"Things that interfere with writing well: Earning a living, especially by teaching."

-William H. Gass

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


"Careers." It's a board game I used to play with my mother. Like you might expect, "Careers" is modeled after the Boomer's experience of choosing, pursuing and working in a career. You went to school for a long time to be a doctor or you went for less time to be a newspaper woman, and so on. Very simple, defined paths wound around the board. Once you chose yours you simply rolled the dice, chose between a few options, and at some point, retired. The game provided no opportunity to veer off the path and learn how to sail or anything, but there was a comforting sense of stability to the whole thing.

I have spent a lot of time lately longing for the "simpler" times of yore (which of course are no simpler, but they sure seem that way) in which careers took less time to secure. You didn't need to invest the first half of your life to work in the same field the second half of it. It seems like people such as, say, Jefferson, had lots of time to be president AND make wine AND rewrite the bible AND collect hundreds of rare books AND found universities AND pursue all sorts of intriguing hobbies. (That he relied on the labor of slaves to do much of this is not lost on me, but I think the point still stands). Read about these "Renaissance" folk and, if you're like me, the first reaction is the question, "how the hell did they find the time?"

Now, I've done all the career stuff. I built up a whole pile of debt, work in the field I chose, and do other work to maintain the necessary pieces of paper that allow me to continue doing it. I don't have any kids, pets or debilitating diseases...and yet I can barely find the time to do stuff I already know how to do (i.e. blog) nevermind learn new stuff like vineyard cultivation!

Consider earlier today, on school vacation, the rest of the week spread out like a gleaming highway of possibility. I could read a whole book today. I could finish the scrapbook project. I could try a new recipe; rearrange furniture; take photographs; whatever. I spent fifteen minutes arranging the new watercolors I received as a gift. I prepared to try my hand at a new kind of art. I realized I had everything I needed except for something on which to paint. The prospect of driving to an art supply store seemed too daunting...especially with all the chores left to do and the date night plans beginning so early in the evening...

And just like that, the sun is down and vacation is more than half over. Time to grade those papers, waiting in a giant pile right next to the computer. Repeat the mantra: "There's always summer vacation. There's always summer vacation."