Wednesday, March 14, 2012
All I Wanted to Do Was Give Them Money...
Since late last spring I have been redefining my career path. I was full of expectation after 5 years of planning, proposing, drafting, editing, and finally completing Our Difficult Sunlight. When the book was in print, I was giddy with pride and accomplishment. But to be honest, there has been not one step of this process, to date, that has flowed well. I guess that is unreasonable to expect in the world of publishing these days.
I thought that the book was going to take off with a burst of energy. I was ready for interviews, for professional development gigs, for hundreds and hundreds of copies sold. I was prepared to accept success.
Instead, I lost my primary contract with a school district where I had been working for 6 years due to budget setbacks. Instead, the marketing efforts of the book were not what I anticipated and there was a tremendous amount of work for me to do. Instead, I had to look other places for my income and generate new opportunities, at the same time doing whatever I could to also generate interest in this book that I believe in wholeheartedly. Instead of an avalanche of opportunity, there is a slow roll of a rather small snowball, and I feel like the hill that it is tumbling down is miniscule as well.
I fell seriously behind in all of my bills in the past 6 - 8 months, and I scraped everywhere I could to afford the conferences and gatherings where my coauthor and I were promoting our project. I borrowed from friends and am slowly paying them all back. At one point, I ate only pasta, scrambled eggs, and carrots for days.
In January, new work started to open up. I returned to a school where I have tremendous allies and yearly do a residency with 6th graders. Although I have cut my price nearly in half from my original billing so the school can still afford to bring me in, I was making enough to know that I would eventually pay up on my debts. I also love the students and the teachers so it is worth it. In February, I did a short residency with 4th graders in two schools in another small district. That sum was figured into my catch-up plan as well and I developed another curriculum piece that I can recycle throughout New York State. I have also designed a program for an elementary school here at home that is in the early stages of implementation. All of this work is very exciting. Additionally, I started a part-time job that I love and will have lots to share on this in the near future. This position will not only fulfill a great deal of my interests but also meet at least half of my monthly expenses so now to fill in the gaps.
So I got paid for the January and February gigs last week and the checks have cleared. I plugged the phone back in after several weeks of avoiding all the bill collectors. I started making arrangements to pay up. One of them was my mortgage company. All I wanted to do was authorize two payments to bring my mortgage current after 3 months of missing the mark. This took me nearly 40 minutes of conversation with a gentleman who was just not listening to me. My proposal of one payment yesterday, with the funds readily available, and then another payment on Friday when my biweekly remuneration is automatically deposited in my checking account was so far beyond his scope of comprehension.
For some reason, this bank representative needed complication. He made the whole transaction an ordeal. He said that he needed to take a full history of my finances again, because "the program is asking for it." I did not want negotiation or opening up a can of worms. I just wanted to authorize payment of my past due balance and start paying on time again as I had been doing for years. He wanted to have set figures for my income and could not understand, no matter how many times I explained to him that I was not a salaried employee with a set paycheck. My hours vary, my work is not always consistent, and I could only give him history, not a future projection. Besides, to me, it did not matter. TAKE MY MONEY and let me move forward.
I finally got my desire and the conversation ended, easily 30 minutes later than it should have if the man had just listened to me...if he had been able to process the circumstance in his mind and expedite me moving back onto the path of solvency.
Like so many other aspects of my life, I anticipated a simple action and got drama and frustration. Like so many other times in my life, I endured the absurdity and made the choice to write about it and then move on. This morning, I am current on this obligation as well as several others. I will continue to chip away at the backlog. I have been exhausted by all of this and, I admit, completely disheartened in many ways. But I am putting one foot in front of the other and facing forward.
In the next 2 weeks, I hit the road for the Split This Rock Festival and a visit to College of St. Rose to promote both the book and the work I do as educator and poet. Then I will come home and settle into the projects right here in my own community. The book will continue to gather recognition but I have come to realize that the book is not "IT" for my career. I am the commodity and the book is a part of what comprises my value and skill that I can turn into income. So for now, I will often be working close to my house instead of 4 hours away. I will sleep consistently in my own bed rather than acclimating to hotels or friends' guest rooms. And I will write...perhaps finish the two books of poems that have taken a back seat to the goals, dreams, and immediate needs.