Don’t Look Back, Orpheus

Traditionally I write posts at the end of the year and talk about my goals for the New Year, and link previous years’ posts together. BUT SINCE MY WEBSITE CRASHED I don’t have those previous posts. That’s also why this website looks so sad and barren.

*sad and barren website is sad and barren*

That’s okay. We’re starting fresh. But before I can talk goals, I have to talk about what’s been going on the last few months, and why rebuilding the website took back burner.

In August, I left a part time management job in retail to work at a spa for what would hopefully be an amazing new position, one that would allow my husband and I to lift ourselves up out of poverty. I don’t talk about it much, but when my husband was washed out of the FAA for reasons that had everything to do with cronyism and nothing to do with his actual skills, it left us reeling. Moving back from Puerto Rico was expensive. We’ve been rebuilding our lives from scratch: buying a car because we sold ours since the import tax on sending a vehicle to the island was more than the car was worth, a new place to live, new jobs for both us, neither even coming close to what we were making before, and now with a small child to worry about. The struggle, as they say, has been real. We’re not starving, we’ve been lucky to have the help of our parents, and we both have skills people pay money for, but our current situation is not something we can do indefinitely.

The possibility that I could get a huge pay increase made me very hopeful for a few months, slightly less anxious and worried. I passed off edits to my editor and started writing another book, one I’m calling HOWL for now, about a witch who gets changed into a werewolf. The new job was going great, and I felt certain I would be chosen for the position. I found out in November that I was going to be picked for the position, but the yearly income they put in the job listing was what you could “potentially” make.

Before you get too enraged on my behalf, the person has the best of intentions, and when he explained it to me, he sounded somewhat apologetic. He’d never managed a spa before and he was shown numbers to make this income look doable. But then reality sets in, and yeah. There’s no way to make that amount of money a year unless you’re working yourself seven days a week, are completely booked solid, and have every advantage going for you, and are doing more massages a day than any person can reasonably keep up.

I was upset. For a while it’s felt like the choices I made lead to it being harder for my husband and I to make our way in the world. Instead of going to college, I went to massage school. My husband was in college, but left for the Air Force. He was a Boom Operator in the AF, which was a highly skilled position, but once he got out, there was no other job that even remotely translated to what he was doing, so he was back at being a manager at various corporations. In a lot of ways, him getting the job in the FAA felt like his hard work and experience was paying off, finally. Just like we were always raised to believe. Work hard, pay taxes, be a good citizen and you can make a comfortable living. We weren’t expecting to be super rich, but we could barely afford a roof over our heads.

I couldn’t understand how other people could afford cars, houses, pay all their bills with something left over at the end of the month. We were told this was doable. Normal.  Get a job, work hard, and you can live the lower middle class dream. But between what the two of us were making before he worked at the FAA, that felt like a pipe dream. Then he got the job, his pay went way up, and we felt relieved enough to have a baby. We saved money, paid off student loans, and made a five year plan for savings, house buying, etc.

That all went out the window when we came back from Puerto Rico. In some ways we were worse off because we’d sold my car, which we’d just paid off. His Jeep would have been long paid off if we hadn’t kept trading it in to get a new one on the island (to avoid those import taxes). Our savings wouldn’t have been depleted.

All through this time, my entire life basically, I’d hoped to make some side money on writing. That’s why I became a massage therapist over a teacher or anything else I might have gone to college for. I wanted something that would pay the bills while giving me mental time to write. When I was 19 I naively assumed it would take me a few years to build up the skills needed to make a regular living as a writer, and that would be that.

But suddenly, desperately needing to make money, coupled with the wild and vain hope that maybe writing could be part of that plan, only made me crazier. Each writing day had doom attached to it. Finish this novel, or you’re doomed, it felt like. Write it perfectly, or no one will buy it and YOU WILL DIE COLD AND ALONE. If I wasn’t writing the best thing ever, no one would want it, they wouldn’t buy it, and I would fail so horribly at writing I’d never recover.

Some of those feelings just my own worries, made worse by the situation my family was in. I know that. I see productive writers making words for their supper all the time. I know it’s possible. I know I could do it myself. I’d planned on it being something that helped at least. I still had to carve out chunks of time that were in very short supply between working all the time, and then coming home to a house and a small child that still needed attention. I finished the rough draft of HOWL partially by immersing myself so deeply in another’s person world because I desperately wanted out of my own, and partially because I knew I had to. I couldn’t let the bone-crippling fear of doom stop me, or I’d never start again.

