How did you decide to return to software engineering and how has that shaped your days and wellbeing? I feel like I have unfortunately over-invested in the idea of ‘being a writer’ as ‘your primary day job is adjacent to writing.’
Primarily, I had stopped writing my own work. I wrote over 100 drafts in 2019, the year I left my job. In 2020, the year I started teaching, 25. In 2021, the year I went on the academic job market, 20.
Writing careers are just as you say: your primary job is adjacent to writing, not writing itself. When I was writing, it was for the public, the job committee, students, or a future book deal. I was writing full-time but had even less time to work on creative projects. I was busy trying to economically survive.
Economic instability also trapped my ability to make changes in my life. Despite doing well as a writer, I didn’t have enough. I couldn’t buy a house (denied for a mortgage), couldn’t move, and was vulnerable to losing all my savings in emergencies. Without that flexibility, I couldn’t physically protect myself from the racial and gender unease I’ve been feeling since I moved to rural Vermont.
That desperation made every win and rejection more powerful. A job was not just a job—it was everything that a salary, benefits, and the title “professor” brings in our world. The opacity of the literary and academic world—due to disorganization, nepotism, or systemic inequality—stirred doubt into every impression I had of who I was. Was this bias, or was I not good enough? The trouble with uncertainty is that both things may be true. I acted accordingly, working harder to be “good enough” without a rubric or guarantee.
I did not go back to tech earlier because I was making a life for myself. Tech represented economic stability to me, but not much else. It wasn’t until I started learning more about my neurodivergence, particularly around focus, that it became clear that a day job with clear tasks, deadlines, and fewer social demands was a much better choice for my daily life.
I’m happy to say that I’m now writing more than I ever have since I moved to Vermont in 2020. The structure of the day job structured my writing life, too, and now I’m typing this in the morning hours when I return to myself each day. I feel well at my job, which I don’t think about when I log off each day. I also feel seen and appreciated by my coworkers.
Our car broke down last month, but I’m in the process of buying another one. I’m moving to Seattle this summer. I’m also not done teaching. I’ll be on the poetry faculty at Warren Wilson’s MFA program this coming term. I’m really looking forward to working with more students with non-traditional writing backgrounds like me.
I’m also working on a couple of big projects, which I’ll announce in the near future. In the meantime, I’m so glad to be writing to you again!
Last month, I ended all paid subscriptions to The Reading. Previously paid posts are going to be made free to any member—you just need an account to read them. I hope you enjoy. Thank you to all the paid subscribers who supported me when I wrote them. You really did help me survive.