Wish You Were Here

I’ve been accused of having too many interests in life. Or, as some have phrased it, I still don’t know what to be when I grow up.

What’s that? I’ve already grown up?? When did that happen??? I refuse to accept this…

There are a lot of ways in which having the full plate of interests and subjects about which I’m passionate are good. I have a tendency to never get bored, because there’s always something new to read or a new thing to try in one discipline or another. I have several different perspectives that I can meld into any given pursuit, which, as a sort of Burkian principle, helps me to understand things more thoroughly by seeing them through the lens of something else.

The downside is that I’m frequently disappointed by the fact that I can’t possibly pursue all (or even most) of these interests professionally. As much as I would love to make a living at some of them, I’ve only ever been able to make a living with one or two. So, all of these other interests to which I would devote hours of time if I had unlimited hours in my day are left, by necessity, in the realm of hobby.

As a poet once said, the only thing worse than having a job is not having a job…

Still, occasionally I get the chance to combine vocation and avocation in really cool ways, and that energizes me. And I think that these sorts of events are really important, because they let me have the chance to see one aspect of my life through the lens of another, which helps me to understand it all the more…again, that Burkian principle.

There are also times when I read about amazing conferences or events that I’m bummed because I didn’t get to participate in. That’s life. What I find so amazingly benevolent, though, is that those who did attend them take the time to write out the thoughts and takeaways from those events for the good of the public at large. Reading those recollections are encouraging and helpful to me, and give me the boost I need to be creative, to keep my (slightly loose grip on) sanity, and to just get through the day with my head on my shoulders correctly.

Always a nice thing, that. And, as soon as I’m able to either clone myself or to be in more than one place simultaneously, I’ll make it to more of these events myself.

More Moving Thoughts

Thursday of this week was the last day of the day job that I’ve held for the last five years. I experienced an odd bout of sentimentality, which really was the last thing I was expecting. I took this position five years ago when freelancing wasn’t making the ends meet, Karen and I hadn’t been married that long, and we needed my income to be more consistent. I was just beginning to stir up dreams of doing a doctoral degree or an MFA at the time, and accepted the position thinking that I would stay there for one year.

Five years, accomplished financial goals, and one daughter later, I walked out of that office on a quiet Thursday afternoon, into a parking lot that has often found me thinking “it’s Friday!!“, and drove away just as I have hundreds of other times, though now to never return. It’s a given that I will miss my colleagues, because I have been honored to work with a great team there. And, although I’m not sure I can truly say that I will miss the place, or the position itself, I found myself appreciating it in a way that I wouldn’t have had I merely stayed for the year that I had initially planned. Again, evidence that my wanderlust can occasionally be a bad thing.

I suppose that longevity has its rewards. Who knew?

Moving: A Lament

Things like packing your apartment to move your life up the East coast have a strange way of causing sentimentality. That is, the process of packing, of knowing that the apartment we’ve lived in for four years won’t be our home any longer. Of course, you know that when you move into an apartment, and it’s not like I’m feeling any sort of overwhelming separation anxiety or anything, but…

When Karen and I moved into our current apartment from the first one we rented together, I had odd moments of sentimentality. More so this time, though, because there have been some really incredible things that have happened in this one. Foremost on that list is that this is the apartment to which we brought our daughter home after the miraculous event of her birth. I think what concerns me the most about this is that she’s showing some anxiety as the familiar melts away and is replaced by ever-growing stacks of boxes in preparation for this weekend.

The last two weeks have been the process of saying goodbyes for both of us. Last week I was struck quite profoundly by the appreciation shown to me by my colleagues as they treated me to a goodbye lunch for work. The process of making arrangements to stay in touch with others (I’ve even caught myself using Facebook more frequently…and I never thought that would happen), and bidding farewell to places we frequent and to our faith community, have been a strange mix of liberating and sad for me.

