[personal profile] unforth
I have very little of interest to say about the specifics of the last few weeks.


I've worked about 50 hours a week. This has almost entirely been out of the house observation type stuff. On the plus side, this means that a lot of that 50 hours is actually time spent on public transportation - time when I can be doing other things like reading, writing (I've started taking the laptop sometimes so I can type on the train) and crocheting. However, even with that, spending that much time out and about in all the horrible weather that we've been having has been singularly exhausting, and I'm starting to feel like I'm a little at the end of my rope, and this morning at the gym my head felt oddly stuffy and my legs a little weak, and I'm worried I'm going to get sick. This weekend is looking singularly unpromising, too, because spending every single day (literally) running around and going to meetings and things means that all of the stay at home computer work that is critical to my job has not really been getting done, and it stacks up all week and I'm left to get it done over the weekend. This weekend is particularly bad, though, because I've a deadline on Monday. Boo.

I've managed to proceed with the novel, though oddly lacking all the enthusiasm so betrayed in my last post. Instead of a stately and steady 750 a day, I've instead been writing around 2000 words a sitting, but the sittings have only been once or twice a week. That said, I'm still well ahead in my word bank, so that's good. Yesterday, I crossed the 30,000 word mark, and simultaneously finished the first part of the book (I envision the book in three parts, each around 30,000 words - though I think that the middle part might end up shorter, just cause I'm not quite sure I've got 30k worth of relevant content for it). This is pretty intimidating, because the second part of the book is all about the battle itself, and when I look to it I realize that even though I know in decent detail the general outline of the battle, and I have read a lot of general accounts of what it was like to be in a Civil War battle, I still feel singularly unprepared to write about what my character and his squad are going to experience. I'm hoping to have some time over the weekend to not write and just get some research done on this topic, but it's hard to say, I feel totally swamped.

The craft business is about as before, except that I registered a domain name last weekend and have, when I've found the time, started building a website for it. It's been oddly fun to deal with the excessive frustrations of CSS, and the intention is for the page to be a general clearing house for all the various things I do - so it'll have a set of pages for the business, but also a section specifically on my photography, and another on my writing, etc. So far I'm pretty happy with how it looks, and I'm very glad to find that 10 years of not really doing web page work has not entirely robbed me of all of the html and image editing skills that enabled me to maintain my anime page from 1999 - 2001. (considering how much time I really spent on that, it would have been ridiculous if I'd lost EVERYTHING I learned, even so many years later). Other than that, I finished the testing of my squirrel pattern, which hopefully I'll get "re-released" soon, and I put the John Bear pattern in for testing. I'm in a silly group on Ravelry that is playing a competitive, points-based game related to making items related to geekdom, and I'm on a Babylon 5 team, so I've been percolating crocheted items related to the show. I woke up this morning to an idea for a free pattern that I hope to have done by the end of the day, and I have commission that was supposed to be done last Monday that I haven't had a lick of energy to work on but will hopefully finish today or tomorrow...

And that's about the state of it.

There hasn't been much fun stuff. I purposefully took last Saturday off, and had all manner of grand plans on how to spend this mythical thing of 24 whole hours to myself, but in the end I just ended up getting the webpage and working on that all day. I'm starting to think that the accusation I always fought as singularly untrue for all the years I was in college really is starting to be reality - I may, in fact, be a workaholic. This both bothers me and doesn't. However, I haven't been entirely bereft of fun stuff. I've now read four Georgette Heyer novels (well, I'm in the middle of the fourth). The first two were virtually identical Regency romances, and as such the second wasn't as entertaining as the first. The third I finished yesterday, and was called the Foundling, and while it got off to a very slow and rather discouraging start, I found that it grew on me immensely. It was more of a coming of age story than a romance, and the main characters were quite likable, and all in all I think I might have liked it better than the parlor romances. The one I'm reading now is different again, and is about the 18th century, and is again more of an adventure in it's way, though there is of course romance; one of the two developed last night in ways that kind of made me squee. Again, I'm enjoying this one more than the first two, and that's a major win. All in all, this has been a fun part of the last few weeks, and if I feel guilty when I'm reading these instead of working on something more productive (I should be reading Civil War! I should be crocheting! I should be working! etc. etc.) the fact that I really like them makes it easier to shut those irritating voices up. I'm looking forward to finishing the current one on my way to today's observation - then the only down side is that I'll only have one more left in the house.