It was scary, but liberating in a way. I had so much of my emotional energy wrapped up in the day job, in my family’s struggles, in dealing with the fallout of my husband’s last job, that I just couldn’t dredge up the same level of anxiety. I just didn’t care if the book was awful anymore. It was freeing, to think “Oh, but what if the book is crap and you suck?!?!” and then shrug and no longer give a single fuck. I didn’t care if it was crap, I loved the book and I needed to write it. Done.  It was a weird and messed up place of zen, but the book got finished.

Then, a week before Thanksgiving, I applied at a store where I used to work several years ago (not the previously mentioned retail management job, but the place I worked before then). The manager once again asks if I wanted to come back to work for her. I shrug, having found out my dream job has just blown away in the wind and say, “Sure, are you hiring for the season?” She perks up and tells me actually, there’s an assistant manager position in the store one town over from us. She tells me about how it actually has PTO and benefits, and the wages are solidly middle class. I decide to apply even though I’m sure there’s no way I’d get the job. I have retail management experience and basically everything I’ve done is customer service, but I assumed they wanted someone with more experience.

The other store asks me to come work as an associate because they’re desperate for the help and won’t be interviewing for the position for another month. I agreed; getting to know the staff before interviewing would be nice. I went to work, and proceeded to work my butt off. I got a horrible cold, and edits on HOWL come to a screeching halt. I was working 35 hours a week at a retail store right before Christmas and exhausted from lack of sleep. Something had to give, and editing was it. A week later, the preschooler gets out of school for his winter break, and editing is even harder. I keep the book and structure in my mind so I don’t go completely cold, but I stop berating myself for not staying up until one in the morning to edit.

I interviewed for the position. I like the store manager, she’s smart and very organized and seems like a good person to learn from. I’m told two interviewees will be interviewed by the DM, and then they will make their final decision. I get called by the DM. I play a harrowing game of phone tag for the next two days, and finally do a phone interview. I don’t hear anything for days, and assume, whelp, that’s as close as I get.

I got the job.

I’m actually not happy, I’m numb. I couldn’t believe it. It sounds cynical, but I just couldn’t hope I got the job anymore. I couldn’t. I thought “well, I’ll figure something out, but I’m going to have to crawl over more broken glass to get there”. I mean, I was and am working my ass off in retail, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get the job I want. That’s the lesson life has been pounding into me since I was fifteen and started working at McDonald’s. But I’m ambitious and stubborn. I’m used to being tenacious enough to get what I want. Having setbacks like recently has been very hard for me to grasp.

It took a few days for the joy to set in, but it wasn’t until they started training me for the job that it sank in. They weren’t going to decide to hire someone else at the last minute. I got the job.

So, here I am. I finally have a decently paying job. One I enjoy. One that has growth potential. My husband and I can start really getting back on our feet. I’ll have PTO and benefits, which is such a blessing for our family, especially having a four year old with a speech delay. He doesn’t need any special treatments or medications thankfully, and the county we live in has him in speech therapy for a year now, but it’s really nice to have more medical options for him in case something comes up.

As relieved as I am, I’m also selfishly a little sad. I’ll be working forty hours a week. Right now, it’s a hard, tiring forty hours a week. A part of my heart whimpers, “but what about writing time?” It is still there, but less than before.

Right now, that’s okay. I feel awful for thinking that, but we need money to live. Now I have more options. If I need to indie pub something, editing won’t take me a year to save up for. I can just be free to write in my spare time without feeling like there’s a noose over my neck.

And somehow, it’s nice having other things to worry about other than just home and writing. I have less time for writing, so there’s been much less waffling, much less mental headspace for “oh noes what if I suck” and more “doesn’t matter if it sucks it has to be done right now, or it doesn’t get done today”.

My new normal will be shifting as the retail season slows down, as my family gets a little more breathing room financially, and I work more editing time into the weeks. There are days where I close the store so I leave the house at one in the afternoon while the kid is in school and thus gives me a morning of editing time. I’m not as exhausted so I can stay up before bed or edit in the morning. Lots of writers have full time day jobs and have to juggle their family life, work life, and writing time. I know it can be done, and I’m already figuring how to make it work for me.

So that’s been the roller-coaster of my life since August. Well, really, the last two years, but August has been really up and down. I’ll get back to a regular blogging schedule when I have more breathing room, but I just wanted to really explain what’s been going on, beyond just saying I was busy and things have been crazy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *