Category Archives: Writing

Learning from Rejections (#2)

I have entered a new perspective where I no longer run from rejections.

Even a few weeks ago, when I pitched a publication, my pitch was based around avoiding rejection. I would research thoroughly to make sure it was aligned with the magazine. I would submit my ideas with utmost care. I would wait in tortured silence, hoping the rejection would never come.

It’s not that I did anything wrong. It’s just that fear motivated everything that I did. I did all the right things (research etc.) for the sole purpose of avoiding rejection. I was afraid of being ignored or having my creative work criticized.

Today I felt a switch.

I’ve been working on a pitch for a feature story in the Sierra Club magazine, Sierra. Two hours of researching forest fires and building my backstory went into this pitch. I even drafted it twice before sending it. I waited until Monday because I believe sending it in on Friday is a recipe for disaster. When I submitted it this morning, I felt joyous. Can I do that again? I thought. Building a story like this is fun.

This feeling persisted despite immediate obstacles.

Buoyed by my joy, I continued researching places to publish. While scrolling through Backpacker Magazine’s contributor guidelines, I noticed my “error.” Holding no punches, the magazine authors stated in unambiguous terms that new and emerging writers would rarely be considered for a feature story. The same had to apply for the Sierra magazine. There was little to no chance that my pitch would land anywhere.

I smiled and continued my research.

What? I can hear my self of a weeks ago saying. Didn’t that feel like a crushing blow to know your article would probably never see the light of day? You wasted hours of your time on something that would never be published. 

A brave new voice answers, But it was fun. And that’s my unvarnished truth. Some of the most fun that I’ve had during the last week (outside of hiking and obvious fun events) was creating that pitch. I enjoyed researching the forest fires that I hiked through. I devoured maps, stats, and articles in a search for the right angle. And it was fun! Possibly more fun than actually writing the article. The act of looking for a story for Sierra was in itself very rewarding.

Realizing that I enjoy this aspect of the work has been a powerful acknowledgment of this path for me. If I’m not focused on the anxiety of rejection, being a writer feels good. It feels right. It fits like an awesome glove.

Honestly, what a relief. If there were no more to being a writer than being able to face down the demons of criticism, it would have been hard to continue. It’s a big obstacle to climb and a constant battle. How pleasant to know that I can ignore the fears (note: I have been working on this skill for a LONG time). And even better to know that, freed of the fear, pitching and creating stories makes me happy.

To read more about my current transformational period, check out my article on Elephant Journal.

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Learning from Rejections (#1)

Every writer lives in dread of the rejection letter. Those of us who have struggled with tying our self-worth to our successes are doubly terrified. While I’ve worked to extricate my self-worth from my actions, I still hate rejection letters. However, the more astute writers that I have heard from have told me that rejection letters have a purpose – to tell us what we missed and where we need to improve.

I got this rejection from a travel site called The Expeditioner. Reviewing the site, I saw that the writers had a great sense of humor. Therefore, I chose to write about some funny exchanges between a tour guide and my friend at a dolphin watching tour.

I read the article at my writing group in Capitol Hill. While I was secretly hoping for rolling belly laughs, I did get a few chuckles from people. The feedback was mostly positive. They recommended that I add a few more details about the boat.

After collecting pictures from my fellow adventurers, I submitted the photos and copy to The Expeditioner.

Within 48 hours, it was rejected.

I spent about an hour being mad. Then I reassured myself that it wasn’t my skills. It was probably just a poor fit for the publication. Looking deeper at that realization, I understood that I missed a large part of travel writing.

Like an essay or memoir, travel writing has to have a higher purpose than entertainment. There has to be an underlying truth, a discovery about the self, or something universally human. Otherwise, it’s just an amusing anecdote.

I wrote an amusing anecdote, a lovely scene. It served no cause. I can see why others might not find it interesting.

A writer friend of mine had gotten a harsh critique at the circle. One person asked him the point of his memoir scene. This person reiterated that every passage has to have a point, even in a memoir.

The same thing could have been said of my travel writing. I suspect I narrowly avoided the criticism because my story was funny.

Going forward, I am trying to keep in mind that travel writing is still essay writing. There has to be a point and journey. Being someone who describes people and places well is not enough.

