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Naked Lunch

nakedlunchAbout a month ago I founded my own book club. It all happened so fast, but I’m (so far) really pleased with it. Aside from the fact that we all absolutely hated the first book. Woops?

It all began with This American Life’s William S. Burroughs podcast. I never cared for Burroughs or his writing, but the podcast had me enticed—because what’s not fascinating about some drug addicted pervert’s musings? My friend Nuala and I talked about the podcast together and both said we wanted to read a few of his pieces afterwards. From there I moved on to talking to other people about how we missed reading/discussing literature in general and are always craving new books recommendations. (Seriously, always. Send me all of your recommendations immediately!) So I decided that maybe we could read Burroughs’ most acclaimed work together, Naked Lunch. And thus my baby book club was born.

It’s worth mentioning that I tried to read Naked Lunch once before and that I fucking hated it. I read the entire thing because I can never begin a book without finishing it. It was torture for me, though. I had no idea what was going on, hated the content, and forced myself through it without retaining a single thing aside from my intense dislike of it. So obviously a great first choice for our club.

I figured maybe I was just too young or immature to understand the novel, and now that I’m older, it should be a lot more enjoyable/interesting. WRONG. WRONG. YOU WERE WRONG, NICOLE. AND IF YOU’RE READING THIS POST IN THE FUTURE AND CONSIDERING READING NAKED LUNCH AGAIN, YOU WILL MOST DEFINITELY HATE IT AND YOU SHOULD STOP. JUST STOP IT.

I got about 95 pages and for about the third time ever, I stopped reading a book. I can rest easy knowing that at one point in time I finished this book, but not this time. And never again. I had no idea what was going on and suddenly found myself in the thick of a 30 page description of suicidal orgies. I gave up. I have no idea who any of the characters are, where they ever were, what they were ever doing (aside from the painfully obvious), or what they wanted to be doing.

No one in the book club was able to finish it—in fact, I made it the farthest out of anyone. I’ve heard his other, shorter works are more enjoyable, such as Junkie or Queer. I’ll never find out because I’m done trying. Beatnik era writing is simply not for me (I also hated On the Road in the past and will not make the mistake of trying that one again).

The only other time I can really remember beginning a book—multiple times, actually—and not being able to finish it was with Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. And just guess what our second book club novel is…

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I Quit

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I’ve been talking about it for months, weeks, days and now I finally did it — I quit my job as an Administrative Coordinator and manager of Accounts Payable for a construction company. Cue applause, gasps of shock, and mutters about how I’ll be unemployed and am probably just a naive 20-something.

I quit without having a backup job. It’s not like I wasn’t trying to find one, but I couldn’t. It’s exhausting to work all day then try to search and apply for something new. By the time dinner is done, it’s close to 8 or 9 and at that point I just wanted to rest. And that’s on a day when I don’t have something planned after work. Maybe this should be a red flag that I should’ve stayed with safety and security, there were too many reasons that I needed to leave even without a job to go straight into.

There was this one manager at my job, the accounting manager whose assistant I was originally hired to be, who made my life hell for basically the entire time I worked there. This guy was in his mid-30s and definitely going through some sort of internal crises because he had it out for a friendly short girl ten years younger than him. About three months into my job, he thought I “stabbed in him in the back” because I told my boss I came to work late because I didn’t want to wait outside on the sidewalk to be let inside. My coworkers all consistently came late and no one trusted me enough to give me a key, so when they ran late I had to sit on the sidewalk at 8am. Or I had to sit with the mechanics next door who harassed and annoyed me. I realize it got him in trouble, but it didn’t even occur to me at the time to lie to my boss. What I did pissed this guy off so much that he held a grudge against me for the next year and a half.

After that point, he constantly berated me. One time he told me I looked like I was gaining weight, another time he told me I looked like I didn’t brush my hair. Often he yelled at me because I made simple mistakes for things I was never taught. He made me cry countless times. Still I stayed.

I stayed because I told my parents and family and they told me to be grateful I had a job. They told me that I was fortunate because not many people my age were able to move out and get a job right away. They were right; I don’t begrudge my parents anything. Their generation is used to working its ass off in any field just to make money while my generation wants to do what we love without an emphasis on status or material possession. Different times, different values.

And that was another thing that broke my heart — I wasn’t doing anything I cared about anymore. It’s not surprising that many liberal arts majors graduate and become administrative assistants because although we’re passionate about a specific subject, there’s not a lucrative work force for sociology, anthropology or English majors. It was so disheartening to see all the cover letters flow in after I gave my two weeks notice from other liberal arts students with well-crafted cover letters that spoke of a passion for administrative tasks. I felt differently though. I loved to write, I loved to edit. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12 years old and a copy editor since I first geeked out over grammar studying for the SAT.

The final straw came for me when my grandfather was unexpectedly killed in a car accident. I got the call at 10pm on a Monday night and went home without giving it another thought. I told my boss I would be out for the rest of the week due to a family emergency. Upon my return, I received a card signed by my coworkers and was told I had to use my vacation time for my week off. The vacation time I wasn’t allowed to have for an entire year prior to this and that I was saving for various weekend trips throughout the year. In the end, everything worked out in my best interest, but I was angry and felt disrespected. So I planned when to use the rest of my vacation days and told myself I’d be out by no later than September.

I’ve since met incredible people who inspire me everyday to do what I’m passionate about, regardless of how much effort, commitment, and hard work it will undoubtedly be. I feel so clearheaded and optimistic about my decision. I’m going to find work that I love with people that I love to be around. The only coworker I liked at my old job told me that she didn’t invite a single one of our other coworkers to her wedding and to me that is outrageous — I don’t want to be in denial that the people I spend most of my time with aren’t a huge part of my life.

I’m ready and feeling good about what my future holds for me and I only see myself going up. I have a great support system behind me and I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next. Goodbye construction industry. I thought you’d have more funny, ridiculous stories for me to share, but instead you taught me how to value myself again.

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