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.