Sunday, January 16, 2005

Night Thoughts, Sunday

Sunday is prep day.

Collect the week's story rejections and send out new stuff, water the plants, get the groceries, cook up the week's chicken and broccoli lunches, clean the bathroom, pack for Monday's MA class, read the Tribune, hit Borders and coffee with Jenn, recover from a hangover if neccessary, roll over the week's goals, go jogging or put in my government-recommended 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, chat with my brother, bid Jenn off to her SO's, catch up on e-mail, grind coffee, slump off to bed, exhausted...

And then you roll it all over, and you've got your week again - and you bust through it on the way to wherever it is you're going, recoup on Sunday, and do it all over again.

I've got a novel that needs to be finished this year, another one that needs to do the "straight to publishers" gamble. I need to contact my recruiter sometime this summer and start looking for other jobs. I need to get to Glasgow in August. In autumn, I'm signing up for that French class, come hell or high water. By year's end I need to have done some serious thought as to what I'm doing after Chicago - Jenn will finish her Ph.D. next summer, and we'll likely be parting ways as she heads out to teach and I figure out what the next crazy leap is going to be. As much as I like Chicago and as cozy as I am, I won't stay here.

I'm incredibly lucky to have so many roads open to me, and I know it. Yea, there's stress in choosing what you want: go for a Ph.D., law school, give it up and go make a living on a fishing boat in Alaska? Work at a bookstore in Canada? Transfer to the company office in London? Backpack around New Zealand doing odd jobs and running from student loan debt?

For the last seven years, choice has never frightened me: what's concerned me is how I'm going to fit everything I want to do into one far-too-short lifetime. And, more recently - how am I going to fit all this in while allowing myself to enjoy it? When you spend seven years running, seven years piling it all on, trying to live up to your potential, trying to be somebody you want to be, you get to the end of that and you have to take a deep breath and go: yea. I did it. I'm doing it. It's OK.

Because at some point, you're going to get breathless, the scenery blurs, and though you'll still hit the water, you'll miss the view during the long drop, and anybody who's gone bridge-jumping into dark water knows that the "oh fuck" moment's the best part.

Chatting with Jenn over coffee today about books, life, job. She asked me if I had a copy of Herland, I said I had no idea, I might have given it away during one of my book purges. I had to ditch a lot of books in my move from South Africa to Chicago because I didn't have the money to ship them, and I had to ditch pretty much every book I owned back in Bellingham when I was 18, cause I needed the money. I sold the books when I pawned the VCR and the TV so I could pay my electric bill.


And I let myself have one of my moments tonight, thinking about my suit jacket, and Denver, and New York, and story sales, and book manuscripts, and I thought - yea. I did it it. Look at that. Look how far I've come from batshit nowhere, from the white trash path, from being able to look out over my whole life and know exactly where it would go, exactly who I would be.

Now I look out and there's this vast landscape, this incredible open sea of possibility.

It's gorgeous. It's fucking beautiful.

And then the moment's done, and you gotta get back up again, find another road, another bridge, another way through, on the way to where you're going.

Cause on the road to where you're going, toilets need to be cleaned, stuff needs to be packed, beds made and stories written and read, and that doesn't happen if you spend too long loitering at the crossroads.

It's a wacky life.

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

No advice, but it sounds like a swell place to be and enjoy the moment, however brief. Again it's a very fortunate bright moment. Congrats.

Things we know though:

No one, repeat NO ONE runs from student loan debt. They'll go to the ends of the earth to find you and make you pay. They now have more powers than the IRS. So that might factor in.

I assume some of the thoughts were metaphorical.

Fishing in AK: High hazard, low to moderate pay for the year. Declining stocks of some or most of the targets. Beautiful surroundings, fairly laid back most of the time, (with a little bit of money).

Book store in Canada? Low hazard, low pay. This is as true in the States as it is in Canada, and the UK for that matter. No published writer I know just works in a bookstore, they might own it, and usually to their regret. (I know the romantic in all of us does not want to believe this, but it's true).

NZ sounds interesting, lovely place, fine people but there's a limit to how long you can be away from serious creditors. So odd jobs sounds more like the 21 plan before all the degrees. But travel is fun too.

The company office in London is probably twice as expensive, and good for a short term stint if they're serious about it. Sometimes they're not and it's just as much a lark for them as it is you.

Ph.D's? Take it from someone who knows, what no one will tell you is that unless you are planning to teach university, no one Needs a Ph.D. Now's the time to do it, but most programs will take 5-6 years to complete even at a quick march pace. The average is really closer to 8-10 depending again on the program. English might be different. Depends on what bridges you see ahead. Mostly it's plenty of bureaucratic BS & unless you plan on a career of teaching almost exclusively, fairly irrelevant. If people pay you now for writing you're a professional already, and the envy of plenty of Ph.d's. And mostly English/Writing Profs can be exempt from the Ph.D rule, if they are reasonably well published.

