Stuck in a Moment

In Essays on June 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm

By Tasha Huebner

Damn, I was arrogant.

“Hmph,” I smirked, even with a bit of an eye roll thrown in for good measure. “I’ll never be one of those people trying to sell more cornflakes, or—god forbid—figuring out what color hats the Keebler Elves should wear. I’m going to do something a little more important than that.”

So, with Wharton MBA in hand, I set out to conquer the world, self-styled Master of the Universe that I was. And what kind of important things am I doing now? Let’s see. Today I was out at my garden plot fussing over the tomato plants, because I’m hoping that later in the summer I’ll have enough to sell and make at least a few hundred dollars. Had lunch with my mom, which she paid for. Sent an email to a person I write blog articles for on various topics, for a miserly amount of money, telling her that sure, I’d be happy to write articles for a stripper recruiting blog—why the hell not?

Stripper articles.

When you graduate from business school, you are led to believe that striking out on your own—because you’re so damn brilliant and all—is a great idea, just wonderful. You may not expect to hit it big, as in hawking-schlock-sold-expensively-on-QVC-big, but you do feel confident that you’ll at least get by.

But then something like, say, The Cancer comes knocking at your door. No, forget knocking—the rude bastard comes barreling in guns a’blazing, taking no prisoners, leaving you shell-shocked and stunned, because seriously, WTF is this? You have no family history of cancer, you’ve always been healthy to a fault, you’re training for your second IRONMAN, for chrissake, so really, WTH? Then if you have the really shitty luck, like some of us (ahem), a month later you’ll still be training for said Ironman, and will get into a bad bike crash going downhill at 40 mph that will leave you with a severely broken collarbone, bleeding on the brain, no memory of the crash or the three days in the hospital, and oh yeah, that pesky cancer that still needs to be taken care of.

And meanwhile, back at the ranch, because you’re single and self-employed, you have no income anymore because you’re in a cancer-treatment and brain-injury fog, and while you do have health insurance (whew!), you discover that insurance companies are evil bastards who MSU (=Make Shit Up) in order to get out of paying your bills. So you come home one day, exhausted in your 6th week of daily radiation treatment, and burst into tears when you get yet another bill from BlueCrossBlueShield saying that they’re not going to pay $5K of your surgery because there was “an extra nurse in the room.”

Even I don’t have the creative cojones to make this stuff up.

And at the same time that your life is being totally derailed by The Cancer, you have people helpfully telling you about all the lessons you should be learning from this “journey.” Life is short! Seize the day! Live every day as if it were your last!

First of all, if I lived every day as if it were my last, well, let’s just say that there’s a level of rapacious bonbon-eating there that even I don’t care to contemplate. Second, and more importantly, I would love to “seize the day” and do all the things I’ve ever dreamed of. Visit Mongolia! White water rafting again in Costa Rica! Visiting my CancerChick friends, the group of women who live across the U.S. that I’ve come to know and love as we together deal with the shitcan that is cancer at a young age!

There’s one problem with this, and forgive me for stating the obvious here, but: this costs money. I know, shocking! But true. And to a person, my CancerChicks and I, we’re po.’ The married ones have a bit more leeway, but if you’re single? Forget it. Single and self-employed? Doubly forget it. Do we want to work? Hell yes. I’d like to be able to pay my bills without contemplating how much I could get if I gave blood on a regular basis. Yet for some reason, in spite of my Wharton MBA, my fan-fucking-tastic resume (everyone tells me this) (though okay, I admit I’ve paraphrased slightly), the fact that I’m really good at what I do (shameless plug: marketing, communications/writing), I have yet to find work, even project work.

So while I’d like to report that as someone with The Cancer who realizes full well the importance of embracing all that life has to offer, that I’m doing so every single day—the truth is that I can’t quite figure out how to spend every day in some whirlwind of fandango fun and excitement, because reality kind of gets in the way. Those pesky bills. The minutiae that make it hard for me to move boldly forward into my post-Cancer life. This is true for everyone I know who has this disease that’s determined to kill us.

