(Don’t) Do the Hustle

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

I’m waiting to see if I got the job I most recently interviewed for. I mean I’m doing other things, but I am also totally checking to see if there’s a (1) in my Gmail tab pretty regularly. Just as I wrote that, a (1) came up: it was a rejection of a short story I submitted to a contest last month. And herein lies my point: we artist/writer/gig worker-types are constantly checking, weighing, applying, submitting, and researching. And it’s exhausting. You know how they say that looking for a job is a full time job? Well, that’s our eternal job, looking for a job: before we have a job, while we have that job, and then after that job no longer exists. So that’s why this month I have taken an oath to not try to make anything HAPPEN. It’s No Hustle July up in here.

See, my birthday is in July. The 10th to be exact. And I love summer. When I was a kid I longed for summer. Kind of because of my birthday, but mostly for a reprieve from Michigan winter/springs which were pretty much just one long bleak season. Summertime and the livin’ is easy – – all that. Summer meant no school; tubing down the Huron River at Delhi Park; playing tennis for hours at the Pioneer High School courts and then going to A&W for a tall waxed carton of ice cold root beer. Summer was being so hot, and so sweaty that you just weren’t expected to be at top productive level.

When I moved to Arizona for college, summer was still discernibly different from the other seasons. Summer still meant no school (sometimes); tennis all day under a very hot, but very dry, sun; and then sitting outside drinking pitchers of Coors Light at Gentle Ben’s on University Boulevard. Next for me came New York City summers: not as many acting jobs to audition for, and lots of space to breathe. See, the wealthy city folks headed out to the Hamptons, Montauk, and the like. Manhattan emptied out like an hourglass and all us poor people got the place to ourselves. Summer meant hanging out near the fountain in Washington Square Park; tennis at the Riverside courts; and drinking Heinekens on the stoop at the end of the day. Next were New Jersey summers, which will always be about my kids. Homemade waterslides in the backyard; popsicle-red tongues; and renting our beloved beach house at the Jersey Shore. (It took me a long time to transition to my next season of summers once my kids were too old for wading pools).

And now here I am in Southern California, and I still and again love summer. My East Coast peeps might think summer doesn’t hold the same weight here, seeing as how it’s pretty much tennis weather all year ’round. But that is not the case. In the summer my teacher friends come visit; street fairs abound; and the Pacific Ocean is actually a tenable temperature for swimming. So why should I power through this spectacular season, grinding out applications for jobs that have a good chance of already being filled, spending money I am not making on short story submission fees? I know there are a lot of months already earmarked for ostensible self-care and expression: No-Shave November, Dry January… So why not No Hustle July?

Now, clearly this is a privileged stance in many ways. But it is probably a stance more folks could take than will choose to. After all, it is scary to take the foot off the gas if one has been acculturated by our capitalist society to remain productive at all times — and have something to show for it. I am hoping that the space I make this month by taking my foot off the gas — and my eyes off the job boards — will illuminate any opportunities I might be overlooking simply because I can’t see over my nose and the grindstone. This is exciting to me, the possibility of it all. And that is why not making anything HAPPEN is my birthday present to myself.

I’m still writing this month, because I enjoy it. And clearly I’m still interviewing if someone asks. I don’t want to be rude, after all (and I really do need a job). But I’m also watching the hummingbirds for even longer than usual, and monitoring the height of the one sunflower miraculously growing out of the sandy dirt that is my backyard. And yes, of course, I am playing tennis — all over Los Angeles. Because it is summer. And I need a break from this hustle, this lifestyle that I chose so very many years ago. Here’s to not hustling, and instead just taking it all in for a month. Happy birthday to me.

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