Monday, April 07, 2014

"Go Then. There are Other Worlds Than These."--Jake to Roland in The Dark Tower

Apologies in advance. I’m going to be serious. I promise to be especially funny next month to make up for it.

I returned home yesterday after spending the past five days in New Orleans (my “real” hometown) and coming to a jarring revelation about myself and my life.

See, the thing that took me back to NOLA was a conference related to my day job. I make a lot of jokes about my day job, but in reality, it has never been a “job,” per se. It has been my career for the past 35 years. (Yeah, here’s where you make jokes about how I must have begun this career when I was an infant, right? Because I’m not really older than dirt, right? Right?)

I mean, you don’t spend 35 years doing something unless you love it. I guess there’s also the argument that you could stay because you aren’t fit to do anything else, but for argument’s sake, let’s say I’ve been a magazine editor in higher ed for that long because I love it.

It has, on the whole, treated me well. It’s taken me around the country to live in Illinois, Texas, California and Louisiana, as well as Alabama. It has afforded me the chance to travel to Europe, Mexico, Central America, Canada, the Caribbean, and quite a few of the U.S. states. (You haven’t lived until you’ve accompanied a bunch of elderly university alumni to Austria in the dead of winter.) I’ve gotten to meet two presidents and broadcaster Brian Williams, with whose producer I shared a picnic lunch, as well as assorted minor celebrities. I’ve covered a G8 summit, been privileged to be on the front lines in helping a fine university and a city I love rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, and spent several glorious summer days in Americus, Georgia, with the big-hearted, inspirational founder of Habitat for Humanity, the late Millard Fuller.

So here I am this past week, sitting among more than 300 university editors, listening to great speakers like the president/CEO of the Atlantic Monthly talk about the value of what we do. Talking shop with folks from other parts of the country I’ve known as colleagues for, in some cases, decades. Trading war stories about crazy administrators past and present.

Sometime during the third day of the conference, I realized something that almost knocked me off my feet: the reason why I’d been restless and dissatisfied all week.

This isn’t my world anymore. Unlike years past when I’d attend these annual conferences, I didn’t feel as if I were coming home or attending a family reunion. These are no longer the people who are my peers, except in a superficial sense, because we no longer share a passion. They haven’t changed; I have. My day job has become just that—a day job. Do I still care about it? Sure. You don’t do something for 35 years and suddenly stop caring altogether. But my passion has shifted in a way, and to a degree, I hadn’t realized.

When I head back to NOLA in three or four weeks for the RT Booklovers Convention, there I will see my new peers. I will share five amazing days in my favorite city in the world, talking about my passion: books, and writing, and publishing, and meeting readers.

It’s still a new and exciting world for me, this writing and publishing life. I didn’t realize until I spent a week immersed in the best of my old life that I had embraced this new one so thoroughly.

In his Dark Tower series, Stephen King talks about the passage of time in a way I couldn’t help but think about this week, not just the line I used in the title of this blog post, but this one: “The world has moved on.”

Or, in this case, maybe, it’s not the world that moved on, but me.


miki said...

evolution and changing can be frightening but it's healthy^^ you are in a kind of transition time i guess

Follow your heart and you will never be wrong^^

Roger said...

The world has moved on. My first real job was a printer, back in the days of hand set type. Still think those were my best days. A printer in high school, a printer in a job shop after school, a printer in the Navy, a printer recreating silent film cards, and a printer at a newspaper. Retired now, making knick knack shelves out of type cases and veneer.

Liz S. said...

Your creative talents have own grown your day job. That means we can enjoy your new heartfelt pursuits with your new cast of characters. So wish I could make RT this year!

Cari Hislop said...

A lovely post! I think it's lovely that your heart has found a new road to travel and new companions for the road. Life is so strange. Sometimes we start out assuming we'll want A when really we want a A+B-A+C-A+! When we're young the future seems one dimensional. The last few days I've been reminded (via a great book) that it doesn't matter what I do as long as I am enjoying the process of creating each day and I'm true to myself and my heart. That it doesn't matter whether the world thinks I'm a success or a failure because if I'm not content with my daily choices it won't matter either way.

I totally agree wit Miki...we must learn to follow our hearts - even if we have to build a new road to get where we want to get to...with our hearts before us we'll just keep plugging away regardless of the seeming impossibilities.

Chris Bailey said...

Poignant. I'm glad you are where you are!

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Miki...Yes, it's definitely a transition time...and, for me, an exciting one. :-)

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Roger....I remember in my first job at a newspaper, working down in the print shop where we did the layout using a wax machine, running strips of type through and hand-placing them on layout boards. I still love the smell of ink and melted wax! I've seen some awesome knick-knack and (for me) crafting supply storage cases made of old type cases that are totally cool!

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Liz...I hadn't thought about my creativity having outgrown my day job, but maybe that's it. I wish you could make RT this year, too!

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Cari...I feel blessed to have found this (very unexpected) path of the heart. Not anything I ever sought so I always say it's a God thing. :-)

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Chris...Thanks--I'm very glad too!

M.V.Freeman said...

I understand this completely-- I am struggling with this myself. I chose my day job for a reason-- and my passion is no longer there.

Like you- writing is where my heart is.. so yay you!!!! Hope I get to see you at RT. I always arrive late... :)

Ali Hubbard said...

Suzanne, so heart felt!! It's amazing what a little introspection will do. I'm sure you love your day job (I loved mine too). But, sometimes it's just not "right" any more. Listen to your instincts. They are good. Your books are amazing and I'm so thankful to have you in Southern Magic.

Pamela Mason said...

This was ... illuminating. It's a great perspective to use when you're in that phase of evolving, but you're still in the larva stage with one foot in one world, the other foot in another.
Nice to read your post and I'm going to try to remember it when I'm in my own time passage.