I expected to write a lot starting Thursday and maybe continuing every day through the weekend. Instead, well—I haven’t. Not because I haven’t just left my job of five years or because I’m not a properly free man—no organizational affiliation, no significant other, no pending obligations—for the first time in over a decade.
© Aron Hsiao / 2000
Instead, I’ve been mostly silent for precisely these reasons. Sometimes you’re mute because there’s just too much to say, rather than not enough. Because you don’t even know where to begin, rather than because you don’t want to reflect on something that’s come to an end.
— § —
I spent the weekend diselaborating my life. This is a neologism. I coin it because I can’t think of another term (though I’m sure there probably is one) for the process of carefully unweaving from your life things that you previously spent much time weaving into your life.
I combed through accounts that stretch back years to pull out and save (legally) the tiny handful of things that I might need to refer to later on.
I signed out of accounts, one by one. Cleared browser caches. I deleted apps, one by one, from my phone, then from my tablet. I uninstalled software from my comptuers. Things that I swore I’d never use, like Microsoft Outlook, had invaded my space, then over the years become second nature to me. Now, they’re gone.
I unplugged equipment and removed it from my desk. Down from four monitors, to three, and now to two. Everything is smaller, less cluttered, less imposing. My desk feels more like my desk again, and less like my cubicle. More personal. The same holds true for my computing environments.
It’s been a bittersweet experience to discover that in fact it’s easier than I thought it would be to leave behind the insistent sensation that I need to check for new communication from the mother ship at all times.
I’m back to just being me.
— § —
It’s been a long time.
Not “little long.” No. “Long, long.”
Before the job I just left, I was a professor and Ph.D. candidate. Before that, I was a graduate student. Before that, I was an editor. Before that, I was writing books and working in tech. Before, before, before.
I have been “at it” for a very long time. Thanks to the generosity of my former employer, I feel for a moment as though I can breathe. The last time I could breathe was probably in 2001 when I graduated (after ten long years) from my undergraduate program. Even then, I was a young twenty-something, full of ambition and restlesness; I couldn’t sit still.
And everything since then has been a mixture of ambition, emergency, and torrential circumstance.
And so it has been that suddenly this weekend, though I owed goodbyes and replies to a lot of people, I felt the urge instead to simply be, the thoughts in my mind fragmented and undulating and full of paradoxically dim light, like the glow at dusk on a windy day as it passes first through swaying leaves, then through a suddenly illuminated, then to a forgotten wall where no one notices as it dances—for just a few minutes—before being lost once again, despite its infinite beauty, intricacy, and importance, to time.
With the kids away, no job, no wife, no degree program, no festering youth (and as of just yet no creeping old age or infirmity), no obligations, no immediate worries or fires to put out… I just wanted to be. Just me. Just me, in silence.
Because I don’t know when this will happen again. Perhaps not until retirement. Perhaps—for it’s certainly possible—never again.
You have to recognize and appreciate the moment as it passes around you; time won’t hold the line back for you, or for anyone.
— § —
A new week begins in just a few hours. I have the good fortune to have several job offers already waiting for me, some unsolicited; I’ll need to select from amongst them and begin to roll again.
The kids will be competing in the U.S. national taekwondo tournament over the coming nine days. It happens to be in Utah this year. My daughter is a reigning state champion and is currently ranked sixth nationally. She’s seven years old. This, too, is a fleeting moment that may never happen again. Someday, in all likelihood, she’ll sit, wide-eyed, as she’s told about “that summer long ago when…”
I’ll look also toward starting my own business once more, after all these years. Because this is likely the last time I’ll have the luxury of job-hunting without the yoke of age around my neck (“I know he’s good, but he’s kind of old, don’t you think—”) and it’s time to begin to plan may way around that eventuality, so that I’m not broken by it when it arrives.
© Aron Hsiao / 2002
I’m optimistic. Despite all the odds, and despite many well-founded moments of panic and despair along the way, it would appear that I’ve made it through this stretch relatively unscathed, unless something goes very wrong over the next week or two.
That’s always possible, of course.
But for a moment—just a moment—I’m letting myself feel as though I’ve arrived safely at middle age after all, and can drop sails for a moment and have a cup of tea before beginning all over again—before beginning to plot a course toward the next shore, still so far away.
I’ve crossed many, many seas to get to where I am. There are many, many seas to cross before I arrive ultimately on the other side of my journey, wherever that arrival will be.
— § —
For a moment, however, I am merely sitting in the wake of diselaboration, taking a moment to be. And now, finally, to write—even if I haven’t written all the many things.
I’ve written, I think, all that really demands to be written.
Now, a short few more hours of peace.
Then, we set sail again for distant shores.