I think it’s safe to say I’ve been ignoring this blog for a little while.
November has been kind of a mixed bag for me. Emotionally, I’ve not exactly been at my best, whatever that is, and it’s been tough to find any real interest in chronicling my life, beyond the occasional — well, certainly more than occasional — sighing about it over on Twitter. It’s been tempting to just post the occasional link to my last real entry and say something like “ibid.” or “same shit, different day.” It’s not as if anything has really changed.
In all fairness — to the universe, I guess — it’s probably way too early for things to have actually changed. I can’t really expect overnight transformation in my life…but that, of course, doesn’t stop me from wanting it. That doesn’t stop me from being sad when I look at all the things in my life that I want to transform and feel powerless to ever enact that level of change.
I’ve been re-watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer recently. It started out as just this thing I was doing and has taken on the level almost of comfort food. And it’s occurred to me, with something akin to surprise and even a little dismay, that the character I most relate to is actually Jonathan. He’s a likable character, but certainly not a model of healthy behavior. This is a character to whom Buffy says at one point, “You can’t keep trying to make everything work out all at once, with some huge gesture. Things are complicated. They take time and work.” It’s questionable if he ever learns that lesson. It’s a tough lesson to learn. I know I’d prefer if I didn’t have to do so.
So what have I been doing lately? You know, besides re-watching old Joss Whedon shows?
My writing is going okay. I’ve sold two short stories in the past month, which is a good incentive to keep writing more. I’ve had more than twice as many rejections as that, of course, and the writing isn’t going easily. But this at least feels like an area of my life I know how to make better. There’s going to be a lot of work involved, which would be easier if I had anything approaching a real work ethic, but I feel better about writing right now than I do about a lot of other things.
I’ve also decided in the new year to take an online writing class with Cat Rambo, which I’m hoping will help me with the craft somewhat, and maybe even get me out in the world a little. I’d been eyeing a couple of other workshop classes, like this one or this one, but Rambo’s seemed a good match for where I feel like I am as a writer and where I want to get to.
Meanwhile, I have been trying, with mixed results, to get out into the world and meet new people.
I’ve gone to a write-in thing held by the Gotham Writer’s Workshop a couple of times. It’s a free-writing exercise, akin to the sort of thing I do most Sundays with friends, but this time with strangers. (And with a $20 price tag, admittedly. Though there is conversation, snacks, and wine.)
I went to a science fiction/horror meetup in the city, where they were showing Nightmare on Elm Street for the 30th anniversary. It was a lot of fun, even if I did only really get to talk to one person — she and I may have been the only ones from the sci-fi half of the meetup group — and even if I did leave before they actually showed the movie. (They showed a lot of other content, including part of a Bollywood remake, but after three hours, I had a train to catch.)
I went to the Fantastic Fiction reading at the KGB Bar in the East Village, where I felt very awkward. Seriously, the readings themselves were great — Nancy Kress and Jack Skillingstead — but I think I said all of two words to anybody else in that very tiny bar. (And that was, “Oh, okay,” when Ellen Datlow kindly gave me a folding chair, I think just to get me out of the way.) I might go back, but I think I’d need more than a couple of beers for courage.
I went to a British film and TV meetup at a bar in midtown. (Have I mentioned how I was once the president of the Penn State Monty Python Society? I do have Britcomedy-fan street cred.) The bar was loud — people sure do drink for a Thursday night — and we didn’t all get to really talk over dinner, but they seemed like a nice enough group of people.
I also skipped out on a book club when, five minutes after I’d turned up, they lost their venue, and I decided to forgo another late night in the city with another meetup that was showing this.
That was all in the past week. (With the exception of the write-in, which was the two weeks before.) None the huge, life-changing gesture the dumb (but likable) Jonathan part of my brain has been looking for, but it’s kept me busy, I guess.
I went to see a live taping of A Prairie Home Companion with my parents last night, too.
Oh, and I also registered for both next year’s Readercon and World Fantasy Convention. But those are a ways off, so.
Finally, the search for an apartment doesn’t go terrifically well, not least of all because New York rental prices are ridiculous and the process is so complicated. But I’m off from work all this week, and I’m going to go look at a place tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that I like it, can afford it, and won’t get locked out by another renter. Though it might take a minor miracle for that to happen.
All of this maybe makes it sound like I’m meandering towards happiness, and maybe eventually I am. But it’s a slow, long and lonely meander, and, like I said, a mixed bag of a month. I’m going to have to think long and hard this Thursday about just what exactly I am thankful for.
I’m not really at my best lately, but I’m working on it.
Here again, like a broken (but not unpleasantly skipping) record. Last week. This week:
- “A Talk With George” by Jonathan Coulton
Don’t live another day unless you make it count
- “Somedays” by Paul McCartney
I laugh to think how young we were
- “Get Off of My Cloud” by the Rolling Stones, guessed by Occupant
He says I’ve won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack
- “Stone Rollin'” by Raphael Saadiq
It makes an old man throw away his cane
- “People Got a Lotta Nerve” by Neko Case
It took half your leg and both your lungs
- “Last Stop: This Town” by Eels
Can you take me where you’re going if you’re never coming back
- “Sometime in the Morning” by the Monkees
And you’ll realize how much you never knew before
- “Sympathique” by Pink Martini
Je veux seulement l’oublier
- “Party in the CIA” by Weird Al Yankovic, guessed by Occupant
Everyone so cloak and dagger
- “The Wind” by Cat Stevens
I let my music take me where my heart wants to go
As always, good luck guessing the lyrics!
