Friday, May 27, 2016

O Fortuna!

And so ...
As of April 6, I am back among the unemployed – mostly. My teaching gigs still stand. I could use a few more now.
And I’ve also been struggling to write a post about it all. I’ve started four or five times and pitched each one.
O fortuna!
Velut luna
Statu variabilis.
The Wheel of Fortune turns.
I will not be paying off my debts as quickly as I had anticipated.
I will not have a little bit salted away for something that resembles “retirement” – whatever that is.
I will not be attending the next Leo Burnett Christmas Breakfast.
Yeah, well ... I can’t bad mouth Leo. It was a good place to work. The best pay I ever received, decent benefits, free coffee. Nice building. Nice people.
My years in the newspaper business trained my senses never to lose guard – any time, any day, you may get the word to clean out your desk.
My supervisor tried to assure me that it wouldn’t be true at the agency: copy editing would always be essential to the process. She had been at it for fifteen years.
And who was I to doubt?
The moment I lost my guard, it seems, was the moment the hammer came down.
Oh well.
Here are the good things.
I’ll have more time to write. I’ve already finished the collection of saur stories. It’s called (for now) One Big Place: the Book of Saurs. People have been waiting for this thing, and it’s done.
I can get back to work on the novel, The Va-va-va VOOM! My agent hates the title, but that’s the title I’ll keep until I have to change it.
I hope to have more time to teach – and to do a better job of it now. One of the things that most troubled me about my agency employment is that it took away from my teaching time.
I’m not knocking the ad agency, or the job – they were great. But when I did that work I knew I was doing work – a means to earning a paycheck.
When I write, I feel alive. I feel that what I’m doing and what I am are the same thing. It’s the same when I teach. I am not a person filling in a slot for which I’ll eventually be remunerated, and that slot is one that anyone with the same qualifications can fill.
One doesn’t spend a lifetime developing and/or creating a self – whatever a “self” is – just to fit in a category.
Most of us try to become a category of one.
Okay, maybe not most. And maybe it isn’t an intrinsic quality of humanity, or sentience, or intelligence, whatever those things are. But once you’ve discovered you are able to distinguish yourself – this idea of self – from the rest of the surrounding world, it’s difficult to go back. You have an identity, whether those around you recognize it or not.
I don’t want to say that there’s anything providential about my getting laid off. It’s Fortune’s wheel I’ve used to illustrate this post. Fortune, by definition, is indiscriminate. The wealthy person wakes up a pauper. The one stricken with illness is miraculously cured. The flood destroys the house next door. The piano falls just when you’re under it. It’s the way of the world. You can lose everything – in fact, you will, eventually.
But for me, not this time. Not yet.
I’ve only lost a job.
I get to keep myself. And it may not be a bad self to keep, at least for now, until Fortune’s wheel turns again.