Note to Self: You for Real?

17 Mar

The hardest part about starting a new life–new work, new friends, new everything–is wondering, every day:  What the hell  am I doing?

Then I say to myself, It’s only been a year. Give it time. Now shut up, put on your sunglasses. This is L.A. and you’re indoors.


OOOOOKAAAY!  I am a resident of Beverly Hills! A juice lady! A health blogger! A public storyteller! This may sound pretty cool, but let me give you the real story. With a story.

SO, I’m at a meeting with my new boss at her gorgeous enormous house: Cathedral ceilings. Beautiful art everywhere, swimming pool in back. The company’s PR team is there.  Everyone is wearing sunglasses. I’m older. Than everyone. Including my boss. No one, including me, knows what I’m doing there.

There’s some animosity in the air; I have no idea what it’s about, and assume it’s got something to do with me. The egoism and paranoia of starting over: I don’t know what I’m doing and everyone is onto my fraudulence. Having had a quick tutoring session with friend Natasha, I try  saying things like “competitive branding” and “price points,” but they come out sounding like “comparing bandaids” and “spice pants.”

When the discussion turns to the subject of blogs for the juice store, everyone is bandying about phrases like “lifestyle rejuvenation,” and “detoxification days.” The words “fresh,” “inspiration,” and “soothing” are repeated over and over.

A year and a half ago, I was saying and writing things like “the author’s codification of consumerism belies his post-modern hermeneutics,” and writing in the margins of essays, “What do you mean by ‘lifestyle’? This is a  lazy, useless word.” (You know you need to leave teaching when your grading comments verge on personal attack.)

The climax of the hour-long meeting in my boss’s shimmering and organic kitchen occurs after I’ve slugged down some kale and lemon juice, and my stomach is making the sounds of an organ going through lifestyle rejuvenation.

“Radiance,” my boss says, “Jenna is about Radiance. Living Radiantly.” Jenna is the other blogger. She’s fifteen years younger than I and she is–if you didn’t guess–radiant. She covers specific tops in her blog. I cover others, like wrinkle treatment,  and “food for menopause.”

“And Kirsten. . .” my boss begins as my intestines spasm. “Kirsten is about. . .”

“AGING!” I burst out in an unpleasant guffaw. I don’t know if I am bragging or complaining, but my tone bristles with the venom of a Kipling scholar surrounded by Post-Colonialists.

There are a few polite laughs, and I look at the youngest members of the PR team thinking, A few years ago I’d have been standing at the head of the classroom discussing ambiguity in the conclusion to The Sun Also Rises. And you’d be slouching in your chairs, taking notes.

Who. Am. I? Is my story about embracing a new life with hard-earned humor and a bit of grace, or is this the narrative of a woman shaking in her (Armani knock-off) boots, a frightened and resentful outsider?

Yesterday I was handing out samples of juice at Kyle’s on Brighton Ave. That’s the clothing store owned by Kyle Real Beverly Hills Housewife. I realized that I really really wanted my picture taken with her. Who Am. I?

IMG_1977Aren’t you impressed, Dear Reader? Don’t worry,  I don’t  actually take too much of this stuff about fashion and youth culture seriously. My mother raised me right; I’m pretty sure Audrey is laughing in her grave, sympathetic to  the ambiguity of this stage of my life.

In the conclusion of The Sun Also Rises, Jake responds to Bret’s delusions of romantic grandeur with a curt, “Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?” This is Jake’s way of saying “Don’t be a horse’s ass.”  While I might long for the seeming glamour and radiance of Beverly Hills, I know who I am.

I am someone in transition. And I like role play.

IMG_1259(This is not as interesting as you might think: just a 30-second photo moment with a stranger on Halloween.)  Maybe what I  am is this: someone who likes to role play someone who likes to role play.

I don’t know exactly what the hell I’m doing, but I do know I gotta do it. Like aging, certain things are inevitable. And, as with radiance–there is more than one way to glow.

Please share with me, Dear Reader, a time when you took a while to figure out what you were doing–a life stage that was bewildering/frightening/rewarding?


23 Responses to “Note to Self: You for Real?”

  1. Joanna F March 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    I moved here a year and a half ago now and was a film and theatre professor at a small college for 20 plus years. Every day I ask what am I doing here and only now just beginning to have a clue and only a clue. But you can not remain stagnant no matter how comfortable and change, positive change, takes time to process.


  2. verakelle March 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Dear Kirsten,

    I identify with and am inspired by your story. It is as invaluable as I found your Multicultural Literature course. It’s been nearly ten years since I took your course, and time and again I’ll recall discussions you held on topics such as inertia and alien selves. Your new blog is such a treat.

    I graduated from Ithaca with a dream of starting my own independent publishing house and being a writer. After a couple summer courses I felt unfit to be a writer, and after two years in publishing, I shifted my focus to art. I went on to earn my MBA and during that time I painted more than ever. I could go on, but the rest is a personal journey of twists and turns in heart and circumstance, some that I never thought possible.

    With all my degrees and great experiences provided, and at 30 years old, I’m. A. Babysitter, while pursuing my art in Brooklyn. And by pursuing, I only mean progressing my art to fulfill its potential in my studio. It will be quite some time until I feel ready to present a significant body of work to a gallery. Making my art significantly profitable is only percolating as well. I love the families I help out though, and I love painting more than anything. I’m also feeling closer to that long term potent life that being true to myself in the past had often provided, despite the recent incredibly bizarre nature of it all.

