Tick My Box

It’s nearly 1am, on a Saturday. (Sunday, I guess technically). The moment I walked through the door today, I ate about three brownies, and fell into an accidental four hour nap. Tomorrow is my only day off, so naturally, i’ll be up for the next five hours bouncing back and forth between my book and podcasts. Tis the season!

It’s funny- these last couple weeks have been extremely challenging for me. I’ve started up at a new job that i’m very up in the air about. I love the people and the industry, but I keep having the sense that it’s not my place. Not that it’s not an amazing company to work for! It’s not you..it’s me.  I left my last job because I had this same wrenching feeling, and hoped to get fulfillment upon entering a new role. I get that a lot though, and it can be extremely aggravating feeling like I don’t have a place yet. Sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyone else seemingly having their “shit together” for lack of a better term, and here I am, floating around, hoping that someday something is just going to click. One can’t help but think, maybe its me? Maybe there is something wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy?

I just quickly want to add here- I’m not one of those people that solely believes in fate, destiny, paths, yada yada yada, BUT, i’m more of a shy believer. Kind of reminds me of the time I bought my first Cosmopolitan magazine at a Walden’s bookstore. They were held behind the counter at the time and you had to ask the person at the til to grab one for you. I was maybe 13, and after mustering up the courage to ask, and letting out a squeak whisper, only to get said person on the loudspeaker asking for more Cosmo’s from the back. I probably wrote about it later in my Harry Potter diary. I had the one where it looked like The Monster Book of Monsters and would actually let out a horribly overly-electronic sounding growl of a monster when you opened it. Also had a key to get into it. Classic. This actually has nothing to do with fate or destiny. I just needed to talk about it.

I think some folks like to play the fate card when they have no idea what the fuck to do or are unsure on how to handle a situation that life throws, but it’s okay! It’s our destiny! It’s our fate.. it will all work out in the end. If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen. I get it. Everyone has to believe in something, right? Somethin’s gotta help pull us through. However, that can be a tricky path to go down. For me personally, relying on fate, destiny, paths, etc, this can cause us to be bleak and desolate. We just exist and stop working at bettering ourselves because we are under the impression that it’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to- lazy, might be a better word. That being said, I can’t help but get a little caught up in some of this mumbo jumbo.  This whole, everything happens for a reason thing.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend whom I haven’t spoken to in a long time tonight that really enlightened me.  We chatted about a topic that was so out of the blue, so random, yet has also been so loudly present and reoccurring for me these last two weeks. A topic that i’ve been silently tossing around in my head and trying to navigate by myself. The topic was simply, following your dreams. I know how disney princess, la-la land that sounds, but it’s fuckin’ true and not taken as seriously as it should. We chatted about how life has this gross way of trying to rip our dreams and real ambitions out of our tightly grasped hands and filling our open, empty palms with distractions that don’t actually matter but are disguised as things that should matter. These ‘things’ are the gremlins that take up all of our time and energy, leaving us with exhaustion and not enough time to devote ourselves to our passions. We’re left confused, ushered on, and following the rest of the heard. Like cows being corralled up for feeding time. Mmm..slop for dinner! By the way, that friend of mine has left his corporatey bullshitty job and has gone freelance now. His lasting words to me tonight were: It’s always fear that keeps you in the same position. But once you break out, life is 1000x better because the universe actually wants you to succeed. Ha! Killer.

But what happens when you have so many dreams and so many different things that interest you? How can you possibly narrow it down to one thing for the rest of your life to fulfill your emotional, spiritual, and physical needs? How could anyone confidently answer that question?!

Here I was, in my post-brownie coma, 1:15am, reading an email from the director at Creative Hub sent two days ago, informing me that I had missed the deadline to enroll for my creative writing course that was starting up next week. I felt a huge rush of devastation fall over me. I had been so occupied and caught up in work, doing 6 day work weeks, life admin, etc, that I had completely missed the deadline for the enrollment fee for the one thing that I wanted to do. The one thing that was for me. For itching my creative scratch. Tuning in and logging off. Luckily, he has enrolled me for the next semester, which I WILL be at, and will be 100% ready for. Anyway, after reading that email, I received a random follow from an author on instagram. Her name is Marianne Cantwell and I stared at her name for a good minute because it seemed very familiar. I quickly stalked her profile, as ya do, and discovered, oh! She’s the author of “Be A Free Range Human” that’s been on my “To Read” list for quite some time. I also saw that she had done a TED Talk called “Hidden Power Of Not (Always) Fitting In.”

‘Hmm’.. I thought. First my thoughts in my head of not fitting in, then my random chat with a friend, now an even more random trail that has brought me to this TED talk that was SO relatable. I highly encourage you to check it out, btw.