The other bit of advice that people like to share with you, whether you have The Cancer or not, is this: do what you love to do—the money will follow.

This, my friends, is a bold bit of complete and utter horseshit.

Me, what I love to do is write. I have a blog that’s sweeping the nation (You’ll laugh! Cry! Rally to laugh again!), that I make absolutely no money from. (Note to IRS: no money whatsoever.) I’ve been working on a book, but in the meantime I need to be able to pay my bills, so the book often has to go by the wayside. Such is life. Working as a strategy consultant post-Wharton, that brought in a decent amount of money. The writing, the acerbic wit, the pandering to the eighteens of blog readers who hang onto my every word? Not so much.

So what are our key takeaways here? I think they’d be along these lines:

  1. Don’t get The Cancer. If it offers to latch onto your life, just say hey, no thanks, I’m kinda busy now.
  2. But if you do, make sure you’re part of a two-income household, or independently wealthy, because…
  3. (to paraphrase George Bailey)…money comes in pretty handy down here, bub.
  4. If you’re the quintessential Schleprock like I am, don’t follow your dreams. Stick with the well-paying corporate gig; do what you love to do in your spare time. Trust me on this.
  5. Realize that if you have the aforementioned crap luck, it makes for some fantastic writing on the blog. Hey, lemons, lemonade, margaritas, go with it.
  6. And if you look at the shell casings surrounding the destruction of your formerly orderly and logical life and are completely baffled as to how you wound up here, it’s important to realize that it’s not all bad, that there are always patches of sunshine hidden among the shadows.

And if I at times sound a bit bitter, well, that’s only partially true. I’m not bitter about The Cancer, because quite frankly, shit happens. Not bitter about the bike crash/brain injury, because that elevated things to an almost sublime level of absurdity that holds up well in the retelling.

What I AM bitter about—or perhaps dumbfounded is a better word—is the fact that I have a Wharton MBA, for god’s sake, yet am willing to write stripper stories for a tiny bit of cash, as I lay awake at night wondering how I’ll pay my bills. Wharton! MBA! Amazing resume and experience! Brilliance all in one neat little package! The mind reels.

I’m bitter that tomorrow when I go for my 6-month checkup with my oncologist, the one whose mantra is “no scans without symptoms,” I’m notgoing to try to convince her that I should be scanned at least once. Because if they do find a recurrence or advancement, I can’t afford to treat it. “Thanks, doc, but I’ll pass on more of The Cancer today—it’s just not in my budget right now.”

I’m bitter about the fact that I’m being audited by the IRS, because the brain trust over there flagged my returns when I had a sudden drop in income and, oh, huge medical bills! Lawsy me, what ever could be the connection?

I’m slightly bitter about the fact that The Cancer will be back at some point, because the stats for young women with stage II breast cancer basically suck. I wish I could be earning money so that I could in fact be doing the carpe diem-ing I’d like to do in whatever time I have left. But I can’t.

I’m very bitter about the fact that my fellow CancerChicks, who I love dearly and would do anything for, are all dealing with this same shit. And the bitterness becomes black indeed when I think about the lie perpetuated on us all: that breast cancer is so curable, which is total hogwash, especially for young women. Hell, it’s barely treatable, based on the fact that seven or eight of my friends in just the last week have either found out that they’re now stage 4, or have taken a turn for the worse because their treatments are no longer working.

Curable, my ass.

And yet, in spite of the fact that my life is a total shambles, I have amazing women in my life because of The Cancer, and I wouldn’t give up those friendships for anything in the world. Not for all the tea in China, not all the pots of gold in existence.

So to sum up: Money = good. Jobs = good. Cancer = bad. If you measure success by the amount of money one has accrued, then clearly I’m the least successful person from my graduating class at Wharton. A wash-up. A failure.

If you measure it in friendship—I’m the richest woman in the world.

Photo provided by Tasha Huebner.

