I've had a strange year. I'm counting back literally to last August, just so you know.
A year ago, everyone knew Borders was going out of business. It was kind of hard to overlook, with all the shiny banners declaring liquidation and all. I guess I'm still not a hundred percent over that. Most people will say it was inevitable, either because of the economy or the continuing transition to e-readers, but a part of me wishes for reasons beyond the fact that it was my job for five years that Borders could still be open today.
A year ago, I thought a lot of things would be different today. I had a friend who made me a verbal agreement to work in his starter business. A year ago I still believed I was going to have that waiting for me when the company permanently closed its doors in September. As a result of that belief, I did not make a very strong effort to begin looking for new employment until we closed for the last time. A year ago I made used up the last of my personal time spending time with my sister, whom I've lived with or close to since 2005. Her husband was deployed (he's been deployed or otherwise elsewhere for a good chunk of their marriage). The sales were crazy. I could use a break. I had no idea that I would spend the rest of the year living with her.
Actors will say that it's murder going through the audition process. It's worse going through the job search process. Last year we all became familiar with the "Occupy..." movement. By last fall I was so completely sympathetic with that cause I seriously considered becoming a beatnik and joining them. Except I had to look for a job. I also wrote Yoshimi during that time. It was my own preoccupation, that and looking for a job. I didn't go on a flood of interviews (strangely enough), but it was always a terror when one came along. Is it me or do interviewers not get that the person in front of them needs that job more than they need the interview? (Rhetorical question, but believe me, I could wax on that subject for ages.)
I actually was hired in December, and started a new job in January. Or, I should say I started in Hell. I don't particularly want to go into the details, but suffice it to say, but Mike Rowe shouldn't be concerned with dirty jobs. He should be concerned with psychologically terrorizing jobs (as in Office Space). I think the greatest condemnation of humanity in the past twenty years is that Scott Adams has only succeeded in amusing the forsaken. Call me Dilmonk.
Anyway, that didn't last. In May, and partially due to my own temperament (let's not quibble, though), I was back on the hunt. This time it was worse. This time it was more desperate, partly to the fact that my sister and her husband, newly returned, started making bold sweeping changes in their own lives. My safety net, in effect, was rolling itself up.
Last month, when I imagined the walls falling in on me, I sold my comic book collection (haven't quite gotten around to writing at Comics Reader since, for some reason), for what amounted to an appalling return on a lifetime investment. The good news is that it got me what I needed at the time, and helped clear some space. It was something I would never have imagined myself doing, not in total like that, but I've been managing. I've still been trying to convince myself that trying to recapture some of those lost memories isn't necessary, and certainly not right away. I am still not exactly made of money.
Some of this has been a little grating on the ego. Last fall during the start of this I started to try and make improvements on my self-sufficiency, branching out and trying some things to extend the brand, as it were. I launched the Austen Paradise online bookstore (no link, but if you really want, you can find one elsewhere on this page), which has still gone absolutely nowhere, and Hub City, the latest spin-off blog, writing about my books, perhaps as a coping mechanism, now that my most direct source to books was gone. I started trying to find new ways to make my name more visible s a writer. That's how I edged that much closer to being published in comics (still waiting to hear back on how that's actually going, which may explain why I still haven't gotten around to writing about Dr. Seuss). Earlier this year I started a collaboration on another comic book venture, and that's taking its time, too. I get it: Patience, young Padawan.
And of course last month I released another self-published book. Last April I did A-to-Z, which got me some new readers, the first dedicated ones I've ever had here, even though this is the decade anniversary of Scouring Monk. This week I started a new job, one that I always swore would be a last resort, and so that's exactly where I am at the moment. There aren't any tropical drinks here, but at least I'm working again.
In a lot of ways, I've come full circle since last August. I'm back exactly where I started, sitting in the same apartment, working another low-paying job, and really no closer to my goals than a year ago. The only thing that remains the same is my self-belief, the inner voice saying that none of this really matters, that I've known exactly who I am since high school, and what I'm going to do with my life. The outline is fine, it's the squiggly marks filling it in that keep changing. I've always been that kind of artist anyway.
Am I writing any of this for sympathy? Absolutely not. Even if you care, you can't possibly really care. In an abstract world, it's impossible to be anything more than passive about the majority of the things you come across on a daily basis.
I guess that's what I'm coming to terms with. I've been struggling to figure out what this blog still means to me. If anything, my new readers are something of a mixed blessing. How do I entertain you, now that I have you? My philosophy has always been, entertain myself first. During A-to-Z, that's exactly what I did, and yet somehow I started believing that my readers suddenly had expectations. Then I tried to figure out what they were, and that started limiting what I ended up writing about. If I wrote the wrong thing, it risked alienating these readers. I'm not a blogger who does what the most popular bloggers do. I don't gush over other bloggers. I figure if that's what you want, there's always Facebook. I'm not here to make friends. I'm here to be myself.
Maybe I can get back to blogging that. My job situation has been a mess during the past year. I've gone over the gamut of what anyone can feel about employment, about feeling like the world thinks they can make a contribution. That's not what I want to feel when I type away at something that's supposed to just be me being me. This is not a job. I think even I started to miss that point.
Hopefully I won't do that again.