Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Job/Money Conundrum

I was raised in a family that was an oxymoron of sorts when it came to the job/money relationship. My mom hated her job, but makes pretty great money. My dad – at that time – loved his job, but the orchard never did much more than break even. Regardless of these two parallels, both my parents encouraged me to study something that would lead to a job that I loved and would make me happy. I chose journalism.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I am not cut out to be a journalist. There are many reasons for this, but two stand out: 1) I’m am not a “sprinter”, and 2) I prefer to work for myself.
When I say I’m not a sprinter, I mean that I want projects and work I can sink my teeth into: multi-dimensional, thick and meaty, and requiring a long period of time and organization to get all the pieces to fit together. Journalism is about what’s in the news now, and how it relates to today’s world – in 500 words or less. This is also the reason that I am not a good freelance writer at all: I want to write books, not stories.
As for working for myself, my dad told me once (only half joking) that I would work for myself, like him, barely scrimping by and taking on the brunt of the workload alone. This was not an insult, more of an insight into my work personality, which I get from him. My brother, he said, would probably be the CEO of a company, rake in a bunch of money and manage hundreds of people. Chace is the social one, like my mom.
At times, I’ve thought that I could easily accept this idea of what my life would be. I’m sure that those times aren’t over; inevitably I will once again think that I will be perfectly happy living on very little as long as I can work for myself. There’s only one problem: I have things I want to do, and they require money.
As much as I can live on very little, I don’t like to. It’s not necessarily because of what I have to give up, more because of what I can’t have. The items that I want, however, are not the kind you can save up for when you’re living on your savings trying to be a writer. And here’s where the conundrum comes in: I want to work for myself, doing what makes me happy, but what makes me happy doesn’t make me any money. This blogpost by John Scalzi on writers and their financial situations really hit home for me. Even when writers are considered to have “made it,” authors’ incomes are far below most other professions. What constitutes “made it?” Two published books a year by a midlist author.
So, what to do? What kind of job can I get that won’t eat up my time – my most valuable possession – that will allow me to make enough money for the things I want? And just so you’re not guessing at what I want, here’s a short but succinct list: property, maybe even with a house, maybe even in a foreign country, and the ability to spend a lot of time there without having to hurry back to a job after 10 days.
So here’s the revelation, coming years later for me than it probably did for most people: I can’t have it all.
This doesn’t need to be as negative as it sounds. There are plenty of jobs out there that are longer shifts, less days of the week; that have summers off; that give more than average vacation time. There are businesses out there that I could start myself that would take up my time, but it would be my business and my income. There are surely jobs out there that I would love to spring out of bed to get to. The only problem is that I don’t know what they are.
I started off my year of writing in the end of January 2009. I’m less than three months away from that deadline, which doesn’t have to be set in stone. What is set in stone is the fact that I will run out of money unless I get a job. I can float by for awhile on some part-time jobs that help pay the bills, but I can’t do that forever, nor do I want to. Now is the time to think about it, though, not when there’s nothing left for me to use to start over. At least I’m ahead of the game in the thinking department.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Some Weeks Just Suck...But It's OK.

I don’t think it’s possible to do something really great without having to overcome a little bit of opposition. Before I went to Spain the head of the WSU Spanish Department told me I was a fool and that I would fail if I went to Spain the next year.
At the time, I was dating a guy named L. No, this is not a pseudonym; that was what we called him. L and I were very mismatched and I was unhappy most of the time, but there is this one moment that I will always remember and be thankful for when it comes to L. After I left the professor’s office, I was in tears because he told me that I couldn’t go to Spain – that it would be a big mistake. I met up with L and told him what was wrong.
“Well,” he said, shrugging his huge shoulders, “I guess you’re just going to have to prove him wrong, aren’t you?”
It was as simple as that. There was no questioning whether or not the man that headed the department that I wanted a degree in was right. There was no apology, no comforting, just a simple answer. My crying stopped, L and I broke up, I went to Spain, and I lasted through one of the hardest years of my life that has made me into the person I am today. And no, it wouldn’t have been any easier if I had waited another year like the professor told me I had to.
There are little things that all of my boyfriends have given me like this. After my hardest breakup, my friend Mindy told me that everyone is put in your life for a reason – which I had already believed – but that sometimes their time in your life was very limited. She was basically telling me not to discount our relationship because it had only lasted five months, and he had ended it far before I was ready. It took me a long time, but I realized that she was right. From Clint, I learned how great a relationship can be – and what real communication looks like. We were ultimately not made for each other, and my friends thought he lacked a sense of adventure that I need in a partner to be happy, but I learned more from my time with him than I have with anyone else.
My last relationship is what I would call a train wreck. Any time I bring up Josh in conversation, my friends get angry and don’t want to talk about it. Strangely, I’m not near as angry at Josh, I think because I hold myself responsible for what I let him do to me and my emotional state. However, there’s one moment in our relationship that I consider the reason he was there. We were in the middle of a fight – our first of several breakup fights – and he said, “If you want to write, you just need to do it. No more talking about it, working other jobs, complaining. Just write and the rest will take care of itself.”
That should have been the end. If I had let him go then, I would have saved myself a lot of pain and anger; I also would have saved my friends a lot of grief on my behalf. Because of Josh, though, I finally got the guts to do what I needed to do. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that conversation.
Of course, I also consider Josh to be one of the people on the other side of the coin. He is what I refer to when I talk about overcoming adversity to accomplish something great. When I wake up in the middle of the night and find his empty promises still tumbling through my head, I remember how much better my life is without him, regardless of the pain it took to get there. When I have a week like last week, when it seemed the hurdles were insurmountable, I remember all these things I’ve learned, and it helps. I think, “Hell, I lived in Spain for a year, taught toddlers to ski, overcame a broken heart AND am happier and better off without a manipulative bully. How could THIS possibly be worse?” And immediately, I feel better.

Love and hurtling hurtle kisses