In an attempt to come to terms with the idea that I will be rejected, I am hoping to post more of these realizations. That’s why I called this one #1.

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Waking Up to Reality: Accepting the Burdens that Wake with Me

When I awaken this morning, I think that I am a murderer. The remnants of the dream dissolve in the warm morning glow, but my subconscious keeps spinning for minutes. Did I really commit the crime? If I did, how could I forgive myself? I eventually become awake of a cat between my legs, a second purring on my chest, and a jaw locked tight to hold back some vague fear. I always hope to awaken to a bright morning with hope and optimism. But more often I awaken to burdens that seemed to have increased through the night, dreams that leave a foul taste in my mouth and an stiffness brought on by attempting to not squish the cats.

My boyfriend’s alarm rings for the first time and he swipes snooze. I also don’t want to leave the bed. For one, that would dislodge the cats. The swim back to reality rarely brings any illumination. I remember that I still don’t have a paying job. I feel unresolved emotions dancing across my tongue. I hold my tongue to the top of my mouth to keep them from escaping. As the world clears before my eyes, nothing actually becomes clearer. Each day looks different from the last. I have been working hard to resolve some of my unfounded fears, like the belief that any criticism is a poke at my intrinsic worth. As the blinds of fear fall away, I awaken to different colors every morning. My list of jobs that seemed so golden begin to lose their shine. Without the false light of fear, I see they are not a good fit for me. Other options previously invisible spring into focus. I am lost in the constantly changing world around me and the confusion presses me deep into my covers.

Although the crushing confusion seems unpleasant, it’s far better than the way that I have awoken for the previous twenty years. I used to wake up in the midst of writing a to-do list. Actually, it was more of a do-this-to-avoid-feeling-like-a-failure-today list. If I checked off everything on the list, the clutching self doubt that whispered that I was not good enough would stay at bay (waiting, of course, until I didn’t make everything on the list). I used to leap out of bed in the morning as the anxiety sent sparks up my spine, already panicking about everything I had to get done.

My boyfriend’s alarm trills a second time and once more it is pressed into silence. As I lie there half-awake, I think that being pressed into the covers is preferable to my shooting anxiety, but not perfect. I want to awaken to golden shimmering light, a purring cat pressed against my face and the thrill of being alive. I want to awaken like I do on the second day of a long vacation, swollen with the freedom of an empty day – ready to be filled with lying on the beach and exfoliating my face with sand while bodysurfing. Despite the openness of my unemployed days, it’s not vacation. Although the hours are technically “unscheduled,” I know that from 10am to 3pm is “freak out about making money” and 3pm to 5pm is “apply frantically to any job that I may qualify for.” I long for that vacation feeling as I watch the patterns of sunlight play across the ceiling between my boyfriend’s snoozed alarms. I force my jaw “relaxed” and pretend that I am far away. My body feels even heavier. This forced pleasantness soon swims away from my consciousness – as unreal as my dream of being a murderer.

As a cat stares me down and demands food, a new thought lightens my leaden body. Maybe it’s not possible to wake up happy and joyous every morning While the need to make money presses down on me now, when it fades, there will be others. It’s quite possible that there will be a new discomfort pressing my jaw tight and my tongue against the roof of my mouth every morning. For weeks, I have fought these feelings. I wanted the hope and joy, manufactured though it may be. The frustration with my inability to maintain these false feelings might be a part of what’s dragging me down now. I still awaken trying to push away the uncomfortable thoughts of dissolving dreams of murder or the pain of a locked jaw. What if there’s another choice?

When I inevitably awaken with a jaw locked in fear and a stomach roiling with anger, I hope that someday I can respond with kindness. Perhaps my most wonderful morning is not awakening free of every discomfort, but accepting of whatever is residing in my body right now. I feel the 7 mile weekend backpacking trip pulling at my hip flexors and tightening my back. A perfect awakening seems unlikely to me.

My boyfriends third alarm goes off and he shuffles to the shower, leaving me alone with my thoughts. While I might not spring from the bed with happiness this morning, I can slowly ease my aching limbs to the ground. I can revel in the feeling of stretching my sore feet, pressing my toes into the floor as I rotate my heel in midair. Instead of swallowing hard, I can gently brush the teeth that have been locked in battle with my anger all night. I can relax my poor tongue and let the anxiety its been holding back surge through me as I drink a comforting cup of tea. I might not be able to awaken totally light and free, ready to take on the day. But I can awaken in my own skin with the burdens of life pressing down on me. And, like the furred warmth that locks my legs into place, the familiar weight of my problems can be okay.