Oddly, I’ve felt disconnected at times. That disconnection has made me think that, had I the opportunity to do some things over from the past four years, that I would. Karen and I made the decision to distance ourselves from the faith community that had been our home for some time because we found ourselves in a different season of life. During our previous move, we were overwhelmed with friends giving us assistance. Now, we’re working to get people to come help us. That’s quite a difference. We drifted away from the group of friends with which we were close due, in large part, to my wanderlust. I have a good case of it, and it has both served me well and brought me grief in the past.

I have images that I can recall too quickly of those that I’ve alienated because of the pressing, almost illogical need I feel at times to move on to a different place geographically. I don’t always regret moving forward, but I regret the way I’ve handled that movement with certain people. I’ve been left without people that I think would have become great friends or colleagues, and I’ve grown hopelessly distant from friends that were close at one time, but are no longer in contact with me.

I hope that I’m not so old that I can’t change that tendency. I don’t think I’ll ever change my wanderlust, and I’m honestly not certain that I want to. I can change the level of intentionality with which I approach keeping in contact with others, though, certainly now that carrying out that intention is easier than ever before.

There are things that are simultaneously exhilarating and frightening about the fact that we will live in a different state next week. I can’t wait to experience the different culture in a new way, because, although we’ve frequently visited the area to which we’re moving and I already know it well, I’ve never lived there, and that is a much more intimate knowledge of a place. Changes in place are a welcome, wonderful thing for me. I hope that it is for my family, also.

And I hope that I manage to stay in touch with the friends we leave in this place, as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, while packing the apartment this evening, we’ve encountered some free-floating memories. We didn’t expect this turbulence, so we’ll have to ask you to return to your seats and fasten your seat belts for the duration of the packing.


A long time ago, I took an issue with pop music. I wrote a piece for my regular op-ed column with a newspaper at the time about Britney Spears…not in the way that many mocked her, because I don’t want to do that. I was just pointing out that her music was…well, vanilla. Generic. I proposed that playing one of her CD’s and finding where one song ended and the next began would be quite a challenge, because they all sounded the same.

I think that’s the issue with popular culture, is that it plays to the lowest common denominator as far as taste in concerned. For some reason that I can’t fathom, many want only to listen/read/view what’s popular, without probing hidden gems out there that aren’t on the pop culture radar but that have a great deal more substance.

I bring this up because I’m interested in the self-publishing phenomenon. When I finish my current project (the novel I keep talking about here and slowly making progress toward…I think I’ll have it finished by the year 2085 at my current pace), I plan to self-publish. I may change my mind later, but right now I want to go that route. I love how easy it is for authors and artists and photographers and musicians to get their work out there for others, without getting a big business in the middle.

And, for all of us creative types, that’s ultimately what we want: to get our work out there, and hope it impacts others’ lives. Financial success is typically secondary to that.

Still, I wonder what the end result would be if we removed the gatekeepers…that is, traditional publishing houses…from the picture altogether? I say that because sometimes I think we need educated people with good taste working to put high quality literature out there, and keeping some poor quality fluff away from us. Honestly, with so much pop culture vibe going on out there, I’m not sure that the literature that receives the most reviews to become popular would be the highest quality literature. Which would lead one to be concerned that the high-quality stuff would go largely un-noticed after a while.

And, we can’t ignore the fact that some work becomes popular because it’s of such high quality. A Visit From the Good Squad is a great example. This is true for all mediums of artistic expression, as well: U2 has been one of the most popular bands in the world for some time, because of the originality and quality of their art.

As far as publishing is concerned, I’ve heard many say that traditional publishing will never go completely away, and I’m sure that’s true. I think, though, that we’re only years away from having it fade to the background, just as record labels will, I suspect, and perhaps motion picture producers, as well. So what does that mean? How does it impact the overall quality of the literary landscape? What really makes me curious is how it will impact the world of academic publishing, where the review of others in the discipline is absolutely paramount in determining acceptable quality, which in turn has a direct impact on the quality of education that we all receive.

I love watching these changes take place. I’m really interested, and hopeful, that they always take us forward culturally and creatively.