Damn. It’s been almost…two months…since I got back from Korea. And I’ve been back at work since this time last month. It’s good to be back. Now that my year overseas is done and the dust of the place has been thoroughly knocked from my boots, I don’t mind telling you folks that out of almost fourteen years in my chosen career, August ’13-August ’14 was the most challenging twelve-month stretch ever. And I don’t mean “challenging,” like Basic Training was challenging. I mean that I swear to Sweet Baby Jesus that 90% of the people I dealt with all year were “challenged,” if you get my meaning.
So, yeah, I’m real happy to be back in Georgia. My family never left, and I walked right back into the same house I left a year ago. I’m still waiting on my household good to arrive from the port in Savannah, but unpacking is going to be an afternoon’s worth of work, rather than the couple weeks a normal military move entails for my family. I have six years left in the military, and if prayer or magic is real, I’m going to finish out my career in Augusta and move right into a new civilian job–that is, if I can’t make my share of the household money between writing and my pension.
If you’d told my ten-year old, dyed-in-the-wool, New Yorker self that I was going to fall in love with a Southern state and decide to hang my hat there, I don’t know if I’d have believed you. But it stands to reason–when I was a kid, I was locked down pretty tight by an over-protective mother, and we were poor, and we lived in the ‘hood (so really, my mother probably had the right idea, after all). So it’s not like I really had a chance to fall in love with Rochester–I love a fair amount of folks from there, mind you, but I don’t even know if I’d find my way around the city without GPS, these days. Meanwhile, in Augusta:
- I live five minutes away from a great, downtown, indie arts community with coffee shops, galleries and places to hear local musicians–and perform, if the bug hits me. That my wife has a ten-minute drive to work and my son’s school is the same distance in the other direction isn’t too shabby, either. There’s also a fair amount of regional-level geek activity, so I’ve begun looking for more closer, smaller conventions to attend in addition to some of the larger ones that draw people from all over the US and beyond. Combined with my increased output this year, I’m hoping this takes my level of readership to another level.
- I’m able to get involved in local doings more than I let myself during my first three-year stretch. Military families tend to not get very close to the communities they’re living in, simply because they know their stay is temporary. But now, it’s not impossible for me to stay right here until I retire. Six more years isn’t a statistical improbability, especially given a few of the duty position shifts I can make across different units, with help from human resources folks. So my wife can pursue a career without worrying about pulling up stakes, and we’re buying a house early next year. I’ll be able to build strong relationships with folks and parlay that into a second career once I get my honorable discharge. I didn’t have this sort of “normal life” when I was growing up, much less as an adult in the military.
- I’m settled back into an accustomed routine, with resources to help me learn some new tricks. I’m right back in the unit I left when I moved to Korea, but doing a different job. So I’m stimulated by new things to learn and do, but not completely lost at sea because I’m still training new recruits. Being able to jump right back into something familiar has helped me get back to work on the new novel, which I’m loosely describing as “a serial killer’s memoir.” And, while being in the Army means I’m not guaranteed writing time at the same time each day, I’ve been working with a psychologist, through a military program, on establishing particular habits and behaviors that will let me get into the “writing zone” on demand, no matter the time of day. I’ll be writing about that in more detail at some point, either here on my blog or for one of the larger websites I’ve pitched a column to, but for now, let me just say I’m already seeing results.
So, as much as last year sucked to the max, I’m kicking off Fiscal Year 2015 in one of the most heightened states of hopefulness I’ve ever been in. Augusta’s grown on me, and now, I figure I have a chance at growing on it.