<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Rolling Along Like a Wheel in a Groove

I survived Frosh Week. I survived the first week of school. And though the campus is still hectic and overcrowded, and though my bus is now full each morning when over half of the seats used to be empty, and though it will be this way until April—even when students become apathetic and begin skipping classes—I will continue to survive.

It is strange, though, to be here, at York, surrounded by students and yet knowing that I’m no longer a student myself. If I take off my security badge (usually hung around my neck on a bright red York lanyard), I just appear to be a student wandering around in slightly more formal clothes than the rest of the student population.

I still go to the same stores, buy most of my lunches at Treats (aka “the muffin store”), take the same bus to campus. If I need to go anywhere but where my office is, I take the same twisting route that heads through buildings and across lawns and all the rest—routes that became so familiar over the course of four years that I no longer need to think about them.

My position feels very strange to me right now. What I’m doing has become interesting, and I’m involved in at least one project that could have a very major impact on the entire York community—students, faculty and staff alike. And, should I have the opportunity, I will stay here a while longer. Yet there is still that part of me that keeps yelling, “Get out, get away while you still can!!” I say that I often become stuck, doing the same things, going to the same places, not because they’re best or even right, but because they are familiar and comforting in their familiarity. (Even annoyances become comforting in their own way. Even frustration and anger.)

And because I am becoming so comfortable here, in this office, working these hours with this routine, I wonder if I’ve already stayed too long; if I have, perhaps, missed my opportunity for escape, or closure. If I get to keep my job—my changed, unionized job—I will have a nice salary, and benefits, and will begin to earn seniority. I know that as a writer, should I ever be able to support myself on only writing, I am likely looking at living a very frugal, somewhat stressful lifestyle, never quite knowing what my income is going to be or when it will arrive. It is so tempting to grab and hold on to security—any security—while I have the opportunity.

I tell myself, if I stay here and work this job, I can begin to save money and soon I’ll be able to put into action all those plans: I could go live at my cottage for months and do nothing but write; I could travel around, visiting friends and seeing more of the world than my comfortable corner of Southern Ontario. And yet I can’t help but wonder if this is true or just another thing I’m telling myself to make everything seem okay in this moment. If in reality I will find myself still here in a year, in two years, in three, working another YUSA union job here at York, living in my same apartment, managing to write a few stories every year, and telling myself that one day, soon, soon, things will be different.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:00 AM


Three years from now you will look up and say, "Soon, things will be different." Things will change and will go on changing, no matter how you spend the next three years.

Someone who had an influence on my life a few years ago made a point of distinguishing been her "work" (her art) and her "day job" that paid the bills. For a time, I adopted the same distinction. Now, though, I'm beginning to think that was a mistake. Any day job that makes enough money to pay the bills is going to be a big part of your life. Too big to shove in a corner and treat as inconsequential.

One pleasant fantasy is mixing occasional work with long breaks for writing. Another pleasant fantasy is saving up enough money to quit work for good. The first is possible, if you have a high tolerance for uncertainty and confidence that you'll find another job when you need one. The second is possible as well, if you earn enough money, live frugally, and are willing to keep at it for a long time. (All things worth doing anyway.)

Neither is anywhere near as good as finding a day job where you do something important, that is worth doing, that is hard enough to be interesting (without being so hard as to be frustrating), where you interact with other smart, artistic people, where you make a difference.

What I didn't realize, when I was too timid to quit a perfectly good job to write for a while, was that there was always a chance that the next job I found might have been such a job.

Such a job is worth taking risks for. Besides the obvious risk of quitting a bad job and looking for a new one, is the risk of trying to make your current job into a better one.

Don't fall into the trap of dividing your life between your real work and your day job. Most people can't make a living with their work and need a day job, but they don't need to settle for a day job that just pays the bills. Find a day job where you learn and grow and contribute. If there's any chance that your current job can be such a job, put in the effort. I don't think the effort will take energy that could otherwise go into your writing. It will add energy that contributes to your writing.

By Blogger Bradipo, at 11:28 AM  


"If in reality I will find myself still here in a year, in two years, in three, working another YUSA union job here at York, living in my same apartment, managing to write a few stories every year, and telling myself that one day, soon, soon, things will be different."Don't worry. I won't let you.


By Blogger Thomas, at 8:31 PM  

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