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Lucky gal

This is a general catch-up post prompted by the number of people I ran into at ALA who asked, “How ARE you?” in that very pregnant manner that means, so, is your life still screwed up?

And no disrespect to people who enriched our lives during the Florida Experiment — I particularly miss my writing friends! — but that was a particularly awry three years for me, personally and professionally. It was a “growth experience,” and I appreciate my new life so much more, but I could have skipped the over-long teachable moment and come out just fine.

On my jobs in Florida, it was a matter of “fit”; I took work that was available, and I tried to contribute back to the places I worked, and I particularly learned a lot working for a vendor. But ultimately these were not the kind of professional opportunities such as I have now that fits me like a tailored suit. I particularly never felt that I contributed back to the places I worked in ways that befitted my potential, and that’s a hard thing for me.

So now I live in San Francisco in a delightful neighborhood near where I grew up and every weekend we go out and do fun things in the best city in the world, I have an annoyingly long commute where I crawl back and forth across the Bay Bridge in Sparkle, my stalwart Honda (no, I can’t really take public transit), and I have a terrific job where I put in too many hours and have far too few resources and work with the most delightful people (in the library and campus-wide, including the students, who in the words of a faculty member have apparently been sprayed with something that makes them extra-nice) who make it all very satisfying.

My commute is tame in the morning because I leave the house at oh-dark-thirty, enabling me to skim across the Bridge where to my right  as I approach Oakland are those strange cranes that have always looked to me like dinosaurs. My commute is icky at night, but every day I am amazed to sit in my car and see myself approaching San Francisco.

Note: everyone asks me about the commute, and I am then often grilled about public transit as if I had not really considered all the options. It is technically possible, but not really feasible, even though the 6 Masonic runs right past the house we rent.

(We rent part of a house, and our tenant below is a delightful person who greatly amused the Census taker by declaring his ethnic status was “Direct descendant of Nordic Gods.” Again, we’re lucky.)

Sandy’s job is good–we really lucked out in this move back to where we should be–and naturally, that helps make life good for us in many ways, not the least of which is having two incomes. They aren’t huge incomes but we aren’t huge spenders. Our biggest splurges are things like having a beer at the Magnolia while we read the Times or taking a walk on Crissy Field and then dining on high-end hot dogs made from sustainable, humanely-raised beef, on Acme bread, no less. We have CostCo and farmer’s markets and Trader Joe’s to keep us in affordable comestibles; at the height of spinach season I bought $3 worth of spinach at the Alemany Market and it was so much spinach I believe we had a greenish cast by the end of that week. Now we are feasting on blueberries, and next up, figs.

I gave myself a writing moratorium so I could wrap my head around my new life, particularly the demands of my new position, which has needed my attention and focus. It still does, but I’m gaining a rhythm (and having just hired a significant addition to the team, I feel myself relaxing a bit; when you are running on 4 cylinders, they all need to be firing to make it up that hill).

A friend who I ran into at ALA commented that she thought I was “leaving the profession” to do the “writing thing,” which is one of those complicated statements people make that cannot support a hallway explanation.  When someone has a child or becomes a church deacon or learns to play the saxophone well enough to join a community orchestra, I do not assume they are “leaving the profession,” and yet to have an avocation such as literary writing confuses some people.

If I won the lottery (to expand on a recent Twitter meme), I wouldn’t quit my library job immediately; I’d make sure we found a good replacement, and then, yes, I would quit my library job and assume the writer’s life full-time. The older I get the more honest I am with myself about that. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my job; but being human, given free money, I’d rather play all day, and writing, though hard work, is my play. But I’m not the kind of writer who is ever going to be able to do this as a living, and that is that.

In any event, I have multiple writing projects in the cooker: moving forward several essays that need to be finished and find homes; writing my father’s death notice (what some people erroneously call an obituary); and writing about writing my father’s death notice, which presents interesting challenges, since he lived a fascinating life made even more fascinating by his many versions of it.

