February 18th, 2011 - Caitlin Kunkel
For me, February 18, 2011, is a time of not yets.
In five months I'll be engaged, and in fourteen I'll be married. But not yet.
I'm in Chicago. In fifteen months, I'll be gone, headed to the Pacific Northwest with that new husband to begin the freelance stage of my career. But not yet.
I’ll join Twitter in June, where I’ll be able to talk to writers and people from all over the world (and waste lots of time along the way). But not yet—now, my life is mostly local and in-person.
Now, I live in a studio apartment where I can walk to the lake. I’m so close to the train that I hear the station announcements in my bed, the exact same recorded intonation every 10 minutes. I set my alarm for 5:15am on weekdays so I can watch my Netflix DVD’s and mail them back on the way to work. Very soon, that sentence will sound unbearably dated. But not yet.
I work in fundraising, the only job I could find after the financial crash. The work is easy, and very quickly I get to experience that strange sensation of being good in a field you don’t want to advance in. I learn how to produce events, keep meticulous records, speak easily and jovially to people who I don't know or care about. I talk on the phone, send emails, write in a voice not my own, ask for money, make small talk and get incredibly bored. Eventually, I'll need all these skills for another job, one that I do care about. But not yet.
I’ve recently emerged from five years of insomnia and a problem with sleeping pills. The insomnia will return, but blessedly, not yet. Now, I wake up after an entire night’s sleep and feel euphoric, strong, superhuman.
Every day during lunch I take my tiny computer and go to the mezzanine of the ravenous theater I raise money for, and I write. A novel? Not yet. Satire? Not yet. I write short character monologues, trying to understand how to be funny on the page. I keep a very literal blog called "Caitlin's Characters" and I write one per day. Ten years ago, I could have been writing from the perspective of a sister who's suffered an absurd loss, or a choirboy terrified that his voice is changing, or even a lamp who hates being turned on. They aren't connected, and they serve no larger purpose other than teaching me how to trust that there will always be more ideas in my head. Because I’m not over that fear, yet.
I take comedy classes at night and make an entirely new set of friends. We produce our own shows, very seriously slotting ourselves into the roles of producers, directors, marketers. In seven months I'll be a comedy writing teacher myself, a profound step in shaping the arc of my career, but for now I’m a beginner, a novice, a student.
I don't have a Google calendar (yet) and my paper planner contains my life. I carry bags and bags around the city with me, stuffed with days of gym clothes, work clothes, "fancy" clothes for work events, books, pajamas, makeup, swim suit, goggles, bike shorts, my computer, and sheaths of printed out sketches. It's not unusual for me to carry four bags all day on public transit to 5-6 different locations between 6:30am and 10:30pm. Eventually I'll get tired of this, of being so transient. But not yet.
Now, I love walking into the big, institutional theater where I work. I love walking into the tiny, filthy comedy theaters where I produce shows. I love showing up at the Chicago storefront theaters after work and seeing plays that make me want to go right back to my little computer and work on my characters, the very first building block of writing longer things myself. It takes years to eventually realize that I'll never see as much theater as I did during that time. But I don’t know that, yet.
There are things coming soon that I'm building the foundation for on February 18, 2011. I don't know what they are, because on that day, I have no idea what shape I want my life and career to take. But wonderfully, I don't have to know, yet.
Caitlin Kunkel is a writer, satirist, and highly acclaimed pizza scientist. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She created the Online Satire Writing Program for The Second City, co-wrote the satirical gift book “New Erotica for Feminists” and co-created the Satire and Humor Festival.