The Itinerant Life


Letter I is for the itinerant life of the artist.


A to Z entries:  My post for each letter of the alphabet will be anecdotes or musings based on an element from the previous letter’s post.  Names always changed, events always real.

 ~ Letter H was for adrenaline’s High, so now the high life of the…intinerant. ~

I don’t hate Mondays. People with regular jobs do.

For me, Mondays are a reset button, the rebirth of hope and possibility. On Monday morning, I get to pretend I’ve gone back to the beginning and erased all the ways in which I screwed up the previous week. All the chores I didn’t begin, all the errands I didn’t run, all the exercise I didn’t get.

My failing is also one of my strengths: I simply can’t get myself to do the things I don’t want. Work a daily regular job. Cook. Go to the doctor. Sleep when I want to be awake. Wake up when want I to be asleep. But being incapable of doing what I don’t want is the same mechanism that prevents me from settling, selling out or otherwise compromising my personal principles.

While it’s exhausting to manage the unruly child within me, this brat inside is the only thing that can hold me back. I have ties to nothing else – no job, no kids, no pets, not even plants. I get up and go wherever, whenever. A few years ago, I spent more time traveling than in my own bed, putting twenty thousand road-trip miles on my car.

I have designed my life this way.

But there’s a price: I’m always broke. As an actor, or rather, as a person who auditions regularly, I might book a gig, work for a day and be set up for a few months. I might. More likely, I’ll be forced to pick up odd jobs here and there as long as the brat inside is willing to stomach it. As for the rest of it – undiscovered writer, hatchling filmmaker – I work my ass off. For free.

When I’m involved in a project, whether editing a short film or writing, my world begins and ends at the computer. I don’t sleep, eat or communicate with the outside world. After sixteen hours of eyestrain and tweaking my back, I peel myself away, my mind already racing with the pickup point for tomorrow, which would begin five hours from then.

But nobody accepts that we work hard, or at all, if we’re not making money. And when we’re my age, it doesn’t count to anyone that we’re back in school. They all want to know, when are we going to get our shit together? Hell, even we want to know.

A paper-pusher who Facebooks on the company computer all day is taken more seriously than us. At night they go home and watch reality shows, and on the weekends, they go to the mall and spend their paycheck. But if we mention we take rock-climbing or drumming classes, we’re considered wandering, aimless souls.

We are itinerants.

Yet if it weren’t for the “always broke” part, itinerant me wouldn’t change a thing about my choices. The question, What would you spend your time doing if you found out you had one day to live? always stumps me because if I were dying, I’d do pretty much everything I’m already doing, other than saying my goodbyes. I have to be compelled to do anything I do, so I don’t have to be dying to do exactly what I want.

I want to be the auteur of my entire life as well as my art. Until I get there, I live my life like that anyway.

Still, at the end of the week, I’m laden with the guilt of all that I neglect for my art: Exercise, people, grocery shopping, coming up with rent, a balanced life.

“You sit down and write every day? I can’t imagine the amount of discipline that takes.” Someone said recently, and I chuckled; it’s the only thing that doesn’t take discipline for me. Under every other circumstance, I have to arm wrestle with the brat inside. I can’t even get a bowl washed out without an inner temper tantrum.

And the bratty itinerant? She gets a lot of breaks from hard work. It’s good because I get to go along for the ride with her, literally. But of course, it’s I, rather than the brat, who gets saddled with the guilt, and thinks, Somewhere, someone will judge me for being unemployed and taking this airplane ride instead of bagging fries at McDonald’s.

You see, sometimes your friend invites you to a “sightseeing excursion” and you show up to learn he meant on a plane. And he’s the pilot. Then he hands you a whole city at night, like a tray of crushed jewels. (He’s not the Perfect Man for nothing.)


Turns out, the person who judges a jobless screwup such as myself most for flying over Los Angeles like it’s a stroll to the corner, is me. After I relayed the airplane story, the following dialogue took place:

Person Number One:  “I need some friends like that!”
Me:  “And it’s possible you’d deserve it more than me.”
Person Number Two:  “Life isn’t about deserving. It’s about enjoying.”
Me:  “I’d like both.”

I truly would.

To some, “getting my shit together,” means getting a job. To me, it means leading a balanced life. And yes, sometimes, that entails a regular job. At least for a while. But I still wouldn’t hate Mondays.

Monday is the first day of the workweek for normal, functioning adults, whom I could look at as a reminder of everything I’m not. Monday itself could be a reminder of all that I’ve left undone. But in the end, I live by my own rules and see Mondays as a brand new chance for the itinerant to tend to things the right way.

Flight Over LA

~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.

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  1. Paul · · Reply

    You Go Girl! Love the comment “…it’s the same mechanism that prevents me from settling, selling out or otherwise compromising my principles.” It’s so true that the very characteristics that bother us are also the ones that drive us to success. Truism. And I still haven’t decided what I’m gonna be if I grow up. Carry On!

