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This Odd Year: A Third Through

So the first four months of my yearlong amorphous adventure have passed and I thought I’d explore what I did with myself, what I’d planned to do with myself, what I’m doing now and what I might do next.

If you’re unfamiliar with all this, I’ll sum up: I quit my job at the end of last year, sold a business, and essentially set myself up to take a year to do with what I please, with an eye on ending the year in some sort of position to make a living doing work I love, without compromise, that’s creatively satisfying.

I thought I’d take January and February off, whatever that meant. I joked that I’d play video games, but I wasn’t really joking. I played some Spore but became far more enamoured of World of Warcraft. The social aspects alone blew my mind. I’ve since started four types of characters (I play Horde, which I’ve come to understand isn’t as common a choice for women on account of, shall we say, the less than pleasing look of its monstrous characters), one of which I’ve managed to level above 40. I’m now fairly bored with the game, but I might come back to it. General things I’ve noticed about it, in no particular order:

  • It’s far more fun to play socially than it is to play solo. Soloing gets boring fast. In the beginning I played a great deal with one of my friends, and that was awesome. He got busy and I went off on my own, but I’ve very much enjoyed teaming up with perfect strangers.
  • The only thing about perfect strangers is that the general, public chat in this game is conducted with a level of maturity that would make grade schoolers feel superior. Of course, few people participate in public chat compared to the number actually playing, but then you’re just shooting in the dark when it comes to approaching someone at random.
  • That said, when I have been approached at random, I’ve pretty much always had a great time.
  • There’s a full-on economy in this game. I understand it spills into real life with all sorts of schemes to trade cash for in-game gold, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the in-game economy of goods, services, and gold. It’s impressive.

Anyway. So that’s the video game part.

Unfortunately, beyond that I didn’t really succeed at taking time off. I mean, I thought I was taking time off, but what I was really doing was allowing the nagging questions at the back of my mind—What do I want to be doing to make a living? How will I get there? Dear god, how do I choose?!—stay at the forefront and colour my every day.

I’ve come to understand what I was doing, though, and I’m making up for it by being far happier now. Another bulleted list:

  • I’m throwing off the chains I didn’t realize were binding me—I do not have a job, I do not need to be “working” during business hours. I spent three months in front of my computer during every weekday, and it didn’t even occur to me that I not only didn’t have to be doing that, but that I most definitely should not have been doing that.
  • I didn’t make stuff even though I wanted to spend much of this year making stuff. Even though I wanted to learn how to quilt this year, I managed to stay focused on yarn during the first quarter. Why? As you saw in my last post, though, I’ve thrown off the shackles of yarn. I’ve sewn something, too. I’ll show you, eventually.
  • If I want to end up making money doing things I love, the way to accomplish that isn’t to sit around thinking about what I love. Good god, DUH.

Television. Freaks and Geeks rocked my world. The finale of Battlestar Galactica was inconsistently brilliant, annoyingly preachy, baffling, disappointing, and satisfying. The beginnings of Dollhouse were a painful disappointment that only made the middle of Dollhouse seem that much more fucking brilliant. The season ends tomorrow and I’m hoping beyond hope that Fox renews the show. We’re also watching Deadwood, which is the only western (save my childhood love affair with Little House on the Prairie, thankyouverymuch) I’ve ever tolerated, let alone loved. Beyond the beautifully foul language, I’m enjoying the lawless morality and lack of it, and despite the brilliance that is Ian McShane‘s Al Swearengen I think my favourite character might be Brad Dourif‘s Doc Cochran.

Books. I went through quite a dry spell with fiction during which few books could hold my attention. This happens to me occasionally, and usually when my brain’s in overdrive. So I occupied my reading time with the first three books of Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series. To sum up: Outlander was good, Dragonfly in Amber was awful and it was only the last thirty pages of it that made me want to read the next installment (much to my chagrin), Voyager was a vast improvement despite the painfully contrived plot “twists”.