Marianne talks about “Liminality.” This word is actually a little bit hard to find a definition on the web, or even in dictionaries. Liminal Space is like this massive in-between state. The word “liminal” is actually derived from the latin word limen, which means “a threshold.” During a liminal stage, people hover at a threshold between their previous ways, but not yet onto future ways. This can be anything from, forming your identity, a relationship, a new job, etc. At least that’s my understanding of the word. The way Marianne talks about Liminality, is in a positive one. She expresses that it’s totally OK to be a liminal. If you’re different than all the rest, bravo! This is good! Don’t suppress your differences or the things that make you unique. Don’t shush those attributes. Shed light on them. Pull them up and assemble them. People don’t have to feel like they need to have one main purpose in life or know exactly what they should be doing. Not all of us are like that. What about the others? Those are the badass creative people that inspire us! Those are the people moving mountains and setting themselves apart. The people that seem to have their hands in different baskets, grasping for straws, trying to figure out where they fit in. The only reason, I think, that this causes disorientation, is because we are living in a society that makes us believe that we should all be on a path and stick to that path. Find one thing and stay with it. A little chaos and uncertainty is a good thing. A mess can create beautiful new opportunities that never would have arisen had it been white picket fences and begonias. I fucking HATE begonias.

Well, I haven’t found that “one thing” and I don’t think I ever will, thank you very much. I have such a wide range of interests and things that fascinate me..it would be impossible to try and narrow that down! I love writing, singing, acting, making coffee, traveling, performing, eating, growing plants, being a homebody and alone, but also out and amongst it all, extroverted but also highly introverted, happy but depressed, stable but very emotional.. I have it all. And i’m done trying to narrow that down to one thing.

I think i’m doing the right thing by exploring my creative flares and even if it doesn’t fit into my schedule whatsoever, i’m making it fit, because this is what I want to do. I don’t know where it will lead or what will come of it, but I have to do something! I can’t just waste this and let it rot at the bottom of the fridge. I don’t want any of the other stuff that takes up my day. How is that fair? How does life get to dictate what takes up our time? I’m doing my best to demand the time for myself and I feel everyone should. Fight back on what life tries to claim as “normality” and get back whats yours. This is your life. Not anyone else’s. Not everyone has one box to tick. Or one genre to stick to. Tick all of the boxes! As mom always says and as Anne Rice has famously said, “Don’t be a pawn in somebody’s game. Find the attitude which gives you the maximum strength and the maximum dignity, no matter what else is going on.”

Don’t follow the herd. Don’t follow the line to the same barrier of a  water trough. Don’t let barriers turn into barricades. Venture off and find your own fresh water stream that leads to much better things.

Photo credit: The amazing, Sally Nixon @sallustration

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I used to work on a Cruise Ship and it sucked balls.

Before I came to New Zealand, I was in that cliche phase that every young woman seems to go through. “I’m packing my bags and leaving this hellhole! I’m getting an Om sign tattoo and then I’m moving to Hawaii!” By bags I mean one bag because that’s all I was allowed, and by moving to Hawaii, I mean moving into a room the size of a closet shared with three others, that’s somehow below water level on a rocking cruise ship. Oh, and you bet your ass I got an Om tattoo. On my wrist of all places. I got an unlimited three month membership one summer at a yoga studio and naturally, decided I was some sort of yogi. First week into classes and I paid $80 for a scribble of a tattoo on the underside of my wrist,  that would quite commonly get mistaken for a bar stamp. “Ooooo…big night out last night, aye?” No. (I’ve recently ditched the yoga pants and covered that up with another tattoo). Classy, right?

ANYWAY. So I got this job as a “restaurant stewardess” working for, I don’t want to name any names.. Norwegian Cruiselines. The way the job was described seemed like a dream. “Are you someone that enjoys traveling and wants to get paid to work and sail around the Hawaiian Islands?” Um, yes?! The interview process for getting a job through this cruise line was insane. I think I went to about three different interviews, and they continued to get more and more intense. I had to get drug tests, medical exams, and a bloody maritime license! I saw this as my one-way ticket to finally have that Instagram perfect lifestyle. Javier would be taking photos of me constantly at some remote beach with a big floppy hat, and a boozy slushy hidden in a coconut. I was fucking ecstatic when I got the call congratulating me as I was hired. I was also half drunk as I was in Las Vegas lounging at the Treasure Island pool for my 21st, so I really lived it up after that phone call. I truly was a salty sea-dog now.

