I am not lucky, so don’t you dare say I am.
I had this thought last month while driving home from an almost-all-expenses-paid trip to the Florida Keys. TV5, from Quebec, had me down to talk about the nature of Florida tourist attractions. They paid for my room and my expenses there and back. I paid for my food, except a local historical society director bought my dinner.
For those of you playing the home game, this two-day trip is, in essence, my dream. So while driving home along the Tamiami trail, drunk on saltwater and high on sunshine, I had the passing thought, “I am a lucky son of a bitch.”
My next thought followed immediately, and it was supremely angered by the first thought: No, I’m not.
To be clear: I don’t have bad luck. I’m not unlucky, not by any means. But me being down in the Keys, or having a book deal, or being able to write for a living, has nothing whatsoever to do with luck.
Let’s be clear: I love my life. Every damn day I wake up, delirious with pleasure that I don’t sell insurance or work for a government agency (any more). But I didn’t stumble upon it; I gave up a lot. And I worked hard.
Which was not always the easiest choice. For those of you who think freelancers sit on their ass all day, cherry-picking the best assignments… um, no. It would be a much easier life if I went back to a nine-to-five job.
I’m not built that way. And that’s OK. I love my life, but not because it’s easy.
I’ve earned a master’s degree, and despite what some people say (“Oh, you have a master’s degree in Florida? What was your thesis, eating key lime pie?”) I worked hard to get it. I spent a lot of money and went without going out after work (because I had to read five hundred pages a week, on average), didn’t go on “regular” vacations because every trip was a field trip (yes, I loved them. That doesn’t make them less work), and had to find something new to say about Florida for my thesis (no, it couldn’t be on Florida Man).
As for the book? After having one publisher ignore me completely – and I mean completely, I didn’t even get the courtesy of a form rejection letter – I prepared a proposal package that was more research and writing than most people do to get a bachelor’s degree. And after THAT, after I had a contract, I had to rewrite, then edit, then deal with advance reviews and decide which parts of those were worthwhile and which weren’t, and edit again. And meanwhile – let’s not forget – I still had to work, because only about three people have ever made a living being an author with a conventional publishing company. One is Stephen King, one is the chick who wrote those fake bondage “shades of whatever” books, and one is a guy in Tacoma pretending to be James Patterson. That’s it. So on top of the idea I may never get more than a couple thousand dollars from this book which, by the way, has been my dream since I was nine, I still had to freelance, which means I still had to find work that would pay me.
And I did. But not because I have been lucky. I have worked when other people played, I have written about things that made me want to set fire to my eyeballs (incest, rape, murder, you know, your garden variety injustice), I have gone without the trips to wherever most people my age without children get to go.
To be clear, I don’t regret a moment of it, only that it took me so long to give up a conventional life to pursue this one. I am happier than I ever imagined. I do what I love, and it’s OK that I will never be wealthy or have a company-supplied pension. I am living my dream.
I write about Florida, and sometimes people pay me to come talk to them about Florida. I write about Florida, and, more and more, people pay me to write about Florida. This year, I’m also working on a series of fiction books about – here’s a shock – Florida. El Cap has offered this year to me as a gift to me, and I accepted.
This is my life, and I am blessed beyond measure. Blessed, happy, deserving, dedicated, determined… use almost any word you wish.
Any word but lucky, that is. Luck isn’t a factor. It never has been.