“So, what are you going to do?” She asked, uncle’s taxi flying us through the night, first towards her apartment, then me back to mine. “When you get back to Portland.”
What could I say? Hike up Angel’s Rest or Dog Mountain. Drink all the beers. Take in a Timbers game, hopefully, definitely go see the Blazers in a few months. See my friends, watch some sports, raise some rabbles.
“No,” she said, shaking her head at me like the dumb ang mo I truly am. “For work.”
Shit, that’s a good question.
What, indeed? The past year and change have been an interesting vacation, the longest I’ve ever gone in my adult life without having gainful employment. The need to work diminished by the grace of Bev’s work package is only valid while we’re living effectively rent free. An amazing deal, any way you stretch it, but one with a time limit, and really, something that was never going to be tenable.
I sorted through my desires. Writing, of course, is the obvious answer, but there’s a large jump between writing a novel in my expat writer’s retreat and selling said novel. I’m learning the business of that now, but of knowledge, I have little. I’m trying to understand the business of publishing books as quickly as I can, but the one thing I’ve learned early on is, don’t have expectations of being the next George RR Martin, JK Rowling or1hahaha somebody cut me JRR Tolkien2Do I need to come up with an abbreviated name? I refuse to allow myself to be called “JR Bruce” – that’s the name of a Texan oil tycoon, not a liberal kid from the west coast.3Maybe a pen name – Carl Rollin Anthony Puckett.. And let’s be honest here, while I think I’ve written a decent fantasy novel, the story of a foul-mouthed hunter, her gas-lighting crush and her poor life decisions isn’t going to quite stack up to the grandeur of Isildur’s heir.
Even if – and there’s a solid if here – the book sells, it’s going to take a while for it to get to that point. At least one more massive revision is likely needed, and then the fine tooth comb type stuff, and then, oh yeah, I need to convince someone that it can sell. So banking my immediate financial future on the sale of a just finished novel, probably cannot.
Looking for writing jobs, either freelance or more regular, is an option, and a likely one. Also likely, you’ll see some changes here as I roll RCT into a more personally and broader themed blog to highlight all my various words. It’s a dream, and one worth chasing, for sure. But it’s also going to take time, and like anyone writing for a living, might not exactly match what I could be making should I resume my old career.
Oh, the old career. Days4and nights spent over computers, racking my mind for solutions to problems that are infinitely complex and worse – distributed both in scope and blame. I have to be honest, my career was not overall a happy time. Parts of it were amazing, especially the part where I met my wife. Other parts of my time spent putting out the various computer fires were not so much amazing as they were litanies of blame, mismanagement, and, in full disclosure, my own waning interest in whether or not we could sell video cameras5spoiler alert, we didn’t. Ultimately, I have to take full blame for my own bungling of my career. I never pushed after a certain point – I can make a lot of the usual excuses, some of them might even be valid – but the point is, despite my aptitude towards the ones and zeros, I was never ever really all that interested in them.
Development, I liked. System administration, being the liaison between an angry business owner an an apathetic service provider’s representative, troubleshooting for the umpteenth time, it turns the monitor on to see stuff on the screen, no thank you. Never again, if I can help it. But writing software? I could do that. I’m probably terribly out of date in my skills, but the last major project that I had accomplished in my career was a glowing gem of a business automation system, one, I’m told, is still widely held in high regard among the people whose days I’ve made easier with its implementation. That, I can get behind. Seeing people who previously had resigned themselves to tedium brighten up, that made every hurdle in the actual implementation worth it.
That’s what I truly like.
No, not the writing of software. Thats fun and creative, but what I liked best about that, what truly made development a worthy sidelight, was having an effect on others.
And it occurs to me, often, that I have a venue for that.
Eight years ago, as Beverly and I made plans towards moving to Portland, California had itself a referendum. You might have heard of it – Prop 8 – the then ban on same-sex marriage. During that campaign, I had said to myself that there was no way, no way, that blue-state California would ever pass the measure. Well, of course, we all know that it did pass, and while it was overturned two years later, and finally put to rest in 2013, its passage stuck within me. I didn’t vote against it – I was in Oregon by then – but I didn’t fight it. I just assumed its failure and did nothing. Four years after its passage, Washington state had its own referendum, R74, during which a good friend of mine found work, purpose and invigoration as an organizer. Inspired by her stories and experience, and frustrated with my own lack of action, when Basic Rights Oregon launched its initiative to repeal Measure 36 – Oregon’s then 8-year old ban on same-sex marriage – I was one of the first people to sign.
And then I checked the little box that said, “I’m interested in volunteering.”
That little box changed a lot for me. Nearly a year later to the day, Oregon’s attorney general announced that her office would no longer defend the ban during its legal challenge, signaling a close to the campaign that I had worked on, but affirming to me in the wake of victory that fighting for others’ rights was something I wanted to do. In the time since, I continued to volunteer time to Basic Rights, up until that December when Bev and I realized that we were bound to move to Asia.
This too, is something I could pursue.
I’ve a project to help a good friend with his website for BUTCHVoices, a semi-annual conference for women, trans-identified and gender queer people that are as the site states, Masculine of Center6an amazing term, I love it., a project that’s suffered from my own lack of time. It’s about high time that I get started back on that as well. Graphic/website design is another field that much like development, my skills have lapsed some, but what better way to challenge myself than to throw myself into re-learning?
If you haven’t guessed yet, what this entry is truly about is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of learning something new, of falling on myself and not having the will to stand back up again. I’m sure that sounds odd to many that know me – my will is not something that’s often questioned, but believe you me, I question it daily. I turn forty years old this September. I am seriously – as you just spent a thousand words reading – considering changing my career. I’ve been working towards it for a year, and I fear that I’ve not worked hard enough, fast enough, intelligently enough. It is sobering, humbling, yeah, yeah, yeah, but most of all, it is terrifying.
But what else can be done in the face of something frightening? You give it your best try and see what happens. I write, I erase, I write again. I erase that and write once more, distilling something down until I resonate with the words that I truly mean. This too can be a lesson – to simplify into what is the essence of a thing, be that a story, a synopsis, or what works for me, what makes me tick and what will not only be financially viable, but fulfilling, and most importantly, something that gives meaning, help or joy to others.