Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse

Saturday, I finished the first draft of Ghosts of the Old City. There’s another post percolating about finishing a novel draft versus finishing the dissertation draft (a descendant of the NaNo vs. Diss post). For now, I’ll leave it at “feels pretty good.” That capped off a week in which I finally got a job, the weather was moderate, and my son finally began to settle in to his new school. As a bonus, I discovered that the pan-Asian place up the street is good enough to go back to repeatedly. It was the best week I’ve had in a long time.

It was also a long time coming. It’s only been a fortnight since I was stuck wondering just how long I’d be waiting. It felt like ages since I’d left academia, and a long time since I’d started applying for teaching jobs (even though it had been about five weeks). My wheels were spinning and spinning and it did not seem as if I had gone anywhere. Then I suddenly got some traction and everything moved quickly.

Over and over for the last few years, I heard variations on “Keep working. If you do, something good will happen.” Eventually. I understand why I heard it: there really isn’t much you can say to a person who is stuck in limbo. Keep working. Something will give. Don’t reconsider your past choices, reconsider your current options. True and true and yet absolutely unsatisfying when you are in the middle of nothing.

I would love to be able to turn to the postacs who read this blog and say “look, something good really will happen!” I can’t bring myself to be quite that valedictory. This is not to say that finally starting a new career is like the actual Simpsons moment that led to the title (in which Milhouse is super-excited that the flood pants he’d just complained about are keeping his cuffs “bone dry” while his room floods). It’s a significant step…and an exhausting one. The reward for working is more work. In my case, it’s work that I love despite the commute, despite eighth-graders who will erupt into conversation quite literally whenever I stop to take a breath. It’s good.

From here at what feels like the other end of the tunnel, I would not say “keep working and something good will happen.” That’s too close to the adjunct treadmill for my comfort. I will say two things. The first is this: ask yourself what you can do right now to get yourself moving in the direction you want to go. And the second: surround yourself with people who will support you.

As much as I fumbled with that first bit of advice, I have been incredibly lucky with the second. For the last few years, I’ve been surrounded by friends and family who said the things I needed to hear (whether I wanted to hear them or not) without judging me. I have, like so many happily married people, the absolute best spouse on the planet. Without her, I couldn’t have drafted a novel or completed my teaching certification or done a hundred of the other things that have gotten me to this point. She is awesome and I hope all of you find somebody you like as much as I like her.

My mom and my brother heard more of my complaints than anybody else, and they never hung up on me. They were my best cheerleaders.

My in-laws help me forget all of the things I dislike about Texas. They’re that good. From watching the kids to playing RPGs, from coming over for dinner to helping us move into the new house, they have been a constant and welcome presence for the last fourteen months.

Last but not least, thanks to my kids. You might not ever read this, but you’ve kept me going.

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