by Kendra Dobson
[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the “Topical” series, with each piece solely submitted to and chosen by the Final Reader Pietra Dunmore.]
I moved in with my parents temporarily over a year and a half ago in March to save money for grad school since unsuccessfully qualifying for ways to complete it for free. I also desperately needed to slow down and take care of myself. A lifestyle of working five jobs at once, sometimes three of them in one day, and working through weekends for nearly ten years had caught up to me. I needed a break. A basic 9 to 5 with health insurance and two days off in a row was my new path at 32 years young; one of those they call a “full-time job” to replace the part-times that barely covered my expenses, but satisfied nearly every dream I had growing up.
I worked at Austin City Limits, a historic TV show – the longest running music TV show in the world. Every night I got to witness stellar talent from across genres, not only for free, but I was paid to be there. I met friends who restored my faith in humanity. Maybe it’s something about working at a music venue, but I can’t think of a work environment more friendly – like family, than that of ACL. I got a chance to learn new skills as an event technician for hotels where I installed audio visual equipment for conferences, conventions, and corporate gatherings. Eventually I became a camera operator for Austin Music Live – my first camera credit for TV. All of those dream jobs were actually the day jobs that paid my bills while I mused in the world of speculative fiction that I wrote and produced as a short film, stage play, audio drama, comic book, and video game. In my 20s I had manifested all that I wanted to do and all that I wanted to be surrounded by, but I was also aware that this manifestation had an expiration date. When I felt my body break and groan for more self-care than this current situation would allow, I knew the expiration date was soon approaching. I needed more stability that would allow my body to work less – a way for abundance to grow without the horsepower of youth that propelled me thus far. I needed sleep, a more predictable schedule, less heavy lifting, and company. I mean, I still stand by my assessment that a roommate adds stress, but the last year before I decided to move, I was feeling so alone. The out-of-control politics and microaggressions from strangers didn’t help quiet the mind in a lonely apartment. I moved home to Delaware for the break, for my health, and for the company. And I told myself that hiding away from the dream life I manifested would all make sense and balance out if I spent this time saving and putting what I earned into checking off another major goal.
Moving home gave me exactly what I thought it would. It was the break I needed for my health, but also a return to the quicksand I had escaped after leaving the area in the first place. Mentally, I prepared for a return to racially segregated social behaviors and norms and other glass ceilings I had broken and risen above long ago. And to my disappointment the preparation was necessary. I returned to coworkers gossiping about my socioeconomic class, white people saying I “act white,” projections, and racist assumptions. Falling back into a boring pattern of stability with all the predictability of good old American racism was a hard transition from five years of living in a progressive city that called itself the live music capital of the world. However, the weekends, paid vacation, health insurance, and bonuses packaged in with the undesirable baggage made the deal agreeable. I could relax at home and spend time with my family.
I’d worked in the corporate world for 7 months and by late February, 2020 I had already written my 2nd letter to HR about the toxic work environment. I had a vacation planned from March 12th to 19th and they were planning to make some changes to the office set up, so I imagined that when I returned from vacation the situation might be slightly improved. I left for Austin, Texas on March 12th thinking this pandemic might last a few weeks and clear up. I was disappointed, but mostly concerned for Austin’s economy when SXSW cancelled. When I returned home, the office had been working from home for a week.
It blows my mind when I think about my decade of work experience as an event manager, house manager, event technology specialist, usher, tour guide, box office, crowd control… I worked events for the past ten years and now all events were cancelled. Yet, I was employed in this random office job and able to continue to work and pay for school because a year earlier I took a leap of faith for my physical and mental health. I’m home with my parents. Spending more time with them in a time when we’re losing people in their age range to the virus. I would have been so worried about them in my apartment in Austin. The lonely apartment I wouldn’t have been able to afford anymore because my livelihood in events would have ended until we had a vaccine. I probably would have had to move home anyway at a time when companies are laying off and furloughing their employees, not hiring.
What perfect timing or universal lineup caused me to take shelter at home a year before the pandemic hit us? I don’t really know what will come next, but I’m not worried about it. Poppy fields might have been planted as an obstacle, but the time out has given me perspective and valuable time with the people I love. Decisions towards self-care might actually come from listening to wise whispers from a Universe pointing you in a direction that feels random until the storm.
Kendra Dobson is a creative writer, producer, and junior UX designer who has authored content across several mediums from staged performances to film to video games. Her goal to design, manage, and conduct research for projects that merge new technology with live entertainment comes from a desire to give audiences the agency to explore the concept of a story through interaction, and connect audiences with honest reflections of their own lived experiences. Her company, 3240 Entertainment LLC, produces such works and provides workshops for children in underserved communities who are interested in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM).
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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Poppy Fields”? You know when you just need to tell someone this AHA! moment that you just experienced, or when you have something happen that is so stunning to you, but every time you tell it the delivery doesn’t give the moment justice? It’s kind of the same phenomena as sharing what you remember from a crazy dream. Writing the final version of Poppy Fields was satisfying for me because I was able to work out everything I had been feeling and thinking about this moment in time, resolving that feeling that I was missing something. Sharing just a few words about my thoughts here and there to friends and family was enough to give my thoughts air. But, those thoughts still kind of floated there waiting for me to ruminate on them later. I was missing something. Writing Poppy Fields was like diving into everything on my mind and devoting time to deliver the message in full, making sense of it as I wrote so to construct the final version that, for myself, felt like the message I had wanted to share.
What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Poppy Fields”?
You know when you just need to tell someone this AHA! moment that you just experienced, or when you have something happen that is so stunning to you, but every time you tell it the delivery doesn’t give the moment justice? It’s kind of the same phenomena as sharing what you remember from a crazy dream. Writing the final version of Poppy Fields was satisfying for me because I was able to work out everything I had been feeling and thinking about this moment in time, resolving that feeling that I was missing something. Sharing just a few words about my thoughts here and there to friends and family was enough to give my thoughts air. But, those thoughts still kind of floated there waiting for me to ruminate on them later. I was missing something. Writing Poppy Fields was like diving into everything on my mind and devoting time to deliver the message in full, making sense of it as I wrote so to construct the final version that, for myself, felt like the message I had wanted to share.
Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.
Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.
Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. The next reading period for standard submissions opens March 15, 2021. Topical Thursdays’ submissions are open year-round. Submit here.
12/31 • Sean Cho A.
01/04 • Linda McMullen
01/07 • Victoria Jean Ella
01/11 • Daniel Murphy
01/14 • Kendra Dobson
01/21 • James Harris
01/25 • Richard Kostelanetz
01/28 • Andrew Love
02/01 • Kristin Burcham