I have spent most of the past few months down in Florida. I have mostly done nothing but watch stuff on Netflix (e.g., all 120 episodes of Lost in 10 days). Part of why I have not been posting is that it has not seemed to me that there would be anything I could say about watching TV eight hours a day that could possibly be interesting. The other reason, of course, is that after watching TV for eight hours, going to happy hour to eat oysters and then sitting on the beach for a couple hours to watch the sunset, there was no time left to write.
Last weekend I attended my 30th high school reunion (actually, it was only the third reunion, the first that I attended). One thing that I realized after talking to a few people who claim to have read and enjoyed my writing, the life that to me feels like that of a “worthless slug” has more interest to “working stiffs” than I might have expected. Not working for a living and being able to do wherever and do whatever I want is a fairly fantastic luxury that several people told me brings considerable vicarious pleasure.
I have just loaded up Walden for a trip to Utah, where I will work with a friend from grad school on some grants that she has and also work on writing a couple of grants that will explicitly include me. More about that later, but for now, I am very excited to back on the road with just me and Walden.
The reunion gave me an opportunity to describe to people who I am and what I do. When you meet someone you can generally ask a few questions that are “safe” in the sense that their answers will not be too intimate or require lengthy explication. These questions are “Where do you live?” and “what do you do?” Most people do not need to practice an answer to these questions. For me, neither of those questions has an answer that is quick and credible.
Saying that I do not really have a place where I live because my house burned down and that I have not had a job for over a year because I was denied tenure is not really fair to people. Most people think that not having a house or a job is a bad thing and that remorse is the proper response. My life is fantastic. I am happier than I have ever been. What I needed was a quick answer that at least mostly described what it is that I do that would allow the other person to move on without a lengthy explanation that they would rather not hear. After over fifty attempts, I got pretty close.
So, go ahead, ask me “Where do you live?”
“Wherever I am. I have been nomadic since I moved out of a house a year ago last May.” If the inquisitor appeared to need more explanation, I would add “This year, I have mostly stayed in my aunt’s vacation house near Seaside, though I spent six weeks in Ecuador and a couple weeks in San Francisco.”
That worked pretty well. Some people would ask more about what that was like, but the people who were accidentally trapped by someone that they did not really know or like thirty years earlier and were just being polite could say “Nice talking to you” and make their escape.
Ask me “What do you do?”
“For most of last year I traveled in my VW camper and blogged about it. This year I have focused more on learning what it is that makes people happy. I am working on a book about downsizing, travel, and happiness, though I am considering returning to a life as an academic.”
And with that, gentle reader, I am off to load up Walden and head West.