I always wanted to be a writer. For as long as I can remember I've kept a journal where I jotted down ideas, notes, impressions, poems and stories. But there is a long and treacherous road between the dream of what I've always wanted to be versus the reality of getting there and being there. I mean, I'm writing now, here in this space and in other online spaces, and I'm writing about things I love: politics and culture and how they work together personally and more broadly. But it hardly pays all the bills and feeds the bottomless stomachs of two growing ChileRicans. When I was planning the big move to L.A., I envisioned myself doing more writing. I imagined fleshing my book outline into an actual book. But the newly blended family and the house we live in takes a lot more time and money than I anticipated.
Hustlin' -- aka doing whatever it takes to survive -- is nothing new to me. Ever since dropping out of college when I became pregnant with the first ChileRican I've worked a number of jobs including selling clothing and furniture, temping at a too-big-to-fail investment bank, registering voters, tutoring and stripping. All the while I was involved in my passion, blogging and writing. I never have had a room of my own and I am always, in the words of my pareja, "doing four things at a time."
When I first took my non-writing "day job" here in L.A. it was a means to an end. I really wanted my daughters to go back to New York City for the Christmas holiday, but writing wasn't paying enough to afford the steep airfare costs. But being a college dropout really limits your job options, no matter how smart I am without a diploma. I was essentially limited to applying for secretary and service jobs. Since it was close to Christmas, retail won and I landed a part-time position in the men's department of a large retail chain earning just above the minimum wage, plus commission.
I'm not unique in working a day job while pursuing writing: Kurt Vonnegut sold cars; Margaret Atwood first worked as a counter girl in a coffee shop. And in L.A. especially it seems like everyone came here from somewhere else to pursue a dream. One day when coming home on the Metro Red Line (here the few subway lines are named by colors, as opposed to NYC's letters and numbers) a man asked me what I did. I told him I sold men's clothes and wrote. He worked selling computers while honing his skills as a stand-up comic.