  1. Well, I think that many Wharton MBA graduates will envy you. They have to write reports on pattypan squash production in Iowa, you write stripper recruiting blogs. Who has the better gig?

    Tasha rocks!

  2. Tasha, I hear you loud and clear! As for me, I measure my riches in friendships and frying pans. And sometimes both. xoxo

  3. We must have the same oncologist! Or they both went to the school of “No Scans.”. I’m 4 months out until my 3 year anniversary of dx. And still, no scans yet.

  4. I commented on this same blog on your personal site so won’t be redundant (I’ll leave that for the pattypan squash production Wharton people …. but wanted to say thanks for contributing to work stew and for what you wrote.

  5. […] Tasha Huebner A self-employed Wharton grad takes a hammer to the old chestnut, “Do what you love, and the money will come.” […]

  6. I was rapt reading this post, then I touched my face, to realize I was weeping with utter sadness at this narrative. Wish you a jackpot lottery to wipe away your daily worries! But more than that will pray for your health and may you remain strong and a fighter always!

    • Good Morning all! So somebody has leekad a top secret not to be released Government Memo.Which according to the AG was not a report but a working paper, or doodles or something.The Media in their frenzy look quite unbalanced, rabid actually.The troll that has his/her panties in a twist is not a supporter anyway, or should I say anymore .I must share with our Timorous Troll a quote from Mark Twain; If you do not read the newspapers, you are uniformed,if you do read the newspapers you are misinformed Vote for the Clown Coalition Party sweetie they will look after you.All this fuss and fury signifies NOTHING it is just more crap from the Coalition and their Media toadies.I spent the day yesterday brushing up on my CIMS skills (voter list data entry) and helping around the Campaign office of Dr James Lunney.Things are going very well, I did not hear a single mention of the latest faux scandal.The only people that care about this are the Media and the Coalition of losers that are hoping this is the ticket back to power.All we are hearing at the front doors is anger at the forced election, people are sick of the antics of the dis-loyal opposition, and the media I will say people feel betrayed by the Media.Things are humming along our candidate will win.We are having a rally today with Dr Lunney and Conservative Senator Nancy Green-Raine.We will not be sidetrackedWe are still ahead and still winning, the voters will speak to the issues that matter to them not the Coalition or the media.It is still the Economy.

  7. Tasha
    Wow, what a story. Please take a look at these two sites:
    A-List Bloggers

    You CAN make good money writing online and blogging! These folks show you exactly what to do, and they are very successful.

    Good luck with everything.

  8. Thank you all for the kind words, and advice, and, well, for caring. Truly. That means so much to me. Knowing that just one person may have been touched by something I wrote, heck, that can keep me going for weeks. I’m easy that way. 😉

    Here’s to winning the lottery, or at least a robust tomato crop (!), and for all of us, a life well-lived….


  9. […] piece on the satisfaction he’s found in being able to support his children’s dreams, Tasha Huebner’s powerful reminder that having work of any kind is nothing to sneeze at, Gerald […]

  10. […] Work Stew contributors have already weighed in on this question. Tasha Huebner essentially concluded that ‘follow your heart’ is crazy talk, especially in a country […]

  11. […] Tasha Huebner A self-employed Wharton grad takes a hammer to the old chestnut, “Do what you love, and the money will come.”  […]

  12. […] What are my chances of winning, or as Tasha Huebner likes to ask, “Have I won […]

  13. […] This one is wild, for a few reasons.  The first being that it doesn’t end well.  It’s a very sad and hard to read story and there is no silver lining.  It’s essentially a vent.  Which of course is important but just interesting – not usually what I see in these essays/posts/articles.  The second reason I find it wild is because her basic thesis is to debunk the idea that I’ve been trying to beat into my own head for the last 6 months:  If you follow your heart, the money will come.  It’s really just fascinating to read.  Her circumstances are completely different and her reasoning is sound.  But again, just an interesting read for me at this stage in the game. […]

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