Aspen Princess: Time to put on my big-girl pants | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Princess: Time to put on my big-girl pants

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

So yesterday I lost one of my biggest accounts.

"We've decided to go with a local firm," is all they said.

I knew the reason was most likely budgetary. Like always, it's hard to put a value on good writing, especially when the return on investment is convoluted at best.

I'm pretty sure the real reason I lost the account is because I've been bragging to anyone who will listen about how I don't have to work very hard because I have these two great accounts that pay me well enough that I can sort of coast for now.

"My life is pretty stress-free," I'll boast. "I'm just enjoying spending time with my baby right now."

When I think about it, telling people about how I've given myself permission to assuage any real responsibilities so I can be a Mother (with a capital "M") sounds so pretentious, like I sit around by a pool all day in a one-piece bathing suit with a rigid corset and my hair done in curlers, smoking a cigarette with one of those holders.

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Or, wait.

I'm wearing an apron and taking hot homemade cookies from out of the oven? Drinking from a bottle of vodka I keep hidden in the laundry room in the middle of the day while my kid screams, red faced?

It's more like something in between, but at the end of the day, I know I've sort of sold out, trading in my dreams of being a novelist for taking whatever paid work I can get, the more mindless the better. I spend most of my time these days writing newsletters and blog posts (though I still like to call them "articles" or "stories") for real estate companies and other businesses who want to keep up with providing updated "content" for their "online marketing platforms." I put these terms in quotes because they are the buzzwords for my current professional landscape, words I find myself saying out loud even though I feel like they're made-up words that don't mean anything, at least not really, at least not to me.

The worst possible question you could ask me right now is, "How's your book coming along?" or "What about the book?"

I have officially become a cliche: the aspiring novelist with a manuscript stuck in the back of a drawer, gathering dust and becoming more and more dated and less and less relevant, even to the author. I am haunted by ideas that I never act on but talk about until I have practically made a mockery of myself. I believe this because I think some of these ideas are actually good ones and maybe even have some potential to allow me to earn a steady income doing something I love.

But it's hard not to focus on work that pays within 30 days, what, so I can buy my kid another pair of Uggs on Zappos? (Have you ever seen a pair of toddler size 4 high-top suede sneakers with shearling lining and white stitching? It's pretty much to-die-for cuteness.) And these gigs afford me a lot more time than a more creative endeavor would.

"What would your future look like if you did not achieve your goals?" my friend Lisa asked me once. She's a life coach and has all these super-useful ways of looking at things to help motivate you.

"Not really any different," I told her. "Which is kind of the problem."

I think happiness makes you complacent in a lot of ways. Like, is anyone ever skinny and happy? Do you ever write in your journal or make art when you are happy? This is part of the curse of the liberals, our entitlement. What does anything really mean when you don't have to fight for it? When at the end of the day, no matter what you believe, you're still driving a foreign car and sleeping in 700-thread-count organic cotton sheets? I know you care; I do. But that's not really the point.

Another friend of mine who is an artist on the West Coast has been coming unglued over the struggles with her marriage, which are never-ending and have been going on for at least a decade. Not only does she take on the burden of running the family business, she takes on the burden of the world, worrying deeply about the bigger atrocities over which she really has no control. At the same time, she is finally creating her own work in a way that feels authentic to her.

"Do you think I'm having a breakdown?" she asked me in a text.

As much as I hate and despise having these conversations while thumb typing I replied, "I think sometimes a breakdown and a breakthrough are the same thing."

Calm down, I'm not trying to glamorize depression or the artist's angst. I get it that there are plenty of successful writers and artists out there who work hard at their craft, not waiting for inspiration but creating it. Like Ann Patchett once said in a reading at the Wheeler, "Inspiration is for writing poetry in high school. Writing is work. It's a job. It's something you have to show up for every day."

I'm thinking about that right this minute as I'm contemplating my next move and face the reality of having lost a substantial chunk of my monthly income. Accounts like these come and go in my business all the time. I've lost one and found another many times before; I can do it again.

But I'm also thinking maybe this is my chance to answer the calling I've been ignoring for so long. I might have to sacrifice a few pairs of designer baby shoes (oh, god, there I go sounding pretentious again) and risk not seeing a payday for a very long time, but therein lies the work.

The Princess is so happy it snowed. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.

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