What Being Unemployed for Over a Month Has Taught Me

 

DSCN9367I am unemployed. I very rarely say those words out loud. I have adopted the phrase, “I’m in-betwween jobs right now” or occasionally “I’m actually not working right now.” The word “unemployed” comes with so much baggage. At first I thought it was because I was uncomfortable with not having a job or ashamed. I’m not. I’m loving this season. I’ve been more productive over the last six weeks than I’ve been in months. I was afraid of people’s reaction, of people’s perceptions. I was afraid of being seen as lazy or incompetent, as being labeled a “typical millennial” or viewed as some sort of failure. I was afraid someone would assume I had gotten fired or let go (from my almost three year gig at Chick Fil a… Yeah, I don’t think so). It is amazing how much I allow other people’s baggage to become my own.

And sometimes I’ve been right to project these thought patterns onto other people. I’ve gotten used to the occasional unsolicited job advice. “I hear they’re hiring at…” “My [friend, sister, cousin] got a job at…” Other people are usually more uncomfortable with my employment than I am. To be fair, most people have actually been great and asked me what steps I’m taking and what jobs I’m looking for. But still, people are so quick to put their own connotations on my employment status, often without asking me how I feel about it.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know eventually savings will run out and that I should be bringing in an income before that happens. I don’t think for a second that my parents will allow me to set up shop at their kitchen table forever. A traditional job is in my near future.

But since my last day at CFA, I’ve found myself avoiding social situations so I don’t have to answer the traditional questions about what I’m up to. The often innocent question leads to me admitting that I’m unemployed, living with my parents and until about two weeks ago, car-less. Recently, however, I tried this new thing where I was just honest. I realized the outside perception of my life was only a small fraction of the reality. And to my surprise, most people responded really well when I explained what I’ve been up to. I’m sure most people’s idea of unemployment is sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and binge-watching EVERYTHING on Netflix. And while I have watched more Netflix than ever before and developed a new late night gluten-free cookies & ice cream habit, there has been so much more to this season for me.

Right now I am essentially self employed without any of that, oh yeah, income. I get up every morning when I feel rested enough and sit down at the kitchen table where I don’t leave until usually dinner (or whenever I need to run a sibling to an appointment). I drink coffee and listen to music and watch videos until I reach a completely creative mindset that allows me to work ceaselessly for hopefully a few hours. I type out notebooks of 2-3 year old chapters of a novel until my wrists hurt from hitting the laptop keyboard. And then usually every few days I take a break where I sit with my journal and write about how useless I feel, how I feel like I no longer have value because I’m not getting up every morning and working a 9 to 5, how frustrated I am that making art every day is so much harder than I thought I’d be. Because honestly it’s really hard being face to face with the limits of your own mind and skillset and internal motivation. There’s no boss who will penalize me if I don’t clock in on time. No one is going to call me if I don’t come in. There’s no one to call for help if the job gets too hard or confusing. It’s just me and all the doubts in my own mind telling me I’m not good enough, that I’m wasting my time, that everyone’s ashamed of me. The power of the human mind is incredible.

And then usually right when it gets completely overwhelming, I get a text out of the blue from a friend saying they were thinking about me and just wanted to remind me to trust God’s timing. And then I remember that I’m not in this alone.

I truly fully believe that God has placed me on this earth in this time period with these passions and talents and desires for a reason. I believe I was made to do things no one else can do, that I am uniquely equipped and created for a purpose. And above all that, I believe that I serve a God who already has a perfect path laid out for me. When I stop and remind myself of all that, the fear disappears. Because God’s got me. And He’s not intimidated by the dwindling numbers in my bank account or the limits of my training or the time that’s already passed me by or the opportunities already here and gone. He knows what is best for me and best for the world as a whole, best for His entire master plan. All I have to do is continually seek His will and stay faithful to whatever season He has me in, whether that’s getting up every morning and putting in the unpaid hours at my kitchen table or putting on a uniform and giving my all at a nine to five. I have the incredible privilege of being used by the Creator of the Universe to make the world a better place and that alone is worth enduring a season of unemployment for.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

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The Last Breakfast Club review

A friend of mine recently asked me if the The Last Breakfast Club was good.

For those of you who don’t know, The Last Breakfast Club is the newest musical parody from Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles. I have gone to see the show every weekend since it made its preview debut three weeks ago. When I saw her question, I wanted to laugh. Obviously the show was good if I’d seen it so many times, but I knew what she was really asking–Would I recommend it? While the answer is fairly simple, I felt that I had enough thoughts about the show to merit an entire blog post, so here we go: my review of The Last Breakfast Club: a Musical Parody.

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This innovative musical is packed full of 80s tunes that feel like they were written for The Last Breakfast Club. If you’re not singing them along with the cast during the show, you will definitely be singing them to yourself for the rest of the week. Part of the fun of the show is trying to guess what iconic 80s song the characters will jump into next.

As the cast of The Last Breakfast Club comes right out of the gate chorusing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” we understand that they’re talking about the nuclear zombie apocalypse that has trapped them in the library. But it also kind of feels like they’re talking about our world too. In a present where our president regularly tweets about his latest indignation, the threat of nuclear war hangs in the air and children are killed at concerts, it certainly feels like the end of the world as we know it. Hardly any of us would claim we “feel fine.”

The Last Breakfast Club doesn’t ignore our current political climate. It embraces it. The show explores our deepest hopes and fears for this new world. At one moment it’s blaming Republicans, Christians and white men (which some may argue are synonymous) for the doomed apocalyptic world the characters are forced to live in. The next, it’s advocating for love and compassion in spite of it all.