The other thing I did that was fun (using the term as a relative word) was that on Wednesday night mom and I went to the theater. The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has an excellent schedule for this spring, with three Shakespeares (MacBeth, Lear and Comedy of Errors) and two others, all with singularly spectacular casts, and so we decided to go ahead and get tickets to the entire season. The first of these was on Wednesday, and it was a singularly depressing show called John Gabriel Borkman, ostensibly about a white collar criminal named Borkman who steals from the bank he is the manager of and gets caught, and about his family (wife, sister-in-law, son) - but really it's about the prisons that we live in and build for ourselves and others (and occasionally try to escape from, but not effectively of course, cause it's a tragedy). In and off itself it might not have had tons of appeal, but it starred Alan Rickman as Borkman, his wife was played by Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia in HP), and the sister in law was played by Lindsay Duncan (who I've seen in all manner of things but most likely would be known to my friends for being the mother in Tim Burton's recent Alice in Wonderland interpretation). So...really awesome cast of classically trained, well known Brits. They didn't disappoint. They managed to reel off even the more ridiculous parts of the dialog with singular flair, and if occasionally Rickman came off more as Snape than as Borkman, well, he's got such a distinctive way of acting that I guess it was to be a little expected. :) Basically, it was really excellent, and though I'm still totally exhausted as a result of going (I got home from the theater at 11 pm and had to wake up at 5 am yesterday, then be out doing work stuff for twelve hours) - well, I don't regret it.

...and I think that's pretty much everything of interest I've done in the past two or three weeks. I mean, I had a cool work thing at the Zoo on a singularly frigid day, where we got to see the animals go after treats in boxes that the participants had made, and I went out and took more snow pictures when we got the most recent 19 inches, but other than that...?

The most significant thing that has happened in the past week or so is the sorting through of what feels like one of the biggest decisions of my life. This, needless to say, has been singularly unpleasant and not at all fun and rather upsetting, but now it's done, and I think done for the best.

It's really funny how there is a significant difference between thinking that a decision has been made, and the actual need to take action relating to that decision. For well over a year, we've all been acting under the assumption that we would not run HEC forever, and we set a timeline of what was then 5 years and is now 4 years, after which it would be done and we'd all go and do our own things in separate directions. Indeed, after last year's grant time, I was singularly and absolutely determined to never do it again - I in fact bouyed my spirits the whole three months by saying to myself over and over again (and to mom a few times) that it was the last time.

As this winter approached, we re-emphasized this, saying emphatically that should the Teaching American History grants come out again, we wouldn't do them. But then, this was always followed by the comforting caveat that it wouldn't be an issue cause last year the Feds said that there wouldn't be a new TAH competition this year.

About three weeks ago I started hearing rumors that it was coming out soon. I considered where those rumors came from, decided I didn't trust the sources, and continued to hope that it wouldn't be an issue and that no absolute would have to be declared.

Last Friday, I got an e-mail from a client asking flat out if we would right one. Very alarmed, and I went and checked and could find no evidence that the competition was out. At a meeting with a different clinet that afternoon, I re-emphasized that we still didn't actually know. But the e-mail had done it's job, because I knew that I would have to answer it, and the thought of doing so and saying "no, we're not doing this anymore" proved to be nauseatingly overwhelming.

Still, I clung to my hope that it wouldn't be an issue, even as I let my brain try to work through the implications of turning it down. On the one hand, I feel completely unable to consider taking on more work. If we wrote grants that resulted in contracts, I'm hard pressed to see how I could find the time in the week to do any more than I'm already doing. I mean, I work every single fricken day (okay, I had three days off in January, but I spent two of them doing intensive research for the novel and the third creating a webpage...yeah, workaholic...) and I'm feeling very run down. Taking on more? Not so much. On the other hand, if we stop getting new contracts, then this really will end, and in four years I'll be left holding the bag: almost 15 years experience at a job that has dried up, and confronting of a decision, at the age of 32, of what the hell else to do with my life.

