I think I referenced this somewhere else on my site, but I’m currently (as of March 10, 2021, anyway) the Director of Studies for the English Program at Tianjin University of Science and Technology. I like this job. Most of the students are fun and I enjoy getting to know them. My coworkers are really cool (a few have even been beta readers, which is incredible) and we always have a good time when we go out together. But the thing I like best about this job is the schedule. I have every morning free except for Friday and that allows me to write every day. In Stephen King’s On Writing he mentions that once he begins a story, he writes every day until it’s completed. I’ve emulated that for the last two years and found that, once I make the first keystroke, it takes me about 4-5 weeks to write a novel. I wrote four in 2020 and have already written one in 2021 (and it was my longest draft to date at 161,000 words). I’m dedicated to the craft and it’s honestly all but taken over my life.
I have friends, of course, and I see them regularly. Also, my nights are spent with Pengyun (pronounced “Pung Yoon”). She and I normally have dinner before going for a walk or a jog where we talk and joke around. It’s great for decompression. After that we return home where continue whichever show we’re going through (we recently started HBO’s “The Wire” and are LOVING it). It’s a simple life and one far more fulfilling than I’d have ever imagined. As Rita Mae Brown once said: “Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” She was right, but I also understand I’ve been afforded an incredibly rare opportunity. I found my person to love and I live in a situation where I have the time to do that special something that I actually want to do that leads me to a natural anticipation of the future. It’s a trifecta of fortune and I fell into it almost by accident.
Of those three points of happiness—love, action, and anticipation—far and away the rarest is love. Pengyun is the best part of my life and the greatest source of my joy. She has confidence in my writing that is unshakable. She truly believes I’m going to be successful as an author and that keeps my confidence high and my pressure low. Every day she talks to me about my writing. She asks me questions, she gives me suggestions, and she tells me when she thinks something doesn’t make sense. She’s the perfect partner in this uphill climb and without her I’m not sure if I’d be able to continue. There is so much rejection at this stage of my career. Rejections from agents, publishers, magazines… but I never get overwhelmed by it. It sucks, but Pengyun is there. I could write for eighty years and never sell another story and I’d still be able to live a happy life.
Because of Pengyun.
The title of this blog post is “The Life of a Writer” but it just as easily could be called “Because of Pengyun”, because with her, I need nothing and without her, I have nothing. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t. When we met (I’ll do a blog post sometime and go deeper into our story) I was a happy person. I’ve always loved life and I’ve always been hungry for adventure. But meeting her was like being a child at a theme park for the first time. My eyes were opened to something so unreservedly fun and exciting that I could barely take it. When we started dating, we actually did so with the idea we’d just be together for a couple months. I was leaving China to go back to America with no intention of returning quickly. It was bittersweet but we knew what it was from the start, so we both accepted it. Only… when I got back to America, we didn’t stop talking. We talked every day through Wechat. We’d call and message and send each other pictures and, while not even dating, decided we wanted to be together and that we should get married. We’d only known each other like 5 months at the time, but we knew. We knew there was something special between us. So we started making plans to get married.
Of the first nine months of knowing each other, three were spent together and six were apart. But when we reunited in February of 2018 everything was perfect. I remember being on the plane headed back to China and worrying if things would be weird after having spent twice as much time away from each other as we had with each other. I wasn’t sure if living together would be awkward or if there were some habits one of us would have that the other just couldn’t accept. But when I got off the plane and got my bag and went to the “arrivals” area… there she was: smiling and eyes already red. We hugged and kissed and there was no awkwardness. We drove to what would become our home and there was no weirdness. We arrived and walked through our subdivision and took the elevator up to the fourteenth floor and once inside, everything was right. I loved everything in that moment. From our small apartment that was clean and welcoming, to the woman that I’d marry in three short months. I loved everything. And three years later, I still love everything. I love our little home, I love my in-laws, I love my friends, and, deepest of all, I love my Pengyun.
I don’t use the word “wife” all that often in my daily life. I don’t know why but I just always assume people will know who I’m referring to when I say “Pengyun”. I’ve tried to work it more into my vocabulary but I think I just struggle to view her as a wife. She is so much more. When I hear the words “wife” or “spouse” I can occasionally feel a negative connotation. Maybe it’s because of where I was raised or the experiences I’ve had. But when I say or hear the word “Pengyun” I never have a negative feeling. I just get happy. And, like I said a moment ago, “wife” is a bit of a misnomer anyway. Pengyun is too larger-than-life to be contained by one word. That’s why I feature her so prominently on this website. I couldn’t do this without her. She’s my partner, my best friend, my biggest fan, my biggest critic, and if I did anything other than constantly celebrate that, I’d feel like it was a betrayal of sorts. She doesn’t even care about credit, either. I could leave her completely off this site and she’d be fine with it. She’d tell me that, so long as I was doing what was best for my career, that she’d support it. And I suppose that’s one of the many reason I’m unable to leave her off. She’s as committed to my career as I am. And I’ll never be able to repay her for it. Though, even as I write these last sentences I’m well-aware she’s such a big piece of this site because I just simply enjoy talking about her. I love seeing her pictures on so many of the pages, and I love seeing her name everywhere. I just love her. And, to (poorly) tie this conclusion to the title and theme of this post, she’s what makes this writer’s life worthwhile.