I did something unexpected in my quest to become a writer last week. I applied for a temporary, seasonal job at a non-profit organization. This job is not related to my writing, although it does involve others’ writing. Its purpose is to identify the best-of-the-best underserved high school seniors to match them with four-year colleges and universities through essays these students have written.
The reason I say this is unexpected is because I don’t actually need a job. My husband and I prepared financially for when we would both stop working at our steady-income jobs. We have housesitting jobs lined up to take us through May, 2017, so our monthly expenses are only food, health insurance, and car stuff.
In fact, my teaching salary was paid through the summer so it’s not like I’ve even been experiencing what no-income living is like. Yet, for the past few weeks I have felt wholly inadequate as to what I’ve been contributing to society.
Yet, for the past few weeks I have felt wholly inadequate as to what I’ve been contributing to society.
One of the things I really struggled with this past summer in New York was finding volunteer opportunities. Living where we did, which was 40 minutes to anywhere, and having only one car, it was hard to find many service opportunities, especially when I couldn’t give more than two months of a commitment.
So since the beginning of May I have essentially focused on writing in my professional life. I’m pretty pleased with the progress as I have query letters out to agents and I have sent manuscripts to some boutique publishers. I have an agent critique coming up in October with one of my children’s stories and I’m a month in to blogging, which is a big deal for me as I’ve started two other blogs in my life that woefully never got past the first entry.
Of course, I would love to say that I already have an agent or a book contract, but I don’t. I’ve also been rejected a few times (which I’ll write more about in the future) and I know more rejection is coming my way because that’s simply the nature of life. Although I do hold fast to words I once heard Al Gore speak at COP-20 in Lima, Peru, “After the last no, comes a yes….”
But what it all comes down to is lately something seems to be missing living in my writing bubble. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very happy place to be and I am certainly not going to leave and never come back. My current professional goals and life purpose are tied to that bubble and I am confident I am on the right track.
What I feel is missing in my life, though, is balance.
What I feel is missing in my life, though, is balance.
Writing is a solitary life. I had the privilege and opportunity to attend a weekly writing group while we were in New York. Every Wednesday afternoon my husband and I would drive almost an hour to the Schenectady County Public Library where we made some really great friends and we shared our writing among lovely and talented writers.
The rest of the “work” week I spent sitting at the kitchen table writing on my tablet. It was über productive, but I’m just now realizing that it’s not enough. It reminds me of the depression I experienced a few years ago at work when one of my favorite people in the world left the university I taught at and all of sudden I didn’t have nearly any social interaction.
I wish I could claim that my own awareness came to this realization, but it took the wise words of an integrative doctor to point this out to me. We are social animals and I need socialization.
We are social animals and I need socialization.
Here is the socialization plan I’ve come up with for the next two months when my husband and I will be housesitting in Connecticut:
1) Spend three days a week writing at the library to get me out of the house;
2) Volunteer at the library (that is, if they’ll have me for just two months);
3) Seek other short-term volunteer opportunities as they present themselves;
4) Attend a weekly writers’ group;
5) Work at short-term, limited employment jobs where I can see my contributions to society;
6) Find a spiritual community that encourages self-reflection and growth.
I’m optimistic it will work, but in the event it doesn’t, at the very least it keeps me aware that I am dissatisfied with one area of my life and I am seeking to improve it. If anyone has any suggestions for points I may have missed on my socialization plan or areas they think I’ve missed, please share. I can use all the socialization I can get!
“So how long have you been doing this?” For just a moment, Gary’s eyes flicked to the flashing lights. He couldn’t help it. It was still his first week working on the Vegas strip and the novelty had not yet worn off.
“Almost a year,” came the soft response. Every night this week he and Iona worked together and Gary looked forward to the moments where they could steal a moment or two to chat.
“Oooooh, Olaf!” came the high pitched squeal as a little girl interrupted their conversation. Gary stepped aside as he watched Iona kneel down and put an arm around the girl. This wasn’t his ideal job, but he had it easy in the costume department. Just a fake beard and baby. His beer belly was all his own. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to sweat the hot Vegas nights away under pounds of plush and wire.
Gary had only seen Iona without her costume head on a few times, but it was enough to know two things: 1) he didn’t ever want to have to wear something like that; and 2) she was a dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty.
Iona straightened up after the girl’s father took a picture. She watched as they went on their way, leaving nothing in her tip jar. Gary came up beside her. “They could have at least given you a dollar,” he muttered.
Iona shrugged. “The night’s still young. We’re a drunk or a jackpot away from hitting it big.”
Just then, a couple stumbled over to them. “Oh my god, I love you!” cried the woman. “Hon, take my picture with the Hangover guy!”
“Cheese,” Gary said as he pulled the woman closer. Her boyfriend snapped a picture. “Keep up the good work, man,” he slurred as he shoved a bill into his hands. Gary looked down at it. It was a twenty. He waved it at Iona. “Looks like you were right.”
Before they could say anything else, a car came to a screech as it pulled off almost onto the sidewalk in front of them. The passenger door swung open. A young man leaned his head out as a violent retching gave way to a torrent of vomit hitting the street. Iona and Gary jumped back from the mess. Around them loud cheering gave way to groans. “Woohoo, jackpot!” came a voice from the crowd.
One slam of a car door later, the young man was gone. Gary still had the twenty-dollar bill in his hand. “What was that you said?” he laughed. “Looks like we got our drunk and jackpot.” Iona laughed, too.
“Come on,” Gary said, pulling her by the hand. The laughter bolstered his confidence. “Let’s move. On the way you can tell me about your boyfriend.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” Iona replied.
Gary smiled. He didn’t know if he had a chance with Iona, but he was all in.