Portland and Whitman

It’s been a crazy summer. After a lot of soul-searching and debating, I decided to quit my job at GNRC and move out to Portland, Oregon. GNRC was very good to me and, though the never-ending clashes with TennCare and the Department of Human Services were truly mind-numbingly mental, I don’t think I can say anything bad about the administration at GNRC, or my supervisor and coworkers. All were great to work with and – probably due to the nature of their work – amazingly supportive and all-around cool people.

But to every thing there is a season, and after three years, I decided that I needed to grow some more – in writing, career, and general self. So, I decided to follow the greatest American tradition of them all and pack up shop and move West. (Kind of. I’ve still got a bunch of stuff in storage in Nashville.)

Along the way, I stayed with family in St. Louis, MO and Grand Lake, CO. I stayed with a friend in Colorado Springs, CO. I stayed at a Best Western in Boise, ID where I probably drank an entire pot of black coffee before leaving. Colorado is an amazingly beautiful state and, more than once, I thought about just stopping there and trying to find work in Denver. I mean, it’s… well, you need to go.

But anyway, I headed West again and finally arrived in Portland. I stayed with my buddy, Jon Lim, for a few days and then found a room for rent in a small but nice house in a leafy, quiet neighborhood. There’s no internet at the house, but, all things told, that’s probably not the worst thing. I mean, I’m going to have to get Internet access at some point, but that’ll wait until I get my job situation sorted out.

Which brings me to the real fun, introspective stuff! I’m trying to get a foot in the door in the tech sector, bringing my pretty decent knowledge of HTML and CSS, along with my intermediate-I’ll-need-some-reminders knowledge of Ruby and Rails, and then my I-can-print-“Hello World” knowledge of Javascript. Portland’s a great town for that, and I’m excited about some opportunities with New Relic, and then some open applications with Simple, Urban Airship, and a couple other places. (The list will no doubt grow as the week progresses.)

AND THEN, I had the honor to work on Katie Hogben’s book for a musical-in-progress. It’s based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story, and I have no doubt that you’ll be seeing it in the West End and Broadway soon enough. Of course, by “work on,” I mean I provided some editorial assistance, finally putting to work all the workshop experience I’ve accumulated at UT, UKC, and elsewhere. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s been invigorating. I’ve always known that creativity is the best way to keep myself in good spirits, whether it’s writing my own fiction, editing others’, or working on a movie –  but sometimes, it’s good to remind yourself of that.

Which brings me to one of the major ideas I had recently. My buddy, Jeff Chiu, the Man With Firey Fists, recently nabbed a sweet room in a cool flat with Sione Aeschliman, editor, writer, and owner of one of the most charmingly neurotic dogs I’ve ever come across. I met up with the two of them yesterday – Sunday – for brunch at a place called The Songbird Cafe (please, hold the Bioshock Infinite jokes) and briefly discussed – among other things – what it takes to be a freelance editor.

Well, I know I’ve got the technical chops for it. So I thought about it, and realized that, hell, I’d been thinking about doing that as a side gig for a long time, so screw it – why not? So I’m going to take a look at the start-up costs for an LLC in Oregon and post my sign for some freelance work while also getting work (I mean, it’s a given, right?) in the tech sector.

So, why am I even looking for work in the tech sector? Why not just pursue editing full-time? Well, because I really do love me some programming. I was talking to a friend about it one day and brought up the stunning realization I had that, one night, I found myself working on a website at 11:30pm when I had work the next morning. I mean, that doesn’t happen. Even my fiction is highly scheduled to only be written in the early morning, so this new development shocked even me!

So, I’m sitting here in a strangely warm cafe called Stark Street Station, drinking some fine, locally roasted coffee, listening to my Tom Waits Pandora station and it’s hitting home: If nothing else, I’ve at least made it this far. I’ve gone and attempted the move to a pretty straight-up different town, am trying to find work outside my comfort zone, and, despite the occasional intrusive thought boiling up from the depths of my brain, I feel pretty good about it.

I think of the line from one of Brad Warner’s books that says something to the effect of: Take a look at your life – wherever you’re at, that’s where you really want to be at that moment.

I also think of this bit of Walt Whitman:

“Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light
and of every moment of your life”

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