What’s the Opposite of Clinical Depression?

The last month and a half or so have been surprisingly good.  I mentioned some time ago that I’m doing okay emotionally speaking.  It’s weird for me.  I’m used to being dissatisfied and unhappy about the way things are.  I’m used to this underlying current of…. well…  depression.  That’s what it is, so why am I looking for another word to convey it?

I am, by no means, implying that I’m “cured”, and I am afraid that it’s not going to last, but, something has changed.  Things are different now.  I’m not quite sure what did it.  Maybe it’s not having the secret of my sexuality hanging over my head.  Maybe it’s the fact that I finished my book and I’m taking the next steps in that process.  Maybe it’s just that 36 1/2 years was long enough and those depressive neural pathways have shorted out.  Somehow I doubt that it’s that last one.

Admittedly, it was easier to feel good about life when I was on vacation and therefore could sleep late and do whatever I wanted with my day while still having the guarantee of a pay check every other Friday.  Now I’m back at work and really nothing has changed about work.  I’m finding it really hard to go there.  Not because I’m dreading going to work specifically, just because it’s really hard to get up and get moving in the mornings.  And my brain seems to want to believe that I’m still on vacation even though I know it’s not true.  I’ve been staying up way too late, which makes getting up early for work very difficult.  I’ve got to change that behavior, post-haste.

That is not to say that I don’t dread coming to work… Or more specifically, it’s not to say that I look forward to coming to work.  But I’ve really begun to see what an easy gig I’ve got, and how little is required of me for the money I make.  In that respect, at least, I’m really, very lucky.

As I mentioned before, I’m very much aware of how little value I add to the operation around the office and knowing that leaves me unfulfilled.  I want to do a job that I feel like matters and/or that leaves me fulfilled with the outcome.  It seems like that would be one and the same, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on the EMT thing and if most people asked me why, I would tell them it’s because there aren’t really any jobs to be had, and that’s true.  And I’d tell them that I haven’t figured out a way to do that job and still make a living wage, and that’s also true… though my definition of “a living wage” may or may not be accurate in most peoples eyes.

The reality is, though, I’m scared.  I’m scared of taking a huge risk and finding out that I’m not happy doing that job.  I’m scared of finding that I’m not really very good at it.  I’m questioning whether it’s really right for me.  And I don’t know if that questioning is because my spirit is trying to tell me something my brain doesn’t want to know, or if that questioning is my fear trying to hold me back.  We’ve all heard the old saying, “…those who can’t, teach.”  What if that’s all I am is a teacher?  (And before anyone says it, I can’t be a teacher either, not before I have some practical experience to fall back on.)

So it’s true that I’m dragging my feet for practical concerns but that’s not the only reason.  Still, I put a lot of effort and energy into that training and there’s a part of me that feels like to give up on it would be wasting something valuable.  What I’ve been thinking about for the last several months, though, is that I can’t make enough money to support my current lifestyle working full-time as an EMT.  And then I realized, I’ve fallen back into an all-or-nothing way of thinking.  IF I can find a part-time job as an EMT, I have the option to go part-time in my current job as well.  I’d still take a cut in pay, but not nearly as much.

A recent comment on my blog reminded me of something that, oddly enough, I’ve forgotten:  I love to write and would really like to get paid to do it.  Actually, for some reason it seems important to make the distinction that, more so than wanting to be paid to write, I want to be paid for my writing.  I see a difference between the two and for me that difference is this: when a person get’s paid to write, they are compensated for the act of writing.  When a person is paid for their writing someone has purchased the words, placed value on the information or opinion or story that is created and ideally it’s a residual income for the product rather than a one time check for your time.  I suppose I’m splitting hairs and I certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to be paid to write, but I’d really like to be paid for my writing.

Yesterday, I discussed my position with Deb: Ten years in a job I don’t love with no idea of where to go from here, but knowing there will be no more advancement in my current position.  A desire to make use of my training.  A desire to write for profit.  We talked about figuring out what it is I want to do and then how to pursue it.  I told her, “That’s kind of my problem.  I want three things: 1) to make use of my EMT Training, 2) to write and 3) to make at least $XX,XXX a year.” (Obviously, those X’s were real numbers, but I’m wondering if it’s tacky to talk dollar amounts here…)

Deb said, “But don’t you make pretty close to $XX,XXX already?”

“Including my bonus, I made $XX,XXX and change last year,” I told her.  (those first two X’s were the same numbers in all three instances.)

