Sunday, August 16, 2009

Julie & Julia & Butter Tea

"If I was going to follow Julia down this rabbit hole, I was going to enjoy it, by God - exhaustion, crustacean murder, and all. Because not everybody gets a rabbit hole. I was one lucky bastard, when you came down to it."
- Julie Powell, Julie & Julia

Recommended Tea: Tibetan Butter Tea

Recently a friend and I had a discussion about our careers.

"I'm so tired of working at a job that I don't care about! Well, I care about it, and it's a great job, but I'm so tired of not being able to do what I love," friend said.

"Well," said I, "maybe you would feel a little better about your job if you did some more stuff on the side that you really DID care about. Like, if I only worked at my job during the day and didn't do anything else, I would lose my mind. Which is why I act on the side. And blog. And volunteer. And act some more. And direct sometimes. And teach sometimes. And sometimes dress up as storybook characters and read to kids. And read. And garden. And write plays."

This is what my life has always been like. Student/bookseller/filer by day, devious actor/volunteer/playwright/director/gardener by night. This has been what has saved my soul and kept it in its little birdhouse. Since I was twelve I have always gone a billion miles a minute, have always done ten things at once. And I intend to keep it that way.

But there's something about working that post-college job that really, really depresses you. Sure, there may exist (in some alternate universe) a collection of people who were able to go right into the job that they always dreamed of. If those people exist, I have never met them. More power to them.

For the rest of us, there's that doomed phrase - "make a living." I touched on this a bit in my blog entry for Into the Wild. After college, after spending four idealistic years studying what you love so that you can do what you love for the rest of your life, you forget about all of the steps that it takes to get to the place where you CAN actually do what you love instead of doing it in your spare time.

This is especially true for the artists among us (and I proudly, maybe a little naively, throw myself into this category). There is no road map, no route to get to your dreams. But there is a light bill. And rent. And food. These are clear, touchable things that you can wrap your head around. Survival means eating and shelter. Eating and shelter mean money. Art and money, at least at first, do not...well... "mesh well."

So you apply at the restaurant or the clothing store or the (cough cough) bookstore. You think "I'll only be here for a little while - just until I can get started. Then it's DREAMTIME!"

Months or even years later, you're still there. And you're still not in dreamville. And the longer you stay OUT of dreamville, the harder it is to find your way back to your route. I am convinced that this is why the world doesn't have as many artists as it should - the artists get trapped in a cubicle and get so comfortable (or scared) that they never want to leave.

But for those of us with one foot in retail and one foot in the arts, there's an overwhelming need to create. To do something that matters. To do ANYTHING that isn't paperwork or folding or (cough cough cough) shelving.

This is what Julie & Julia is about - finding that thing that pulls your soul out of the deep, dark, "make a living" hole and puts it somewhere inspired. Whether that route is cooking your way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking or singing karaoke at Twin Kegs on a Saturday night, the creative have GOT to find ways to create, ways to stay connected to the muse, no matter what they may be.

And what better place to find inspiration than Mrs. Julia Child? Julia Child, in my humble opinion, should be right there on the "great, strong women" shelf next to Eleanor Roosevelt and Katharine Hepburn. She was able to find that thing that she loved more than anything, even though it took her 40 years to find it, and seek it with all of her heart while staying poised and positive. And when she found that thing, she threw herself into it heart and soul.

Julie Powell is similarly worthy of admiration. Not only because she threw herself into this extremely daunting project heart and soul, but because she was able to bring inspiration into her world, grab Julia's hand, and pull herself out of the cubicle ocean.

I also completely adore the idea of following in the path of a (my favorite phrase) "strong woman" in order to learn how to blaze your own. For Julie, that trailblazer was Julia. For me, there have been maybe a billion - Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Jo March, Elizabeth Bennet, Sarah Bernhardt, and, the one nearest and dearest to my heart nowadays, Virginia Woolf.

One of the things that I love most about being a woman is the feeling that these women (be they fictional or real) are my sisters, my friends, my family members. That they sit on my shoulders like little angels, whispering their words of wisdom, completely ready and willing to help me drag myself out of that ocean of comfortable mediocrity and into the universe of my dreams.

Jo tells me to cut off all of my hair.

Elizabeth encourages me to speak my mind.

Dolly whispers, "If you don't like the road you're walking pave another one."

Stevie screams, "ROCK ON, Gold Dust Woman!"

Katharine shouts, "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."

Virginia gingerly places her hand on my shoulder and says, "They say that one must beat one's wings against the storm in the belief that beyond this welter the sun shines; the sun falls sheer into pools that are fledged with willows."

And what have they all told me to do in unison? What did Julia tell Julie to do?


Jump into life! Jump into your dreams! Stop wasting your time, energy, and talent. Take a risk. Find a way to make your life about what is really important to you instead of about earning a pay check. Build a little birdhouse in your soul. Show the world that you are a force to be reckoned with instead of trying to play by the world's rules.

And that is exactly what I am going to do.

Hey! Look At This!

Julia Child shows you how to make an omelette

1 comment:

  1. I love this blog post, Amanda! It reminds me to take heart as I work my own retail job out of grad school (gasp!!) having degrees in the beautiful fields of English and Theatre. I remember you from David's class on clown day, being there in your oversized suit, doing your act with confidence. You'll always be a happy little memory for me, and I wish you the best as you (and I) tackle what is in store in this life. I too absolutely LOVED Julie and Julia, and ran out to purchase Julia's book "My Life in France," which is soooo lovely.

    Anyway, I love your blog, and will continue to read and take heart because of it!!

    ~Laura Turner


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