Unfortunately, this is not what I am doing, or why I haven’t been writing here. It’s the title of a wonderful memoir I stumbled across when I search “lunch” in my library’s e-book search engine. I actually wanted to read Best Lunch Box Ever (which I now realize is aimed at kids’ school lunches) so I could jazz up my work lunches–try eating sliced peppers, a piece of fruit, and some sandwich meat sans bread five days a week, because it will bore you to tears. They didn’t have it, but Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes was available. So far, I’ve read 80 percent of it since midday yesterday, and there’s still another hour and a half or so to kill before 5 p.m. today.
What has really resonated with me is Elizabeth’s desire not to be ordinary. She experienced all of the expectations that come with going to a decent college (Ivy League, in her case) and then wondering why, five or 10 years later, she and her friends hadn’t experienced the success they’d expected. “We were supposed to be famous, or at least rich by now. What the fuck have we been doing with our time?” she says.
She has a French husband, and in French culture, working above your station is looked down upon. Being ambitious and trying to do more than a basic office job–unless you were basically born into a higher or lower station–is almost offensive. She eventually convinces him to pursue his dream a la American. He succeeds in the preparation, networking, and execution, then encourages her to go out and follow her passion.
But the problem for her, and for me, and probably for many others, is that we don’t know how to do that. “What I want is to go to lots of cocktail parties with famous writers–peers, mind you–sign books, eat tuna carpaccio on wasabi flat bread, all while never having to sit down at my computer ever again.”
She was getting pieces published, but slowly. And she was giving tours of the Louvre, but for someone else’s company.
“I felt like I was doing something really valuable–sharing the love of museums my father had given me. But it wasn’t mine. Once again, I was a charming cog in someone else’s wheel. I was once again forced to confront (with the accompanying self-loathing) the fact that I had the goods, but not the discipline or perseverance to create something for myself. How could anyone so ambitious be so inert?”
THIS IS WHAT I FEEL LIKE EVERY DAY. I know I’m good at certain things, like writing, editing, and research, and I enjoy them, too. But getting myself to follow through with any kind of step past a job with someone else as a boss, where nothing is completely reliant on me, has been impossible. I know I want to do more. I think I want to start my own company. But beyond coming up with ideas and skeleton details for them, I never get anywhere.
How do you nail down what you want to do on your own? How do you get there?