By July, Everything Changed

I attended a vigil on June 5th.

It was for Breonna Taylor, on her birthday. In the constantly evolving insanity that is this year, I can’t post those pictures because the vigil turned into a march and all of my pictures show protesters’ faces. For all the time I was there, it was peaceful, but the last time I checked, totally peaceful protesters were still getting apprehended by unidentified “law enforcement,” because that’s what America is now.

America is police beating the innocent, shooting out eyes with rubber bullets.

America is Breonna Taylor’s killers still walking free.

And, real talk: if the fact that I attended protests offends you, you can fuck off now.

It was a strange feeling, being in those crowds, sending up those chants. It felt like the most meaningful thing I had ever done. At the time, it felt like maybe the world would change.

But then it didn’t. The optimist in me has to believe it will, but 2020 really trains you not to believe in anything.

In July, my job reopened. I want to say, “I believed they would provide us with appropriate Coronavirus protection,” but that isn’t true; I knew they would give us the bare minimum protection, which is exactly what they did. Imagine working a customer service job at an institution that panders directly to the worst Karens imaginable, only to have that institution place social distancing markers those Karens will stand on directly in front of your booth, not even 4 feet from you. Picture this while your job tells you, “If someone shows up without a mask, they can buy one.” “From who?” “From you.”

I went on strike. Tried to leverage it into getting better COVID-19 protocols. My resignation was accepted instead.

The weird thing is . . . it’s not nearly as upsetting as it should be.

Because the far more upsetting thing is the thought of still being there. I get emails from coworkers saying the mandatory masks rule isn’t being enforced anymore, and I feel like the lucky one.

I probably shouldn’t, but by July, everything changed.

Before then, I’d been so concerned with being fun. Being likable at work. Being ready with a joke at all times. I had genuinely cared about the opinions of people who never mattered, and I put my goals on hold for institutions that paid me pennies compared to their earnings. I spent hours and hours selling tickets, shelving books, standing behind cash registers, saying shit like, “Did you find everything you need?”

“Have you considered a membership?”

“I’m sorry to hear that, m’am. Would you like me to call a manager for you?”

Always coming home too tired to do anything . . .

. . . and then having one of those organizations just smile at me and say, “Well, we gotta reopen! You gotta get back out there! Cause we need to balance the budget for next year!”

No.

Just fucking no.

No and also why? Why did I waste so much time at those jobs?

I’ve had insanely marketable skills for over a decade, but I just stalled at “maintain entry level day job while struggling to write.”

That changed in July, when I refused to walk into a shit job and potentially kill myself for the rich assholes who run it.

When I realized that none of the things I was worried about before actually mattered. My coworkers’ attitudes, where I would be posted, how I could improve my membership numbers, how I could potentially land a promotion. None of that shit mattered more than my health, my happiness, and my dreams.

It is strange to say, but since leaving that job, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my entire goddamn life, but, at the same time, every single day has gone by like lightning (it’s already 5:40pm and how do I stop this fucking clock–please tell me).

Here are the projects that I’m now working on, full time, on a given day:

1. Outlining a rewrite for Memory. This is not the usual thing where I say, “Ha! I’m planning it,” meaning I’m thinking about it at work, then coming home too tired and stressed out to actually start it. No, I’m two chapters from being done with the outline. It has been a struggle, but I pulled a got of motivation from a series of lectures by Brandon Sanderson that were third-eye opening (and if you’ve ever struggled with the process, here’s a link to the first video in the series on his YouTube channel).

2. Putting together digital products that I was inspired to make last year, when I designed a logo for a friend. I don’t want to say what the products are, but they combine my love of books, my graphic design chops from my Infinite Ammo days, and the weird, pattern-based art I used to do when I was younger. I will be talking about this more later in the month, but not until it’s ready.

3. Volunteering at a library, paginating the books they scanned and sent to the Biodiversity Heritage Lab. It feeds my bureaucratic side and I love it.

4. Working on my board game, the healing system for which I’ve just hammered down, meaning stats are finally set. Had to overhaul item drops, but I’m glad I didn’t overhaul them first, because it would have been totally pointless to overhaul that system without having stats totally figured out (because of course stats are going to drastically influence drops [which is to say, the game is 65% complete]).

5. Writing short stories, which is now nestled safely on the back burner. Why? Because I’m a novelist and always have been. Short stories are great and I learned a lot putting them together, but I wish I could take back some of the time I devoted to them. This is an extremely new outlook (even just last week, I was still considering spending a ton of time rewriting an older short story); real talk: I spent a few hours looking through a database of places to submit and realized . . . the pay is just so low. Probably not for other genres, but for Sci-Fi / Fantasy, we’re talking $20 for months or years of work. I just can’t do that anymore.

6. Writing posts on here, which I’m going to do weekly now, if only because planning a new direction for this blog and writing posts according to that plan will be a fun departure from the crazier deadlines / projects I’m working on (more on that soon).

7. Looking for other jobs and learning Spanish (it’s just way past time).

Obviously, the most pressing of those is creating my digital products. The goal is to make sustainable profit with them, and I know that’s a few months away, so I’m prioritizing it pretty hard, learning as much as I can about my process and creating the best storefront I can manage.

If I didn’t have to worry about money, however, writing would be first place for sure. The rewrite of Memory feels like the first real book I’ve ever written. I always knew about plot threads, but I never had a good process to keep track of them until I watched those Brandon Sanderson videos. He, thankfully, has a very similar approach to me in the types of stories he tells, so, after hearing him explain his process, I was able to fix my own. Real talk: I don’t think Memory is good enough to get published, but I’m using it as practice anyway, honing my process before moving on to The Hand and the Tempest, which is definitely my favorite project at this point. I spent two months worldbuilding for it earlier in the year and I’m just . . . in love with that world.

All of this is to say my life today is significantly different than it was in May, and it feels strange. I don’t know how things will turn out.

But I do know . . . that I can finally imagine a future for myself.

For the first time, I can imagine having my own place, what job I’ll be working while I’m there. I can picture actually getting published, like the tone of my life was tweaked ju-u-u-ust enough and now that conclusion fits.

I might still die. There’s still no vaccine for COVID-19, and the last time I got tested for it, I wasn’t infected but also didn’t have antibodies.

This “business” I’m putting together might also fall through. 

But it’s nice to have this moment.

It’s nice to believe when the whole world is telling me I shouldn’t.

Published by

Louis Santiago

I'm a fantasy writer based in New York. One of my short stories, "Aixa the Hexcaster," was published at Mirror Dance Fantasy. You can read it here: http://www.mirrordancefantasy.com/2016/09/aixa-hexcaster.html.

2 thoughts on “By July, Everything Changed”

  1. Thank you, sir. And yeah, watching his lectures in May is really what started this for me; without that initial burst of inspiration, I’d probably still be passively planning the rewrite, afraid I’d get it wrong again, unwilling to commit to any decisions.

    And that’s probably the worst thing we can do as writers: not committing. It really boils down to just making decisions at a certain point. Now I know my process requires room to experiment on those decisions without massive consequences.

    … I should write a post about try this.

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