Girls is not remotely realistic about the earnings of a freelance writer — no one involved in the making of the show has ever been, or even bothered to talk to, one.
Woolever documents her entire career, with some important lessons along the way. “I took out a loan and did a 6-month professional course at the French Culinary Institute, while continuing to work part-time for the family for a few months. I soon learned that I was poorly-equipped to be restaurant cook. I’m rather lazy, I loathe noise, heat, and teamwork, bore easily, and crack under pressure.”
How a colleague’s death affects an office:
Story after story, they’re all like this, proximity aspiring to intimacy, and it’s clear that no one here knew him, not the people in his department, not his managers, not the people he had lunch with and traveled with. They talk about his cluttered desk, his e-mail forwards, his cocktails at the Christmas party. They try to pull a person out of the time he spent here and they can’t.
“I always said hi to Colin when I passed him in the hall,” says someone on the video.
Naomi stops crying. She makes a little sound like she’s surprised, like she’s discovered the exact borders of her compassion. She takes a shallow breath, puts her purse on her lap, starts looking through it for tissues.
A man with $90,000 in debt makes some hard decisions about his life—starting with a trip to Kosovo for an IT job:
“Of course, all I understood at the time was JOB INTERVIEW and VIENNA. Prior to my application, I had never heard of the OSCE, and I knew next to nothing about Kosovo. My IT skills were rudimentary and my management experience nonexistent. I was mystified why I got a call. I was so completely unqualified for this job, I might have treated this like a mini-vacation but for one significant fact: the salary. The job paid $85,000 a year, tax-free (due to the glorious Foreign Earned Income Exclusion). This was an incomprehensible amount of money. It would fix everything. The pressure to do well in this interview, just for this one small chance at a dream life and the magical solution to all of my problems, was intense.
“I flew to Vienna two weeks later and interviewed the next morning in a small yellow room. It was 10 a.m.—4 a.m. EST. There was a panel, chaired by my would-be boss, a taciturn Austrian man. I was dressed in a garish blue Hugo Boss sport coat that I picked up at Century 21 a week earlier. I was over caffeinated, jet lagged, and clammy. I made nervous self-deprecating jokes, which translated poorly between our cultures. It was a disaster from start to finish. I left the interview thinking, ‘Thanks for the free trip to Vienna.’ I spent the rest of the day squandering my remaining per diem on beer and meat, refusing to think about what might have been. The next morning I flew home.”
A writer, out of money, is forced to part ways with his dream guitar:
“The first hospital bill arrived in late June. My eyes roamed its surface: ‘If paying by check…’ ‘YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR BILL. PLEASE PAY THE BALANCE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.’ ‘Please pay this amount…’ Along came the dizzying despondency of the Amount Due, four figures comprising the deductibles left over from a six-day stay and ER consultations and minor surgery and X-rays and everything else a troop of professionals provides to keep patients alive and well at Lenox Hill Hospital. More bills followed—consultations here, outpatient follow-ups there. As sure as I felt my preexisting vortex of personal financial ruin gather strength around me, its waves tickling and willing the bills into whispering tremors in my hand, I knew how all of this would end: I would sell the Bean.”