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An Unexpectedly Snowy Ski Trip to Whistler-Blackcomb

When my boyfriend picked out the dates for our ski weekend, we had no idea what to expect. On a warm December day in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, he selected February 2nd and 3rd. It seemed like a safe bet to get snow, but it was early enough in the year to be warm. Little did we know that we would careen through 6 inches of snow on Route 1 or use our Subaru Legacy to plow a path from our AirBnb driveway to the street.

From the start of the trip, it was obvious that this wasn’t going to be an easy adventure. Leaving Seattle, we took the normal superhighway of I-5. In 120 minutes, when we would typically be sailing through Bellingham, minutes from the Canadian border, we were still in Seattle. Technically, it was Lynnwood. But moving 3 miles in 120 minutes was unexpected. There wasn’t even any snow, just rain, and a terrible car crash.

As we finally pushed north, the rain turned to snow. Sleety slush rained down on us as we idled at the border crossing to Canada. I carefully flicked the windshield wipers off before we reached the window. Our lane had moved so slow, so I suspected that I would get a thorough examination before we were allowed to enter Canada.

“What is your purpose in traveling to Canada?” The border agent had thick black eyebrows.

“We’re traveling to Whistler for skiing.” I chirruped, pretending this exchange didn’t make me nervous.

“Where are you staying?”

“At an AirBnb in Squamish.”

Pleasantries aside, his intense gaze flickered between my boyfriend and I as he quizzed as about our employment. My mumbling boyfriend repeated twice that he worked as a flight test engineer. Not only did I have to explain that I was an Uber driver, he asked me about my previous place of employment and why I quit.

“The boss was terrible.” I said with a smile.

He didn’t laugh.

Instead he stared aghast as I explained that no, I did not carry a weapon in my car to defend myself against Uber riders. We passed, though not with flying colors. I continued driving along 15 North, searching for Route 1 and the road to Squamish.

The next adrenaline filled jolt was not at the beautiful suspension bridge or the large concrete overpass. We passed peacefully through the typical obstructions and I grew confident on the roads as they melted. Soon I was sailing at 70kph along the suburb of West Vancouver. The road dipped suddenly and I frantically noted the field of 6 inch deep snow at the bottom.

My foot flew off of the gas pedal and started lightly tapping the brakes. The asphalt disappeared beneath a white cloud. Only 30 feet ahead of me, I saw a white SUV weave back and forth. My elbows locked and my hands gripped the wheel. Quickly, the white turned to the black of asphalt once more. I aligned the car between the white lines again. Then I laughed.

It was after 11pm before we arrived at our AirBnb, but Nancy with the Mountain View room was waiting up for us. She graciously welcomed us and offered cookies. I took one with relief, happy to finally lower my tensed shoulders. 6 hours until we left again for Whistler. We slept.

The alarm went off in the pre-dawn light in Squamish. Outside the window, at least four inches of snow coated the car we’d parked only hours before. We left the house dressed in our ski clothes and took turns brushing the snow off of the car. The nearby tree dropped snow down my boyfriend neck as he inched toward the front door. Once inside, he started the car and put it in reverse. Snow piled up behind us as we plowed the top two inches. A Subaru Legacy does not have much clearance.

We made it to Whistler before the road closed behind us. As always, we stopped at the first parking lot. Arriving at 7:30am, we’d hoped to do the Ski and Breakfast special. This special allowed a few hundred skiers to go up the mountain early and eat a large buffet breakfast as the rest of us waited in line for the lifts to open. At the time, we didn’t know we’d need to go to Whistler Village to take the gondola up for breakfast. Instead, we ate our Starbucks and drank our cold coffee in line with the other skiers.

But it was worth getting up early. As we exited the first gondola, the entire area was laid with 8 inches of powder. Powder skis gracefully darted across its surface. We skied too, but with our old skinny skis at least 3 inches beneath the powdery surface. It was still fun, even in the flat light and somewhat windy conditions. The trails are so expansive, as wide as a freeway in some places. For the first few hours, there was always some powder to hunt down and explore.

