It’s definitely a new world when you wake up in the middle of the night, read an article in the New York Times, and feel compelled to order Tylenol and a pulse oximeter online with the fastest shipping possible. It’s fear-based capitalism, but since I have the means, I can’t regret it. It’s better than buying gelato.
Month: March 2020
For the first two months of 2020, I was burning the candle at both ends, and then cutting the candle in half and burning both of those ends. I use this very specific, vivid, and slightly awkward yet humorous metaphor to describe my time engaging in an intense and focused job search while also working full time—and trying to find time to help plan a move for me, Dawn, the cats, and our stuff from San Francisco to Wisconsin.
And that effort paid off. On March 3rd, I got the call I wanted: a job offer from my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Starting April 22nd, I will be a Strategic Communications Specialist within UW-Madison’s office of University Communications. Dawn and I had been planning to move to Madison in April whether or not I got a job, but this makes it far more possible—especially now.
Because, of course, the context today, March 20th, is worlds away from the context of March 3rd and pretty much each of the individual days since. We’ve seen huge increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths worldwide, voluntary self-quarantines, the physical closing of non-essential businesses, most of the rest of us working from home (including my future co-workers at the UW), orders to shelter in place at the city and state levels, hospitals running out of supplies and having to make terrible no-win decisions. We live in a new world that is changing by the minute, and we have only vague ideas about our future course—aside from the almost certain fact that millions of people will die from COVID-19.
I don’t even know how to describe witnessing a pandemic unfold in real time. It makes you rethink everything you’ve valued and failed to value. It certainly reinforces my opinions of capitalism and plutocracy. I can’t help but think about, and worry about, our family and our friends, their health, the health of all their loved ones, and the tragic and profound losses we’re seeing worldwide in every facet of life.
My and Dawn’s continued health seems good as we take it slow and easy. I’m grateful (and lucky) that my soon-to-be new job is with a state university and not a more precarious organization. They made the offer, they need me and my skills as much as ever, and the hiring process continues to move forward.
There will be all kinds of unpredictable side effects of this crisis. One somewhat random one: right now, I’m not at all inclined toward comparison shopping. If a mover or an apartment rental company is willing to engage with us now, and the price point is reasonable, I want to give them our business and not waste anyone’s time. They need to make a living and we need to get there. So far they seem to very much want our business and that’s a relief. The possibility of not getting to move when we planned has been one of my immediate worries since this thing started.
I was hired to work to promote the Strategic Partnerships unit (which does federal, state, tribal, community, and business relations). Right now, it sounds like my team is doing crisis communications more than anything else, which I’d be happy to help with. I love jumping in and doing what’s most needed. No matter what, I am excited to work for my alma mater in a role that fits my strengths and in which I’ll be able to actively build meaningful connections between UW-Madison and the larger community.
For her part, Dawn will be leaving the VA and opening up a brand-new private psychotherapy and training practice, and will be available for tele-mental health referrals later on this spring.
In this last year, Dawn and I have been thinking and talking a lot about our lives and the direction we’re going. Losing my mom last February drove home the point that we want to prioritize family more than we have. We have also faced the fact that—even on one federal salary and one non-profit salary—we will simply never be able to have a better place to live in the Bay Area than our one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, under current conditions.
These are the main reasons we’re picking up these roots and moving them to Madison. (Back home to Madison, in my case—after 20 years.) We’d been incredibly excited about a new adventure and a different pace of life. We still are. Now we just have to wait a little longer for some of the things that we were excited about, and that’s okay.
So many of the things that were planned in the old world are going to suffer drastically. One of my good friends just lost his mom this week. The fact that he won’t get to gather with friends and relatives young and old, the way I and my family did last February, seems to me like it would compound the sense of loss. The associated expressions of love and connection and sense of closure (to the extent that it is attainable) will have to be deferred and/or happen some other way. One of Dawn’s former trainees was going to have a wedding this spring. It’s not going to happen the way they planned.
I’m grateful for many things in my life. Now I’m grateful for a whole new set of things I never realized I took for granted. Having a wedding with 80 guests. Having a celebration of life for my mom. Not being sick.
More to come.
You can’t just start writing a novel. You have to plan it out.
I mean, it just seems weird. You and the page. The blank, empty retina screen covered with little cat hairs. (The cats love the laptop keyboard; it’s so warm.)
There’s no structure, there’s no form. There are no people. You’re essentially creating a universe. You’re a god.
Maybe that’s why people like writing novels.
It feels tiresome to me. It feels like a lot of work. I have my own voice in my head, very strong. I guess I have my mom’s, now, too. But do I have a cacophony of characters clamoring to get out?
No, not really.
Where are they? There’s (pretty much) just me in there. Are there various parts of me? Heck yeah. But am I going to split them up into little caricatures? And how is it not just entirely arbitrary, what you write?
It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to read, like, a single page of the several writing books I own. So, yeah, long form fiction? I love reading it. Never really wanted to write it.
I did try to do National Novel Writing Month in November 2002. I got about 5,000 words in, which is farther than I had remembered, and it is sort of interesting. It’s also terrible, but it is an incomplete first novel, so of course it is.
I got 10% in, in 11 days out of a 30-day month, which means I was horribly behind the pace. The fact that I was doing this during November 2002, which was my fourth month in the Bay Area after moving here (soon to be “there”) without a job, tells me the venture was a bit of a half-assed attempt to avoid reality. I was dialing for dollars and really did not like it. I had very little energy left after canvassing at night, staying up too late (sometimes until sunrise), and then getting up (sometimes around dusk) to go canvass again.
I had also just left a young woman behind, and we were somewhat emotionally entwined at the time. She loved me in her way. She wanted to want to be with me. Maybe she only wanted to want to want to be with me. In any case, I was a source of stability. My feelings for her were strong, but I was also pretty emotionally immature and needy. (I might still be, but not like I was then.)
I used her middle name to name one of the main female characters in the story. I didn’t quite pattern the character after her, but close enough.
I never finished the story I wrote. It was a little cliched—what if the country split up into smaller countries? It’s been done. And it was kind of about the emotional journey of these two guys—one certainly a stand-in for me, but it’s difficult to remember after seventeen years.
Interesting, though, that I’m thinking about this. Sure, I’m going through old files and photos. I’m six weeks from leaving the place I’d been for just ten weeks… seventeen years ago. And everything is almost exactly the opposite!