She said, “Okay!  So you’ve already achieved one of those things.”

Part of what I’ve been struggling with is the money.  I think we know by now that I grew up in a poor family and I suffered a lot of lack.  The pain of that manifest itself in my own relationship with money and how I handled it when I started earning my own.  It took me a long time to understand that and learn to be more responsible, and I would by no means say that I’ve learned everything I need to in that regard but for the first time I feel financially secure.  I make a nice income and can afford all my bills.  Recently, I’ve even been able to afford a little bit of a social life, though admittedly that’s due, at least in part, to the insurance reimbursement for my therapy bills.  Still, I’m understandably hesitant to make a change that will reduce my income.

So it’s difficult for me to not see things in a limited capacity.  Either I accept that what I have here and now is the only way for me to make a livable income and I stay here for thirteen more years (the company has some odd equation having to do with your age and the number of years of service for when you can retire with benefits), or I quit and pursue some of my other interests which will, at least in the short-term, leave me extremely lacking.  It might be noble to “do what you love, even for less money”, but for me, the money is part of the equation.  If I’m not making a satisfactory income, I doubt that I’ll be happy doing what I’m doing…  I know that’s not all there is, it’s just that, for now, I can’t see anything else.

Deb said, “You’ve already accomplished one of those things.  You already make $XX,XXX a year.”

I told her, “Yes, but I didn’t say I want to work as an EMT, get paid to write OR make $XX,XXX.  I said I want to work as an EMT, get paid to write AND make $XX,XXX, or more.  The problem is, I haven’t figure out a way to make those three things happen.”

There was a brief pause and just as Deb opened her mouth to say something, I said, “And yes, I realized the end of all of those sentences is, ‘At least not yet.'”

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On Being Published

Speaking of sentimental and thoughtful gifts…

Karin walked into my office today and handed me a small blue tube-box with sparkly blue ribbon tied around it and said, “I wanted your book to be published.”

Karin is one of my biggest supporters, as far as my writing is concerned.  We’ve talked at length about my book, tentatively titled, “The Teacher”.  She’s only seen what I’ve posted here on this blog, plus one additional chapter.  She’s chomping at the bit to read more and I get no small amount of pleasure out of tormenting her by dangling tidbits in front of her but not letting her see the rest.

It is thanks to Karin and people she knows, who know people, that I am going to be attending he writers workshop/class/group/thingy in February that I hope will give me greater insight into my writing ability, this book and the industry in general.  I’m treating this workshop (or whatever it is) as a step in the process to publication.  I hope that turns out to be true.

Anyway, Karin is a huge supporter and she wants to see my book published, which led her here.

I opened the blue tube-box with sparkly blue ribbon tied around it and turned it on end.  It’s contents slid into the palm of my hand, wrapped in simple tissue.

Karin found a store on Etsy.com that makes these:

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It’s a Christmas tree decoration, about the size of a matchbook, with a cover page (I guess it has to be titled The Teacher, now!) and the first sentence of my book printed inside, and it is bound, hard cover.  I love it!

And it gave us an idea.  Somewhat accidentally, I began work on my second novel, (I know, go figure!) yesterday.  Perhaps, I can get one of these ornaments made for every book I write.

What do you think?  Will “The Man With Too Many Names” fit on one of those teeny tiny pages?  🙂

The End

Well, I have some bad news.

I’m not going to be a NaNoWriMo “winner” this year.  You have to finish in order to win…  and in order to finish you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days (this is probably old news to most of you.)

A few weeks ago, I said, that I was going to use NaNoWriMo to work on my book that I’ve been writing for the last three-ish years.  It was kinda of rocky going for a while, with more days of no writing than there were writing.  But this week while on my stay-cation, I hunkered down and worked diligently on the book and had three days were I wrote extremely large numbers of words.  And still I’m not going to be able to finish NaNoWriMo…

Because I finished my book.

Turns out, there were only 34,366 words left to write.

This is, of course just the first draft and now I have to go through and edit, so this project is far from over…  But…

I finished my book!

Baby Steps

I keep clicking on the Firefox tab with WordPress on it thinking, I should post something here and then I click on the Microsoft Skydrive tab thinking, I really want to work on my book.  And then I click on the facebook tab to see if I can fish yet.  And I just keep bouncing around between the three tabs trying to figure out what to do now, while effectively doing nothing at all…

I’ve done a little bit of work this morning, which is, of course, what I should be doing.  But I either don’t have a lot to do right now, or I’ve forgotten something terribly important…  Honestly?  Either one is possible.

