Head Above Water, Eyes on the Prize

There are a number of good reasons I have embarked upon this completely new career – if you’ll allow me to call it that even in its pathetically fledgling state.  I (and Chris) wanted to be able to work wherever I lived, and I wanted where I lived to be truly a question of want.  I wanted a deeply felt freedom of movement to accompany any decision we might make to lay down roots.  I wanted to reconnect with words; for the first two thirds of my life I thought I’d die if I stopped laying them down, wherever I could sometimes – even on the cliché fast food napkin stuffed in my back pocket, already scribbled upon once, as I sat in a bus overcome by peculiar details on a day’s journey to my job in the mall.  After too many papers at university, or maybe too much paperwork in the office, the drive to write left me…or perhaps I gave in too easily.  Whatever the case, I lost the habit for years.  Many of those years were psychically difficult to say the least – I hoped picking it back up might address some of that. But once we decided to move to France, I committed to the aforementioned decision ultimately because I had no choice.  My French wouldn’t get me through a shift in a bar, let alone in any kind of position that would be tenable for the longer term.

I didn’t, however, opt for this change to insert excitement into my life.  In point of fact, I was quite content with the notion that perhaps this would make for a slightly more peaceful existence, particularly when I looked back upon some of the work I’ve done over the last several years, which I may at some point find relevant to discuss in this blog.  Not yet.

Still and all, it has thus far been a veritable roller coaster of emotions:  pride, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, insecurity, shame, fear, anger, and then also excitement, anticipation, relief, joy, even moments of euphoria.  Consider that my success rate has been roughly 5%, and my response rate about 10%, that I knew well and truly nothing about this business before I got started and therefore have made not less than one gazillion mistakes (some quite embarrassing), and that I’ve gone from a reasonably comfortable salary in London to a year on savings in the Philippines to financial dependence for the first time since I was 18(!) in the space of a couple of years…consider all of these factors, and I’m sure you can empathize.

Over the last couple of weeks, our return from St-Trop, my two trips to Switzerland, my mother-in-law’s surprise party for her 70th, a day spent at Immigration and a general sense of psychological distention have collectively overwhelmed me, and I’ve struggled to write a thing.  My journal has filled up with a stream of passing thoughts, fears, and hopes in the hours I’ve spent on the train; I’m not sure this post is proving to be any more focused than the rambling notes I’ve scribbled from Le Puy to Lyon, Lyon to Geneva, Geneva to Zurich and back again.  And yet there is a point to all of this.

What If and Why Not was never meant to be only about the good stuff.  This is not a Facebook photo album.  There have been some tremendous ups and debilitating downs since we decided to turn our lives inside-out, upside-down.  I’m humbled by the notion that I might-could-maybe make a go of writing as a career, but I’m on no sort of running start.  This is as challenging as anything I’ve ever done – more so – and yet…what if I could? (Trust me – I’m not ready to ask why not? just yet…I’ve got too many answers for my own good!)

So how to keep your eyes on the prize, when you’re simply struggling to keep your head above water?  Then again, isn’t up the best direction to go?  (Work with me, people.)

Today I got some good news…last week, too.  Nothing new, but in the slower-than-molasses-in-the-wintertime and somehow also faster-than-a-speeding-bullet world of magazine writing, this is how cookies often crumble.  I scramble for every morsel I can get, and hope I can find the energy to keep it up.  In the meantime I’m thinking about diversifying…I’ll keep you posted.

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0 thoughts on “Head Above Water, Eyes on the Prize

  1. SunCityMom says:

    One thing you haven’t concentrated on is your poetry. And, as I remember, picking up scraps of paper you constantly were leaving everywhere, your poetry is outstanding! So when the stories, interviews, research leave you high and dry, use that wonderful talent and write some poetry. It’s still published you know and it’s high time we had some new stuff to read! Love you, MOM

  2. antonia says:

    #1. I love your mom’s comment. Truth. Beauty.
    #2. “psychological distention”?! Only great writers come up with s*!@ like that! (I have to watch my language cause of the baby.) I’m gonna use that by the way, like how my dad borrowed “architectural stalinism” from Mike Davis. Thanx. I miss you. I love you.

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