The Times, They Are A ‘Changing

WHAT’S PLAYING: Placebo “Running up that Hill”

Last month, I learned that my nuclear power plant would not be taking on new fuel next year, so by late 2014, the doors will shut for good and I’ll be out of a job.

monkey surprise

As you can imagine, my gut reaction was pure panic. “But I just bought a new car! I have a five-year plan! I’M NOT READY!”

And then I went to my crazy place.

I started coming up with scenarios that would allow me to survive in a nuclear power free world. You name it, I thought of it. Everything from selling my teeth to going off the grid and wearing nothing but blue gingham and ass-less chaps. By the end the day, I was mentally fashioning the spear I would use to hunt rats for food.

A couple of days later, I decided to go on vacation. I needed time and space to calm down and gain some perspective. I attended Donal Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive and spent a fantastic week in Virginia Beach surrounded by some very talented writer and taking long, peaceful walks through the garden below:

Garden

It took some time, and a lot of soul-searching, but I finally realized that I’m in a pretty good place. Thanks to living well below my means the last 10 years, I’m financially secure with no debt, mortgage, kids or spouse to worry about. For the first time in my life, I don’t need to work. I can go anywhere and do anything I want. With this realization came a heady sense of freedom, followed immediately by overwhelming fear.

What the hell am I going to do? Take a year off and write full-time? Cast my net into the nuclear power river and see who bites? Raise ocelots? Start a business selling toupees for bald chimps?

Or maybe, just maybe, stop obsessing about the future and just live my life? 

I don’t know. But one thing I have decided is that as soon as my job has officially ended, I’m going to Ireland for a month. There, I’ll spend my time with just a laptop, my thoughts, and a view like this one. 

irish cottage

Who knew unemployment could be so beautiful?

Timeout for the Outage

WHAT’S PLAYING: Little Big Town “Boondocks”

Normally, I love my job. The pay is good, the people are great, and the work is interesting. Plus, there’s the warm, tingly feeling that comes from knowing that I help to provide a vital service to millions of people. (Just because I don’t like being around people doesn’t mean that I don’t want to help them.) Most importantly, my job provides me with plenty of time to devote to writing. But every eighteen months, all that is turned on its head. Because that is the time of The Outage.

For those of you not in the nuclear power industry, a refueling outage is a period of time – usually a month or two – when a plant shuts down to take on new fuel and perform maintenance and inspections. An outage generally means three things: 1. More work. 2. Less sleep. and 3. More people. To be honest, I don’t really mind the extra hours. I am getting paid after all. I don’t even mind the extra work. Some of it is pretty interesting. Yet, in spite of the opportunities to expand my knowledge base and the much-needed transfusion of cash into my anemic bank account, I absolutely loathe outages.

Usually, my plant employs about 600 full-time workers. That number doubles during an outage, which means insanely long lines to get in and out of work, a chronic shortage of parking spaces, and zero alone time, not even in the bathroom. Basically speaking, it’s a brief sojourn through my own personal Hell. I’m not really a “people” person under the best of circumstances. Throw in the extra hours, sleep shortage, and the new low carb diet I’m experimenting with, and you have a recipe for mass homicide. (If you laughed at that last line, it’s probably because you think I’m joking.)

My blog posts will probably undergo a steep decline for the next five or six weeks because I want to devote what little free time I’m going to have to writing, and because outages make me ornery. (And, apparently, so do low-carb diets.) I’d rather not lose what few followers I have by posting a nonstop litany of complaints and mean-spirited diatribes. I might pop in now and again with an update, but for the most part, I’ll be suspending my posts until after the outage. But don’t worry, I’ll be back in November with a host of new adventures for all you antisocial writing misfits. And, if you’re willing, I’d love to hear about your own social misadventures in the meantime. Maybe they’ll make me feel better.

Then again, maybe not.

See you in November!