I’m Moving!

Dear Meet Me in Medias Res Readers,

The first thing I’d like to say is thank you – thank you for supporting me, following me, and for giving me the strength to continue writing.  Your continued support has been an inspiration to keep going and I will be forever grateful.

That being said, I am not the same person who started this blog almost three years ago.  I’ve changed – whether it’s for better or worse, I really can’t say.  All I know is that I’ve told all the stories I can at Meet Me in Medias Res and now it’s time to move on to a new platform, and dive into some uncharted territory.

The new blog will be strictly non-fiction.  I’ll hope you’ll come along with me on this new journey – for I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without each and every one of you.

I love you guys.  Now you can meet me at ljsharks.com.

Always,
Lauren

PS – Site is still in development, but I will still be writing through the production phase.  Love you all!

Haters Gonna Hate

The MFA Years

Image: Victoria Nevland

I have a lot of regrets when it comes to my MFA application process – I shot too high, didn’t save enough money, changed that one word. Another big regret is all the fucks I gave about everyone else. What bothers me now is that I’m still not done giving fucks.

Post-submission, I got sucked into the vortex of MFA Draft and GradCafe. Together, they make quite the cocktail – equal parts doubt, paranoia, and panic. As people began receiving decisions from schools I was still waiting to hear back from, I heard that voice, I don’t know what you were thinking, Lauren.  I mean, did you honestly expect this to work out?

And instead of flipping the bird to that voice, I surrendered to it.

*

I didn’t write post-submission. I was so afraid that I opted not to take any workshops my first semester. Despite the…

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Thursday Lunch

The MFA Years

Image credit: Lauren Rushing

Katie and I met at the cash wrap of Barnes and Noble #2216 somewhere between fucking up and getting shit together. She had a septum ring, black box-dye on her hair, and a star tattooed on each arm.

Silence filled the first two hours of our shift. In later years, she’d tell me that she thought I was a “real Asian”, and wasn’t sure if I spoke English. Following a customer tantrum, I rolled my eyes and sighed, “God I fucking hate people.” The connection was undeniable.

We took drives to the Long Beach boardwalk, blasting the best of 90’s pop with the windows down. Most nights we wound up in my basement, talking over Disney movies and microwave popcorn. We shared secrets and made plans.

*

I can’t remember the last time I saw Katie. If I had to guess, it was probably about five or six years ago…

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Week Five: Return to Zero

The MFA Years

Image: Aikawa Ke

I wish I could tell you my feelings of insecurity and worry have gone away. That I’ve come to learn that I not only belong here, but was accepted to Stony Brook Southampton. While the notion of belonging is getting better now that I’ve made a few friends, I still have trouble accepting my acceptance.

For me, being in an MFA program feels like going to the gym.  I am convinced everyone is looking at me – judging how much I lift, wondering why I don’t increase the resistance on the treadmill, snickering at my Old Navy compression pants. But no one is actually looking at me.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally gotten into a routine. I write two hours a day, every day. Thursdays are for homework. I go grocery shopping on Saturday morning, and cook on Sundays.  Evenings are for reading. Last week…

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Dealing with Doubt

The first day of classes is approaching fast, which means the monster of doubt is growing.

The MFA Years

Image: Romain Toornier 

My first day of classes is in twenty-three days and all I can think about is not going. I have this vision of raising my hand after attendance is taken and saying, “Excuse me, Professor, you didn’t call my name.” He’ll scan the list one more time, shake his head, and tell me to go to the main office down the hall, on the right. I’ll slide my notebook back into my bag and try not to focus on those watching me leave the classroom.

I’ll explain my situation to a woman behind the front desk, and wait anxiously as she types away on her keyboard. And then I’ll see it—the “oh shit” face – and know something is wrong. She won’t even excuse herself to me—she’ll just speed into the office behind her, point to me, and nod her head.

“I’m so sorry, Ms. Sharkey,” she’ll say…

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Lauren J Sharkey Introduction (Stony Brook Southampton ’16)

The MFA Years

Image:  Noukka Signe

I’ve never liked the word “writer.” I guess that’s why I always give people my job title when they ask what I do. Doing this allows me to avoid those stereotypical questions—so what do you write about? But what do you really do? Isn’t it a bad time to go into print? That’s not the reason I avoid the word though. The real reason is because calling myself a writer somehow feels like a huge lie.

