There must be something in the air. I talked with a few folks at the Palm Tree Ride on Sunday, and the whole “What am I going to do when I grow up?” came up. I guess it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one to be thinking about this. But it still doesn’t answer the question of what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Work has been dreadfully, drearily, direly slow the past couple months, slow in a way I haven’t seen in maybe ten years. There’s only so much of the “real work” that can be done in a shift. So I’ve been trying to occupy myself in other ways, namely by reading old blog posts. I’ve been doing this blog for nearly thirteen years, a lot of my past is up here. It’s been good, since it’s always helpful to see where you’ve come from if you’re wondering where you’ll be going.
I read a bunch of blog posts from 2012. This was the year following the big tour, when April and I landed back in Portland, back at her old apartment (with her old roommates), and wondering What We Were Going To Do With The Rest Of Our Lives. It wasn’t the easiest time, as both of us were unemployed and broke and not knowing what comes next. This was after such a great experience of being on the road for four months, though the ending of the Big Tour was a bit of a let-down. I had hoped that my life would be drastically altered for the better when we got home, and was disappointed that it wasn’t. Things were a bit stressful, to say the least.
But looking back from the critical distance of six years, I now know that things weren’t that bad. In fact, it was a pretty decent year, at least up until September or so. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I was so hung up on things like getting a job that I couldn’t enjoy the moment.
Now, I’m not trying to be revisionist nor nostalgic. I’m not saying that these were the best years of my life nor am I trying to live in the past. There’s no way that I want to relive 2012, nope.
But I do want to look at the past years and eras of my life to see what made me happy then. Because this will help me realize what will make me happy now and into the future. Looking back at 2012, I can see some trends towards happiness:
- While my touring and camping time in 2012 pales in comparison to the four months on the road in 2011, I still got a lot done. I did a bunch of overnights, and managed three tours varying in length from five days to over a week. None of these three tours were “mind blowing” in the way of the Big Tour, but I still got to see some lovely and remote destinations in the Cascades, Mt. Rainier to be specific.
- Because I had the time to do it, I got really involved with the local bike touring non-profit Cycle Wild. I led a bunch of trips in 2012, something I couldn’t do before or after. I like being able to volunteer! I also did a bunch of volunteering for the IPRC, my last year helping out this non-profit.
- I did quite a bit of comics and illustration work. I had the time to do all this, plus the lack of a job meant I was hustling. I managed to line up just enough creative work to get by. (Thankfully I was on food stamps and rent was minimal to nonexistent.) Because it was basically my only real source of income until I started working regularly again, I needed to keep the jobs rolling in. Plus, I started working on the comics that became New Old Stock, so I was on a creative streak!
So I was doing what I loved to do because I had the time and desire to, and managed to eke out an existence. Plus, I was my own boss. I could do the things I wanted to do. I didn’t have to ask permission to have fun. Compare that to now when I need to put in time off requests months in advance if I want to do something, and it’s still no guarantee I can get the time off.
Of course, at the time I didn’t see it that way. The lack of a regular job loomed over my head and I was constantly stressing about it. I really wanted to “do something with bikes” so I applied for a couple Portlandesque bike delivery jobs. I got neither. I filled in shifts at my old job at the hostel when I could. When a regular position opened up at the end of summer, I took it. Nevermind I had already worked there for five years before I quit for The Big Tour. Nevermind that there were other reasons for quitting the hostel besides The Big Tour. I needed the regular paycheck, so I buried all that stuff.
That’s when things started to go south between me and April. Rifts formed, we grew further apart, money issues became heightened. Plus, I couldn’t stand living in that apartment with her old roommates anymore. It was not my place, and I felt like an outsider. Within a year, we had split up.
But I still kept that job at the hostel. I still have that job at the hostel. February will mark twelve years there, minus the year or so I didn’t regularly work there. That’s a long time. It’s been steady work with okay pay and decent benefits. But it’s been unfulfilling for a long, long time. And I can’t keep on going on like this.
So what’s next? I don’t know exactly, but looking back at 2012, I realize that I was happy not just being my own boss, but being creative. I haven’t done much with illustration since then, a fact I lament occasionally here. I realize that being a freelancer is not always easy. I see how it can be a struggle to Do What You Love as a living, especially when it comes to bikes. (See this recent post from Path Less Pedaled for a good example.)
But goddammit, I have to at least give it a try. Because I don’t want to keep on working a job that’s unsatisfying to me just for a paycheck. I’ve seen what happens when you do that; I need to look no further than members of my family. I don’t want to die bitter and wonder What If…
What’s next? I don’t exactly know. But I have some ideas. The first thing I need to do is stay positive!