What a Difference a Decade Makes
It’s New Year’s Day, 2020. I’m sitting at my very messy kitchen table, sipping a glass of champagne. Kirby is playing video games. The dog is whining because no one is throwing her ball.
Tomorrow, I will earn money by writing, mostly about and for restaurants.
Life is good.
At the start of the decade, I was 24 and not very happy. Now, I am 34 and very happy.
In 2009, I was a Boston bartender with no idea what to do with my life and a deep-seated aversion to commitment. Now I’m an Austin writer who is still figuring things out but has made a life-long commitment to another human being.
How did this happen?
As is often the case, it happened when I wasn’t really looking. A little decision here, a catastrophe there. Meaningless choices and so-called setbacks are the things that come together to make A Life.
Here’s some of the good stuff that led me from there to here.
Moved to Texas
10 years ago, I was not particularly happy. I was four years out of college, still bartending in Boston. I didn’t know what to do next or how to shake myself out of my inertia.
So I decided a big move might do the trick.
Where could I go that was:
- Not overly conservative?
- Relatively affordable?
Austin seemed to fit the bill. I’d gone to high school nearby, and I was somewhat familiar with the area. So I hired the worst moving company of all time and headed south.
Everything good that happened to me over the rest of the decade was a direct result of that decision. Good job, 25-year-old me.
Escaped the service industry
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a server or bartender. But I hated it. I’d felt stuck in service for 7 years, and I wanted out.
When I first moved to Austin, I needed a job. And the only thing I felt qualified for was…bartending. So I got a bartending job.
And I was miserable again.
I don’t hide my emotions well, so my misery showed. Unsurprisingly, I got fired.
At the time, this was a major blow. I’d never been fired before (or since). I had just spent most of my savings on the move and a car, and I was living alone.
I was lonely and very very broke. And I was still unqualified for much outside of bartending. This is what we call a “low point.”
But I was lucky enough to get hired as a very part-time legal assistant. I think I made $11 an hour, 15 hours a week. It was really just meant to be temporary while I figured out a more permanent solution. I started catering weddings on the side to make a little more cash.
That part-time law firm job eventually became full-time, which eventually became salaried. I was still making peanuts, but they were consistent peanuts.
I didn’t enjoy that job much, but I learned a lot over the next three years about office administration, providing executive support, and the legal system. I also learned that I definitely didn’t want to be a lawyer — something I had originally intended to do. SO grateful I was paid to learn that lesson, instead of paying to learn it at law school.
January 1, 2011
Met the future Mr. Eat, Drink, and Write Copy
My first day at the law firm was December 22, 2010.
On January 1st, my new boss threw his annual New Years’ Day party. And although I’d only been working for him a few days, I was invited.
I arrived very tired and very hungover from the previous night’s frivolities. And as I walked towards the house, speckled with last night’s glitter and nervous about mingling with much older strangers, my new coworker arrived with his best friend and roommate, Kirby.
This tall drink of cute guy also didn’t know anyone, so we spent the day chatting about who-knows-what and at one point singing Bohemian Rhapsody. There were mimosas involved.
Five months later we started dating, and a year after that we moved in together — a first for both of us.
Bought a house
After a few years of renting, we started to think that owning our own place might be nice. That’s a thing adults do, right?
We spent a year saving all our pennies for a down payment on a small house.
We made an offer on an adorable house that we loved — and were rejected. There were tears.
But in hindsight, it was a good thing. That house was at the top of our budget. While I think we could have made it work, the extra expense would have made it much harder to take the career risks that we both embarked on in later years.
We found another house that was more affordable. It was in a good neighborhood, and it appeared to be in decent shape.
It was also turquoise.
Paint to the rescue.
Five years later, we still haven’t finished half the changes we plan to make. But we love our little house. It’s just the right size for two people who don’t mind seeing a lot of each other.
Saw the Grand Canyon (and got engaged)
I traveled very little over the past decade. This is something I plan to work on in the next decade. But one of the few places I did go was the Grand Canyon.
Kirby and I spent about 5 days hiking and taking in the majesty.
I also, if we’re being honest, expected a proposal. We’d been together for over 4 years by that point, and we’d already bought our house. I’d gone from commitment-phobic to “Let’s be together forever and make it a whole legal thing.”
By our last night, I was a little bummed. It seemed like a missed opportunity to get not engaged at such an epic spot. But he was just playing it cool.
Kirby proposed on the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunset. It was really windy, and my hair was all in my face. I cried like a baby.
Reader, I married him.
Started my freelance copywriting business
After that law firm job, I was lucky enough to get a job as an executive assistant to a very successful restaurant owner. We were a property development, marketing, retail, and operations team of two.
Talk about a learning experience.
But after nearly five years there and three at the law firm, I was ready to get out of the assisting game.
I’d always liked writing, and after a little poking around I found that there was a market for well-written content in the food and beverage industry. Well heck, I could do that!
I approached the ol’ husband about the possibility of going into business for myself, and ever the supportive partner, he said to go for it.
So I quit my job and set up shop for myself with no freelancing experience and no clients.
Tomorrow I’ll wake up, roll out of bed, and get to work in my home office, writing blogs, website content, and social media copy for restaurant and marketing clients all across the country. Can’t beat that.
Bonus good things:
Got 3 niblings
Okay, so I did zero to make this happen. But I went from zero nieces and nephews to two nieces and one nephew. They are a joy.
Started playing the violin again
I played violin from the ages of 9 to 18 but essentially stopped playing when I went to college. In early 2018, I decided to pick it back up. I spent a year taking lessons, and then I was lucky enough to find the Austin Philarmonic Orchestra, an all-volunteer group of hobbyists like myself. It has been such fun to play again!
Raised a puppy
I never had a dog as a kid. Dad was vehemently opposed. But Kirby’s mom bred Yorkshire Terriers, and she gifted one to us. She was SO TINY that I cried. She’s 6 now, and completely insane. But she’s as cute as ever and runs the house.
So what’s next?
Those are the highlights from the past decade! So what’s on the agenda for the next few years?
More travel. France is on the docket for the fall, and there are two other potential trips that could materialize.
Tons of hard work. I have lots of clients, but there’s still a lot to learn. Plus there’s this blog and my fiction to work on.
Lots of gratitude. This doesn’t come easily for me. I’m a bit of a glass-half-empty type person. But I’m trying to actively cultivate gratitude for all the gifts I’ve been given.
Happy 2020 and beyond!