Halfway through the day, we went to Whistler Village and got drunk on mulled wine. An old Irish pub, reconstructed in Whistler, was the perfect place to warm up. The fish and chips tasted divine, though the banana split put them to shame. Caramel ice cream is hard to beat. Combine this with the selection of hot alcoholic drinks, we were quite pleased.

Two long runs later, we headed toward the car. Our legs were weak. It was our first full ski day this year. In the warmth (and diesel smell) of the covered parking lot, we slumped into the car with relief. It would only be a small adventure to get back to our AirBnb in Squamish for hot showers. The road had opened up again.

For dinner, we explored downtown Squamish. It was still snowing. On the main road, we saw The Copper Coil. It had been recommended to me, so we stopped. The waitress greeted us warmly and brought us two beers, both local lagers, within 5 minutes. We decided to split a giant meal of chicken and ribs, with a side of the daily soup. As good as the ribs were, the potato soup was the most delicious. The restaurant had a smoker on-site and the smoked bacon made the dish. We left, stuffed way too full. With a bottle of wine from the local liquor store, we drank and were asleep by 9pm.

In the morning, we made it to Lion’s Gate Village near North Vancouver before stopping for breakfast. There was one cafe and we went to it gladly. The local roasted coffee was excellent. My Americano was served in a tall blue coffee mug, much better than the plain white one holding my boyfriend’s latte. The bagels were uninspiring, but bagels are bagels. The cinnamon rolls oozing with white glaze looked more appetizing, but we stuck with a more sturdy breakfast.

Our trip down to Seattle was similar to our trip up, minus the car crash. We also got through the border gate more easily this time, though we had to surrender our blood oranges. Apparently, no citrus can cross country borders into the USA. Bellingham was a snowy wonderland and the snow did not abate until we had almost reached Everett. Over the next twenty-four hours, Seattle would get buried in four inches of snow as well.

Thanks to his snow experience over the weekend, my boyfriend got to work on Monday without a problem.

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(Personal Essay) Life of a 26-year-old BRCA Mutant

One of my personal goals for the last few months has been to write a personal essay and submit it for publication. This is my first. I submitted it to NYT Opinion and Buzzfeed. Though I planned to submit it to more places, if it’s not published a month after I finish it, I want to publish it here. 

There are no breast cancer screenings for a 26-year-old, unless, of course, that person is me. Two years ago, I sat in a clinic in Seattle, waiting to hear the results of my BRCA-2 mutation test. I had a 50% chance of being positive, thanks to a gene on my mom’s side that led to her diagnosis of breast cancer at 42. Even as the blood slipped from my veins, to be shipped to my home state of Utah for the genetic test, I believed that I was part of the lucky 50%, the ones that had no mutations. But now I have a piece of paper that reads in bold across the top POSITIVE FOR A DELETERIOUS MUTATION.

Every time I visit the doctor, I feel like these bold-face words are branded across my forehead.

They do make me different. The documentation reads “this type of mutation in high risk families indicates that … (my mutation) may confer as much as an 84% risk of breast cancer and 27% risk of ovarian cancer by 70 in women.” Over the last two years, I have breathed in this information and it hasn’t suffocated me yet. But it does commit me to completing all the screenings that my doctors recommend.

To address this increased risk, my doctor gave me a “personalized” screening procedure to guide the rest of the my life. At 25, I was to begin MRI breast screenings. My doctor did not recommend mammograms until the age of 30. She also provided a set of unpleasant sounding screenings for ovarian cancer that would also commence at age 30. From that moment, I felt as if I had stepped away from my group of friends, normal women that would laugh about mammograms and menopause at about the same time. Instead, after I finished having kids, whenever that would be, I would be deciding if I should remove parts of my female body or not.

But, for now, I’m 26 and childless, subject only to the MRI screenings until age 30. Three months after my 25th birthday, I called my doctor to request an MRI. Three weeks later after my request, I opened a short letter saying that my request was not approved. In a panic, I called the cancer doctor to ask about the problem. Her nurse calmly explained that it had been approved. But I was still nervous about the letter that I held in my hands. Two days after the phone call, another letter in my mailbox said that the MRI was approved. This confusion, possibly due to my age, seems to be a new factor in my health care.

