Thursday, January 07, 2010

What Is Up in the Midwest 2010

Well, happy 2010, blogosphere! Sorry it took me a week to get here. I've had to take the plunge into my New Year without bloggage for the first few days, getting all my ducks in a row. I've noticed quite a few people making comments about how much 2009 sucked, but how high are their hopes for this whole twenty-ten thing. I personally did not have a terrible 2009, despite being broke and stuck for much of it. The stuckness was definitely the worst. Being stuck is even worse than running out of money, or having to pay for crappy medical care, or having to move out of New York City before necessarily being done there (and, I might add, shortly before the advent of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' effort to lure me back to the "Empire State of Mind").

I had an okay 2009, and some things about it were spectacular, such as being done with law school forever! and being done with Long Island forever! and getting freelance work! and other long-awaited wonderful things like those.

I suppose I haven't really updated the blogosphere on What Is Going On With Me in the big picture sense in a while, but I haven't really felt like the blogosphere needs to know. (The blogosphere certainly hasn't asked...sigh...all the asking is done on Facebook these days. Even these blog posts are imported to Facebook as Notes, which always makes me a little sad, knowing that more friends read them that way than by paying an actual visit to Linda Without Borders.) The other thing about What Is Going On With Me updates is that people so rarely understand the successes of others when their goals are different. However, at least one thing that needs to be addressed is this whole Michigan thing.

Yes, we are still in Michigan. I know - yikes! We have now been here for more than four months. Not only is four months a long time to live in someone else's house, but it is actually almost twice as long as we stayed Chez My Mother, in Phoenix, and we are supposed to be equally distributing this whole parental mooching thing, so we are way past our Grand Rapids prime. This is mostly due to that whole running-out-of-money thing I mentioned earlier, and the whole everyone-is-unemployed thing, shared by Brian and about twenty other close friends I know. The unemployment seems to be equally distributed among law school and non-law school people, so it's comforting (or is it?) to know everyone is in one big miserable boat together.

Now that I am employed, albeit as an independent contractor, I can feel myself becoming both happier and less stuck. Freelancing makes me really, really happy. We are talking happiness that permeates deep, on the cellular level. Of course, the flexible schedule and being able to wear a sweatshirt on the couch while working are wonderful, but honestly I kind of miss having a commute. Just a little. I like how the morning commute feels: stopping for coffee, people reading the newspaper on the train, the sense of purpose in the air. Or, if it's a driving commute, that newspaper/train time is replaced by personal reflection time against the backdrop of NPR news. I don't have that right now. My ideal existence would be to have a job where I commute two or three days a week and work from home two or three days a week.

Worse, still, is my lack of independence transportation-wise in our Grand Rapids existence. I have been careful not to complain about this on the blog as frequently as I complain about it in my head, or it would be a really annoying incessant whine. So I'll just explain it once and be done; the long and short of it is that while we have access to a car, it's not mine to jump in and go where I please. Nor should it be. I don't even drive around here; Brian does, as it is his family's car. What this means is that while we can go places, I can't really go that many places. Most of the time this is all right, because either Brian and I want to go to the same place (to the movies, to the gym, out with friends, tailgating in East Lansing, etc.) or else he can drop me off somewhere only I want to go (writing group, an evening cultural event, my bellydancing class) and pick me up later. But the problem is that the lack of freedom makes my brain crawl around inside my skull, gnashing its little anguished brain-teeth and struggling to be free.

I mean, it's freezing-ass cold right now, so walking twenty+ minutes each way to Dunkin' Donuts seems absurd when you can just jump in the car and go. But this finds me literally asking Brian, "Can you take me to Dunkin' Donuts?" and feeling like a child. It's really awful. It makes me think about what it must be like for someone to live an entire paralyzed existence this way, maybe in a repressed society or something, an existence from which you really could not escape, not one in which you are just temporarily stuck.

