Recently I bought groceries on credit. It was a pivotal moment, and as I swiped that plastic I experience a flash forward montage detailing the beginning of the end. I’d always scoffed about people shopping on credit, never thinking for a second that I’d be doing the very same. But only recently I’d taken a huge and startlingly uncharacteristic gamble – I’d left my day job to go it alone as a writer. Self-employed, freelance, an entrepreneur, an idiot. All those fancy terminologies for people who work in their pyjamas.
I’d like to say I wasn’t naïve, but I confess to having a fantasy that fell quickly short of the mark. Rather than merrily typing away the days in my (non-existent) study, pausing only for sunning sessions in the garden and coffee drenched meetings with clients, I was instead lying awake nights fretting about my rent and now standing here, in the IGA, putting my muesli on credit.
It was during this future flash point that I came to accept that one drastic move might have cause to lead to another. I needed funds, but I wouldn’t return to the day job, no. I would turn to the next best thing – a shop job.
Ah retail. Some folk like the organised chaos of hospitality, others the lone wolf appeal of dish-pigging or shelf-stacking. Myself, I’ve always felt an affinity for the cling of the register and chorus of “no you don’t look fat in that”.
And so I returned to my roots, and I again have of one of those magical days when money appears in your bank account. But there is a creeping guilt that somehow I’m cheating. Luckily, while in theory anybody could walk into the shop and expose my secret shame, it’s not really the shop everyone would walk in to.
As a comfort I think about a dear friend of mine, who understands it’s all in the packaging. She’ll introduce friends as photographers, even if they make coffee six days a week, or as musicians, despite their public service contracts. She focuses on the dream, not the reality, practicing one of my all time favorite sayings “fake it ‘til you make it”. And that’s just what I intend to do – stuck in a shop while the rest of the world imagines me living my writerly life – coffee, cats, chin-stroking and chain smoking. Never you mind how I pay for my rent, or my groceries, for that matter.
The next time you stumble across a creatively inclined acquaintance in an unexpected context – be they delivering your pizza, pulling your beer or asking, “did you want fries with that” – don’t judge, don’t ask what they think they’re doing. Give them a smile, a nod, or even a tip – just any reassurance that you endorse this secret other life that keeps the dream alive.
First published in the March 2 edition of BMA Magazine. Read online HERE