When I was five years old, I dreamed of being an apple salesman. I imagined my future in sepia tone: pushing my cart of apples down the street, hungry kids running out of their houses to greet me.
That is not exactly how things turned out.
After college, I moved back in with my mother and waited tables at the Applebee's across the street from the airport. So close to my boyhood dream, and yet so, so far away.
The work was awful, but it was a great incentive to do anything else with my life, and I soon moved on and became a high school English teacher in New York City -- a job that caused my heart to expand as much as it did my hairline to recede.
I grew up in that job.
But then I quit it and moved back in with my mother. Then I returned to it. Then I left it again. Then I Googled "quarter-life crisis."
At 26, voluntarily unemployed and too old to get health insurance from my dad, it seemed the appropriate time to consider whether I might be a complete idiot. Instead, I started a tumblr.
In Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings, I took classic characters from my childhood--my heroes, the ones who were pure-hearted and brave, the epitomes of "happily ever after"--and I stuck them in the same dumb situations me and my friends had been going through for years. You know what they say: If you can't beat 'em, write fan-fiction that forces them to join you.
The stories from that tumblr became the basis for the book, Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation.
Now, Peter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent.
Little Red Riding Hood is being stalked by creepy dudes on OkCupid. And no less than three fairy tale characters are working bad restaurant jobs. I guess I'm still processing some Applebee's PTSD.
As a child, fairy tales were how I made sense of the world--a dream of becoming an apple salesman could only come from a kid who really believed anything was possible. I'm returning to those fairy tales now to try to make sense of the world again. This time, it's probably going to involve more alcohol.