I encountered a moment of profound self-awareness and introspection earlier today when I glanced up and saw my reflection of myself consuming the contents of a tube of Pringles on the blacked-out screen of my laptop. One cannot experience a more evocative and startling instance of personal revelation.
My first reaction when I glimpsed into myself mindlessly gorging the fat free fried potatoes was, Shit, I can’t throw this up. I’m not bulimic anymore.
My next reaction was despair over my helpless lassitude as I contemplated just how long I have been tinkering about, snacking and woolgathering inside the caverns of my mind before my computer screen inevitably fell asleep and went black: Shit. I have done…nothing…at all today.
Maybe you’re wondering what a recovered bulimic is doing with a tube of Pringles to begin with, even if they’re the kind that are fried in that fake fat. It’s not actually my tube of Pringles. It’s my parents’ Pringles. I’m sitting in my parents’ house rummaging through their pantry. Because I moved in with my parents last month. Several years, two degrees and three cities later, weary, derelict, defeated, bedbug bitten, at the close of my youth, I have come back to the household from whence I came.
Everyone is thrilled about my return. Sitting in my parents’ living room, I am wearing the pink Tinkerbell pajamas from Walmart that my sister gave me for my last birthday—my 29th birthday—as I answer a phone call from my Grandmother, still sharp at 92.
“So you’ve been back with your folks for a few weeks now,” my grandmother begins ominously. “Anything new to report?”
“No, nothing new.”
“What have you been up to?”
“Nothing,” I say brusquely. I really don’t want to talk about it with her.
“Nothing? So, now you’ll need to start thinking about finding a place to live. Have you been making any plans for where you want to go after you stay with your parents?”
She either doesn’t pick up on my aloofness or simply ignores it, and presses on.
“What about work? How have things been going on the job front?”
Things have obviously not been going well if I’ve moved in with my parents.
“I haven’t been thinking about it,” I insist.
“No? What about that staffing agency you had been working for? The one that gave you those short-term assignments. Any work from them?” She just won’t give up.
“Well, that agency is based in the city where I used to live and they don’t have a branch out here . . .” My tone is one degree below insolence.
“Oh. Well, have you been to that website I told you about?” She repeats yet again. “The what-do-you-call-it, the American Association of University Women? They have a career center section with job listings for women who have college degrees. You would be more than qualified with all your degrees.” As if I am not already nauseatingly intimate with the strategies of online and niche job searching.
If I were qualified for anything in this market I would have gotten hired somewhere by now. That’s the point.
“Umm, yes,” I reply with restraint. “I’ve tried looking for work through various professional associations.” I’m grinding my teeth. I remind myself to give her a break. She is, after all, 92.
Later on Mom and Dad call from Europe where they are on vacation. I’m still wearing the same pink Tinkerbell pajamas, and I’ve just taken a bite out of one of the dark chocolate nonpareils I found in a tin sitting in the cupboard above the coffeemaker when I pick up the phone.
“We’ve been eating too much gnocchi in Italy,” Dad laments.
“Hmm.” I’m rolling a nonpareil bead around in my mouth and am now nosing absentmindedly through their bread bin with the phone to my ear.
But Dad is apparently unstirred by the spectacles of the Apennine peninsula and he bypasses any account of the Po Valley and Pompeii in favor checking in on matters at home. Precisely, me.
“Have you been looking into finding health insurance?”
“Umm . . . Nnn-no,” I stammer. I’ve now found a big bag of honey wheat pretzels and am crunching into the mouthpiece. The dog shows up in the kitchen looking for snacks too, and I give her some pork from a Chinese food takeout container I find the fridge.
“No? I thought you had promised me you were going to line up something better than the plan you now have. It wouldn’t be fair for Mom and I to have to bail you out of a $10,000 deductible that you can’t pay if something bad happens to you.”
“I know, I know” I squeak timidly. Now I’m making hot cocoa as I cradle the phone on my shoulder. It’s remarkable that I’ve only gained four pounds since moving into their house.
“I’m going to check to see that you’ve followed up when we get back,” he says sternly.
When I get off the phone I take my sleeping laptop into the sun room and sit under the skylight, bloated, but still hungry. I open up my electronic journal and skim the content. My gaze steadies upon a particularly compelling passage, the beginning of the entry from November 28, written at 10:30 am:
So, Today I will start an Elance profile and also draft a blog post. No, really, I’m doing that. No fucking around or bullshitting or dazing into oblivion. Really.
Actually, I didn’t do that on November 28. Reclining under the sun’s rays, it sinks into me that I still haven’t done that, more than a week later. The heat and the bright blaze under the skylight are making me helplessly drowsy and as I nod off, I ask despairingly, again, Shit, I’ve been underemployed for 2 years and I’m almost 30 and I just moved back in with my parents. What am I going to DO with my life?