You know, when I made the offhanded comment a couple of days ago about the American school system’s 3-month summer vacation “allowing you to live somewhere else” if you had the means, the comments about my unwitting elitism struck an old chord. That particular chord, if we’re going to be honest about it, gets broken down into arpeggios that look like this:
a) I may have been under the poverty line for long time, but now that I have money I have utterly forgotten the way most of America lives
b) As someone who decided to forgo a “regular job” and instead turned to writing, I have very little understanding of the pressure – or even the benefit – of a day job
c) By living in ultra-liberal Chapel Hill, NC for 13 years, then ultra-liberal New York City, then ultra-liberal Los Angeles, I have almost no understanding of the thought processes of other Americans
d) By currently only having one child still in pre-school, I am patently unaware of how rigid life becomes when real school starts
… and so on. I can always offer rationale and spin yarns about how none of these are altogether true, but the fact remains: there has always been something intrinsic to my persona that says I’m “getting away with it” and, further, that getting away with it is annoying to those who aren’t.
In fact, there are so many things I don’t talk about on this blog anymore that it’s a testament to my frickin’ ego that I still think I have interesting things to say. Already I can’t talk about work, can’t talk about a number of specific people, but I also choose to omit a ton of other details about our lives because I just don’t want to deal with the judgment.
Tessa and I work very hard – each in our own way – to be successful in our current mode, which is writing for television and film. But it does offer us tremendous flexibility for travel, since we’re not required to physically be anywhere – as long as our computers plug in, our cell phones work, and there’s a decent shot at wifi, we could be salmon fishing in Labrador until the meetings start.
This is a choice I made a LONG, LONG TIME AGO. I looked at my weaknesses and strengths, and decided that I would be god-awful at a job that required my constant attendance from 8am to 5:30pm, unless it was something terrifically bizarre or a truly heartfelt passion. A few times, that did happen – in the early days of the internet, I was putting in insane hours and drinking lots of Jim Beam and loved it.
But that was the exception. For the rest of my 20s and early 30s, I was willing to be utterly broke with no health insurance, no steady gig, and constantly shifting fortunes, living in hovels with eight roommates and driving The Worst Cars in the World in order to maintain a basic freedom of schedule. In fact, I think “willing” is the wrong word – it wasn’t even an option. Doing otherwise was akin to death; hopefully a few of you know what I’m trying to express.
I had this life for a decade, until I’d built up a body of work (and contacts) that allowed our new gigs to bear fruit. I’m leaving out one major factor, naturally, but the basics are the same. I fought hard for this, both because we live in a country that doesn’t make it particularly easy on those who don’t get “real” jobs, and because I never really felt I had a choice.
And so I turn the question back on you. If you swallowed a truth serum, what would you say to this question: are you truly having the work life you wanted? I suppose the answers spread out like this…
1) Yes, it has challenges, but it’s basically awesome.
2) Sorta, but what I thought it would be is not exactly what it turned out to be.
3) Not really, but I have [insert reason here], so I’m stuck, and try not to think about it too much.
4) No, I fucking hate it, but lack the courage to do anything about it.
5) Actually, I’m able to compartmentalize work from my emotional life – work just makes money, and is a means to an end, and I don’t really get all of your emotional prissy-pantsing.
Or do you have a more interesting answer altogether? As always, you can be anonymous… I’d rather you write in secret than not write at all.