It sucks on more levels than just the coffee, though (although I do suffer exquisitely from that one, fiercely missing my 'round-the-corner walking distance coffee shops in New York and Boston and even Hollywood). It also sucks because we're here in this new (to me) state and my approach when living in a new place is to explore it. Try new things, whether they seem silly, random, off-the-beaten-path, or whatever. Like, who cares if there's "nothing to do" in Muskegon? It's 45 mintues away and I've never been to Muskegon - so I want to jump in the car on a random Saturday and go see what's in Muskegon. It's like my 1999 North Dakota vacation all over again. People look at me blankly, asking "Why would you want to go there?" and not seeming to understand that the answer "Because I've never been there" is all they should need.

Brian is definitely more of a homebody than I am. (Most people are more of a homebody than I am.) Like many people, Brian enjoys relaxing on the couch. I was thinking about this the other day - I have literally never owned a couch. In all of my moves, dwellings, roommates, what have you, the couch has never been mine. The couch is, like, the least useful part of existence to me. I don't really care for television, and I'd rather be going out and doing things than sitting around home in the evenings. The things that I do like to do at home, like sleep and read, are done in the bed. I was always the roommate who was never home. "The invisible roommate," I was initially dubbed in Boston. And while I like watching baseball and making a date with the Oscars or the season premiere of Lost, I definitely loathe sitting around every evening flipping through the channels to see what's on. I have always loathed spending evenings that way. The difference is that I've never really had to do it before.

I am aware that this makes me unlike most of you, who are perfectly accepting of relaxing on the couch at the end of the day. But what I can I say? I am unlike most of you. This, coupled with the fact that I now spend my entire day working at home from the couch, and at the end of the day want nothing more than to get off it, probably goes a long way toward explaining my dissatisfaction with our life in Grand Rapids, which is not bad otherwise. The couch. I want off of it. But it's cold outside and we're in tree-lined suburbia. The only things within walking distance are CVS and the library. I am not free.

Naturally, the answer is to get the f out of said stuck existence. I am WAY ahead of you on that one. This brings us to the heart of the dilemma, which is about Where We Are. Running out of money in NYC and having to move back in with the 'rents is never fun, but that move-back-in-with-the-'rents time ideally is spent saving up money to get out as quickly as possible. Somehow that hasn't happened. It took me a while to find work and get my writing/freelancing going, and Brian still hasn't found work. He's also super-embedded in that terrible trap of wanting to find a job in a different city, but not being in that city to look for jobs, but not being able to move to the city until he finds a job there, and that whole thing. That one always sucks.

Meanwhile, my upcoming interview with the State Department seems to have some people under the impression that we "can't do anything" until we find out whether or not I get that job. Which is oh-so-very-wrong. "Can't do anything" is basically a synonym for stuck, is it not? I have been doing all sorts of things in the meantime. The idea of waiting to find out about X before you make any other decisions between Y and Z just seems silly to me. Besides, how do I know I will even like X if I do get a chance to do X? But some people do seem to be suffering from that delusion. I would like to take this opportunity to un-delude you, if you are one of those people. I did not come to Grand Rapids to wait out the time until my State Department interview. Quite the opposite: I came here to wait out, with Brian, the time until he has a job. I was working on writing and living off my savings. Now I'm working on writing and building new savings.

Anyway, that's the long and short of What Is Going On With Me. It's a New Year and all sorts of groovy things are on the horizon and I am excited about them! Also, it is looking more and more like Chicago is a distinct possibility in the very near future. For a while this fall I had my eye just as much on other Midwestern cities, places that are within striking distance of here, so we could easily move to them, and that are cheap, because they are in the economic wasteland of the Midwest. Actually that's not fair; the entire Midwest isn't necessarily an economic wasteland, just Michigan. But I've sort of decided against Detroit (even though I'm interested in it and have friends there) or Indianapolis (where there is apparently employment and good cost of living and lots of hope for young professionals) because I don't want to buy a car if I'm going to leave the country within the year, plus that whole no-money thing again. Which means, public transit. Which means, Chicago. Which I have been saying for years, actually, as careful readers know: clearly Chicago needs to be my next city, after having lived in L.A. and New York for several years each.

See what happens when I go too long without blogging? You get the whole story in one fell swoop. But this was my long neglected What Is Going On With Me in Michigan update, and I hope my next blog on the subject will be when I announce my moving date to Chicago, or possibly D.C. Meanwhile, we have way more important things to discuss -- hello, Oscars?! It's awards season!!! - and we shall resume that tomorrow.

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