I endured the widened eyes as I approached the front desk for the MRI center. Yes, I am sure that I am supposed to be here. As I waited in a tiny room with only a backwards hospital gown for covering, I watched a parade of people two or three times my age pass by. Finally it was my turn for 45 minutes in the clanking, pressing environment that is an MRI machine. After the MRI, I found it strange that my experience was shared with my parents. I could call them and they would understand the failure of the music system to block out the racket. But my dear boyfriend might not know what that was like for another decade or two, if at all.

Weeks later, I opened my bills to find a charge for $1000. It threw me for a loop. I thought that my screening was preventative and therefore should be covered by my insurance. My limited knowledge of the Affordable Care Act made me think that it should be covered. It was like a mammogram for 25-year-olds, in my mind, why wasn’t it free?

A quick Google search told me that mammograms were included in the Affordable Care Act preventative screenings, but this didn’t help me. MRI’s were not even mentioned. I looked into mammograms in more detail, telling myself that I was preparing for my 30th birthday. The whole system of mammography is built around people starting screening at 40 (the normal age). There is not even consensus starting screening at 40 because there is a high rate of false positives. When my doctor introduced my mammogram screening to me, she prepared me by warning about exploratory biopsies. Apparently, younger breasts are even more likely to get false positives. I’m not optimistic avoiding the biopsies; multiple blunt doctors have labeled my boobs as “lumpy.”

Now I wasn’t not even sure that my lumpy boobs will get a “free” (health insurance covered) mammogram at age 30. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance coverage of mammograms. Yet, reading closely, the wording does state “mammograms starting at age 40.” Depending on my health insurance, I may have to pay for these mammograms for 10 years before the legalese includes me.

I began to panic. If neither mammograms nor MRI’s were covered for me, how would I pay for the screenings that could save my life?

I was determined to convince the insurance company that I shouldn’t have to pay for preventative MRIs. I emailed my company’s health insurance provider. That was the first time that I had written out that I was BRCA-2 positive and it made me sad. I hoped that at least it would save me some money. But it seemed fruitless. No one would accept my argument that MRI’s are a screening. Apparently, MRI’s are always diagnostic, a law writ in stone.

I was disheartened. I didn’t even ask about mammograms, leaving my 30-year-old self to deal with it in the future.

I paid the $1000 with some regret, totaling the cost of doing this for the next 30 years, as my screening protocol recommended. $30,000 is a lot of money. This thought has rung in my head since then. It sang as I quit my job with excellent health insurance to pursue my dream of writing. It rang when I picked the only health plan I could afford, with a $6000 deductible. A small part of me clenched this February, when I was supposed to get my MRI, but I didn’t, because I couldn’t see how to afford it.

Knowing that I have a BRCA-2 mutation can be empowering. Rather than wander through the unknown, I was given a protocol that would likely save my life. But I lack the resources to make it happen. Some of the lack it is money. None of my peers put money away every year for health costs, so I honestly didn’t think of it as an option. Some of the lack is support. Laws are designed to help the many, the millions of women in the United States that may need mammograms at age 40. But I am part of the few, the young people that found out about their mutation through their parent’s diagnosis and genetic test.

There is no space for us in the current system…yet. I believe that we are just starting to feel the impact of genetic testing. For years, it has verified what was already believed, that some people with cancer had a genetic mutation. Now genetic testing has opened up a new door. Children can be tested for the mutations of their parents. This knowledge can save lives – if the additional screenings can be offered at a cost that a 26-year-old writer/Uber driver can pay.

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One year of wandering, now a return

More than a year ago, I fell while I was running. Somehow the blood running down my elbow dislodged a deep sadness within me. The sadness was the hole in me where my writing used to be. But I took it as an insight that aerospace engineering was not the right course for me. I limped back to my aerospace job, bandaged my arm and leg, and let a deep well of sadness open up within me. After I quit three months later, I felt like I never wanted to return to engineering.

But my boyfriend would not let me forget my engineering background as I wandered toward writing.

“Don’t you think you should give it another try?”

“There are lots of different parts to aerospace that you haven’t tried yet.”

“You might like it.”

