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Faith, Hope, Baltimore’s Killing Streets

22 April 2009

Shameless Plug: Blanket Class in June!

It’s morning at St. Elmo’s, and maybe morning in our house as well. One of the things about having interests and goals that aren’t, say, mainstream is that one needs to have a lot of faith: faith that what one wants to do is a calling rather than a silly dream, faith that one is not just lazy or childish for wanting to have a different career. Bah! Stupid faith! Some days it’s easier to come by than others. After the jump: gleaning hope from the decidedly pessimistic David Simon.

My best days are when I allow something that interests me into my life. That’s how I ended up with the things that make me happy (writing patterns, teaching knitting, writing fiction, studying abroad) in my life. But, oh, it’s hard some days. I have a good day job and I pay my taxes, so what I do on my own time is not really up for debate. But some days I feel I’m both insane and utterly idiotic (some days, let’s face it, I am).

Yesterday was a good day in that I saw a whole bunch of people with non-traditional goals doing their thing: first, a whole mess of jazz/country/blues greats playing on campus, and then David Simon, creator of The Wire, speaking at Georgetown University. He was talking about social justice and where our country is (and isn’t) these days. It was disturbing and inspiring.

But he also was a guy with a definitely non-traditional career path, speaking in the same hall where he came for high holidays when he was a child, at the same podium where President Obama spoke last week. Who knew?

He started out as a crime reporter in Baltimore, took a leave of absence to write “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” (amazon, powells, indie), went back, took another to write “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood” (amazon, powells, indie), returned to reporting, took a buyout in the ’90s…ended up as a television writer and someone to whom we look to interpret our world (I’m talking about artists there, not television writers).

Simon talked about learning how statistics are fudged in our institutions and about his belief that we’re headed for a bottom.  During the question-and-answer session, he made it clear he doesn’t have solutions or hope for the future. But he also pointed out that change happens when we hit bottom, when we’re out of explanations, excuses, and denial.

That’s how it’s been in my life. Change doesn’t come when I feel ready; it doesn’t come when all my ducks are in a row. For the most part, it doesn’t come when I have faith in the process or in my goals.  It comes when I need faith, when I need to move from one state to another.  Mr. Trask and I have each taken sabbaticals to write in the last five years.  We’ve found new ways of making money while keeping our Real World Jobs.  We’ve had lots of signs that we can try to do what we love.  We’ve also had some very hard knocks.  But we’ve edged out on the diving board of what we want. At different times, I think it’s time to make the jump.  Last night was one of those nights.  Does that mean I’m going off the grid tomorrow?  No. But it means there’s a little more faith and hope on offer for me today. And that makes today a good day.

Tomorrow: more knitting content, I promise.

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