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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Regrouping

The heat has washed away at last. We woke up this morning to the darkest sky we've seen in a month (by 5 a.m., the summer sun is usually bright enough to look like it does at 8 because we're so far north), and it has rained buckets in the last few hours. Since the heat wave started, I've had the screen door and all our windows open with fans going and makeshift curtains pinned up over some of the panes to keep the temperature down inside, but today, the air is back to normal: fresh, light, and cool. It's quite peaceful with the mist coming over the mountains behind us, veiling the tops of the pines, and the spray from the rain blowing off the roof in sheets. It rarely ever pours like this -- steady showers are as heavy as it normally gets.

I've wanted to write for the last day and a half, but I've been too stirred up by the events in that time to put my thoughts down in a semi-organized fashion. All the tumult (or "feeling," as D would point out with an amused but sympathetic nod -- the results of my personality test have apparently opened a new window for him into understanding why I am the way I am) has finally dissipated, and I'm left just feeling anxiously pensive.

On Tuesday, D and I had a long, unexpected conversation about what I'm going to do after I finish my degree. I know, I know; I said earlier that I was fine with not having the Plan figured out, but I've also been thinking about said Plan at some point every day. So even though we fell onto the subject almost accidentally, it was probably waiting to come up.

Some background:

Initially, I had planned on searching for a job teaching writing at a university, but a very brief chat at the beginning of the school year with my academic advisor sort of crushed that idea. "You'll need a Ph.D.," Advisor said. "That way, you can increase your chances of getting a tenure-track position when you get out on the market. You don't want to adjunct -- it's essentially a dead-end job because you won't have enough time to focus on your own work and you'll get huge teaching loads and you'll just get mired down."

Well, that wasn't what I expected to hear.

Of course, Advisor's advice wasn't the only advice I intended to use to evaluate whether my original plan needed to be modified or scrapped. So I've been reading up on the market, perusing a few very helpful blogs, and really mulling over whether I want to take on the challenges that are consistently mentioned across the board from various sources. I won't go into all that in detail right now; let's just say the structure of academia is changing because of many different pressures that are leaving fewer jobs and less funding available while exerting greater demands on faculty. Also, my degree used to be the terminal degree in my field, but that has changed with the advent of the Ph.D. for said field. The rapid growth of low-residency programs for my degree have further depreciated the value of my degree on the market as well. So, if it's available to me at all, the ideal position -- working intensively with small groups of students in seminar to nurture their personal writing -- comes with many more responsibilities than I had considered (including teaching hefty course loads probably tangential to my field), whether I put in another four or five years on a Ph.D. or not. And then there's the very likely possibility of having to uproot D and drag him off to a place where he very likely will not have job opportunities as excellent as what he has here, whether we move so I can attend a Ph.D. program or take a teaching job. We've agreed wholeheartedly that we do not want to commute any longer after this round, and D's career is finally taking off. So it seems that my job plans will only disrupt that. It will be more practical for me to pursue something else, especially since it will bring us closer to having the life we've wanted for so long -- to be settled in a city we like, to be ready to raise a family.

But what will that something else be? (And should I be concerned that as I'm writing this, it has suddenly started hailing here? Don't tell me it's a sign ...)

The possibilities for that something else were the subject of my conversation with D. We sat in our darkening living room as the sun retreated, talking about how frustrating it was not to finish what you had thought you'd started -- projects, career paths -- and the fear that it was just something inherent to your own personality that was getting in the way, not the circumstances themselves. D has been in that position in his own job search, so he truly understands the position I'm now in. Not that either of us feel I should not finish my degree -- the experience in the program is invaluable and certainly worth the time and effort for my own personal growth as a writer. But where do I go afterward?

I think I'm afraid to pick a direction because I've abandoned the last few paths I've started along. Well, perhaps "abandoned" is too strong here -- I've learned from each position, and that has enabled me to move to the next path (or maybe the next fork in one continuous web of paths) because of transferable skills and increased experience. I guess I just want all the career hopping to end and to find something I have a true passion for with a location and work hours that will allow me not to be an absentee wife and mother. Is that too much to ask? I know this might sound like I just don't want to work, but that's really not the case.

