I don't know who, how, or where I am supposed to be at any given time. Most days, that is okay. I have a routine that keeps me from wandering too far off the grid, so struggling with questions of location and identity falls by the wayside as I got through the motions; I make phone calls, I revise poems, I cross off items in my agenda. There is nothing wrong with my life today.
But there are many other lives I could be living. I think hard on this every time I travel. In the airport for the first time in four or five years this month, I was glad to arrive early for the people-watching. There were so many folks going so many places. A mother and her teenage son clearly heading home after a college visit; businessmen cracking jokes at the bar. Thinking of where they were coming from, where they were headed, and how we had all ended up in the same place was enough to entertain me for hours. It got me thinking about what would change for me if I moved away from Boston.
I really love it here, but it's common knowledge that Massachusetts is not the cheapest place to live. While my friends apply to and attend graduate school, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what I'd like to learn about the world next. I've always wanted to be a bartender at a local dive, and if I were to move somewhere that well known as one of the highest rent cities in America, I could do that and live as comfortably as I do now. This became even more apparent when I was in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and found out that my friends who live in a gigantic, 2 floor fortress of an apartment with roof access pay the rent that I pay for half a first floor two bedroom in a building that looks like a dirty sand castle. Which carves up to a little over a hundred dollars a month for each of them.
How different would my life be if rent was only $100? I could afford to take a serious pay cut and spend more time on what I love doing. I could spend chunks of time finishing my novel instead of sitting, lonely, in my cubicle editing poems from 2009. I could start drawing again. And I can say for a fact I would be happier. When I lived in Providence, making about half of what I make now (and also making my own schedule), things were good. I worked mostly in the evenings, so waking up early and writing until I had to leave for my shift was the norm. I'd be out of work by 10, which meant plenty of time for socializing. It was nearly ideal, barring the fact that my rent didn't quite match up with my low key paychecks.
Plenty of this musing has to do with wondering how far I could get grant money to go if I could get my hands on some. In a dream world, somebody would write me a fairly modest check and I would stretch it out to mean months and months of free living. That's the life that I want. The go-where-the-fellowships-are kind of life. Being a writer in search of creative space and sponsorship is nomadic in at least some small sense.
I've been looking up strange cities on Craigslist to see what kind of a discount I could give myself on living that might provide more time for my art. Because that's really what it comes down to. Time is money. The less time I have to spend hustling for rent, the more opportunities to write there will be. A change of place could be just the thing.