You just published a book, but you’ve been kinda quiet, what the heck?

anxiety

It’s been about a month since I’ve released Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. In that time, I’ve posted a single blog post about this, done a hand-full of tweets, paid for a bit of advertising on Amazon, and shared it on Facebook. Really, it’s not much, and I should be posting a lot more and working double-time on writing the next two or three books I intend to publish. I should also, at very least, be blogging about my experience launching a book impulsively and what I’ve learned. There isn’t any good excuse for why I haven’t. I mean, there is an excuse, but as with any excuse, it’s an excuse not really a good reason. To put it in a word – Anxiety. I can’t seem to get over it.

I am at the tail end of two weeks of vacation as I write this and just made the mistake of rechecking my work e-mail. I’ve been keeping half an eye on it just to make sure if something came up I had to deal with, I could. I went from a wee bit more relaxed to full-on stress-ball in the span of three heartbeats. It’s completely incapacitating. These past two weeks were intended to be time spent with the kids, write, blog, advertise, unwind, and generally catch-up on personal life stuff. None of that happened, really. I’ve been avoiding literally everything to the point where all I can do is play video games – which is usually a reinvigorating escape for me. Not this time. I have what I can only describe as a video-game hangover, and I don’t feel anything like rested up and ready to tackle work tomorrow (Tomorrow was supposed to be another day off, but things being what they are, I’ve got to go back a day early.)

There are what you could call extenuating circumstances here, making things worse than they might otherwise be. Right now, in the state of Alaska, my home, the governor has just vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. I believe it is the largest set of budget cuts ever for this state. Ostensibly, these cuts were made because the state can’t afford it. However, any state that can pay out thousands of dollars every year to its residents can’t possibly be so broke it can’t fund essential services – just one example is the emergency broadcast system – this for a state frequently beset by natural disasters and hazardous conditions.

I did keep my job after the cuts, and it’s looking pretty okay for the foreseeable future, but it’s not clear for my wife. Part of the cuts involved the elimination of all funding for the appellate courts. This is the state supreme court and all courts you might bring a non-criminal case to. I want that to sink in for a minute – he eliminated funding for the most critical aspects of the Alaska court system – if this part of the courts isn’t funded, Alaskan residents won’t have any legal recourse when something goes wrong. For any libertarians reading this-this is what happens when you don’t have a government, you don’t have a voice. It’s not a good thing. Reports are that the budget has the goal of reducing the state’s population. Read: Make it an unsuitable place to live for people with families, unless you’re already wealthy.

The bottom line is that this governor and the people who voted for him are working toward a place that is wholly impractical for my children to settle when they reach adulthood – no education, no services, no safety. I grew up here. This is home. In spite of the fact I make noises about moving to New Zealand or some other state, this isn’t realistic. I did leave for a year when I couldn’t find work, but I couldn’t make it elsewhere. I came back fully understanding that I might very well end up living in a shitty apartment, working two minimum wage jobs. As it was just the two of us at the time, we felt we could make that work. Now, with kids, the calculation is different. It’s not about me anymore. Regardless, this is home, and it will be, even if I’m holed up in a homeless camp at the edge of town with thousands of others in the same boat. The same can’t be said for the people making the cuts. They aren’t, actually, from here and will likely leave in the future anyhow. One of them came here specifically to implement these cuts and then leave immediately.

Even then, for me, it still gets deeper and harder to cope with. I do work for the state. Yes, I still have a job after the cuts, something conservatives say I should be grateful for, but for the first time ever, the cuts have been so dramatic that I’m unsure that I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations to the state, which are written in state law. The hard part about this is that it’s not my fault, but I get to be blamed for the failure. The politicians have taken away resources necessary to be successful and will then point their greasy fingers at people like me and say, “look at that lazy bastard.” So, when I look at my e-mail and realize that I’ve got six weeks of work due in something like the next 10 days. I’m feeling super extra fucked, a failure, and someone else made it so. I don’t like letting people down or just walking away from things, but I’m in a position to do just that.

Alright, so that’s the core of the anxiety, climate change is the other aspect, but I already went semi-viral on a particular rant there and don’t care to repeat the experience. The rest boils down to being impulsive and releasing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks when I did. I don’t actually think I was personally ready for this. I have had a lot of support and positive feedback, but I’m still learning, and it’s committed me to things that I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cope with. I mean, I will with a smile and as much gusto as needed, that’s how I am –recall that I build most of a house with just the help of friends in two years because I was too stupid to know I couldn’t. That house withstood a 7.1 earthquake. However, as it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, I don’t know if I can pull it off. I’ve goofed around with advertisements and things, but it’s pretty clear that the only books being sold are to those folks I routinely interact with or know IRL. Which is fantastic, but it’s not getting reach beyond that. It’s a lot of effort to go through, and I don’t know if I’m doing it right.

