Jumping at the Call
My daughter is graduating this spring, going off to college at the end of the summer. This presents me with the opportunity to make some big changes to my life. I want to talk about these changes, even though it involves sharing some very personal dreams with complete strangers, which makes me more than a wee bit uncomfortable.
It starts after my first year in college. My grades were less than stellar, for a variety of reasons, and I suddenly decided I wanted to drop out of college and start writing full-time. My father made me an offer: he would subsidize my rent, utilities, and food expenses as long as I wrote full-time and made regular attempts to get published. Because I was 19 and chock full of independent spirit, and because I knew from experience that any money my father gave came with a host of strings attached, strings I didn’t want to deal with, I turned him down and opted for getting a job to pay my expenses, writing in my free time. Being a high school graduate in a small college town, the only job I was able to get was in fast food, which is both easy and very draining, leaving me with less energy than I’d hoped to have for writing. Still, I did write some short fiction. At the time, I was just getting into fringe, experimental SF/fantasy and Dada and Surrealism, so what I was writing was really damn far from the mainstream SF and fantasy I used to work on. I was proud of what I was writing, but I also suffered from a terrible case of “pre-rejection fears,” so I made zero efforts to get my work published. I was also jealous of the enthusiasm my girlfriend at the time had towards her classes, so I re-enrolled in school and got back into the full swing of things.
Jump forward to 2001. Encouraged by some friends, I started a blog. (This very blog, in fact, although in a much different incarnation that no longer exists outside of internet archives.) At the same time, I was getting inspired by zine culture and performers I’ve written about here before. I started writing a slew of poetry and made notes on stories I wanted to write. Inspired by Michael Moorcock and the Great Depression-fueled pulp magazine writers, I wanted to make a go at writing stories at breakneck speeds with the aim of sending them out for publication, while also wanting to make a go at performing my poetry as much as possible. But I’d recently entered my 30s and the girl I was living with had recently broken up with me because “you’re not husband and father material.” I felt pressured (by no one but myself, to be honest) to become an “adult” and find a “career.” I didn’t have enough confidence in my writing. didn’t think I could make a living at it, so I applied to library school, moved to Wisconsin, became a husband and a father, and got my Master’s in Library and Information Science. ADULTHOOD UNLOCKED!
I really love being a public librarian. I get to interact with a variety of people, most of them very nice. I get to help people with their problems. I get to recommend books and movies I love. And I get to work with a whole mess of intelligent, funny, creative, nerdy people. And yet…I feel unfulfilled a lot of the time. Even my best days have a certain amount of routine that drives me batty. Being an “adult” with a “career” does not suit me at all. (I realized recently that when I travel to new places and live a less structured, less secure life, my depression and anxiety are lower than when I’m living a safe, secure, routine life.) More importantly, I know deep in my heart that this profession is something I chose because I didn’t have faith in myself to pursue my real dreams. And that hurts. A lot. But I’ve stayed here because it allows me to provide my daughter with a certain amount of stability. I have zero regrets about that. Sacrificing my dreams to be a stable, secure father is absolutely worth it. But her becoming an adult and going off on her own adventures frees me from a lot of that responsibility.
If ever there was a good time to start trying to make my dreams a reality, this is that time.
So I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really want to do is write stories, the kinds of stories I’d really want to read, and continue to write my poetry. And I want to travel the world, performing my poetry and stories for people. Is this something I could make a living at? Fuck, I don’t know. My luftmensch spirit (as well as my therapist) says, “Why not? Who cares? Go for it!”, while the more “realistic” and “practical” voices I’ve heard all my life tell me, “If it’s possible, it’s a longshot, and it will be more work than you can handle. Why bother when you have a stable job you like?” I’m not about to quit my day job just yet, but I’m also looking into open mics and other venues where I can perform, both here in the Kansas City area and other places within a day’s drive from here. I’m writing more flashfic for my blog, flashfic that could be performed publicly as well as read on a page. I’m considering taking April as a breakneck Personal Novel Writing Month (PerNoWriMo?) to get out the first draft of one of the novels currently bouncing around my head. I’m thinking of ways I could travel farther away as cheaply as possible, couchsurfing while I hit venues where I could perform. I want to see mountains! And visit the Elves! The pull to be a Vagabond Poet and Fantasist is strong, people.
It’s strong and it’s scary. I’ve spent a long, long time living in a shell of shyness and insecurity. It’s been over a decade since I last really put myself out there. I’ve already made one small step on this new path, but the fear of traveling through dark forests and fighting dragons is a powerful fear.
So here I am, putting my dreams out there for the world to see, hoping for encouragement and help, doing my best to ignore the naysayers and (*shudder*) “realists.” My cases are packed, my TARDIS is warming up, my hightops are tied, and my bow tie is only slightly crooked. I’m ready for more adventures.