Monday, April 5, 2010

The Long Winter

I don't mean to talk about the weather all the time (especially after about a week of radio silence), but I kind of can't get over it.

On April Fool's Day, ie. two weeks after spring officially started, I walked out to my car, and I found this:

Which is basically my car buried under 14 inches of snow. No joke.

Although I was tempted to go accuse my neighbors of messing with my head, I didn't, because I realized the snow might have a little something to do with the blizzard I saw outside my window the day before:

(Okay, so with this bad video quality, you can't see the actual snow. However, all that noise is the howling wind. The wind gusts got up to about eighty miles per hour that night. :-o)

Since then, not a day has passed without fresh snow.

the view out my window yesterday

This may be the last winter I spend in a place where winter doesn't seem to end, but right now, I don't mind it much. I've been telling people that I'm using this time in Montana as a winter writer's retreat, and since it still looks like winter, I don't have any trouble buckling down and getting to my desk every day. I know that if it were warm, I would be tempted to take a book outside and drowse in the sun rather than tackle that day's to-do list.

Sooooo, the intense weather is actually a big help, because I have plenty to do this month: revisions for two separate manuscripts, and one Intellectual Property for a five-book middle grade series. I told myself that my writer's retreat can't end until I get these things knocked out. (enter determined face here)

Then a friend of mine who lives in DC sent me this picture to remind me that spring is sprung in most of the world.

Then there was jealousy.

Suddenly, I have the itch again. The itch to move. It won't happen for a while. The HUGE to-do list mentioned stands between me and other plans at the moment, but it won't forever. Then I will need to find a new destination.

I don't remember very much of what the keynote speaker said at my college graduation, but one thing stuck with me: Find a place you want to live, and then find a job in that place.

That may seem a little backward. Many decisions to move are based on finding a new job elsewhere, especially in this economy. But I'm starting to think that the speaker's way is more helpful in the long run.

For example, the first place I lived after graduation was New York City. I wanted a job in publishing, and that was where many great jobs in publishing were.

However, New York was never my cup of tea. Raised in the South, I didn't grow up taking field trips into NYC like many kids from the Tri-State area do. In fact, despite attending college in upstate New York, I didn't visit the City even once until the spring of my sophomore year. It was a fun trip, but it was also noisy and dirty and a little too hectic for me to be completely comfortable. I remember telling my mom that I would never live in New York after graduation, unlike most Vassar grads.

Cue Senior Year. Suddenly, there's a class-wide freak-out about employment, which I joined. Since I was an English major, many people commented, "What are you going to do with that? Teach?" (Not my parents, though - they're awesome.) I was determined to prove them wrong.

There was also this little thing called editorial that I had wanted to try ever since I learned that there was a job where you get paid to read and make books.

And where were most of those editor jobs? New York.

Thus, the road into New York started getting paved with very lucky twists of fate:
  1. Without any prior experience, I secured a spring-semester internship at a publishing house. I became Queen of the Slush Pile. It was no match for my quick typing skills. (This was probably why it was easier for me not to take rejections too hard. At this point in my life, I've written more of them than I have actually received. With this kind of karma, I have been bracing myself for years now.)
  2. One of my very best friends from high school moved to New York, which meant that I had a great roommate all ready to go.
  3. I was accepted into a prestigious publishing program, where I learned a lot from big industry names and met tons of people who geeked out over books just as much as I did. (Gasp! I thought it was impossible.)
  4. My new roomie and I signed for our first apartment in the way, way Upper East Side.
  5. I was lucky enough to be hired for an editorial assistant position in children's publishing at the end of summer, and for many many months, I loved my job.
Everything slipped into place so easily that it felt a little like Destiny. Dreams were coming true.

But I still didn't love New York.

I got used to it. I blocked out the noise with my iPod. I hated the price of groceries, but I loved Pinkberry (pomegranate is the BEST!!). I hated the subway, but I loved being able to walk to everywhere. I hated the crowds, but I loved the Strand. I wasn't all that fond of my neighborhood, but I knew where to find fantastic nighttime views:

I picked out favorite places in Central Park, which I visited often.

Still, my job was far-and-away the best part of my NY life. I enjoyed even the menial tasks (ie. answering epic amounts of fan mail for one of our authors), and I was incredibly fond of everyone I worked with. When I was at work, I felt like I was in the right place, and doing the right thing.

That stopped pretty much as soon as I left the office.

Then I started realizing that I wasn't getting used to New York. I was coping with it, and at a certain point, all my coping mechanisms didn't work any more.

New York is known as "The City that Never Sleeps." My body took this very literally. After a few months, I couldn't unwind the way I needed to. By summer, I was averaging about four to six hours of sleep every night, which is never good for anyone's health. Finally, after many (literally) sleepless nights and quite a few sick days, I had to resign my position and start a new life elsewhere (as well as this blog, actually).

MORAL OF THE STORY: If you feel like you don't like a place when you first go there, you probably don't like it. You may be able to trick yourself into thinking that you can deal with it, but there may be some unforeseen consequences, ie. insomnia.

Now, I don't mean to hate on New York. Plenty of people are very happy there, and I've noticed that if you live in the outer boroughs, you're more likely to settle there for the long-haul. It just wasn't a place for me. I couldn't make a home there.

And although Montana is great place for writer winter's retreats (and I get plenty of sleep), I'm beginning to realize that this too isn't the place for me to settle indefinitely. (There is such a thing as too isolated for the long-term.)

A change is coming. As a writer, I'm lucky enough to be able to take my job with me wherever I go. As a very young person with no dependents, I have the luxury of making a decision on personal inclination without worry about the effect my choices will have on others. The next stop is coming up.

Actually, I think beaches might be in my future...


Ms. Lollipop said...

I really enjoyed this entry, mainly because you know I can relate. :)

NYC was never my cup of tea either! Although I have wondered in the past what it would be like to attend a university in the city, I liked the middle of nowhere charm Poughkeepsie had to offer (or as some would say, the Vassar Bubble.)

Shelby Bach said...

Ms. Lollipop, I'm glad you enjoyed this post. :-D And I <3 the Vassar Bubble too! (And also, the epic awesome of Babycakes. :-P)

Also, remember that time (ie. on my second trip EVER to NYC) when we walked from Grand Central to the Met, because we were convinced that it wasn't all that far... :-/ Uh, and how the Met security guards turned us away, because lugguage wasn't allowed inside? Still cracks me up everything every time I think about it. Glad we took the subway back though.

Linda Benson said...

Shelby - I can relate. I don't do cities well. I like the wide open spaces, too. But Montana does have long winters, which are great for writing, if not being outside.

Hey - your picture looks like the Oregon coast, or the WA coast. We have long rainy winters, still conducive to snuggling inside and writing, but not as cold.

Good luck wherever you end up. It's fun to have the freedom to choose, isn't it?

Shelby Bach said...

Thanks, Linda!! It *is* fun being able to choose. It also makes me feel very lucky and very grateful for the opportunity. :-D!