Monday, January 25, 2010

Now Appearing in Print.

Eep! I’m suddenly 41. How did that happen?

I was hoping to toss an update on here before the Big Day but like in many areas of my life, personal-writing time seems to be getting away from me lately. The 12 months since I stood atop Kelimutu in Flores and blew out the candle on my 40th-birthday pineapple have evaporated.

That’s a horribly North American affliction, isn’t it. I don’t even like saying it. I catch myself all-too-often these days at the end of a meal with barely a recollection of whether what I’ve just consumed was actually tasty or satisfying, or arriving someplace in my car and wondering how I’d even gotten there, on complete auto-pilot. I am desperately, painfully far from the days of lazing on my island, watching hours float past me and blend into one another somewhere far off, like mist.

I can protest and deny it all I want but the reality is that my mind is going a million miles an hour these days, in keeping with the pace of the crazy lifestyle many citizens lead here and with all that’s going on in my own erratic sphere. Clearly I’ve got somewhere to be. Can’t wait to find out where that might be, exactly.

Speaking of stuff going on, Lynn Harris is the author of an insightful and informative book entitled “Unwritten Rules: What Women Need to Know About Leading in Today’s Organizations.” The title is self-explanatory. Ms. Harris interviewed me by phone last May just a few weeks after I’d returned from my travel adventures (and was holed up at my parents’ place), with the idea of possibly including my riches-to-rags story in the “Corporate Refugees” section of her very intelligent book. Lo and behold, this rambling, unpolished, irrational journey I’m on survived the final edit, which I think makes her kind of cooler: Evidently she’s concerned with more than just colouring inside the lines, too. Hurrah!

The book is published and out there and I’m trying on the three pairs of black dress pants I kept from my former life to see if I can pull together an outfit that’s suitable for attending the book launch at Holt’s Cafe in 2 days so that I don’t look like someone who’s just been booted off Survivor, which is what I suspect some might be expecting to see, and which is kind of what I look like most days now.

I had the fortune of meeting the delightful Ms. Harris in person when I re-established myself in Montreal a few months ago. At that time she informed me that not only was my story going to appear in her book, but that it was in fact the closing story in the book. And not only was it the closing story, but links to both my blogs were being included.


She kindly sent me a follow-up email that included a succinct, point-form list of what the readers of her book were going to want updates on when (not “if,” she said – but, “when”) (really?) they visited my blog. The list looked something like this:

-Did you cave in and go back to your old life or did you continue to explore and pursue your aspiration of becoming a writer?
-What keeps you going on your path to a different kind of life?
-What challenges do you continue to face?
-How does it feel to start to achieve your aspiration of becoming a writer?
-Other stuff you are doing and why e.g. being car jockey
-What's happening with your "little piece of paradise" in Indonesia?
-How are others reacting to what you are doing? How does this affect you?
-What do you think of the book and the other stories?

For starters, greetings to anyone who’s visiting as a result of the bit in the book. I checked the traffic to my blog and there’s actually been some (read: more than 2 visitors) here and there, which leads me to believe that Lynn might have been right. So, hello. Welcome. I think you too are cool.

As to the points above, a few can be knocked off pretty quickly:

I’m back in Montreal and being all grown-up and independent-like and no longer “living with family”, as I was at the time the book went to print.

Check the archive links to the right for lots of blathering on about the car jockeying gig and other interesting jobs I’ve undertaken over the past several months.

The last time I checked, my island paradise was awesome. At least in my mind it is. I’m assuming the fruit trees have been planted by now (lots of assumptions get made when you live a 30-hour-flight away from your vacation property). Sam and my other friends there text me regularly and that makes me remember that it’s not all just a dream. I’ve tossed about the idea of using my line of credit to get the hut built sooner rather than later, but my gut tells me to hold off on that a bit until I can make sure I’m able to pay for a few more essential things back here at home. Sometimes a little rationality has to come into play. I know; it sucks. But Surga Cara is there, rough and hot and perfect and waiting patiently for me, with no schedule of its own.

Now, onto the harder stuff:

Did you cave in and go back to your old life or did you continue to explore and pursue your aspiration of becoming a writer?

No caving! Not yet. I avoid the corporate world like the plague and turn down all job offers that would drag me back into it. When I have to go to meetings in That World, I wear jeans. If f I do eventually “go back” - which I just may have to - it won’t be because I cave. It will be because I need money. So far though, incredibly to me, I haven’t had to visit that notion. I am writing and people are paying me to do it. It’s crazy. Oh, and the random odd jobs probably help out a bit, too.

What keeps you going on your path to a different kind of life?

Great question. Not sure. Often not sure. I guess just knowing for certain that there is a staggering amount of life to be lived and not being willing to give up on it, no matter the cost (and there is one – make no mistake). It’s super-hard, especially alone, but I’ve had the great, great fortune to have a few good friends and a mom who all have my back and who continue to act as supporters and sounding boards and voices of reason throughout it all. There are many moments when I feel as though I want to toss it all and go get me some stability in the form of a regular weekly paycheque, but they eventually pass and the adventure continues.

A friend recently divulged (when prompted by me) that she feels I’m sending mixed messages about my situation. That I talk the brave and adventurous talk but then whine about the hardship and about not having money. She’s right. It’s a rollercoaster ride full of good and bad, high days and low, cheerful and depressing, happy and sad. It’s life and there’s no black and white and I can’t apologize for that. I can maybe only talk about it less to some people.

What challenges do you continue to face?

Hoo boy. See virtually every entry of this blog over the last 10 months or so. Financial stability is obviously the major one. I’ve somehow managed to stay afloat this long and now I can even pay rent and stuff (albeit partly due to said random odd jobs and to the continued, systematic selling-off of my belongings...can that be considered income?) As is true for any new freelancer (and even some not-so-new ones I suppose), that could all change at any moment. That’s terrifying to no end, but also part of what keeps it exciting.

Then there’s loneliness, isolation, insecurity about the quality of my work, self-doubt and continuous second-guessing of my thoughts and actions, to name but a few. I also drink too much coffee.

How does it feel to start to achieve your aspiration of becoming a writer?

Surreal. Every time I get a copy writing contract I want to ask the client, “Are you sure you want to pay? Me? To do this?” But they seem to, so I just keep going and hope that they keep wanting to, too.

Working from home is indescribably amazing. The commute from my bedroom to my office is pretty short, and I live in loungewear every day and listen to jazz and drink coffee until 3 or 4 when I switch to wine. I go to the gym every morning. I push myself out the door at least one other time during the day or evening to combat the isolation and loneliness that comes with working from home. And I run. I’ve got to find more clients and fast, so that’s what I’m focusing on now.

How are others reacting to what you are doing? How does this affect you?

Not sure. Some will probably always think I’m crazy, but to my face lots of people say they think it’s pretty damned cool. The reality is that most people probably don’t think about it - or me - at all, and don’t even know what part of the world I’m in or what I’m doing, exactly.

I pretty much don’t care what anyone thinks about it. But it does make me feel good and rejuvenated when someone tells me they were inspired by my story, which just happened again recently.

I’m still thinking about writing a book and still considering doing some kind of public “talk” or presentation about my adventures. If nobody comes I will just talk anyway.

What do you think of the book and the other stories?

I loved reading the stories in the last chapter Lynn’s book about other women who have chucked it all in their own ways to search for something more meaningful and fulfilling. It reminds me of the messages contained in the life-changing encounters I had with courageous people from all over the world so very many times during my travels: we are all connected, and bravery and lives worth exploring abound across this planet, and women rock.

Good book. You go, girl.

"Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” Angela Monet