My parents, like many parents, wanted me to go to college. They wanted me to have job security, meet a nice man, and select just the right shade of Egg Shell for my gender-neutral nursery. They did not want a child in “the arts.”  I suppose it’s not uncommon. After all, creatives aren’t really known for their job stability.

So, I went to college. I got a job, met a…

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Hello, again…

hello everyone…it’s been quite some time.  i’m sorry to have left you for so long, and i hope i never have to again.  as you might have noticed, my shift key seems to be out of order.  i would use the other side, but i don’t want to disrupt the flow, assuming there is one.

a lot has happened in my absence.  but before i get to that, i want to take a moment and reflect on a few things.

i’m not who i used to be – i used to be a writer, and now i’m just someone who pretends…at least, that’s what it feels like.  there was a time where i was convinced i could not live without writing.  a time when i would come home from work, school, a bad date, crack my notebook, open a vein, and bleed my insides onto the page.

now i look for new recipes to try on pinterest.

i can’t remember the last time i wrote something down in a notebook…and that’s a problem.

i want to blame the world – i want to blame school for taking too much of my time.  i want to blame work for taking my energy.  i want to blame my boyfriend for taking the rage that made my writing so great disappear.  i don’t want to blame myself.

i don’t want to admit that i didn’t make time.  i don’t want to tell you that writing stopped being a priority.  i don’t want to confess that i stopped caring.

…but that’s exactly what i did.

i let myself down.  i let the stories i have bubbling within me, waiting to get out, down.  i lost myself to work, to school, to bills, to friends, to love, to sleep…

i forgot that all i am, all i was ever supposed to be, was someone who bled onto the page.  but that’s over now…it’s time to start bleeding again.

Writing Prompt

Today, in my memoir class, we were given a writing prompt that I’d like to share with you.

Part I:  Write five non-human things that appear in your memoir.

1.  Singles
2.  Batman
3.  Stupid ranch dressing for fries
4.  Martini glasses
5.  Eye rolls

Part II:  Circle one of these things, and introduce it in an unconventional way.

I remove the black leather, that I hope contains my whale for the evening, from the table and sigh deeply as I whip out my phone and begin calculating the five card split.  These bitches have been talking about how excited they’ve been for this dinner and yet not one of them could hit an ATM?

I wrap the receipts around the corresponding plastic, don the fake smile I’ve come to wear so well, and bid them thank you and good night.

As I make my way through the phased dining room, I see Amy and Ryan doing rollups, Justin is gathering the salt and pepper shakers, and Bill is covered in ketchup.  I cross the threshold to the line and see Sam restocking the to-go station, Mary is taking down the soda station and I know – I know the night is far from over.

“Looks like you’ve got the double C tonight, Lauren!”
“Fuck you, Shawn.”

I make my way to the condiment cooler, begging the restaurant gods to take pity on my tired soul.  I pull open the cooler and find it surprisingly clean – just a few quick wipes and I can probably leave and head over to the bar with everyone else.

I remove the bottom row – mustard, chipotle, balsamic – and lift the metal rack in an effort to relieve it of the gunk solidifying on its once stainless steel surface when I see it.  In the far corner, I can see a white, peppered blob.  And if I can see it, Christie can see it…and there’s no way she’s letting me out of here until this thing is spotless.

I inhale deeply, and stretch my arm…but I can’t reach.  So I lunge forward and as my right shoulder hits the second row rack, I feel it – cold, wet, clumpy…the fucking condiment makes its way through my hair, along my neck, and down the back of my shirt leaving me no choice but to rise, wipe the dressing from my eyes, and figure out how I’m going to remove the smell of ranch from my person.

I know it’s been a while

But I guess I just need someone to talk to…or to talk in general, and I feel like this is the only place I can go.  Graduation is coming hard and fast – before I know it, it’s going to be time to rent the cap and gown.  I’ve been in school for the better part of a decade trying to get my Bachelor’s and now, it’s finally going to be over.