    I believe that meaning in life is found in one’s ability to tell his or her own story, and you do it so well.




    • kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 12:14 am #

      Vera, This is deeply moving to me.Thank you. (I guess I’ve been preoccupied with inertia and alien selves for quite some time!) I really admire the place you are in life, and your being so present for it. Kudos. And Godspeed!


  3. Julia March 17, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    Right now. And I’ve considered, at several different moments in my life, and the meaning has always changed slightly but has never ceased to remain pertinent, considered getting “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” tattooed on me.


    • Julia March 17, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

      p.s. the professor in you would tear that sentence apart. I’m hoping the juice girl doesn’t 🙂 but at least I’m not being graded anymore.


      • kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 12:01 am #

        Well, Dear Julia. Context is all. Hope to sound like the voice of the woman next door rather than the professor in front of the classroom. Let me know when you get that tat, and THANK YOU for reading!


  4. Kelly Lenox March 18, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    Hi Kirsten, I just want to say beware of thinking you’re ever going to have it figured out or that it’s ever going to make sense! Your post reminded me of a poem I wrote 6 months after uprooting and landing here in NC, thinking “What was I thinking?” I walked a labyrinth on New Year’s Day, which I like to do, and that inspired a poem. That labyrinth was like life–approaching a goal then suddenly heading in another direction entirely. Then, whoa! Here it comes again! Then no. etc. etc. Here are the last lines: “Center is that place / you arrive / so as to move away / and know / you will return.” Sorry, dear, but it just don’t last. Not the endpoint anyway–it’s all about the going.


    • kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 4:57 am #

      Not thinking end point!Gave that up long ago. I love the lines of your poem. Thank you for reading and commenting, Kelly!


  5. March 18, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    Is this what we used to call identity crisis, Kirsten? How outrageously wonderful to be put in that place at this point in your life. It must make you feel wickedly young once you get over always being the ancient one in the group. Hey, I would have responded directly on the site but it didn’t like my password. Cheers! Robin Botie

    Sent from my iPad



    • kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 4:47 am #

      “Wickedly Young”–that should be the title of a juice! I’m stealing the phrase, Robin. Identity crisis, YES! Thanks for responding. Cheers!


  6. Abby March 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    “my tone bristles with the venom of a Kipling scholar surrounded by Post-Colonialists…”

    LOVE IT!


    • kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed that line, Abby! (I was kinda pleased with it myself.)


  7. Mary Holland March 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    When am I NOT figuring out what the hell I’m doing?? Anyway, I met you, 10-hour conversation and all, in the middle of my most how-did-I-get-here phase, so you know all about it. And helped me through it. No need to tell you about that.

    I think it’s really interesting that you and I, though we both teach that novel (I just taught it again a couple weeks ago), misremember the last line in exactly the same way. Something about the conditional tense makes Jake’s reply to Brett even sadder. Another odd, precise overlap between our brains!


    • kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

      Interesting that we both misremember it that way! The conditional may be sadder, but much more Jake-ish to say “Isn’t it. . . going to spend all day thinking about this, I’m afraid. Thank you for reading and commenting!!


  8. maw14747 March 18, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    You go, girl. You glow, girl. See you and those shades and that hat soon!



  9. kwasson2012 March 18, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    THANk YOU!


  10. elainemansfield March 19, 2014 at 2:11 am #

    You met me in the middle of such a transition, Kirsten. Trying to find my footing at the end of a 42 year intense ongoing daily relationship. We were always a little like one thing: vicandelaine. I loved it and strained under it. With him dead, something got chopped off and I had to fill the space with new life. Seems to me you’re doing something like that. I love this post. Going off to share it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kwasson2012 March 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Thank you so much for reading, and for sharing, Elaine! “Loved it and strained under it.” Wonderful line!


  12. Mary March 26, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    Maybe because I want things to make sense and because I want things to be fair and I want there to be answers, my first instinct tends to always be to assign external causality to…a lot. As though things are *supposed* to play out in a certain way, and *will* play out that way, regardless of what I do.
    It’s comforting. Sort of.
    But the opposite is appearing to be true, and I keep getting surprised (over and over and over again) by how arbitrary things are, and by how much we do, actually, seem to have control over. You know?

    I think we’re often so tempted to listen to the stories that people tell about us, for similar reasons (because doing makes things a little less complicated, no?) and, maybe more than that, we’re tempted to fall into the roles that other people have assigned for us…roles that they need us to fill for them.

    I know there’s a widely accepted psychological theory that says that families, for example, function as a system, with each member taking on a specific role; and that if those roles are broken, the entire system falls apart. And I think that’s why people are so scared of making abrupt changes, like you’re doing now. Because it makes it so easy for EVERYTHING to completely fall to shit. And we less often realize that we do have the ability to say “fuck it” and completely reinvent ourselves and our entire lives as we see fit, on our own terms alone.

    We’re told that that can’t be enough, but like…what else is more important?


    • kwasson2012 March 26, 2014 at 12:28 am #

      Yes, we do believe the stories that others tell about us! Great response; thank you, Mary.
      It’s interesting to see the story one tells about oneself. And how it changes over the years. Writing a memoir has taught me that I didn’t know who I was–except as a mother and friend.



  1. Note to Self: You for Real? | lostandlaughinginla | BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD - April 15, 2014

    […] via Note to Self: You for Real? | lostandlaughinginla. […]


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