I didn’t grow up in Tornado Alley, but I did grow up in a tornado hallway. I’ve lost track of how many funnel clouds I’ve seen threaten my subdivision when I was growing up. The skies would turn black. Not the open black of night, but oppressive, thick black cloud cover that cuts the sky out and replaces it with aggression. There’s a taste in the back of your throat like dust and ozone. Once a funnel forms, your eyes are locked, waiting to see if the clouds will kiss the ground and try to drag it back up to the sky.
After a while, though, living under the constant threat of sky strafing, you get inured to it. I mean, it’s a natural disaster that no one controls, not some human threat, after all. There is no objective, just barometric pressure and wild winds. You know to listen for tornado warnings, and you find low spots for safety if you’re out in the weather, but otherwise it’s nothing more than an insurance claim waiting to strike.
I find this experience has prepared me for life as a non-traditional student. There are days that go by where things are almost peaceful, but then my son will need a doctor’s appointment or my spring break doesn’t coincide with my son’s so I need to be in the first week of school and to have someone watch him while I’m in class. My date nights have gone from once a month to once a quarter. Homework dominates every aspect of my life. I’ve pared my social time back to the quick. Writing? Forget it. I can dash off a blog post but anything more demanding is relegated to least priority.
Why did I do it? Honestly, I do it because it satisfies a host of requirements for my life going forward. I did it to be a better writer. I did it to become an editor. I did it to have a four-year degree under my belt so I qualify for a job more complex than to bring fries to a table. I’m not dissing on anyone’s job; I simply am fed up with being a customer service muppet. For my sanity I require that I am more employable, even if I don’t plan on working for a major corporation.
I’ve done some very awesome things in the last two months. I went to Vegas for the first time in my life, with several girlfriends who are awesome, supportive, and hilarious. I went to NorWesCon and learned a lot about myself as an author, and how to further my career going forward. I have submitted another story to the Tokyo Yakuza crew per their request. I have even managed to overhaul my next novel and set it on a firmer path.
The silver lining to the funnel clouds above is this: I am handling it. My grades are great, my kid is doing fine in school, and my husband is gallivanting and being his social self. The most important pieces of my life are in order. There is a lot of sacrifice, and its being borne up by significantly less time with my friends. I’ve left people wondering if I’m still their friend anymore, which pains me. I appreciate everyone who is putting up with this major change. I put my social life above everything else for a large portion of my life. Not doing so is weird.
The funnel is high above the earth right now, and I can spare a glance out at the world for a moment. Knowing that it’s going to take years to make my goal brings more clouds and more wind. The truth is, that the funnels will never completely disappear. The point is to keep going despite them, and not let them distract you from your goals.