I’m not sure why I’m not more enthusiastically following through…  Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say that my enthusiasm for the two writing options is equal and one seems to cancel out the other.  But the truth is, I’m also aware that I set out to write something very different the other day when I was here, and I’m… not really embarrassed, just reluctant, I guess, to make another stab and having something like that be the end result again.

Finally, though, I just decided that I needed to get this out of my system and then I can go back to the book and so here I am.  You’re welcome!

There have been a few, relatively small, but relevant and significant developments recently that seemed worth sharing.

After the Spring EMT class ended, I had some idea of the path I wanted to follow.  My end goal in this Emergency Medicine business would be to work part-time as a Paramedic (with a good salary) and part-time in some sort of Community Outreach/Education role.  (OK, if I’m being completely honest my ideal scenario would be to do something along those lines with a Fire Department, where I could make a Fire Department salary and work Fire Department hours, without having to be a Fire Fighter.)  I mentioned all this to Mr. Williams on the way out of the building on the last night of class and he told me they have positions like that in the San Francisco Fire Department and when I was ready he could put in a word for me.  Great!  So now I just have to get ready…

But in order to be ready, of course, I need to go to Paramedic school.  One of the prerequisites for paramedic school is between five hundred and a thousand hours of practical experience in Emergency Medicine.  But how could I get those hours and still support myself?

A few days later I had a conversation with my boss about the possibility of me working part-time in my current role, fully expecting him to be negative about it.  Much to my surprise he immediately, and without hesitation said, “sure.”  Of course, almost immediately he started to backtrack.  He wasn’t so sure it would work in my current position, but he was happy to help me find a place within the organization where it would work.  He promised to make some calls.

Some time passed and nothing really happened.  He told me periodically that he was trying to touch bases with a specific someone in a specific department that he thought I might fit into with my skills but of course the specific someone was never around when he went to see her.  They played a lot of phone tag and missed e-mails and finally, just as I felt nothing was ever going to come of it he copied me on an e-mail with the woman and her assistant, with a suggestion that she and I should talk directly.  I was of course open to that and she wanted to set up an informational interview… in five weeks.  Beggars can’t be choosers.

A few weeks ago, John asked me if I had met with this woman yet.  I told him I had not but that I had an appointment scheduled with her.  He suddenly had the “brainstorm” that I might be a good fit in the department in charge of disaster recovery and business continuity and he promised to contact the person in charge of that group.  I don’t think that ever happened.

I had sort of given up the hope that things would work out for me to work part-time for my current employer when the time finally rolled around for my informational interview.  As expected, the person I met with didn’t really have much to offer in terms of possible positions within the company under her direction.  She agreed that disaster recovery/business continuity might be a good fit for me and lo and behold, she works with those people.

While the informational interview itself, didn’t garner much result, I came away with some good advice about my resume, and her promise to send a note to a gentleman in Southern California who oversees disaster recovery/business continuity for the entire state for the company as well as reaching out to some of her counterparts in the medical centers to find out if they have anything that would fit the bill.

Later that day, I was CC’d on a couple of e-mails between the two and as it turns out the SoCal man will be here in Oakland next Monday for meetings and agreed to meet me for lunch to discuss my situation.  Later still, that day, I had a meeting with John (my individual Monthly Meeting which happens about once a quarter, whether I need it or not).  He informed me that he had discussed the idea of reducing my hours with his boss and his boss was open to the idea.  Suddenly I find myself with a realistic option to work for my current employer reduced hours (part-time) and work part-time as an EMT, if I can find a job.  I would keep my hourly wage, though I’d no longer be salary.  I’d keep my benefits with only a slight increase in the cost of the premiums and with the addition of the pay I’d earn as an EMT I’d only be making slightly less money than I do now.

Now I just need to find a Part-Time EMT job.

In November, the contract for Emergency Medical Services in my county changes hands.  At the end of May, I submitted my application to the new company, on-line, just for the hell of it.  I really didn’t expect anything to come of it.  There are about to be a lot of much more qualified, experienced people looking for jobs in this field and I’m just fresh out of school.  I took all the preliminary steps and e-mailed the recruiter to make sure he was aware of my interest and background…  I may have mentioned I was the top of my class…  maybe.  The recruiter did acknowledge my e-mail and then I didn’t hear anything else.  I can’t say I was surprised.

