Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

Living in the margins

I'm so, so bad at hanging out with people. Even with people I like, I'm just awful at it. Not at the actual hanging out part—that part usually goes just fine, I'm just unbelievably bad at getting to that point. I don't like to schedule social things, because at some point before they occur, I'm going to want to cancel them, and I probably will. And if that thing gets rescheduled, well, I'll probably attempt to cancel that, too. I've met all sorts of writers here in Portland who I like quite a lot, and any time I find myself on the verge of spending time with any of them, I write the email, or send the text: I totally can't make it, can we reschedule? 

I have all sorts of theories for why I do this. I have too many things to do, for one; I'm trying to maintain a balancing act of being a good husband and father, being a good member of the user experience team at my job, and being a not-terrible writer of books that mostly hit their deadlines. For another, I am restless during social things, my mind locked on all the things I'm not doing while I'm busy being sociable. And I'm just not sociable, really—at any sort of social event, I'm the guy who finds a corner and hangs out in it, waiting for the appropriate amount of time to pass so that I can leave, and go back to doing the things I'm not doing because I'm at the event. 

I'm good one-on-one, mostly, and usually only with friends who aren't put off by my unreliability, who consider that not a bug but a feature. A friend of mine from California recently moved to Oregon, after years of my harping at him to do so; now that he's here, we've met up for drinks or date nights with our wives probably about six times. And we've both bailed on about as many other opportunities to meet up. 

Some of this, of course, is just the way I'm wired. I'm a middle-of-the-road introvert, capable of speaking in public or charming strangers now and then (does it ever tire me out, though). I'm not particularly socially awkward; I'm just socially I-don't-wanna. I genuinely like my own company, and it's almost always easier and preferable to anyone else's, except for my family's.

But some of it's that I'm a dad, and a husband, and a designer, and a writer, and after all of that, my first priority is sleep or crashing like a corpse onto the sofa for The Americans (if I have even a shred of energy) or The Office (when I'm braindead as well as body-dead), and quietly lamenting all the fun things I'd like to be doing that I just never have the time or energy for. I'd like to really commit to learning to watercolor, but when? When?

It's not that I don't want to hang out—it's that I never know when I'll actually want or need to hang out (because sometimes I do need it, like anyone else—it's just that those occasions are ridiculously rare), and that never lines up with when I'm capable of hanging out, so...I just don't really hang out. If you're the sort of person who doesn't take that personally, then you're probably the sort of person I could cancel let's grab drinks with seven times, and you wouldn't shoot me down for that eighth attempt, which is when it might actually happen. 

But find me online? I have all the energy in the world for that sort of thing. I'll answer every email, chat with you via Instagram comments, whatever. That part I'm totally good at. Those are the margins I'm comfortable living in. For now, I'm not sure I have the energy to have it any other way.

The single-tasker

This place used to be mine