It’s funny, I feel like I’m suddenly at a point in my life where I don’t know what point I’m at in my life.
There’s a number of different factors that have conspired for this, I guess you’d call un-tethering. Like, I always knew I was out in uncharted waters, but I thought was at least in distance of the shore, some shore, or had grown comfortable enough that didn’t mind endlessly floating.
Now I’m not so sure, at all, and I feel a bit like I’m going through the motions. I know the best course is probably to change those motions up a little bit, and I’m trying to do that. I just can’t help but remember the last time I really changed my life around, the last time I changed up the motions. That was when I quit my job in Pennsylvania and moved back home ten years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I like where I work now, and I find it more fulfilling than where I was a decade ago. But back then, I felt a little like I was giving up, changing things up because I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to work in publishing, but I wasn’t thrilled to be going back to New York.
It’s ten years and a little change since then, and I still don’t feel settled, or like I belong here, or I’ve found my place. Some of that’s living with my parents: I love them dearly, but I’m looking for a place to rent and will hopefully finally follow through. Part of that’s just loneliness: I have some IRL friends whose company I enjoy, but am I close to anyone? Part of that’s probably just the normal disaffectedness that starts sometime in your 30s but then really takes hold as you edge closer to forty.
Part of it’s I just don’t know.
It’s funny, again, how I was just talking in this post about falling a little in love with places and yet never following through on the impulse — my own, or that of friends urging me to do it — to move there. I imagine the different lives I might have led if I’d moved to Austin, or San Antonio, or even, more recently, Banff. If any of those had seemed like really viable options, or if I’d just said screw it with viable options and done something crazy.
I don’t know that I would be happy, or feel tethered — that’s the thing about roads not taken, I suppose — but those would have been decisions, at any rate.
Maybe that’s it, at least a little: feeling like I’ve gotten here, wherever here is, with its good and its bad, through no conscious decision of my own. When you aren’t actually plotting a course, it’s hardly unexpected that you’ll find yourself lost out in the woods.
I’m not sure I’ve found the footpath just yet, but I’m looking.
Last week…or rather, two weeks ago. This week:
- “Wild Is the Wind” by Nina Simone
I hear the sound of mandolins
- “Paperbacks With Paragraphs Underlined” by Woodpecker!
Sex and death have always been two kissing cousins
- “Ooh La La” by Goldfrapp
Don’t want it Baudelaire, just glitter lust
- “Numb Bears” by Of Monsters and Men
Breaking little twigs with my feet
- “Lover to Lover” by Florence + the Machine
I’ve been setting myself up for the fall
- “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles, guessed by Clayton
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear
- “Song to Bobby” by Cat Power
You sang the song that I was screaming
- “Bad Boyfriend” by Garbage
If you can’t love me, honey, go on just pretend
- “Camouflage” by Tim Fite
And if you really wanna pop, put this new shit on
- “Walk Us Uptown” by Elvis Costello
Some scoop gold from the dirt in the gutter
I am not above falling a little in love with the places I’ve visited.
I flew back to New York yesterday afternoon after about half a week in Austin, Texas. I was there visiting schools — UT Austin, St. Edward’s University, and a two-hour drive to San Antonio — for work, while also visiting with my sister, who’s presently living there because of her own job. Lest you think I got much vacationing in while I was there, I left straight from the office on Tuesday afternoon, immediately after a presentation about commissioning textbooks, and I was up most mornings before the sunrise while I was there. (Did I mention it was a two-hour drive both ways to UTSA?) Aside from a couple of really nice dinners, the company of my sister and her cat and her husband, I didn’t really see much of Texas. It was nice to get back just so I could get a little sleep.
The weird thing is, I’m kind of okay with that. Austin’s a great city, but I’ve been there before. Was a time, I would have wanted very much to stay. Was a time, I seriously considered moving to Texas.
That was over a decade ago, however, and my life turned out a bit differently. It’s been almost that long since I’ve had any contact at all with the friend who first tried to convince me to move down to Austin. And while that sometimes makes me a little sad, ten years is a long time. Enough to make those thoughts — “you’re right, I should move to Austin” or “gosh, San Antonio is the prettiest city I’ve ever seen, I should move there” — feel like they were somebody else’s.
Moving there would have probably been hitching a ride of somebody else’s dream anyway. I think I said as much to my friend Sharon at the time. So while I applied for a handful — maybe even a large handful? I don’t remember — of jobs in the city, and did seriously consider it whenever Pennsylvania seemed like the wrong choice, it doesn’t feel like a place I’d want to live anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, the weather was lovely — if a bit hot — while I was there, and there’s plenty to do in the town that’s worth doing. Especially if you can put up with Texas traffic. It’s a place I probably wouldn’t mind visiting again, especially if I really got a chance for a more touristy visit, But it’s no longer a place I’m in love with, Austin or San Antonio. I don’t know when those feelings, if they were even real, went away, but went away they did.
I likely wouldn’t be musing about this at all if I was truly in love with New York, if this and now felt like the great long-term plan. It’s closer, and moving back here without a job was a smarter move than trying the same thing with Texas. But I think I’m still waiting for that new place to come along, the one I can fall a little in love with, take a chance on, and that won’t feel like somebody else’s half-remembered dream a decade from now.