The same day as my informational interview and my discussion with John about me working part-time, I got an e-mail from the new Emergency Medical Services provider.  It was a questionnaire they called “the next step in our hiring process” designed to get a feel for my personality and whether I’m really built for this type of job.  One of those “there are no right or wrong answers” kind of questionnaires, but with questions like, “are you better able to identify dangerous or risky situations, than others.”  I think I have the right temperament for the job.

The process is slow.  They take over in November and I know they’ve already hired the first round of people; the people who have to ready to work on day one.  But it is my understanding that they are also hiring a second wave of people and that they did reserve a block of jobs specifically for people who live in town and who are new graduates.  It may take a while still but it’s not at all beyond the realm of possibility that I will get hired with this company.

I’m not, by any means putting all my eggs in one basket either.  There are other companies that I have applied to and still more that I should/will but things are looking up.

~~~~~

In other news, it turns out that I know somebody who knows somebody who might know somebody.  My friend Karin had a brainstorm the other day that might turn into something good.  She has a friend who has lots of connections in lots of different industries and places and as it turns out Karin’s friend knows someone who “has connections in the publishing industry”.  Karin sent the first two chapters of my book to this friend who will read and comment on them and send information about publishing.  Certainly, this is a far cry from the success that I fear, but it’s a step in the right direction and a lot further than I was yesterday.

Now I just need to hurry up and finish the book.

Fear of Success

So I haven’t been here in what seems like forever.  I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been SOOO busy doing SUUUCH exciting things, but then you’d be expecting me to write about it and well, it’s simply not true.

Truth is, I’ve been busy writing, which, I guess is sort of exciting.  It’s exciting to me.  It’s also frustrating and nerve-wracking and irritating and a whole hell of a lot of fun.  It just. Takes. So. Long!  I have a cheerleader who is desperate to read my book.  She’s read the first two chapters and the “mom” chapters I posted not too long ago.  She likes what she’s read and she’s chomping at the bit to read more.  Sorry!  You’ll just have to wait.

Anyway, I’ve been busy committing all my writing time to the book and I’m really happy with what’s coming out, even it is taking an eternity and a half to create but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with it.  (It would be well to note that fear often has no basis in rational thinking, however…)

I’m fearful that this book is not as good as I think it is (despite significant evidence to the contrary.)

I’m fearful that just because a handful of people have read a small fraction of what I’ve written and liked it, a lot, that it will not be good in the eyes of a publishing company.

I’m fearful that because of the nature of its content, what I’m writing will never be accepted by mainstream publishing and even if it ever does get published, it won’t be by a mainstream house and may not be promoted or marketed enough to sell many copies.

I’m fearful that this is the only thing I’ll ever be able to write.  It took me 32 years to come up with an idea which actually formed into a complete story.  What if it takes another 32 years to come up with the next one?

While I’m enjoying the process and would be happy for any amount of success that might come from it, I have to admit that all of that is tempered with a fear that I might get exactly what I want; a fantastic book, well received by major publishing houses, huge promotion and significant compensation and an opportunity to do more…

I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the idea that my family may never really know me; never know the full truth about me.  I don’t love this idea, but I’ve lived with it for a long time and it’s…familiar.  But, what if I get published.  What if this book I’m writing, a book all about a young man who comes to terms with his sexuality despite his conservative upbringing and judgmental mother, a book full of emotional turmoil and sexual revelation… and sex, get’s published and promoted and makes even a medium splash in the literary world?  My mother is a voracious reader.  I’m not sure if a book like mine could accidentally find its way into her hands, but the prospect is disconcerting, at least.

I wrote a scene just the other day between our lead character, Calvin and a would-be lover/pseudo mentor, Trip, in which Trip explains his less than blissful relationship with his own family.  Without getting too bogged down in details or giving away too much of my, as yet unpublished passion, Cal has been taken to an Atlanta emergency room after a relatively minor injury.  Trip accompanied Calvin and is waiting in a room with him.  Pay attention to the last line:

Another thought occurred to me that I was ashamed not to have realized earlier.  “Oh my God, Trip!”  I slapped my hand down on his arm which had been resting comfortably on the edge of my bed.  “I’ve done it again.  You missed your brother’s reception.  What was I thinking making you bring me here.”

