Saturday, May 11, 2013

One year! What did I learn?

Yesterday was the day of Vanderbilt University’s commencement, 364 days after the same event in 2012 that I count as my last day working at a day job, and one year + 364 days after I started this blog. We live close enough to campus that a lot of families park on our street, and all morning I watched young people in robes, carrying their mortarboards, striding down the sidewalk in the drizzle. I know how most of them were feeling—excited, eager to see what’s waiting for them, hoping they’re prepared for the next phase.

In my first, awkward post here, I wrote, “I know I’ll feel a sense of loss” when I’m no longer teaching. Well, I was wrong there. Maybe if I hadn’t been so busy, that sense of loss would have crept in, but . . . no.

So what else did I get wrong?

I think I underestimated the sense of isolation I’d feel. My husband the sailor goes away for weeks or a month at a time (note to burglars: large son, yappy dog, and alarm system are still here), since the sailing isn’t so great in Nashville. So I go a little squirrelly. I’m more sociable than I realized, I guess. I need to have face-to-face human contact every day; a friendly supermarket checker is fine, but lunch with a friend is better.

And the trials of being in business for myself have thrown me for a loop. I can’t go into details, but I’m having a little, um, payment issue. I’ve hired a lawyer, but they’re ignoring him as much as they’re ignoring me. I’m starting to think that I’ll never see the money that’s owed me. This burns me up, but I have to remind myself that these things happen in business.

I discovered, to my surprise, that I don’t have to be as regimented as I thought was necessary. If I don’t take Tuesday off, I can trust that I’ll take another day. If I don’t walk on the treadmill for the amount of time I set for myself, it won't break the habit to the point where I'll suddenly stop using it at all.

I’m still feeling out how to make myself and my writing more visible. Luckily, my new publisher is very proactive with publicity, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be doing more conferences and school visits when the pub date for that book is close.

I haven’t done many of the extra-curricular activities I had lined up. I did take a short photography course, but it was a dud. I’ve traveled a bit more than usual, and next fall will take a non-working vacation during the school year—a first since I was in kindergarten!

Everything else is working out just about as planned. And that’s the important thing—planning. If you’re contemplating leaving your day job, the best advice I can give you is to start a new file on your computer and every time you think of something that you wish you had time for—whether it’s associated with your writing or a new activity you’d like to try—and periodically update it. I bet you’ll find, as I did, that a pattern will emerge, and you’ll see a form and direction of your new life. You’ll be able to step out of the nine-to-five world and into being your own boss with a minimum of fuss.