Our book club read A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz, which I loved, and Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai, which I couldn’t get into and didn’t finish, chalking it up to my fiction dry spell. Which meant I felt like a total schmuck when I learned the others in book club didn’t like the book either but pushed through in the interest of discussing it. Our next book-club read is Run, by Ann Patchett, which I read in three days. It’s fairly sentimental and a bit contrived, but the subtext is just so compelling, and she’s simply an outstanding writer. I’m currently reading my first “advance” review copy Penguin Canada sent me—The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble. “Advance” gets quotes because the book’s already out in Canada (not in the U.S. till the end of the year), I just got to get an uncorrected copy for reasons unknown. Still, it’s cool to have a bound copy of a book that’s not fully polished. Anyway, reading it after Run highlights for me the difference between literary fiction and popular fiction. The Girl Next Door is good writing, but it’s just a story, and I’ll write more about that story another time. Run is a great story, but there’s as rich a tale written between the lines, and as such it was both a more satisfying and more inspiring read.

Movies. I’ve fallen in love with the documentary. Rip: The Remix Manifesto, despite screening in a theatre filled with people who seemed very concerned with all looking like the same hipster stereotype, was brilliant. Handmade Nation brought me to Portland for the most fun I’ve had in years. Who Does She Think She Is was a wonderful exploration of the experience of female artists and provided food for much conversation. On Monday I’ll go see one of two one-night-only Canadian screenings of This American Life Live that was relayed live to theatres in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago.

People. Since quitting my job, I have forged new relationships with people I barely new before, if I knew them at all. Wildly creative, generous, caring people who have enriched my experience in ways I can’t really begin to describe. I’m not sure how I ended up meeting so many people so quickly, but it’s not something I spend a great deal of energy trying to figure out. I’m just enjoying them, which seems the best thing to do.

“Work.” I set out to blog more, and I haven’t really been doing that. But I’ve been writing about what I want to write about, and I’ve been saying what I want to say. Without qualification, without hedging, and with a fair amount of abandon. My Twitter stream is a jumble of whatever it is I’m thinking about, and very little of that is yarn-related. I’m curious and mystified by the vast proportion of my followers who are yarnies given my disinterest in writing about yarn, but you know, I’ve always loved the unpredictability of online social systems.

I set out to podcast, and I’ve done it. Jenny Ryan was the perfect first guest, except as it related to me having to edit a two-hour conversation down to a forty-minute podcast. Good lesson to learn. I had all the best of brief intentions when I started working on the second episode (which I hope to release soon, really), but, you know, whatever. Regardless, I’m in love with the medium. I’m in love with the challenge of telling a story using chunks of audio, and with the personality and energy that comes through when it’s done well. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s making me more and more interested in telling stories through video, but I don’t see myself jumping into that until I have a better handle on audio. If for no other reason than I have the tools for audio and not for video yet.

I set out to do stuff with social media. Screw social media. I want to participate in it however I want to depending on my mood, and that’s it. I don’t want to teach about it, I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t want to read what other people write about it. In short, it got old fast, the conversation got stale fast, there’s never any richness at the end of a get-rich scheme, just go be yourself and have fun and let the cards fall as they may.

I don’t think I wrote much about this, but one of my biggest goals heading into this year was to get more involved in my local community. Having spent years and years working with people online and mostly in the U.S., I haven’t been engaged in my community beyond my circle of friends. I don’t like that. In the last few months I’ve been to more events in town than usual, and I’ve met people who are interested in things I’m interested in, too. I’m very pleased about that, and I’m excited to get to know folks better and to engage more in work and play with them.

Oddly, and not unrelated, my honeymoon period—a very long, 7-year one—with Vancouver is over. I’ve finally come to realize how odd this town can seem, how cold the feeling can be, how inaccessible communities can feel. As someone who thinks “scenes” are dumb but who also battles the insecurity of feeling like I don’t fit in, that’s a daunting reality. I think, though, that I can fairly easily get over my insecurities and let my distaste for insularity and the like push me to behave as if those fences don’t exist.