“Those drugs they gave you must be really good,” he laughed.  “You’ll recall I didn’t give you a choice in the matter.”  He patted my hand still resting on his other arm.  “Don’t worry about the reception.  I was there for most of it.  I won’t have been missed, I’m sure.”

There was something sad in his tone and I wondered what his relationship with his family might really be like.  “I’m sure that’s not true,” I suggested.  “You’re brothers after all.”

Trip just looked at me for several long seconds and then he leaned forward in the chair, and whispered to me, conspiratorially.  “I’ll tell you a secret Cal.  What you saw last night?  The way Tommy acted when you and I were leavin’?  That was just the tip of the iceberg.  My family has really struggled since I came out.  Most of the time I think they’re happier when I’m not around.”  That revelation struck me hard.  What must it have been like for him to accept being gay, acknowledge it, and tell his family, knowing that his father was a Baptist Preacher and his family would not accept him?  I couldn’t imagine what his life must be like and I didn’t understand how he could come off as being so self assured when he had this burden weighing him down when he thought no one was paying attention.

And he wanted me to be in the same boat?  How could he expect anyone to follow in his footsteps and demolish whatever sense of a life they had?  I was about to ask him just that when the nurse walked in.

We ate in silence for a while, crunching on our fruits and vegetables.  In spite of my hunger, I couldn’t bear to eat the white bread bun so I pulled the turkey off the sandwich and ate it plain.  Finally, I gingerly turned my head to look at Trip directly and I said, “I’m sorry, Trip.  I’m really sorry.”

He was confused, “’Bout what?”

“It sounds terrible,” I answered, clearing nothing up.  “I can’t imagine facing my parents and knowing that they don’t approve of me.”  Even as I said it I realized, I already knew how that felt.  I was all too familiar with the look of disdain my mother was so adept at displaying at the merest mention of pretty much any new idea I’d ever had.  I knew that if I were to tell her I was gay that would be the end for us.  The look she would give me, her reaction to that news would be impossible to get past.  “It must be just awful to be faced with that every day.”

Trip’s expression darkened.  “It’s not easy,” he said, his voice was thick with grief.  “My parents had such high hopes for me when I was growin’ up,” he continued.  “They wanted me to be a pastor like my father and like his father and his father before him.  Our family has been leading The First Baptist Church of Savannah for three generations.  Daddy is pretty well respected in the community.”  He paused and as his eyes glistened he gulped hard, holding his feelings in.  “Well anyway, he was.  And then about eight months ago I was caught on film coming out of a club called The Cockpit.  There was a local news crew doing a remote spot outside the club.  I didn’t even notice them at the time and I have no idea what the story was about let alone that I was on film but before I knew it, someone had seen me on the news and it got back to the Convention – The Southern Baptist Convention – and they talked to my dad about it.

“And then a couple months ago Janelle got pregnant and she and Tommy had to have this shotgun wedding.  Which is a sham, as far as I’m concerned and I just know they’re not going to last and I can’t help but think that’ll be even worse for my father’s reputation.  But you know…  At least they’re doin’ the honorable thing in the face of their shame.  There’s nothin’ I can do to make this right in their eyes.  And now, daddy’s reputation is damaged and the Convention is talkin’ about replacing him at the church.  It’s all a big ugly mess and not the way I would have wanted it to be, at all.

“I dreaded comin’ out to my parents and I put it off way too long…  I sure as hell didn’t want them to find out from someone else.  Let alone the whole community.”  Tears crept down his face now and he lowered his head, staring at the blanket that covered me.  “Talkin’ to my parents about being gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I owed it to them to be the one to tell them, and I didn’t do it.”

It seems like a long shot at best but I would hate for this book to be the way my family finds out that I’m gay and yet having that conversation is something I’m unable to imagine.    But the flip side of that is, what happens if this book actually gets published?  What if it actually is a moderate (or bigger) hit and I make a nice chunk of change from it?  What if I need to go on some sort of book tour because of it?  What if this turns out to be a really big deal…  And I can’t share it with my family, because to share it with them I’d have to tell them the hardest thing I could imagine ever having to tell them?  And what if I have to go through the rest of my life watching what I say, careful never to give any inclination about any of the experiences that I’ve had as a result of writing this book, just as I have to be careful now, never to mention anything that might reveal the identity that is Riggledo (blog, twitter, e-mail, etc.)

I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse, as I’m prone to do, and I’m not allowing these fears to stop me writing the book, but I can’t help fearing all these things.