A few fun facts before we really dive in: There are four types of employees working on cruise ships- Officers, Staff Members, Entertainers, and Crew Members. Officers are very specialized positions and are the high-ranked guys. They range anywhere from First Officer, to Medical Officer, to Hotel Manager. To sum it up, they’re the head honchos and get paid the big bucks. They also get free reign to go wherever they please on the ship. Fee-fi-fo-fum. Not to mention they also get their own private cabin (which is very appealing to other employees if you know what I mean, but strictly forbidden). Next up we have Staff Members. SM’s are the people that work in the gift shops, massage parlors, salons, etc. They seem to have a pretty cruisey life and generally are paid through an outside contractor, which means they typically are paid relatively well. These people also get free reign of the ship and normal-ish hours. Now we have the entertainers. These people are the performers who put on all of those beautiful nightly shows for guests. They range from doing performances every night, to performing only a couple times a week. Some of the most beautiful human beings I have ever seen in my life came from the Entertainment department aboard Norwegian. Again, another pretty breezy position. THEN..we have the Crew Members. Crew Members are all of the cooks, cleaners, waiters, bartenders, servers, bussers, etc..the foundation of the ship. (Literally, crew sleep on the bottom floor, therefore, we are the foundation. Bow down). We, as crew members, have the worst of it all by far. We work the longest shifts, anywhere from 9-12 hours, only get access to the bottom three floors of the ship, UNLESS you’re working in guest areas, and we don’t get any days off. Literally. It is borderline slavery. It’s awful. Think of the crew member staff as the bottom of the barrel; the bottom of the barrel that is 1/4 full of lukewarm water and fish guts. The crew members, really are at the bottom of the barrel- barrel, meaning ship in this instance. Our corridors were literally the last three floors of the ship. We weren’t allowed to go above and mingle with guests, or even see sunlight, unless we were working in restaurant and silently mouthing, “help..me” to a family of 5 from Australia. (That is a slight exaggeration). In Crew Mess, (i’ll define this in a moment) we did have small air-hole looking windows that we could gaze out through longingly while scoffing down a PB&J for the 17th day in a row.  I shrugged it off thinking I would just be waiting tables, mingling with guests, telling a joke here and there, and earning some tips to go towards my jeep rides through Jurassic Park. Hehe, silly me.

So in my role, I was assigned to “Crew Mess.” Beautiful name, I know. Crew Mess is basically how it sounds. It’s the cafeteria/lounge area for all crew members and is conveniently located on the third floor of the cruise ship. It’s where crew go to die at the end of their shift, or go to talk shit while stuffing peanut butter and jelly sandwich #3 in their face. It’s weird. Keep in mind, all other employees don’t have to come to Crew Mess. They get the luxury of eating in the dining rooms up top, or some of the restaurants. Life isn’t fair.

My job, was to be the person behind the extraaaaaavagant buffet, (hint of sarcasm) wearing one of those paper boat hats, gloves, and a grease-stained red polo, serving up slop for my fellow co-workers. Here I was, 21 years old, doing a job lower than what I was doing at age 15 working as a busser for a small-town diner. JOY. My manager, was a very large woman who had a very large attitude. Her favorite pastime was telling me off, watching my every move, or standing over me like a gargoyle telling me to stop laughing. She was an actual demon and hated smiling, happiness, and probably puppies too. My friends would come through the line, sliding their trays along the steel long table, receiving their slop by yours truly, and we would quietly whisper to one another, telling jokes, trying not to laugh. Confessing our love to one another.. “Come to my cabin later for hot cheetos and a Harry Potter marathon.”  I swear to god, Large Marge (I actually forget her name) would always be watching, and sure enough, I would hear a, “Cassandra! Stop your chatting and get back to work..I tell you what.” Lovely.

Even though as a Crew Member, I did work seven days a week and had VERY limited time off, I still got spare hours here and there where I would be able to hop off the ship and go explore whatever island we were on. Sometimes this would include renting a car, hitting up a beach, shopping, hiking, but lets be real..these short breaks mainly consisted of finding the nearest bar in the sun, getting the drunkest possible, and then trying to sober up for our next shift: dinner service.

Aside from the hardcore labour, working on a cruise ship is pretty disgusting. Everyone is hooking up with everyone, and no, this is not an exaggeration. One minute you’ll be in your cabin watching Family Guy on Netflix, reaching for that bag of skittles, next minute you’ll hear the top bunk springs above you about to give way, followed by a disgustingly much too close for comfort sound of fluid swapping. Ahh, a true Hawaiian vacation..

Being sick was out of the question as a crew member. You had to be projectile vomiting in order to get the day off of work. And if that were the case, you were quarantined. Literally locked in your room until given the green light. Healthy!

I could go on for hours and hours about what really goes on as an employee aboard a cruise ship, but my fingers are tired and frankly, i’m hungry. Many people ask what made me finally quit or “jump ship” as we like to call it. My mom was on holiday over in Honolulu while I was working on the ship. I had asked three managers AND an officer if I could please just have one day off to go and hang out with my mom. They told me no, that it wasn’t possible. I had been working on this ship for over 4 months now without a single day off, and now my mom was on the very island I was on, but wasn’t allowed to go see her? FUCK this. Byyyyeeee. I literally quit that day. I packed my bags, left the ship, got threatened that I would never be able to try for employment again if I chose to do so, and spent a lovely week on Oahu with my beautiful mother and grandmother. I didn’t have an ounce of regret then, and still don’t know.

In conclusion, whew, I think that my time as a cruise ship employee was an amazing experience. Yes it was hard work, and borderline illegal at times, but I learned a lot about myself, and met some amazing people that are still very close to me to this day. I think my timing to try this experiment was perfect. I was freshly 21, hangovers didn’t exist to me yet, I could survive off of 2 hours of sleep for up to a week, and my body was bangin. Now? I need at least eight hours of sleep a night or I will die, and I suffer a hangover if I even encounter a scent of vodka. So for any of you out there that are thinking, “hmm..I want to join the cruise circus..” Give it a go! Live Laugh Love Lol.