Essay: "The Art of Mindfulness" By Sarah Sullivan

The Art of Mindfulness

By Sarah Sullivan
Arlington, VA

You finally sell out

You finally sell out, give up your freelance writing career and your daytime bar gig at Paddy O’Meara’s. You polish off your dusty English degree and go groveling to the Man for a job. Gone are the lip ring, ripped jeans, and faded Dead Kennedys shirt; in their place are cheap, plain New York & Co slacks and sweaters. You look like a fucking idiot. You look like a kid playing dress-up. The reflection staring back at you makes you want to dry-heave. But you need to pay off your student loans, so you go to the interviews in your dress-up clothes and repeat the words “self-starter” and “goal-oriented” until some large shiny glass building extends you a job offer.

Five years later

Five years later you’re 29, a Senior Business Writer for an IT company. You can barely operate a toaster, let alone explain what a microprocessor does, but that’s okay, because you don’t have to know. You just have to pretend like you know. Hell, it’s more of an acting job than anything. You dress in suits and sit in meetings and nod your head like you give a rat’s ass how many microprocessors your company sells this year. You’re a good enough actress to fit in with your coworkers, and soon find yourself baking cupcakes from Pinterest recipes and pretending you can tolerate Taylor Swift. With enough Adderall, sometimes work doesn’t even bother you.

The writing part is easy

The writing part is easy- just use the words “innovative” and “synergistic”- but it’s the acting part that has you juggling two separate lives. One where you’re running a 5K with your work “friends,” and another with your real friends, who still write feminist poetry and play bass guitar on weekends and don’t have two nickels to rub together. You’re so paranoid someone from work will see you at the Social Distortion concert that you wear heavy eye makeup and clip-in hair extensions. You gaze at yourself in the mirror and you like what you see. This is what you would have looked like if you hadn’t racked up all those loans studying Milton.

Acting gets weary

Acting gets weary and depressing, so you start exercising. Pretty soon you’re running four miles a day, rolling into work on an endorphin high with wet hair and flushed cheeks. Your real friends- the ones who sneak mini bottles of Southern Comfort into punk shows and know that you’re on mood stabilizers- are perplexed by the exercise thing. They’re not sure whether to blame Wall Street or your failed creative writing career, and you’re not sure, and then one night you get all drunk and emotional at this performance art gallery in Bushwick because you feel like you’re wasting your point in life.

The next morning

The next morning you wake up early, hungover, at your friend’s Harlem railroad apartment. You throw on a tiny black lace romper (because you can) and slip downstairs for a cigarette, your muscular runner’s legs taking the stairs two steps at a time. The muggy morning stench of the city slaps you in the face. You sit on the cracked concrete stairs and light up. Beside you, a woman in a torn white shirt is panhandling for her breakfast. You’re completely free and in your element and nobody is riding your ass about selling computer chips or being a blocked creative type. Maybe you really, finally, got the hang of this adult thing, you know? You know?

Sarah Sullivan is a writer from Virginia. 

"My name is Sarah Sullivan and I'm a writer and poet in Arlington, VA. I have a BA in English from Hollins University and have completed additional study at Johns Hopkins and the University of Virginia. My work primarily deals with the roles of women in history."


On Her Work:

"Girls can be angry, too- especially about the state of the economy. After graduating from college, we're taught to dress in business casual and sit smiling in offices all day in order to pay off our student loans and get health insurance. That kind of lifestyle really isn't for everyone."

On Female Creators:

"Women writers have so many diverse perspectives- it's not all about cooking and shopping anymore. It's important for girls today to know that they can have a voice in fields as diverse as biotechnology, global politics, and the state of the economy. "