    1. Okay now, it’s actually a complete piece. I had to get it in before midnight before the “I” day was over. Same thing happened with “H.” They’re more robust now.

      1. Paul · ·

        Wow, you added some neat stuff – pictures of a quick flip in a private plane over L.A. Awesome! Apparently the Perfect Man has some hidden skills – like owning and piloting a private plane. I’m jealous. Whew! Anyway, yes, Mondays are no big fear to me anymore either. They used to be a big day to clean up all the stuff that happened at work over the weekend. No more – I too am itinerant. So, time to see what’s next.

      2. He doesn’t own it. But he kept his pilot’s license a secret for an effective surprise.

        Cheers to itinerants!

  2. Yep. That’s pretty much what I was saying as I read this. Nodding my head and saying ‘yep, this all makes sense to me’, from the not hating Monday (and the reasons for it) to the ‘But nobody accepts that you work hard, or at all, if you’re not making money.’

    The eye strain has lead to new glasses (got them yesterday actually) and have just applied to work on a project that would very much alleviate money troubles for like, a couple of months maybe, hopefully. But like you say, it is a life that is by my own design and the price is worth it.

    1. Thanks for reading and telling me your thoughts. Happy new glasses and congratulations on the gig.

  3. jny_jeanpretty · · Reply

    Beautiful and TRUE

    1. Thank you.

  4. cedrixclarke · · Reply

    Oh, to be itinerant… Green with envy.

    1. The point is, anyone can design their own life. I think those of us who are fortunate to have our limbs and senses intact, and live in a first world country, lead the life we choose.

      1. cedrixclarke · ·

        Sometimes we choose the wrong life to lead for various reasons but quite often out of necessity, and unchanging is not so easy. I have a window of time everyday that I get to be itinerant and that’s when I write mostly. I’m working toward shedding the other-me, the part that is tied down to a 50+ hour per week career, so that I can be only the itinerant writer-me. It’s a long arduous journey, but I’m closer than I ever have been before. You’re not wrong, but I made bad but necessary choices.

  5. Melanie · · Reply

    Oh I love this one so much. A balanced life is so important. It took me a while to figure that out, but it’s been key to my happiness ever since. I’m quite fond of Mondays, and coming in to work to a blank page ready to fill with duties both tedious and fun.
    That must have been an awesome sight to fly over LA at night. How amazing! That piece of the story gave me chills.

    1. Thanks, Melanie.

      I can’t think of anything more important than balance, really, when it comes to life.

  6. lrconsiderer · · Reply

    Work to live, not live to work. And hey, you got to see the city spread out at your feet…

    1. Indeed.

  7. “Nobody accepts that you work hard, or at all, if you’re not making money.” I work harder at my writing than anything else, but very few people take me seriously. I relate GG.

    1. It doesn’t matter if others don’t take us seriously as long as we don’t buy into it.

  8. maurnas · · Reply

    Let me tell you; I have a great job where I am in charge of 50+ men on any given day. I work hard and long hours. And I actually enjoy it and am good at it. And I, in no way, have my shit together. I make enough money to do what I want when I am not at work. But it sounds like you do too. I live for my hobbies. I would quit in half a second, if I could, to do my hobbies full time.

    1. It sounds like you have achieved balance — the fact that you work at a job you love and have all your hobbies. You must have a lot of energy, and that’s a huge gift in and of itself.

  9. “a whole city at night, like a tray of crushed jewels” – Wow, that is so beautiful, hits me right in my heart, and stomach, and brain, and wherever it is that we receive things. Thank you! I don’t lead an itinerant life, but I happen to love watching out the window on flights (we always offer the window seat to our daughter, and I have a hard time not bending over and glue my nose to the window, I just stretch my neck as much as I can).

    1. Thank you… We’re lucky as non-winged creatures to still get to see from that perspective!

  10. I can relate to this so much – for both myself and for my partner. Like you, he doesn’t follow typical 9-5 job requirements, an odd job kind of guy, who wold love nothing more than to make it as a writer, but until then, has a life similar to yours. And in fact, he loves Mondays too.

    I, on the other hand, tend to be itinerant in my jobs. I have been at my current gig for 3 years, the longest I have been at a place, but man, I am antsy. Someone with my own creative spirit in words and art, have a hard time finding that sweet spot to fulfill me financially.

    I don’t think being itinerant is a bad thing. In fact, I think it gives you the best experiences. Every onward, friend.

    1. Believe me, I’m very familiar with “antsy…” Onward for us all!

  11. Chris · · Reply

    I love this post.

    Yes, please.

    I want to go too.

    You’ll never know I’m there.


  12. Come along, then.


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