But what if after all this work and all these papers, I finally discover that I’m still just a big nothing?  What if all I really am is someone who’s really great at being the best of the losers?  What if I have nothing to offer this world except for 300 word blog posts about shit that hasn’t happened for years?

5 Reasons Why You’re an Asshole

Earlier today, I received an email from one of my regular readers.  It read, “Hi Lauren – I came across this blog and I thought it was right up your alley.  Can’t wait to see your response!”  Upon clicking on the link, I was brought to the personal blog “Expressions” written by Bhagwad Jal Park.  The blog is a little bit of everything – general musings, politics, etc.  But the link included with the message I received was for a post called 5 reasons I won’t tip you if you’re a waiter.  Let’s have some fun, shall we?  As usual, my comments will be in the (Bold Italics).

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5 reasons why I won’t tip you if you’re a waiter

It never fails to shock me how a tip is demanded in the US  (Okay, first of all, no waiter in the US demands a tip.  If waiters were allowed to demand decent tips, there would be a hell of a lot more waiters.  Secondly, demanding money from people is robbery.). People simply refuse to listen to reason when we (yes, there are others!) tell them that leaving a tip isn’t necessary. Well, I’m hoping for too much here, but if you’re a waiter, here are 5 reasons why I will try my best not to give any money to you and why the reasons for tipping are crappy.

1. You act as if you’re my best friend

Just leave me alone ok? I don’t want to bloody chit chat with you. I want food. FOOD! Get it? It’s a restaurant. I go there to eat. I go because I want either Italian food, Chinese Food or something else which I can’t get in a McDonald’s. So I come to a restaurant to fulfill my cravings for it. I will pay for what I value – food. Not you.

(So there’s lots wrong with this first paragraph that I hardly know where to start.  Let’s try to tackle the first sentence “Just leave me alone ok?”.  If you want to be left alone, don’t go to a restaurant.  Hard as this may be to believe, people don’t go to restaurants for food alone – they go for an experience.  They go because they’ve had a hard week and don’t feel like cooking on Saturday night.  They go because they want to show the person they’re bringing that they love them and want them to have great food and even better conversation.  They go to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.  Food is only a small part of the dining experience – your interaction with the wait staff is the rest.  If you really despise human interaction that much, you should limit yourself to drive throughs – trust me, the world will thank you.)

Christ, you offend me – kneeling down next to my table, pretending to like me and chatting as if you’re my best friend when it’s obvious that all you’re after is the tip! I’m not a bloody money bag you know. I will pay the bill which includes the cost of the food, the environment and the salaries of the people involved – nothing more.

(A server’s job is not only to take your order and deliver that order to your table, it’s to make sure that you have a pleasant dining experience.  Our job isn’t to try and get one over on you – it’s not to lie to you or to fool you.  It’s to make sure that your meal goes smoothly.  You’ve obviously decided to dine out for a reason and I, as a server, want to make sure that you don’t regret it and wish you had just stayed in.  I want you to have a good time.  I want you to have a good time because the shittier time you have, the shittier my job becomes.  Yes, we are all looking to get good tips, but we’re also looking forward to you not being an asshole.  And as for the bill – dude, you’ve obviously never worked in a restaurant.  So don’t even try to pinpoint what your bill actually covers.)

The only way to get money out of me that I don’t have to legally pay is by prying it out of my cold dead hands…

Bottom line: I don’t want to know your name, or interact with you for any longer than I have to in order to place my order. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the equivalent of a conveyor belt that brings me my food and a computer into which I input my order. Of course, I won’t be rude. But don’t expect me to interact with you any more than I would with some stranger.

(You are rude.  You should not go outside.)

Image Credit: cafemama

Did you earn this tip?

2. You don’t get paid enough

And this is my problem how exactly? It’s astonishing that customers are expected to make up for your employer’s cheapness in not paying you a decent wage. Please include the full cost in everyone’s bill thank you very much. I’ll pay it because I have to and the charge is there for me to see.

