One of the main areas of anxiety about moving to another country—in my case, Brazil—is the mystery surrounding vocation. Not vocation solely in terms of source of income, but also in terms of how time is spent and managed, how hours are filled. When I first moved to Colombia, I had a university position lined up before leaving US soil. Not so, this go round. As I’ve mentioned on this blog and repeated incessantly in real life, moreso to convince myself of even the possibility, I plan to go to São Paulo and write. A novel, to be specific; the travel writing and all immediate income-producing pursuits being relegated to secondary priority until a suitable first draft is completed. That is the plan in its most abstract, essential form. But what had induced panic attacks on several occasions over the last few weeks was the inability to plan a route between Point A — establishing myself in Brazil — and Point B — completing a marketable book-length fiction project. How was I going to write if, after this three-month hoof around the globe, I got to a city of 20 million people with less than, say, $500 in the bank? Wasn’t the idea of quitting my teaching job to go write to not have to take up another teaching job once I got to Brazil?
Then, in Portland, I wound up at Powell’s City of Books. Among the tomes I purchased in this cathedral to the written word, I saw Michael Cunningham’s The Hours on the sale rack for $6.95. I’d always liked the movie and heard good things about the book, so I bit. And on the train from Portland to Seattle, I read this section, from icon Virginia Woolf‘s perspective as she contemplates the life of the titular character in the novel she’s writing, Mrs. Dalloway:
“This particular novel concerns a serene, intelligent woman…who is preparing for the season in London, where she will give and attend parties, write in the mornings and read in the afternoons, lunch with friends, dress perfectly.”
Not exactly one of the more striking lines of prose in this remarkable work, but for me, it was an instant literary Rand McNally, a AAA triptych of comportment and action: I will write in the mornings and read in the afternoons, lunch with friends, work in the evenings (language or accent-reduction classes, probably; maybe introductory Spanish). And every now-and-then, I’ll give and attend parties (but I’m a Gap Inc. kinda guy, so…). I may stray from the route occasionally because of circumstance or chance, but the endpoints are fixed and the map is drawn. Nothing’s left but to fill the hours until I arrive.