I also keep pecking away at homebrewing (which has its own companion essay in work), though there are many interesting things to do in San Francisco, so I homebrew less. The latest 2 batches are a Rye IPA, the first time to try it out, the second time to see if my success was repeatable. (Not quite, for complex reasons another post will address.)

Like many working writers, I read far less than most non-librarians assume, but every week I do plow my way through the New Yorker and the Sunday New York Times, and I did enjoy Persepolis, our campus-wide first-year-experience book for the upcoming academic year.

I’m assuming we won’t be in San Francisco proper forever; at some point we will sell our lovely house in Tallahassee (it’s rented out now) and if possible, buy a place in the Bay Area, which means way out somewhere on the BART line; or our rental situation will change; or we will decide that it’s time for me to have the easy-peezy commute (and Sandy’s church is right across the street from a major Muni station). (We lucked out–again–by needing an apartment when availability was good and rents were competitive–and prices do come down when you say “We’re a minister and librarian…”) But at the moment, it is so wonderful to be in the middle of this most wonderful city. If I could, I would stay here forever. I will certainly never leave California again. You can write that down in ink.

I suppose one very important Teachable Moment I can grudgingly draw from the Florida Experiment is that I am acutely aware how lucky I am.  As Joan Didion wrote, “Life changes in an instant.” We are in one instant, and I am doing whatever I can to live in that instant as fully as possible, and to slow down that clock and tread very deliberately through this moment. There will be other instants, because this is life. But here we are now.

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9 Comments

  1. Jeff Trzeciak wrote:

    I loved this post! I understand it completely. I spent nearly 10 years in Detroit and loved it. (Not implying anything about any job either before or since). “Fit” is important, no matter where you choose to go or what you choose to do. Life is too short not to “fit”.

    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  2. Jen Waller wrote:

    What a beautiful post. As someone who recently undertook a cross-country move and new job I can relate to a lot of what you’re writing about, even though my city is very different. It’s wonderful to find such happiness (I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time), and I hope that I too will eventually find “my rhythm” here. Again, a beautiful post. I really enjoyed reading it, and I’m happy to know you’re so happy!

    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  3. Amy wrote:

    I’d never read a more enjoyable progress report! I’m happy you’re in a good spot right now (except for the commute. As a Bay Area native, I know the feeling).

    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  4. Mir B. wrote:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful update.

    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  5. Michele wrote:

    I’m a new reader of your blog and enjoying it very much. You probably already have a source, but if not, there’s a friendly home-brewing supply place up the road from you in Santa Rosa called The Beverage People.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink
  6. Another social-network colleague recommended that homebrew store. I’ve been going to Brewcraft (and occasionally to Oak Barrel Winecraft, since I work in the East Bay) but if I’m ever up that way..!

    I also miss my Tally homebrew friends and the wonderful Homebrew Den.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  7. laura wrote:

    I am glad to hear you are back where you belong and that things are going well. I haven’t quite figured out where that is for me, but I keep trusting that more will be revealed.

    Monday, July 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  8. Bill VanKeuren wrote:

    Karen,
    Congratulations on a serendipitous landing.
    I’m reminded from your post about this old chestnut.

    Steam Shovel
    The dinosaurs are not all dead.
    I saw one raise its iron head
    To watch me walking down the road
    Beyond our house today.
    Its jaws were dripping with a load
    Of earth and grass that it had cropped.
    It must have heard me where I stopped,
    Snorted white steam my way,
    And stretched its long neck out to see,
    And chewed, and grinned quite amiably.
    by Charles Malam

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
  9. Maia wrote:

    sounds like you’re exactly where you need to be. re the obit, i thought the death notice was that paragraph in the classified section of a newspaper publicizing the death of a person and giving those details of the funeral service the survivors wish to have published, and the obit was the “life story.” ?

    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

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