Just a couple weeks ago I turned 48. How does that happen?
One day at a time, I suppose. As I navigated my way to middle age — and I do hope it is the middle, that there are a few years left in the tank — I justified not accomplishing the things I wanted. The biggest justification was that I was busy. Maintaining the expectations of a father and a husband. Keeping the roof over our head and food in our stomachs. Making ends meet.* But you know, I sure managed to watch a lot of television and movies, and laying about the house not doing.
I don’t think I’m alone in putting off. We all make excuses, and think that we have time keep those promises to ourselves and our family members. But time is an unreliable constant. It marches forward, but the amount of time you have isn’t set. I could keel over as I finish this post. Who knows.
A strange thing happened…
The last few years have been productive in that I’ve helped a great number of writers publish their first stories or first books. Shotgun Honey ushers many new voices into the world, and gives — I hope — young writers the confidence to move forward with their aspirations of being a writer. I have a feeling that we’re going to need a lot of escapism the next four years.
So, my life as a publisher has been interesting, and a little gratifying. Looking back, though, it hasn’t been as productive — I like that word, I want to be that word — because I have had set backs that I’m just now recovering.
About 15 months ago, I had a not heart attack. It was an incident following a home improvement accident — I’m prone to those — a mild electrocution. What followed was an extreme panic attack or my own wiring went wonky. This sent me to the ER, and man, Alice, did I ever fall down a rabbit hole then. Over the following months, I visited doctors and specialist chasing ailments from heart, pulmonary, to neurology. You see, a pain in my chest could be either heart or pulmonary, and never being a star athlete, I don’t have the best of lungs. The pulmonologist did their tests and determined I might have a blockage — how does this relate to the incident, dunno — so they did CTs, and boy did they find something.
I always said I had brain damage
The CT revealed a possible Chiari malformation, which is kind of like a brain hernia where your cerebellum drops down into the spinal canal and this can cause pressure and swelling. Unlike other hernias, you can’t just push stuff back up and close the opening. There is a surgery to alleviate the symptoms. Luckily, I have an asymptomatic presentation. I may get headaches, but my balance and motor skills are fine — don’t mention the time I broke my hand drilling a hole — so I get a pass on that for now. But…
To confirm the Chiari malformation, the neurologist had me have an MRI. Turns out I have another brain abnormality. No abnormality jokes, please.
They discovered towards the front left quadrant of my skull a tumor the size of a quarter, roughly. Not in my brain, but outside growing from the membrane sack that surrounds the brain. The technical term is a Meningioma, but I call it Tony. My friend. In my head. Tony is benign, non-cancerous. Whew. Right?
Right, but some day Tony and the Chiari malformation that I’ve been recently calling Carrie — thank you Stephen King for giving me nightmares to name my afflictions — might become issues to cut into my beautiful skull. Scary, but also motivating.
There and back again
About 30 years ago, I took my first college class. I think it was Introduction to Communication. Something that Journalism students take. For about a year I thought I’d go into reporting. My grandfather didn’t approve of the idea of becoming a novelist — don’t let people stand of your dreams, no matter how much you respect them — so for a moment Journalism seemed like a compromise. Eventually, I drifted back into programming, but that’s another story.
Why is that significant? With realization that my predilection to fatalism might have real consequences — hello not heart attack, and friends Tony and Carrie — I made the crazy choice to go back to college. I saw one too many SNHU commercials. I want that blue bus to come to my house and give me a degree, or two. Also, the last few years working with writers made me realize two things. That I like working with writers, and I need to become a writer. I don’t need a degree to be a writer, sure, but I do to teach and help young writers.
The goal is to get my undergrad for English & Creative Writing — surprisingly there isn’t a lot of overlap between Computer Science and Creative Writing — which will take about 3 years, and then see if I want or need to pursue an MFA. I hear Adjunct Professors make mad cash. I see you rolling your eyes.
Am I productive yet?
This year I was at a crux on whether to shut down my publishing efforts, and I said goodbye to One Eye Press, but not publishing. With a partnership with Down & Out Books, run by Eric Campbell and managed by Lance Wright, we created the imprint Shotgun Honey which will continue to dedicate itself to short consumable crime fiction. Our first release under the new imprint is Hardway by Hector Acosta.
On top of the classwork, and editorial work, I plan on updating the blog regularly about my journey forward. So you might see me post writing assignments, book announcements, or information about new projects.
I can’t lie to myself anymore about having time to achieve my goals later. There’s not much later left as I knock on 50 and beyond.
* Did you know that a lot of folks debate whether the phrase is “make ends meet” or “make ends meat”? Some folks consider the prior to mean making your resources meet until you replenish your resources, ie. paycheck to paycheck. Others believe the phrase is the latter as to make enough to afford just the basic needs, or ends meat which is typically the cheapest cuts or scraps. Which phrase and entomology do you believe?