Law school, the first refuge of scoundrels is always a bit interesting, as it deals with plenty of texts and are practically the last profession to do so. Plenty of fine legal historical traditions to discover too. You'd probably do swimingly. It's also possible to get in and out in slightly under 2 years or so if you are speedy. It's also a great weapon to have in your quiver in the future. Your boss/BF/whomever might be skeptical if you threatened them physically, (I don't really know), but tell most people you're going to sue them, and that gets their attention really quick. Me I'm betting with a weekend of some refreshing that you'd do fine on the LSAT's. The course is chartered and known for every law degree, unlike many Ph.D. programs for example, all you have to supply is interest and some intellect. It might not be a 'perfect' fit, but it's something you might try on for a bit. Naturally though it'll also increase the debt load though. I guess it all depends on how seriously you might need the steady income and when. For most it's not difficult to hold onto a part time and sometimes a full time job with law school either. (This helps if you are unattached with no kids too!) But having a lwa degree is like having a tool kit that you can use in many places. It can be very handy to have with some diligence.

All this is a moot point if you are going to be making some serious income from writing. That's indeed rare and should not be neglected.

No, I'm NOT a lawyer either. And no, that's not my email. And unsolicited free 'advice' is worth every penny you pay for it. Good Luck Kid! VJ, Ga.


Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

On the other hand there's these words of wisdom from [Dec. 17, 2003 post]


Yes, I've got too much time on my hands... She argues for the more ed/Ph.D. route ;> 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

Ah, student loan debt: the only debt you can't declare bankruptcy on.

Yea. I know. Law school would be great - it was a suggestion made offhand to my buddy Stephanie at one point, and I was startled that she didn't jump on it. It's one of those "good knowledge to have" things that I wouldn't actually want to put into practice, unless I was in the business of giving free legal advice to victims of domestic abuse...

Hey, wait a minute, this sounds like a better and better option... 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

That sounds swell, but divorce work is a bit more lucrative. ;> Some of the same issues apply however. Of course my radcial advice to any friend who is stalked beyond harrassment and into or at shelters/refuge is to simply arm themselves. I've seen and heard about too many women who die at the hands of their husbands/BF's clutching their paper restraining orders. It's a huge issue that society has not come to grips with despite so many other 'advances'. That's another topic that Bobo's from the NYT will never really cover or understand.

Again I still say a Ph.D. is far too often the waste of the most productive decade of your life. There's lost opportunity costs there, it's too long, too complicated, too contingent on politics, life choices and other stuff.

What I forgot to mention was the one advice you may not hear all that often except from kin. Don't quit your decent day job. Never underestimate the possibilities of writing and doing your art while engaged in another profession. Plenty of legal writers do that. Me, I think of Charlie Ives, who was an insurance exec. by day (for real) and iconoclastic American composer for the rest of the time. He wrote some of the better American 'classical' music that we've got and he still found the time to innovate in the insurace field. It can be done, and done with class, style and verve. But having a decent steady paycheck With healthcare benefits is nothing to sneeze at. That's a tremendously valuable and unfortunately an increasingly rare commodity. Think hard about trading that out for something. My father always put it this way; It's not just to do the work you love. Sometimes you just have to learn to love the work you do. Again this need not be an argument for constrained choices. (And reading some of the recently posted [FB] academic stuff on women prof's and children makes me want to hurl, really).

I enjoy your writing too. VJ, ga. 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

Thanks, VJ. I'm enjoying the law school idea more and more - I've had the same back-and-forth warring with whether or not to get a Ph.D. for a couple years now: is it really worth the time and expense to get something in women's studies or military history when I'm already doing that work independently? And as said, ever since somebody suggested law school to Stephanie, I've been gnawing on it, because it's an incredibly useful set of skills and knowledge that you can apply to a diverse bunch of other occupations. I'd love to look at schools in the northeast, as Stephanie's going to be in Pennsylvania sometime in the next year or two, and having a safe haven to head to when the shit gets to me would be a plus.

Not only would law school mean fewer years (I love programs that take 2 years or less), but I'd be challenging myself on a couple of different levels. And now that I've got the "reason why I'd do it" down... yea, this is looking better and better.

Huh. Funny. Dominoes.

There is, of course, the actual *acceptance* to law school part... not that shit like that has put me back before. All they can do is say no and laugh at me. :;shrugs::

Ha. Yea.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

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