Every time he said this, I remembered my fall. I would check my right elbow again to see if the scar was still there, reminding me. In my mind, engineering had made me betray my lifelong goal of writing. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to forgive engineering for that.

Except, I heard an excellent opportunity right after I quit.

At the Space Entrepreneurs meetup, a company owner and CEO told me about his aerospace systems engineering company. It had a unique setup, where all the employees were contractors (and technically owned their own companies). The company had a weird set of expertise that culminated in an understanding of complex aerospace systems. These people were the architects of such systems, defining the engineering vision. The ideas called to me, as did the flexible hours, high pay, and ability to take months off at a time (…to write…?)

Despite my need to leave aerospace, this aerospace opportunity became my measuring stick. Would I like this freelancing job as much as that contracting one? Would I be able to live the lifestyle I wanted, like the contracting job would allow me to do? Nothing really held up in comparison, though I applied and was rejected by other jobs anyway. And then I drove Uber for a while, the perfect job for the uncommitted.

Then I stopped doing everything. In writing my memoir, I had unearthed some old memories. They seared through me and left me in a haze. It seemed like the only way to heal was to stay in the house and read science fiction books all day. I read three books by Guy Gavriel Kay in two weeks. I distracted myself; I grieved for my past self, who gave up her ability to argue – in order to make someone else happy. I wouldn’t leave the house because other people made my skin feel raw.

In all this chaos and confusion, a clear thought came to me. I’m ready to seize the opportunity put in front of me nearly a year ago. I emailed the company owner, saying I hoped that he remembered me after all this time.

He did. The opportunity was not lost. It was waiting for me to be ready.

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Driving Uber even in my Dreams

Uber has sent me annoying little reminders. “Did you know you did 9 trips today? Do one more to make it 10,” or “Are you sure you want to go offline? You are making less money this week than the same time last week.” My heart leaped into my throat every time. Was working 2-3 hours enough? Should I be working 10 hours a day? These questions haunted me as I drove.

Each time the circle on the Uber app lit up in blue, I tapped it. Each tap connected me to rider. The navigation would start and I would begin craning my neck for the next place to turn around. These pop-ups seemed inexhaustible, often coming less than a minute after I dropped off my previous rider. Uber makes it even easier to tap by offering you another blue circle just as you finish dropping off the previous rider. During busy times, you can be driving almost constantly. Part of me thought this pace was exciting. It was like playing a game, where your progress is marked by the dollar tally for the day or week.

But this excitement overpowered my other needs. It shouted louder than the pain in my lower back or the pressure in my bladder. Despite my commitment to writing breaks, I had a hard time sitting down to write. Each moment of my break was a lost dollar that my mind constantly tallied. The magnetic draw of the car would grow stronger, until I put down my coffee and headed outside.

The small “decline” button in the left corner remained untouched for the entire day (except when I was filing a report about a now-show rider). My left index finger moved of its own accord. Sometimes I would tap it without even noticing. Following the blue line to the next pick-up or drop-off was the extent of my world.

Both of my first two days of Uber driving ended with me on the couch watching TV, comatose, for nearly two hours. I also dreamed of following blue lines that night.

There is something intrinsically wrong with this setup – and it’s not the Uber app.

I asked my life coach Noe for some insight. He was interested in what seemed like a minor detail to me, my aching lower back. To me, it seemed like a simply by-product of spending so much time in the car. The seat of my boyfriend’s car is notoriously uncomfortable. My mind was preoccupied with the variables of my salary – how much I could make and when, and what it meant. But I eventually let go of the math and listened to Noe.

According to Noe, your lower back is emotionally related to issues with supporting yourself. In the end, this did explain the math. Noe used the term “support” generically, like it could mean emotionally or physically. I heard it as monetary “support” because that is what it meant to me. All of this math was an attempt to feel like I was successfully supporting myself.

That seemed like a fair assessment. But I didn’t figure out the source of this need to support myself until I dug deeper.

The words “by myself” kept running through my head as I talked with Noe. Those words were always important to me, even before I could say them correctly. My mom loves to tell the stories of my two-year old declarations of independence “all by self.”

Apparently, I haven’t changed.

