It was 4am and I was thinking about dead chicken.
Not dead chicken, generally — but a specific one. Seasoned, roasted and half-eaten; now semi-concealed by foil on a plate. I had prepared and presented this chicken, and now, ten (ish) hours later, it was left forgotten and waiting on my kitchen table in darkness.
Instead of dealing with the situation, I decided it was to better to think about it, anxiously, for another two hours.
My apartment has become a funeral home, I thought, probably 26 times. Why hadn’t I put it in the fridge? Is there something wrong with me? There is definitely something wrong with me. (And so on, and so on).
A few hours later and I sat at the kitchen table where I (now, mostly) work. The chicken was still there, waiting. I stared at it over my laptop.
Yes, I agree this is weird, and not what you signed up to read about. More weird is the fact that I don’t eat chicken, or any meat for that matter — and I haven’t for eleven plus years except maybe like twice, by accident. But lately, I’ve been cooking chicken for other people. Not just chicken, but entire roasts; and also, risotto and all these other new semi-fancy meals that I’d previously never tried cooking, because I’ve been eating the same food, (mostly pizza, but some other things) for many years. Untested recipes are best experienced, in my opinion, either at restaurants or other people’s homes. Mostly because of time and mess, but also because I can make like, six different variations on dishes with all the same ingredients (peppers, mushrooms, onions, cheese) — and there is a joyful consistency in that.
As I stared at the dead chicken, I began thinking about time and mess.
Time, which I seem to have more of, lately, than ever.
In December I made the decision to leave a dream job to pursue more dreamy, different jobness, via joblessness; and now there was all this expanding, unruly time.
At the beginning, I filled this time-space with a social media-friendly optimistic hustle, which looked something like: coffee email coffee email coffee email, and connection; connection; connection. Until meetings entered the coffee email connection continuum. Then, for a while, it was more of the same. I created a newsletter (this one, surprise), so that I could continue writing whatever I wanted, with zero limitations. But I didn’t know what to write. Also, there is rent. And because I’m 29 the possibility of a savings account. So I kept going down the coffee email connection meeting route, and more and more of the same.
I’d worked consistently for my entire adult life and now I was a freelancer and didn’t know what to write about, or what to do. So, I watched Jeremy Kyle. And every episode of The Sopranos, again. I ate weekday Pot Noodles and went to weekday matinees and had weekday hangovers. For exactly one week, it was exhilarating. Then I did one shift as a kitchen porter (review: very cold, gross and wet), before upgrading to pouring coffee, spraying tables and smiling with a glazed expression, which I’ve done many times before. Except this time, it was different; now there was this dull heaviness - this circular dread - that I didn’t remember having felt. But then: I could do whatever I wanted! I could stay out until 2am on a Tuesday, and then spend all of Wednesday in a state of self loathing! I could read books all day (I didn’t). I could write all day (I REALLY didn’t). All this strange, free time ballooning around me suddenly felt like a suffocating, infinite novelty.
I decided to deal with the mess. I became proactively wholesome. I started running, again, for the fifty millionth time. I attended gym classes instead of what I normally do, which is book and proceed to cancel them. I switched from white wine, to red, to water, to red. I cooked roasts and risotto, over and over and over. I wrote lists after list after list. I knitted. For the first time in four years, I started using LinkedIn. I downloaded a focus app. I joined several(?!) Facebook groups; for freelancers, for money saving advice, for Intermittent Fasters. Everyone, it seemed, was trying to do more and spend less and eat less, or eat differently, or spend differently. Some of the Intermittent Fasters bragged about consuming just one meal a day, which they called OMAD; others talked about not eating for days and everyone was congratulatory. It was both horrifying and convincing.
I started dealing with the actual mess, too. I watched YouTube videos of Marie Kondo folding various items of clothing and stacking it upright in drawers. It was as precise and fluid as an oil painting. This, I decided, was too big a leap. But I tried to organise, clear, clean — which is very unlike me, by the way. But now I had no (admittedly, non-legit) excuse not to. Every day there was new mess, and time stretched and that was scary, so I kept up the cleanliness, domesticity, running, cooking and more water than wine efforts. Sometimes, it was successful.
It’s been three months as a freelancer now, and a few things are different. Like, I have some very lovely clients! I no longer watch Jeremy Kyle, although I still eat Pot Noodles regularly. Possibility no longer feels so paralysing. The lists and emails, the meetings and connections, the hopeful hustle, have begun to pay off; quite literally.
There is, of course, decaying poultry on my kitchen table, so my domestic efforts have not.
But then there’s this newsletter, which I can’t seem to write — except that now my mom has asked about it twice and I’ve changed my own deadline like seven times. It could be the hypnotic blinking cursor, or imposter syndrome, or anxiety-induced inertia (it’s a thing!). Whatever it is that’s stopped me, here I am: 9am, nothing else to do and a blank page, over which I can see the dead chicken.
I fully recognise that it would take me 5.5 seconds, and about four feet of movement, to be rid of it. I don’t want to be ruminating on this cajun-seasoned animal any more than you want to be reading about it. I mean, I was up at like, 4am thinking about it. But here’s the thing: if I don’t write now, it will begin again. The lists and the cleaning and the knitting and the running and the meetings emails connections coffees continuum. All the very normal, healthy, adult activities I should be doing in addition to writing this newsletter for you, except that for the past three months they have become glossy distractions from the Very Terrible Blank Page and the most self-doubt. So I look back at my screen and ignore it.
And, look! Here we are; we’ve done it, together — many words later, all of my choosing, all for your reading. Welcome, friend-client-dad-acquaintance-stranger-stalker, to post emosh #1 (technically, the preface).
I promise these stories will no longer begin with a dead chicken.* For some reason, this one had to.
a prologue (to the preface)
Something like 2 months ago, I said this would be a twice-monthly newsletter. That is still true, excluding of course, January and February of 2019. Now that I’ve got the dead chicken thing out of the way, expect much more #content in your inbox.
On that ^ note — said #content will be very mixed, so if reading about my imposter syndrome and freelancer anxiety by way of a roast chicken was boring, do wait for the next one before unsubscribing.
Or don’t. The choice is yours, and I won’t be extremely offended forever when I get the notification that you no longer want to read what I write for you.
As a *bonus* I’ve also decided to include some recommendations with every piece.
Here they are:
Marie Kondo’s Basic Folding Method. This is pure ASMR for cleaning. Personally not attempted it; probably won’t. But if you like that kind of thing, you can watch it here.
Kate Carraway’s The Feeling (& MORE Feeling). I have been subscribed to Canadian writer Kate Carraway’s newsletter for almost ever. It is very good and very funny and very weekly and I can’t get enough of it. You can check it out here.
Strange Planet. Nathan L. Pyle is a writer AND an illustrator which is like being a Stage 2 Pokémon card. He has this amazing comic series called Strange Planet where some very adorbs aliens mimic human behaviour in very literal and alien ways. It makes me feel so sentimental that I get heart palpitations. Follow Strange Planet on Instagram here.
That’s just about enough, for now. Thanks for reading!
Email me back your thoughts, feelings, recommendations, dreams. What do you love / hate / want to know more about, right now and always? I want to know, and write about, that thing. Whatever it is.
As of today (13/03/2019), post emosh is totally and completely free, no strings attached.
You are very much encouraged to forward this email on to friends, family, colleagues, nemesis, lovers. Unless you are the kind of person that likes to break the rules, in which case, I urge you not to share it with anyone, at any time. Definitely not.
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* also promise that the chicken featured in this story is now in the bin, and that I feel a deep sadness and real appreciation for it. It is very likely that I will NEVER cook meat for anyone again.