Now, I've got a short list at this point of the things I'd like to do. Geology. Teaching. Writing. Crafts. Experience and the past few years have made it clear to me that these are all things I would consider (teaching is a distant last, but I'm convinced I could do it, and probably well, and at least it's got the advantage of being in permanent demand, well paying, steady income, good vacations, and benefits). In fantasy land, the writing and the crafts could well be enough. But at the moment, I've now earned a grand total of about $35 in the past year and change from the crafts, and not a penny from writing, so it seems sorely optimistic to think that I could support myself on these. I make $82,000 a year right now (probably less this coming year) and live very comfortably, I'd say I want for almost nothing. However, I've done the math. If I give up every luxury, I could still make ends meet if I made as little as about $30,000. It wouldn't be easy, but I could do it, and that's a pretty achievable number. Still, the prospect of being only a few years from plunging myself in to potential destitution is really rather terrifying. It's not that I don't think I could find a way to earn - I'm quite certain that I could - but rather that if I screw it up, I'll end up in a position where I'm making much less, have a crappier schedule and the requirement of being in an office every day, doing something I don't like all that much - as in, I could find myself having given up every perk of my current job, without achieving the one thing that I really want out of life - to do something I love, and love without reservation, and find a way to make it work. The pursuit of that is the only reason to not keep doing what I'm doing. Pulling it off is a priviledge very few achieve. I think I can...but what I'm wrong? By turning down the writing of these grants, I take away my own safety net - the surety that I have a job that makes it possible to pursue my two primary hobbies without it being necessary for them to turn a profit (though of course I would like them to).

I know I'm dealing overly much in absolutes. I know that if I changed my mind, I could come to the people we work with next year and say "hey, we're back!" with some prospect of being welcomed back in to the fold. But this isn't about the TAH grants. It's about figuring out what I want - out of a career, out of my life, out of my hobbies, and out of myself.

So, when we left our timeline, I was vainly hoping that this whole mess wouldn't come to a head. The key word is vainly. The grant came out on Wednesday, and I immediately got a pestering e-mail from that same client asking me again. Furthermore, I knew that on Thursday (yesterday) I'd be seeing other people who would certainly know the grant was out, would definitely want to work with me, and would be assuming that the answer was yes. I couldn't stall any more. I had to make a decision.

But of course, in the end, it's not been a question of what I want. Underneath it all, I always knew what I want. The entire time I've been doing this job I've been thinking about what I'd like to be doing instead. There's never been a point where I've looked at this as anything other than a part of the path - it's not a destination. I don't want it to be the destination. I feel like I must be crazy for feeling that way - who wouldn't want a lucrative job where you set your own hours, work at home, can wander off at will, and earn a very comfortable amount of money to boot? And that you even kind of like sometimes, and has the benefit of the satisfaction that you're doing something that really, truly helps people? When I describe the job to myself or others, I really think I must be out of my mind.

And yet the voice always answers...this isn't what I WANT. I would trade all of that in for a job that paid less but that I truly, truly love. Every time I've had a long day and I'm exhausted yet find I'm still looking forward to crocheting in the evening, I know that I could be happier. Every time I wish that I could find three damn days to go down to Bull Run, even though I know that it'll be a singularly unprofitable trip because the battle takes place in July, but surely I must be able to get SOMETHING out of going now, and I'll go again in the summer, I know that I'm missing something that I dearly, dearly want out of a career. Heck, every time I realize and accept that I can't go back to school yet, cause I simply don't have the time, and geology will have to wait, even that brings a pang. I want to do something else. If that makes me crazy, then that's what I have to accept.

So I did. What's funny is that when I made up my mind and started telling every one know, it was wistful and a little sad, but there's no doubt in my mind it's the right choice. I get very uneasy and a little queasy whenever I really start thinking about all of it, but when I'm just going about my life and sitting and working on whatever, I've not got a care about it in the world. And I think that's because it's the right decision.

But who knows? And if I'm wrong, I can still say yes next year...yet somehow, it doesn't feel like I will. It feels like this is the moment, and now that I've decided, a new course for my life has been inexorably set.

Then again, I haven't known myself for 28 years without realizing that I tend to see the world in quite unnecessary shades of absolute. :)

Anyway, off to lunch and then an observation, and then an evening blissfully off (not because I've got the time, but because I arbitrarily decided that I've earned it, dammit! :)
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January 2012

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