As a result of all of this, I’ve been effectively immobilized. Every time I start thinking about something, the weight of everything else breaks in, and I just can’t properly concentrate. So that’s it. There’s my excuse and what’s going on with me. Now I’ve gotten it off my chest, I will (hopefully) be producing more content and really getting to work on more books.

Time for a major life decision

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Today I got the phone call. It was precisely the call I’ve been hoping to get for the past couple of weeks. A job offer. My spirits sank a little when we started talking money, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but generally what I expected. Before the end of the day, we got to a place that I consider fair and reasonable. To be clear, in terms of overall compensation, it’s a pay-cut, no doubt about it, but the size and nature of that cut has been agonized for some weeks now and I’ve concluded that other aspects of the job and other long-term strategies make up for it – I’m not going to go into details. Realistically, it’s the sort of thing we can cope with. Not only that, after having met the individuals I’d be working with and hearing more about the project, I got pretty excited about the job. Not only does it sound like a tremendous opportunity, but it’s going to be a new and interesting challenge that I want to do. It’s the sort of thing I want to get neck deep into and try to do something brilliant. Right now, as I write this blog, the offer is sitting in my e-mail inbox awaiting a signature. All I need to do is print, sign, send it back, and make arrangements with my current employer.

The problem?

Possibly the best way to describe the problem is the question: Am I being selfish? The truth is that I want to do this job, I want a change, for so many reasons, and I look forward to not having to worry about the future of my job on an annual basis, and even the tiny ill-lit cubicle that I will undoubtedly be locked into for 8 hours a day, but is it fair to my family?

At the moment, I work 3 days/week at home, which means I’m there for the kids when they get out of school and they can be at home most of the summer. I worry about making it back to town before the after-school care closes down, and about homework. What will dinner look like if I’m not home at 4:30 to cook it up? There will be much less leave time available, so I won’t be able to take two weeks in the winter and two weeks in the summer and still have time to take off a day here and there to take care of home stuff.

Everyone I’ve spoken to so far has advocated for me to follow-through and take the job -Even my wife. This is advice I’d like to just take without the heartburn. I want desperately to be excited about this change, yet here I am stressing out about it. My current situation is so incredibly comfortable as far as home-life is concerned that I worry I’m making the right decision, even with the risk of layoffs or massive pay-cuts, loss of pension, and so-on in the next year or two. My current job is NOT a bad one, I’m treated extremely fairly and compensated well. The long-term prospects have little to do with those I work with now, and more to do with the decline of oil prices.

To bring this around to writing, as this is the point of the blog anyhow, will this effect my writing? Yes, a bit. I like to have off a few days here and there to write without harassment, and that will happen a lot less, but the more I focus on getting to the publishing of my first novel, the more I realize this is a hobby and always will be. It’s something I should enjoy, and if I do, I’ll work it in.

Anyhow. I don’t know if I’ve got much more to say about this just now. I have until about lunchtime tomorrow to make a final decision, perhaps someone will talk me out of it, or I’ll be convinced I’m making the right decision for myself and my family. I dunno. Either way, the next blog post will be an impassioned rant on word processors (or to be more precise – a pointless rant about how little it seems to matter what you choose.) I will also probably blog my decision at some point – this is a big deal for me.

Working this weekend

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On Saturday, I’ll be in Anchorage, AK. Not that this is a big deal, I work there, and live fewer than 40 miles away. The big deal this weekend is ceremonial start of the Ididarod. I’ll be less than a block away, suffering from the traffic, parking, and crowds. What I will not be doing is watching the start. I’ll be in a conference. Turns out that this week is also the Alaska Anthropological Association annual meeting. Normally, this would be little more than a footnote in my year, and simply signify a slightly reduced period of e-mails and phone calls (It’s usually a time I can focus on stuff I need to get done, without interruption) However, this year I’ve been prodded into giving a paper*. Of course, this means that this weekend, I won’t be writing, and the last couple of days I’ve been completely focused on putting together my presentation instead of writing. Now, I’ve given the presentation before, and so it shouldn’t be a big effort, but I always spend a lot of time rehearsing before these. Anyhow, I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except to say that if you’re in Anchorage this weekend and don’t want to see the Ididarod, come to the aaa meeting, there’s going to be a lot of really good information about subsistence research in Alaska.


* I’m not an anthropologist, I’m an analyst and database manager.

photo credit: fast via photopin (license)