I’ve never had a real job. Not really. I mean, there were the two years slinging smoothies at a juice bar, the two months working as an admin assistant to a CPA, the utterly thankless semester internship licking envelopes and stuffing press kits, and the year working as a hostess at a Mexican restaurant. Granted, these jobs are “realer” than most models will have ever experienced, given that they often get to skip the whole minimum wage racket and move right into $2,000 day rates, but, even still, these weren’t career jobs. Sure, I had to show up on time and preferably wash my hair, but there was never anything at stake, nothing on the line with the exception of a meager $300 paycheck at the end of the week.
For the better part of a decade, modeling has afforded me the income of someone working 60-hour workweeks but the lifestyle of an independently wealthy debutante. I can travel when I want to, wake up when I want to, look how I want to. My “work clothes” have only ever been comprised of black jeans, ripped shirts, leather jackets and Chelsea boots. I don’t need to show up to work with my hair done or with makeup on my face. In effect, I have never needed to play by any rules – at least in a traditional sense. (Note: If this all sounds excruciatingly glamorous to you, the downsides of this life include constant paranoia, incomprehensible insecurity, and body dysmorphia. You can’t always have your cake and eat it, too.)
In the last year, I have effectively transitioned into a new life, where I have “real job” meetings with other “real job” adults. And so it has been only recently that I’ve recognized the consequences of my previous existence of a veritably lawless child, namely, that I often feel like a dumb kid in a room full of grownups. There have, however, been some unexpected benefits.
Though years of relative freedom have rendered me incapable of pandering to the corporate structure entirely, I’ve had to play by new rules. Impulsive, emotionally feckless thing that I am, I’ve taught myself to rein in my often volcanic reactions to sensitive issues. Generally, the process goes like this: My internal response hurls itself towards the surface, charging forward and begging to be unleashed. Fingers hover above keyboards, blood pounds through the heart, the mind reels. In my previous life, this would – less so in my professional relationships and more so in my personal ones – certainly escape. And I would have to deal with the aftermath of my heated recklessness, my insistence to defend myself, the venom and vitriol that often dissipates when given time.
My new corporate brain, however, tells me to wait, tells me to be political and pandering. It begs the question “Is it worth it? Is it really worth it?” And before my “real job” life, I would have screamed, “Yes! Yes, it is!” But was it? It’s hard to say.
What I do know is this: My mouth gets me into a lot less trouble these days, in the office and out.