As the weather is warming up and the days are already long, I’m doing more stuff—be it writing, reading, making, socializing, exploring—and I’m looking forward to what the next few months will be. I’ll keep you posted.

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Wow, you played WoW! I played a Night Elf Druid for some time… not long enough to make level 40 though… I did get quite bored. Now, I just go online to kill zombies when I, myself, am feeling a bit like a zombie.

Did you ever look into Second Life? Now, that's a full-on virtual world economy full of interesting socialization. The demographics are precisely … us. Entrepreneural, creative 30-somethings, equally male and female.

It's so funny (not haha) that you say you are one who battles the insecurity of feeling like you don't fit in… when you are exactly the person that makes me think that anything is possible and that you have the confidence to make anything happen. Truly, you inspire me to think that it's okay to not be a part of any “scene”, be yourself and be okay.

I wish you much luck and momentum on the writing and hope the next four months are even more enlightening.

plainsight

“Screw social media.” Rock on, Kim. It's amazing how quickly that conversation got old, isn't it? Probably because those having it are a bit self-absorbed. I'd rather be just out there doing stuff. And good for you getting away from your computer! I'd love to hear more about Vancouver and how you become more involved in your city.

Carrie

I lovelovelove the Doc on Deadwood – such an awesome character. and WoW is so interesting to me – I have friends who play, but I'm a little scared that I'd become obsessed if I started, so I've stayed away so far! It sounds like you're in a really open place right now where you can explore and do lots of different things – it sounds so nice, if a little scary. ;)

pixie

I used to play starwars galaxies, each evening for a few hours for about a year. They ruined the game by changing it too much so I stopped, I tried wow but I liked SWG better because it had a player driven economy which facinated me! The best stuff had to be made and crafted by players and SOLD by player vendors. Wow has crafting but not at all to the same extent. Also SWG had weird proffesions like someone who could fix make up and hair and totally change the way your charachter looked, and tailors who made clothing (I loved putting together outfits) but I also was an engineer and made droids, and you could totally customize the components in the droids which was so neat, and if you got the best resources your stuff was better so the game within the game was getting and harvesting the best resources (there are machines to do this for you if you purchase them and place them at the right time in the right place). I looooved SWG so much more then WOW. You may want to try it. I did master doctor and some other half combat proffesions, they have bounty hunter, jedi and other combat proffesions, but I far more enjoyed the crafting proffesions.

You're so awesome. I'm glad I got to hang out with you for like two hours during #craftgasm. (ha ha, hashmark). The Doc on Deadwood is amazing. I also love Calamity Jane.

Jessica

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on how this exciting year is going for you. I'm also trying to take a year out to get my head round what it is that I really want to do with myself long term – but I'm doing it while bring up my first baby so I seem to be getting quite distracted from some of the crafty aims that I originally thought I would be fufilling.

I'm going to go off and make stuff right now and maybe start to actually think what my future career might be instead of just vegging out infront of the TV again.

blondechicken

Thank you for catching us up! I've been curious about how this is going, as I'm about to embark on my own experiment outside the realm of a “real” job.
I completely sympathize with the not-fitting-in. I live in an area with a “scene” that is more ME than any other place (laid back, bluegrass, artisans) and yet I feel strange and weird and un-definable.
Thanks (again) for embracing your own undefinable-ness!

Marianne Penner

If you get into quilting or want someone to bounce ideas off let me know. I live about 45 minutes east of Vancouver and travel in to Urban Yarns and the Cloth Shop quite regularly. Check out my flicker page where I have some of my quilts pictured and also show some of my longarm quilting work – maripenquiltmom. I grew up in Vancouver and I know what you mean about the lack of community, I've always felt it too.

Marianne Penner

If you get into quilting or want someone to bounce ideas off let me know. I live about 45 minutes east of Vancouver and travel in to Urban Yarns and the Cloth Shop quite regularly. Check out my flicker page where I have some of my quilts pictured and also show some of my longarm quilting work – maripenquiltmom. I grew up in Vancouver and I know what you mean about the lack of community, I've always felt it too.

canvas art

Great post, more like this please!

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