A few years ago I discovered the concept of a capsule wardrobe by accident when stumbling around some blogs about minimalism and adapting the idea to my clothing. The idea was to only keep the clothes I felt good in, and then it blossomed into a radical purge to make it easier to get dressed quickly and without much thought. I pared things down to a couple pairs of jeans, some dressier slacks, and so on. I threw out all my socks and purchased all the same pairs of my favorite pair. No hunting for the right pair, just grab any two and they fit. Laundry stopped becoming a chore, just an automatic thing done once every two weeks when the clothes ran out. No dragging things out by wearing ill-fitting clothes for another week, or making do with the back of the closet.
It also made travel easier, as a byproduct. I could grab shirts, pants, socks, etc, throw them in a suitcase, and then go. It took about five minutes to pack. That came in handy when I had to leave the house in ten minutes to catch a flight to Florida for an emergency last year. It made mobile life easy.
Yet, when I packed in ten minutes this January to be away from the family for four months, packing up that easily made it feel inconsequential and facile. I had accepted a chance to teach a semester-long class in ‘Writing the Fantastic’ at the University of Alabama Huntsville. I am currently the Esteemed Visiting Scholar. But after a week long bout of the flu, turning 40 while under the haze of fever and not being able to see my good friends to have one last gathering before I had to duck out, I felt like I’d floated away in some weird, ungrounded way.
The drive down to Huntsville is about eight hours. I drag it out a bit longer with stops along the way. As a survivor of blood clots and orders to not sit for too long, and with a body that still responds negatively to being in a seat for long periods (my heart starts doing odd stress skips), the drive saps me. I feel dazed.
I am living in a room at the top of someone’s house who has generously put me up for the four months. But as wonderful as they are, it’s still strange to be in someone else’s domain for weeks at a time, trying not to intrude on their rhythms and life, particularly when I have a strange pattern of night owl myself.
My class is one night a week. So I have taken full advantage of that slack time to drive back to Ohio and see my family as often as I can when there are no other obligations. That means hauling back and forth, and then spending two or three days dazed as I recover from the drive. It’s made this all feel more surreal than I expected.
I’ve started splitting the drive in half, which adds hotel costs, but leaves me not feeling so physically shot. But that has added to that ‘neither here nor there’ sensation, where I am in a room that’s not really mine, then a hotel, then home for three of four days, then back to a hotel, then in a room that’s not mine.
Living out of a suitcase is fun for about three weeks, and then I start to get a little weary of it.
In no way do I regret taking the opportunity to teach down at UAH for a semester. Adapting my workshops, lessons, and thoughts about writing SF/F to a whole semester has been such an amazing opportunity. I have my own office!
I have used the time down in Alabama to revamp this website. I’ve finished revising a novel I cowrote with David Klecha. I am catching up on a lot of things with the time I have in my own office. And after six months of not having a freelance gig, I am stabilizing my finances. This was an opportunity of lifetime, and I am hoping it opens some doors to trying a class again some time. The students I am teaching are passionate and engaged, and the quality of their observations are great.
But once I am done, after April is wrapped, I’m going to be like a barnacle in Bluffton, Ohio for a while. I don’t want to be inside a car on a long drive for a long, long time.