So as you probably know, I decided to name this blog after a fictional inn in my stories. I liked the idea of an inn: a place where you have a mixture of travellers and locals, a place of good food and drink and much cheer and merriment, a place where people can sit and talk about important things and silly things and the ones that are both. And of course, because it is a fantasy inn, it’s a place where adventures can begin as well.
A friend of mine asked me if I were keeping on going now that my year’s efforts to work through my list was done. (Or sort of done, given that I still want to do the things I didn’t quite get to during the year — I’m not so much of a perfectionist as to stop right at the deadline!) To which the answer is . . . no, not at all. But my thoughts are turning in a different direction; out of the city and into the wilder lands beyond.
What am I planning to do, you ask? You may well ask. Let me explain.
In the summer after my first year of undergrad, I happened to go to an education faculty party with my father in Calgary. I was, naturally, asked how I was enjoying university, what I was taking — a Bachelor of Humanities degree (yes, I know; it’s a strange name; BHum is the abbreviation) — and then, once I’d explained what that was, I was invariably asked what on earth I was going to do with that.
For the first few questioners I answered normally, that I was probably going to keep going in university and possibly become a professor myself at one point, which was only half the answer; even then, what I really wanted to do was become a novelist, but it seemed so far away and was so tentative a dream I didn’t want to share it yet. After a large number of people had asked me, though, I finally rebelled, and said to the last one that my plan was to walk around the world.
That silenced him. After a moment he asked how I was going to pay for this. I remember thinking to myself, Does this sound like something I’ve spent a long time planning? but answered — because actually I had spent some time thinking about it — that I wanted to be a writer, and so I would pay for it with my books. The man smiled, nodded awkwardly, finished his drink quickly and left me to look at the garden by myself some more.
Within ten minutes my dad came out of the main room and told me how he’d heard this plan from someone. He was rather amused; it was probably one of the more exciting things anybody had heard at that party that afternoon.
I went home and tucked away the dream until the end of my bachelor’s, whereupon I applied to one master’s programme. My back-up plan was to go to Europe and write (and walk across it); but then I got in, and got a scholarship moreover.
After my master’s I was very, very close to taking a year to go wander across Europe and write books, but, once again, I applied to one programme and decided it would be my back-up plan. I got into the PhD with full funding, and so, despite a huge amount of thinking about this, decided that, once again, it wasn’t time. Not having any money to start off with was also a factor, as was the fact that I really did want to do the PhD.
I did the PhD, graduating November 2011. I had started the job I have in Halifax the year previously; it was a three-year position. I spent the first year finishing my dissertation and trying to pay off the reasonably small but still noticeable amount of debt I’d accrued through the PhD and moving to Halifax, the second year finishing paying it off and learning as much about personal finance as I could bear, and this third year I have been thinking very hard about what to do next.
The dream to walk across Europe (probably not all the way around the world, at least not at this stage of my life) is still there. The dream to make my living as a writer is even stronger, though still unfortunately far from being a reality. (But I live in hope, as the monk said to the nun.) And finally I am in a position to say: I am going to do my best to realise that dream, to follow that vocation, to see what I can see.
I don’t want the life of the tenure track academic. I want to have a house and a garden and learn to be a smallholder. I want to write; perhaps I’ll teach a sessional course or two, as I’ve enjoyed very much the one I taught this fall. And first I want to go walk across Europe and write and research and work on my languages and learn skills and — something I’ll explain more later — work on farms in return for room and board and education — and, really, live a bit differently. Outside the box of academia, the life I have been living for over a decade now.
Therefore, as my thirtieth-birthday present to myself I bought a one-way ticket to Edinburgh for the end of next June.