What we did figure out Tuesday night is that we both want me to take the time to make a good choice for me. The last few job choices have been motivated by deadlines over which we had little control. This time, we have a little more flexibility -- even as much as a year after I graduate (kind of an arbitrary limit, but we do want to be a two-income household before we have children). For that luxury, I'm enormously grateful.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Regrouping

The heat has washed away at last. We woke up this morning to the darkest sky we've seen in a month (by 5 a.m., the summer sun is usually bright enough to look like it does at 8 because we're so far north), and it has rained buckets in the last few hours. Since the heat wave started, I've had the screen door and all our windows open with fans going and makeshift curtains pinned up over some of the panes to keep the temperature down inside, but today, the air is back to normal: fresh, light, and cool. It's quite peaceful with the mist coming over the mountains behind us, veiling the tops of the pines, and the spray from the rain blowing off the roof in sheets. It rarely ever pours like this -- steady showers are as heavy as it normally gets.

I've wanted to write for the last day and a half, but I've been too stirred up by the events in that time to put my thoughts down in a semi-organized fashion. All the tumult (or "feeling," as D would point out with an amused but sympathetic nod -- the results of my personality test have apparently opened a new window for him into understanding why I am the way I am) has finally dissipated, and I'm left just feeling anxiously pensive.

On Tuesday, D and I had a long, unexpected conversation about what I'm going to do after I finish my degree. I know, I know; I said earlier that I was fine with not having the Plan figured out, but I've also been thinking about said Plan at some point every day. So even though we fell onto the subject almost accidentally, it was probably waiting to come up.

Some background:

Initially, I had planned on searching for a job teaching writing at a university, but a very brief chat at the beginning of the school year with my academic advisor sort of crushed that idea. "You'll need a Ph.D.," Advisor said. "That way, you can increase your chances of getting a tenure-track position when you get out on the market. You don't want to adjunct -- it's essentially a dead-end job because you won't have enough time to focus on your own work and you'll get huge teaching loads and you'll just get mired down."

Well, that wasn't what I expected to hear.

Of course, Advisor's advice wasn't the only advice I intended to use to evaluate whether my original plan needed to be modified or scrapped. So I've been reading up on the market, perusing a few very helpful blogs, and really mulling over whether I want to take on the challenges that are consistently mentioned across the board from various sources. I won't go into all that in detail right now; let's just say the structure of academia is changing because of many different pressures that are leaving fewer jobs and less funding available while exerting greater demands on faculty. Also, my degree used to be the terminal degree in my field, but that has changed with the advent of the Ph.D. for said field. The rapid growth of low-residency programs for my degree have further depreciated the value of my degree on the market as well. So, if it's available to me at all, the ideal position -- working intensively with small groups of students in seminar to nurture their personal writing -- comes with many more responsibilities than I had considered (including teaching hefty course loads probably tangential to my field), whether I put in another four or five years on a Ph.D. or not. And then there's the very likely possibility of having to uproot D and drag him off to a place where he very likely will not have job opportunities as excellent as what he has here, whether we move so I can attend a Ph.D. program or take a teaching job. We've agreed wholeheartedly that we do not want to commute any longer after this round, and D's career is finally taking off. So it seems that my job plans will only disrupt that. It will be more practical for me to pursue something else, especially since it will bring us closer to having the life we've wanted for so long -- to be settled in a city we like, to be ready to raise a family.

But what will that something else be? (And should I be concerned that as I'm writing this, it has suddenly started hailing here? Don't tell me it's a sign ...)

The possibilities for that something else were the subject of my conversation with D. We sat in our darkening living room as the sun retreated, talking about how frustrating it was not to finish what you had thought you'd started -- projects, career paths -- and the fear that it was just something inherent to your own personality that was getting in the way, not the circumstances themselves. D has been in that position in his own job search, so he truly understands the position I'm now in. Not that either of us feel I should not finish my degree -- the experience in the program is invaluable and certainly worth the time and effort for my own personal growth as a writer. But where do I go afterward?

I think I'm afraid to pick a direction because I've abandoned the last few paths I've started along. Well, perhaps "abandoned" is too strong here -- I've learned from each position, and that has enabled me to move to the next path (or maybe the next fork in one continuous web of paths) because of transferable skills and increased experience. I guess I just want all the career hopping to end and to find something I have a true passion for with a location and work hours that will allow me not to be an absentee wife and mother. Is that too much to ask? I know this might sound like I just don't want to work, but that's really not the case.

What we did figure out Tuesday night is that we both want me to take the time to make a good choice for me. The last few job choices have been motivated by deadlines over which we had little control. This time, we have a little more flexibility -- even as much as a year after I graduate (kind of an arbitrary limit, but we do want to be a two-income household before we have children). For that luxury, I'm enormously grateful.

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