“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” –Margaret Shepard
Waylon and I had been dating for over a year when relocating with his company became imminent. Despite the destination, we decided that I would go with him. Due to recurring daymares of me dying of staph in the street, I discouraged certain international cities before the application period began.
I didn’t love my job. Before I received my MFA I had asked myself the question that most creative people have to face: How do I do what I was put here to do and feed my face? As a contractor, I made $20 an hour wordsmithing. I had healthcare, the realistic dream of a fresh graduate, but I wanted THE dream: to be a self-sufficient writer.
One magical Monday, a word Waylon recognized as Hawaiian–super vowel-y, sprinkled with Ks and Ls–appeared on his phone, a job posting. He applied (OMG, HAWAI‘I), but he also applied for four additional openings, which included ten months of winter, smog, somewhere I had never heard of, and somewhere I can’t remember.
After wondering for months if I could ever love hockey, if I could rock a dust mask as a street accessory, if I could exist in a place I couldn’t visualize, word came: we were moving to O’ahu, the Chicago of the Pacific.
Following the initial glee, the move was not pretty (more on that later). Sometimes I think I have cried more saltwater than there is sea. But I don’t, for a second, think it’s not worth it. I get to live a mango’s roll away from the beach with my love while the sun shines down on us 99.98% of the time. (Yes, the sun is present here more than the IUD is effective.) But paradise has a price tag, and the world has a funny way of working, not to mention a bully’s sense of humor. Plus, we would be complete assholes if we got to move to the daydream destination of cubicle inhabitants everywhere without a glitch.
Fast forward to house hunting. On our lunch break, Waylon drove us to meet our realtor. At Exit 5, he asked, “What’s your back-up plan?”
My boss was letting me telecommute on a see-how-it-goes basis, the job equivalent of dating due to circumstance, like the time I convinced myself I adored my high school boyfriend because he had a car, and I didn’t want to ride the bus. My employer had a lot of deliverables, and, at the time, I was the only one able to do it. And I was pretty good at it. With two weeks behind us, I felt as confident as that teenager who had to board the big, yellow school transportation one measly time, but Waylon’s question scooped me like an undertow. I bumbled patchy variations of the following:
- I didn’t think I needed one.
- Technical writing is my back-up plan, my lucky alternative to adjuncting.
- I have 500+ pages of drafts from grad school collecting dust, but I don’t have time to polish them into gleaming stories, essays and poems that will win me free one-year subscriptions to lit mags and eternal fame and glory.
- I have revised my novel steadily, but it’s not query-ready.
- Health insurance!
- My CV is lower than crap.
- Everyone hates me because I don’t have a book.
- I 78% don’t care what paying off my student loan and credit card debt looks like.
Did I really need a back-up plan for my back-up plan? Because I didn’t have one. My sad rambling had come full circle. “No, I never really thought about it,” I said.
“No worries. I was just wondering,” he said. (In real-life dialogue, non-writers are sooo much cooler than writers. Amirite?)
Less than a week later, I would be counting down (and racking up) the hours to my unemployment. It was July.