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This amazingly talented cast is increasingly mind blowing with every scene. The unique layout of the Rockwell theater allows for most of the audience to gain at least one closeup of the cast during the show. This unique set-up explains why each cast member boasts both stage and screen credits. Both sets of skills are fully utilized in the show to great effect, switching effortlessly between big over the top “theatrical” moments and nuanced quieter ones.

The Last Breakfast Club calls itself a parody of the original 1985 John Hughes film, but that label isn’t quite fair. It’s clear the show has a great respect for the original, preserving most of the film’s format and signature lines. At times, it feels like a revisionist take on the film. This updated version of the story tackles the age old issue of Allison’s makeover (selling out or naw?), the original couples (would they have lasted past detention?), the assumed boy-girl couple structure (you might of gotten away with it back then, but today it’s considered “heteronormative”) and the Bratpack’s general treatment of adults as the cause of all their problems. The musical doesn’t shove its modern perspective onto the original to the point of losing the film’s original intent, but it also isn’t afraid to address some of the issues with the movie.

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In spite of several revisionist changes, however, the Breakfast Club is still #sowhite. The majority of the seven cast members in the new show are Caucasian, reflexive of the all-white cast from the film. On the one hand, this reflects more on the original filmmakers than the producers of the latest reincarnation. The moral of the original film was that “each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal.” Apparently the only way to teach that lesson in the 80s was to make every character white and therefore, relatable.

There is, of course, an easy explanation for the lack of racial diversity in The Last Breakfast Club. The premise of the show is that the same characters from the film have aged roughly ten years, so each of the cast members physically resembles their cinematic counterpart. However, it’s worth questioning whether, in a world where these beloved characters have been given new sexual orientations and religions (and in Claire’s case, hair color), might they have been given new ethnicities as well? In an alternate reality where the characters crack culture references they shouldn’t know and reference both the original movie and the musical they’re currently starring in, the audience must quickly adapt a strong suspension of disbelief. Might this suspension have also held up to, say, an African American Princess or a Latino Brain? It is unclear if it would have worked, but a part of me wishes the producers would have been willing to find out.

Which isn’t to say that the show isn’t perfectly cast, because it is.

Anna Grace Barlow brings a sweetness and a sass to Claire the Princess, as well as an acute vulnerability most present in her big solo number where she reminisces on time spent with her parents. Barlow brings down the house every time during said solo number with her powerhouse of a soulful voice and tear-filled eyes. As her sister Abigail stated so well, the music of the show fits her voice perfectly. In addition to the spotlight moments, Barlow’s sweet harmonies perfectly round out the overall sound of the show.

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Jonah Platt anchors the show as Bender the Criminal, riling each character in turn. He holds all the brashness and insensitivity of the original character, but Platt’s natural charm bubbles through in time for the tender moments that eventually come toward the end of the show, most notably a heart to heart with Vernon. This scene in particular sets Platt’s version of Bender apart from the original, mixing his biting humor with remarkable sensitivity.

While Platt prods the plot forward, Garrett Clayton holds the show together in a virtual group hug as Brian the Brain. His soft insistence for everyone to get along is broken only by his piercingly amazing high notes and incredible comedic timing. Fans of Clayton from the Teen Beach movie franchise may even hear his signature Tanner laugh break through some of Brian’s iconic “Sir?”s during a few of his particularly funny scenes with Vernon.

Rockwell veteran Lana McKissack completely commits to all that is Allison the Basketcase, including the character’s numerous quirks and various animal noises. Her skills as an actress, however, truly shine brightest in the serious moments where she gets to spit straight truth. The complexity and sensitivity she brings to her scenes with Andrew, in particular, make the characters’ relationship one of my favorites in the show.

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Four time Emmy nominee Max Ehrich brings vulnerability and heart, as well as fierceness, to Andrew the Athlete. He manages to simultaneously wear his heart on his sleeve while fighting to keep his mask up. His Act One return to “total assholery” may be initially off-putting, but the character lets his true self come through in time to enthrall the audience with his showstopping ballad in Act Two.

The two adult characters, Vernon as played by Jimmy Ray Bennett and Damon Gravina’s born again Janitor, are just as charming as the young adult characters, bringing another level of humor and ridiculousness to the whole production.

Now back to the original question, do I recommend the show? My answer is a resounding YES… with two caveats.

The first is language. The show’s social media coordinator joked that the show has “zero f*cks to give…. because they’re all in the show.” He’s not wrong. To be fair, if you’ve seen the OG Breakfast Club, its cast also had a lot of fun throwing around f-bombs. But it does bear noting that those sensitive to strong language or those on the younger side should probably skip out on this particular show.

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My second warning pertains to the way Christianity is portrayed in the show. The show relies heavily on the use of satire in order to comment on religion, ridiculing various aspects of Christianity in a way that some may find offensive or sacrilegious. Now, the show does not hate religion or Christianity as a whole. The hate-filled, holier-than-thou Christian character does not denounce his faith or speak ill against God in order to become likable by the end. He does have a change of heart, of course, but the show does not demand that he give up his faith in order to be considered an ally. The show also makes it clear that religion itself is not the problem, but rather how people abuse religion. Still, if this seems like the type of humor that would keep you from enjoying the show, maybe just stick to the original movie for now.

There are no better last thoughts to leave you with than these well-spoken words from The Last Breakfast Club’s director, executive producer and co-writer, Bradley Bredeweg, “Let us laugh together as 150 people in a bar in Los Angeles while we also talk about and explore some really important and scary shit. Because entertainment is a powerful medium that not only makes us laugh and cry… it provokes, encourages, raises awareness, and it allows us to look inward.”

For those of you willing to laugh, cry and be challenged, please head down to Rockwell Table and Stage this summer and show this amazing production some love!

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Tickets: tickets.rockwell-la.com

 

Photos from the show by me, Promotional photos for TLBC by Bryan Carpender, Promotional photos from the original Breakfast Club belong to their respective owners