most of all searching - not settling for the status quo (giving up). You seem to have a similar quest - of not giving up and not being afraid to change what isn't working and isn't quite right for you.

I believe that regardless of the outcome of our decisions (maybe we won't become rich and famous) that our searching and willingness to continue to take risks will be our reward, and the self-awareness and happiness (when we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else). It is most important to follow your heart.

I applaud your decisions and wish you well in this leg of your journey!

Jen Pearlman said...

Hello Ladies! Thank you so much for your feedback. I feel like sharing the rough spots of life are just as beneficial as sharing the good. Your comments affirmed that. Much appreciation for your friendship.