Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What you get while driving

I do a lot of driving between SE Portland and the Santiam rest stop just south of Salem, Oregon. It's a nice little spot next to the river, with a view of the mountains on clear days. It's the spot the kiddo's dad and i have decided is very near halfway between his house and mine, so we meet there to do the handoff every week or so. It's two hours roundtrip, which is of course a total pain in the ass on my weekend days when i should be rolling around on a bicycle or watching the grass grow from my back porch. But it does have its up side. On the way back i usually blast whatever CD is most inspiring me at the moment and get to thinking long and hard about things. Sometimes i roll back into my driveway in tears about how much i've lost out on on this journey as a single parent, or i'm royally pissed off at the fact that it's a mere hours before i have to go back to work anad leave this happy daydreaming behind, or i nearly burst out of the car to jot down a few lines of poetry. But this most recent conversation with myself was most fruitful.

I don't know why it's taken me a month and a half of moping and railing about to come to the conclusion that my next career step should be doing something i really want to do. But it just occured to me only yesterday. Everyone has said to me that getting laid off is the perfect chance to figure out who you are, and i guess it just took me that long to remember. The monologue in my head went something like this yesterday:

I started working right after my baby was born, determined to be some demigod of a parent by having this cool career job and bringing home some cash. The hours were long and i had to miss out on a lot of her babyhood, but i just figured this gig as a producer was satisfying my ego and so what with the roaming writer gig i'd always wanted to have and why not just hang here for a while?

I started a new job in a bigger city with more hours and more responsibility and more stress. The noose got tighter.

I found myself single soon after, and found navigating a family with only one adult at the helm more difficult than i'd even dreamed. Had i even dreamed it? The noose became a permanent fixture.

For the first three weeks after finding that someone had cut the noose i struggled desperately at the gallows, scratching at my fingers, trying to keep the rope together. For what? Friends asked me "well what is it that you really want to do?" and i'd reply with a stare.

"You're just going along, plodding through your life and then one day someone ends it all," is what i would eventually muster. The noose was off, but it was taking me a bit to breathe again.

So on that car ride back up north, with the sun setting as it always does over the Coastal Mountains, the grass fields and vineyards lit up for one last gasp, and cool air flowing through the car, i started breathing again. I recognized that what i'd seen as security had made me colossally unhappy for the past five years. And life was too damn short to be stuck in a nine to five gig that keeps me from my child and from my real passions. I have always known what those are, but when you're in the throes of something else you tend to bury them for a while.

Now i remember again that what i really love is writing and telling meaningful stories through the lens, the page, and the recorded word. I need to try to make my living through those means or i fear that the next time i'm hanging there i may never come down again. So i am embracing the idea of doing other things, and having unemployment assistance when i can't make those things happen every week. It's a sort of safety net that i've earned through five years of sweat and tears and baby moments missed, so i am going to be happy to take it. Perhaps it will be the thing that brings me to my true calling, my corner of the world -- my niche, as they call it.

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