Tuesday, April 30, 2019

On Being Between Contracts, and Worrying Instead of Enjoying.

Being between contracts might be the only part of skating professionally I wasn't prepared for. 

I got home from Miami two weeks ago. The day I got back, Chris and I went to our favorite brewery, and my parents met us there. That same week, I grabbed dinner with a very close friend. We had family from out of town visit for a a few days, and we spent a lot of time looking at old photos, making cake, and eating donuts. I spent an easy-going Easter at home with lots of little cousins, Chris, and one of my closest friends (and her baby!). Being home is utterly fantastic.

But the thing is, so is being away.

What feels especially significant this time around is the absence of a departure date. Chris and I were reflecting a few weeks ago that this is the first time in our entire relationship that we don't have an end-date. I got my contract offer for Sea World in early August, only 6 weeks after we met. We planned everything in a 'we have until November 1st' frame of mind. I came home from Sea World with another signed contract, and the knowledge that I'd be flying out again on March 7th.

Now though? I'm just home. Maybe for a little? Maybe for a while? No clue.

So what do I do with myself? How does one make a plan, with no timeline to fit the plan into? Do I relish the free time, and spend it with friends while I can? Do I lay low and save money? Do I find another job?

On Tuesday, I walked by one of my favorite coffee shops in Portsmouth, and noticed their 'hiring' sign in the window. On Wednesday, I emailed them and scheduled an interview. Thursday, I interviewed for all of 10 minutes and left with a job offer. I'm excited to start. I really like working, and I happen to really enjoy this spot. It's in Portsmouth, and I'm already fantasizing about becoming best friends with the owner, and walking across the street for drinks after work. I'm hoping it will be the perfect mix of flexible and fun. But is it a failure to fulfill the starving artist trope and become a barista? What if this is me settling? What if this is the beginning of me becoming a broke, going-nowhere creative, stuck making coffee for practical people that went the traditional route and now make enough money to regularly afford fancy coffee?

I know that that's crazy. I know that, for anyone pursuing an abnormal, creative life, this is incredibly normal. Skating is a small, seasonal industry. It takes time to get your footing. I've gotten two contracts; I will most likely get more. At the end of the day, it matters that I work hard, and it matters that I pursue what I love: it doesn't matter how many side jobs I have to pick up.

I keep coming back to one thought, though: what do I tell people? When someone inevitably asks the dreaded question 'what do you do?', what do I say? Do I answer with my ambitions, and say I coach and skate professionally? Do I keep it simple, and say I make coffee? Do I lengthily explain that I'm currently between contracts? Do I crack a joke and avoid the subject?

I realize that I'm the only one worrying about this. That that question is filler, an ice breaker. But if I can't even tell my Uber driver what I do, what do I tell myself?

Because really, that is the root of the problem. The only voice demanding to know what I'm doing, is my own. It's unsettling, to not be able to answer yourself. On any given day, I have no idea what I'm doing. So it's no wonder that as big and defining a question as what do you do makes me queasy.

Maybe, though, the problem isn't the question. Maybe, the problem is that I'm answering it the wrong way. Hopefully, as a well-balanced, functioning adult, I 'do' more than just the things that make me money. Contract or not, what I actually do doesn't change that much. Contract or not, I still work on my skating. I process life with my mom. I call my friends for long chats. I insist to myself that I'm going to start running. I cook with a lot of vegetables, and very few spices. I get excited to explore new places. I go for walks when I need to clear my head. I call Chris before I go to sleep. I apply to jobs constantly. I attempt to make it to church. I am never without my planner. I journal a lot.

Those things all paint a better picture of me, and what I do, than any job description ever could. I want to be a full-time pro-skater and coach, with consistent contracts, and plenty of students. That is what I'm working towards; that's my dream, my end goal. But when I look at the life I want, those goals don't even make up half of what I want to do. Figuring out how to be 'successful' at skating means the world to me, but if that's all I were to accomplish, I would be dissatisfied with my life.

What I really want to do with my life is more than skate, and frankly, more than work. I want to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. Someday, I want to be a loving wife, and a loving mom. I want to have a colorful kitchen, and have long, talkative meals. I want to travel, and live in different places. I want to push myself artistically, and tackle the things I've always thought I wasn't good at. I want to skate because it makes me happy. I want to keep writing. I want to go to school, and work with people that are struggling, and hike a lot more than I currently do. I want to help people be creative and capable. I want to have strong friendships in lots of different places, and I want to always be excited about the future.

Not knowing my next gig is tough. But it's not the worst. Life is really long, and I believe, holds enough flexibility for some things to not always go as planned. This season, I want to focus on embracing what's in front of me. Instead of fretting about where I'll be in a few months, I want to focus on enjoying being home; and, later, enjoying being away from home. I may feel like I have little control, but in reality, I hold all the power over what I do with my time. I want to be better at appreciating that.

What are you worrying about, instead of enjoying?

Thanks for reading! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

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