Writer

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Korean people LOVE to ask what you do for a living (next to “how old are you,” “are you married” and “do you have children” and “how much do you weigh” and various remarks on appearance RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE). It’s a sign of interest and caring, coupled with judgment. So bizarre. Most of the time I find it terribly endearing, it’s such a familiar act.

My dad likes to tell people I’m a writer. I got to see this firsthand when i went to visit him in the hospital. Normally, at least these days, when I go to visit my parents, there are no other people coming by. So, life proceeds in a vacuum, just our nuclear family unit and no one else. The same old behavior patterns, operating in the silo with the same old people/variables.

This time, while he was in the hospital (especially before he went into surgery), I sat in a room while people paraded by and listened as my dad introduced me over and over. “She’s a writer!” he would exclaim, thereby answering the “what do you do” question for me. He loves that I’m a writer and the few short stories I’ve published in litmags might as well be Pulitzer Prize winning novels, he flaunts them so much. (The first time I had a story published, he asked me for 20 copies of the issue so that he could pass them out to friends).

I have never felt awkward about describing myself as a writer. While my other MFA classmates tried on the title very awkwardly after graduation, I eagerly took on that eponymous mantle throughout the program.

But now? I don’t know. I feel like I’ve strayed a bit from this focus. Maybe it’s because of the dreadful followup questions: Oh! What have you written? Are you published? Where? Do you have an agent? (okay, Korean people generally don’t ask that last question as so very few Korean people are actually writers and thus do not know much about the actual business of writing).

That’s when I plant a smile on my face and provide answers through gritted teeth.

I’m home, decompressing before I head into work. It was, I think, a very hard week last week. I don’t really know, because I wasn’t really there. I hid the fearful part of me very very far away in a very secure place and let the brave and optimistic part of me take over my life, over my body.

I was going to go into work at noon today, but now I am not so sure. I don’t really know how to make sense of it all, and the meetings on the phone sounds super silly to me. “It sounds so–meaningless,” I whispered at one point to my husband who is busy getting ready for work. He nodded. He knows what I mean–he has had more than his fair share of crisis in the last year.

What the hell am I doing? Why do I spend all my time on my paying job and none on my writing. I’ve got to figure this out.

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8 Comments

Filed under Life, Writing

8 responses to “Writer

  1. anonwupfan

    Nice to hear your dad is up and bragging about you!

    As far as the job goes, you either love your job or someone that makes you go in on those “meaningless” days. I went through this same thing when my dad had his heart attack (we are both notorious workaholics: I loathe and detest my job, while he loves his.) The day my dad came home from the hospital, he told me “I might have to take an extended leave-of-absence if I’m out more than four weeks” as he went through stacks of forms, faxes and memos on the kitchen table. I said “Dad you don’t need to take leave, you’re working RIGHT NOW!” He didn’t even notice he was working. Everyone should love their job that much.

    JP, if you’re not working toward something, what are you doing? Life really is short. Make a plan. Put yourself in the position to be successful. I try (OK–I don’t have to “try,” it struck a chord with me and now I can’t forget it, but not for a lack of trying) to remember Tupac Shakur’s tongue-in-cheek acronymic motto: “Never Ignorant, Getting Goals Accomplished.”

  2. Oh Jade, I like the sound of your dad so much. I also think what you’re feeling now is so normal, and so hard. Don’t worry too much about the writing — you’re obviously in it for the long haul, and great at it.

    As for the figuring out, give yourself some time! You’re in the middle of something difficult. I’d say it’s the time to do physically healthy things — get a lot of sleep, eat great food, do things that make you laugh, figure out a way to do exercise that makes you happy and not anxious about having to get to the gym. The time to plan is generally after the hard stuff recedes.

  3. Violeta

    It’s awesome that your dad brags about you!
    With all the serious stuff you’re dealing with right now, this is probably not the time you’d be getting tons of writing accomplished in the first place. Try to take care of yourself. Remember that we have to balance the writing and the living (and that that balance looks different ways at different times in our lives.)
    Oh, and I hadn’t read your answers to the annoying questions before…reading them now, I thought they were brilliant and hilarious.

  4. So glad about your dad….

    Re: writing and job: if you were in my position, how would you choose to spend your day? Week? year?

    How would you choose to spend your energy if you only had enough to do one thing every day?

    Just asking.

  5. Hi everyone–thank you. It’s just time to do some reassessment I guess.

    My dad is doing better–he was doing REALLY well post-surgery, and then took a dramatic downturn because he got an infection…and now he is better again. Boy!

    anonwupfan: Thanks–the plan is a good idea. I am an avid planner of my career (non-writing) and of other things…the thing is that I’m a total workaholic about everything BUT the things I really love in life.

    bloglily: thank you for the suggestion to take care of myself. πŸ™‚ My dad is pretty hilarious.

    Violeta: thank you too, for your concern. And I’m glad you enjoyed the answers to the annoying questions! πŸ™‚

    Leila: Life is short, isn’t it. I do get my priorities right when it comes to my brain and for the wellbeing of others…but not when it comes to my own heart.

  6. Oh your last section.

    Today it feels like you’re speaking right at me. I did the most stupid thing today. I had jury duty the past two days and we were dismissed early today, around 12:30. And what did I do with my afternoon off, in which I could go anywhere, do anything, like, um, hello!, WRITE? I went to work. Yes, I voluntarily went to work for the afternoon when no one would have batted an eye if I didn’t show up until Monday. I can’t believe I did that. I feel this strange sense of responsibility for this job, something that really isn’t that enriching to my life.

    My priorities are all crooked, I guess.

  7. nova: our work ethic is both a bane and a boon isn’t it–if only we directed it at our dreams. πŸ™‚ I hope our bosses at work appreciate the compromises we make!

  8. Stephanie

    I find myself making compromises at work all the time. One day, we won’t need to make those choices–that’s what keeps me going.

    Your dad is so right to be proud because you are a writer who will write even more than what you’ve already published. :o)

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