(Wrote this last night sans Internet connection.)
Currently I’m perched on the side of a clawfoot bathtub, waiting for the rose-scented bubbles to reach the rim. The tub sits in a cabin of high ceilings and pale wood, with a blazing fire in the woodstove and the scent of rain-soaked redwood forest permeating the air. Wishing to avoid hubris, I hope this luck is the result of being kind and working hard, not something I’ll have to pay for in the future.
The drive along the 128 was not the challenge I feared it might be in the dark, but passed easily, aided by the companionship of songs I’d been meaning to listen to, but hadn’t yet. (A benefit of long drives is that I catch up on all the podcasts I subscribe to: This American Life, Radiolab, KEXP Music That Matters, KEXP Song of the Day and Too Beautiful to Live.)
I arrived at Bill’s in Caspar, parked at the guest house – “cabin” is really too modest a word – then skipped down the road to his place, delighted with the balmy night and promise of a lovely evening. He welcomed me with a fresh huckleberry cosmo, a slice of lemon adorning the glass. We caught up in front of the fire, talked work, kids, books, movies. His home shines with beauty, hand-hewn logs framing the house he built himself, a vintage stove in the kitchen, classic movie theater seats lining a wall, photos and art highlighting family and nature. With a second drink finished and night creeping on, we walked back to the guest house, where he stoked the fire, then left me to settle in. Which I did – right into the bathtub.
(Later that night…)
Now, soothed and softened, I’m stretched out on a brass bed right out of Lay, Lady, Lay. Fluffy pillows propped behind me, a thick comforter across my feet. Silence broken only by the tapping of my fingers upon the keys.
Again, I am awed by my luck. This past year-and-a-half has brought so much into my life; travel, colleagues I admire, even more opportunity to do work that matters. Health insurance. Enough money to pay the bills. And I still get to play around with writing columns and voicing radio. Two years ago I was working 50 hours a week – and then some – and still coming up short each month. I’d accomplished what I could in both jobs and was a month away from a 40 percent pay cut at the paper. Reconstituting Surfrider’s Humboldt Chapter provided emotional satisfaction, but the financial outlook remained bleak.
I started working when I was 15, tested out of school at 16 and have worked ever since excepting two six-month breaks: one when Chelsea was a baby and one when we moved to Humboldt. (When Nick was born, I was tending bar two nights a week; I worked Tuesday and Wednesday, gave birth on Sunday, took a week off, then was back mixing margaritas nine days later.) Despite all this working, my own inept money management and the even more relevant fact that money is hard to manage when there’s clearly not enough of it kept us in poverty for years. Especially after trading in my service industry career for one in journalism. Funny how those jobs earned more respect, but so much less pay, particularly considering the student loan debt I amassed to justify my qualifications.*
I loved creating the Eye’s Scene section and still find happiness talking up music and events on KSLG; I don’t regret following that path. (Not that I would recommend it! Don’t do as I did, children!) But watching everyone around you buy houses and travel to tropical lands and purchase new cars with all the consideration I gave to picking out a new toaster, well, that can wear on a person.
Nonetheless, with Surfrider, suddenly I had a new project, one so close to my heart and therefore doubly rewarding with every success. Ultimately, all of it, the connections made, the people met, the reputation established, led to the job with Ocean Conservancy – and I am in love with my job. It’s everything that makes work worthwhile: challenges equivalent with rewards, a sense of autonomy, colleagues so smart I have to improve myself to keep up, a knowledge that what I do has a direct impact on what I love. A great boss. I am here, ensconced in this lovely room after attending a day of meetings, as a direct result.
My domestic problems remain: teenagers are not simple creatures. Helping one of them manage his diabetes is not an easy process. The laundry escalates with as much regularity as the money flows out — still faster than it drifts in. Not everything I would like to see happen at home does in fact occur. But for every complaint, I have double the gratitude. So, yeah. Thanks, Universe.
* Journalism path consisted of Hip Mama –> Breeder –> Surf Life For Women –> other random –> Lumberjack/Osprey –> Eye –> Journal. Probably could’ve skipped the HSU component except some employers expect to see that Bachelor’s Degree box checked.
* Radio path went like this: KMUD –> KHSU –> KHUM subbing –> KSLG. I do credit taking the KHSU Experience class with helping me get on KHSU, so I guess that’s worth something. (Is it worth $49K in student loans? Jury, out.)