My lower back has felt the brunt of my need to do it “all by self.” I’m so determined to support myself without any help that it’s cramping in pain. Is it too much pressure? In some ways, I am proud of my independence. I don’t want to completely change. I rationally know that my boyfriend would spring for rent if I needed it. But my back aches at the thought and it feels icky to me. Yet my time behind the wheel hasn’t been making me feel stronger either. Rather than be happy about my money-making, I crashed on the couch.

Why is being independent exhausting rather than fulfilling?

I suspect that it comes down to the source of the need. A love of being independent is energizing. A fear that you can’t be anything but (independent) is exhausting. Fear is flight or fight, right? Tapping the button is a constant flight for me. I need to keep going to escape the idea that I can’t do something by myself.

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My first day as an Uber Driver

What am I doing?

It’s a good question. I’m making time to write and explore opportunities. I’m choosing a job where I can decide how much I work – and the hours are directly proportional to how much money I make. I’m committing to writing my novel and memoir pieces. I’m not going to stop writing because I’m unable to pay rent and have to get a full-time engineering job.

So I’m driving with Uber.

To be honest, my first day as an Uber driver started poorly. I live in West Seattle and it’s not exactly a hotbed of Uber users. I’m pretty sure that I could have sat in my driveway all day and gotten maybe one fare. So I set off toward the airport. I figured that maybe some businessmen staying in airport hotels may need a ride downtown. The Uber app remained silent. I tapped it a couple of times to make sure it worked. There was no way I could know. I didn’t know what getting a fare looking like.

Then I noticed Queen Anne erupt into red hexagons (on the Uber app). I had heard rumors of this phenomenon. It was called a surge and it meant that Queen Anne was so busy that fare prices had increased. I was 45 minutes in and had no  fares to show for it, so I headed north. Of course, I got stuck on 99 north. I sat motionless on the viaduct as the hexagons faded to orange and then eventually disappeared. But I kept my course toward Queen Anne.

Then it happened. The app made a popping sound and a round timer started spinning. I tapped it frantically. “Sending” popped up. I had my first fare.

She was hard to find. I pulled into a gas station and called her to let her know where I was. My heart was pounding. It was too early to have messed up! She appeared. My hands were shaking with excitement. Hopefully, I thought, she wouldn’t know this was my first fare! I rushed her downtown as quickly as I could. She was running late for work. I had survived my first fare – hurrah! Maybe this would work after all. I stuck to my new plan. Once again I turned toward Queen Anne.

Pop, pop, pop.

This was how the rest of my “online” day went. It was incredible. I would drop someone off and start heading toward a neighborhood (usually Queen Anne or Capitol Hill). Then 45 seconds later, I’d have a new fare! I tapped all of them with excitement. This was working! I appreciate the smoothness and ease of the app. I could drive constantly, almost always heading to or from a fare. I’m pretty sure that I did a specific loop in Capital Hill at least three times, picking up people and dropping them off at different points along the way.

There were some hiccups. I suppose you could call it bad luck or lack of consideration. I accepted a fare on Mercer Island. My rider needed to go about 5 blocks. I spent about 15 minutes commuting to and from Mercer Island for a very short ride. There is no way that the fare was cost effective for me – either in gas or time. But it was okay. My rider made me feel like I was doing a public service instead of driving people around for money.  I was not deterred. I kept excitedly tapping any fare that popped on my phone.

The best part of the day was knowing that I could go offline whenever I pleased. When I felt like I needed a break, all I had to do was slide a button on my phone. No one would berate me for leaving the office early or “not being a team player.” Life was pretty simple. I was either online or offline. It was my choice.

I took an enjoyable break in the middle of my driving. I had a pot of tea and wrote my entire memoir class assignment in one sitting. 1200 words in one hours. Not unimpressive. The idea that my time was limited – because I had to make some money today – drove me to write without hesitation.

In total, I made $48 today.

Since I love math, I decided that worked out to $16/hr (if you removed the 45 minutes that I wandered through Tukwila with no fares). That’s pretty cool. I’m happy because I worked the hours that I wanted to work. When I had to pee, I stopped and took a long break. When I was hungry, I went home for lunch. When I wanted to write, I stopped and I wrote for an hour. This is the flexibility that I have always craved.

Uber money might not be as much as  I am used to, but I love the freedom.

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