(All right, let’s put this to bed right now because I feel like this is something a lot of people don’t understand.  People who work in the food service industry earn what is known as a “tipped wage”.  Meaning, that it is the GOVERNMENT’S UNDERSTANDING that in your line of work, it is the norm to receive gratuities that would put your hourly rate above the federal minimum wage.  Because of this, the employer is only required to pay a reduced amount.  In New York, that amount is anywhere between $2-$5.)

What’s really funny here is that no one seems to criticize the employers! All criticism is reserved for non tipping customers instead of the owners of the restaurant for not paying a decent wage. Wtf! Could itpossibly be because you guys know you can make much more by tips and under report your income to the IRS?

(Look, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is that servers get paid shit, okay?  The reason we get paid like crap is because the government realizes that tips are a common part of the server’s income.  In the government’s mind, they are being more than generous because the tips we supposedly received surpass the minimum wage.  If they had any clue as to what some servers actually make, the minimum wage would be a lot higher.  And most of us don’t under report our tips because we’re not huge pieces of shit like you.)

3. You’ll spit in my food if I don’t tip you?

And I’ll shoot your kid if you don’t give me a million dollars. Seriously, am I even hearing this right? You’re actually using the threat of blackmail to make me pay you? Well as long as you’re openly claiming to be a criminal it’s all right I guess.

(Okay, let’s get something straight – contrary to movies, television, and various other forms of media that have documented the life of the server, there are very few of us who would actually do something to a customer’s food.  We are not assholes.  We are not giant pieces of shit.  We are human beings and we treat each other with respect.  Also, you should look up the term “blackmail” because you clearly have no idea what the fuck it is.  In addition, considering how you act, you should be worried about a lot more than spit.)

Fortunately that’s why I prefer buffets. Listen apart from it being illegal, this shows your poor integrity. But if you spit in someone’s food because they didn’t give you money you didn’t earn, then you’re a loser and deserve to be a waiter for the rest of your life.

(Okay, stop…just stop.  You have no idea what it’s like to work in a restaurant.  There is not a server alive that doesn’t earn every last god damn penny that they walk out with at the end of the night.  Even the shittiest server in the shittiest restaurant still earns their shitty tips.  You have not walked in our shoes – so don’t presume you know anything about us.)

4. Bringing me my food isn’t worthy of being paid extra

Did you cook it? Did you invent it? No. You picked it up and brought it to me. While it might not be easy, there are plenty of jobs which are much worse – shop floor workers for example. And I’ve been a shop floor manager, so I know. Face it – compared to other jobs, being a waiter is unskilled. You get paid what the market will think your services are worth. You don’t deserve more for your work over and above what your employer should pay you.

(All right, if “unskilled” is the word you want to use – let’s go with that.  Sure, you don’t exactly need a degree to wait tables, but you do need patience.  You need people skills, a significant amount of upper body strength, and balance.  You need to be good under pressure, you need to be able to multi-task – you need to be able to stand and move on your feet for hours at a time.  You need to be able to work doubles six weeks in a row and find time to shove a few french fries in your mouth because you know that’s the only food you’re going to be able to ingest for the entire length of your shift.  You need to have insane memory skills.  You need to be aware of allergens and be able to explain them in a manner that’s not confusing.  You need to be a leader, you need to be a resource, you need to fucking smile.  You want to try that again, pal?)

5. Money doesn’t grow on trees

I expect you to be grateful and pray for me at night if I tip you 10%. (Oh, trust me, I’m praying for you.)  Be happy I gave you anything at all. I worked for the money in my wallet and by giving you some I didn’t have to, I’m doing you a favor. Learn to remember that when people give you something they don’t need to, it’s a favor. You don’t complain that they didn’t give you more!

(Dude, do yourself and the world a favor and stay inside!)

By the way, the same thing above applies to all professions that demand tips including those on cruise liners.

So now that you understand why I won’t give you money you don’t deserve, stop with the “oh how could you?” attitude. I can. And I will.

***

So, in conclusion, be kind to your servers.  Not because they’ll “spit in your food” or because they “pretend to be your best friend”, be kind to them because they’re part of the human race and so are you.