Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Life is Busy. Life is Good.

Minimum day today. I'm home before my kids get out of school. I just finished an entire mug of coffee as I sat on my couch, petting my cat's fat belly with my bare foot. I can't remember the last time I got to sit at home by the open window and do nothing.

It's been a busy time. I've been trying to get ready (read: finished) so I can go on a big trip. And so I can end the school year. I try really hard not to tell myself I'll be happy when something is done--I know how that kind of thinking only makes me feel tired and stressed my daily life--but in this case I know I'll be happier on this trip if I finish this school year well and finish all my review books first. I've put my little philosophy on hold.

Exactly one week from this Saturday, I get on a plane by myself and fly to England, then Ireland. Boom. Just me and my new passport. Of course, I'm meeting family there, but I think it's fitting that I get on that plane by myself. Somehow it means more. It's proof to myself that I can make things happen, even on my own. That I don't need someone else to give me permission. That things like going to Europe (or, I could alternately say: getting an MFA, leaving this small town for school, meeting an entirely new group of people, getting my reviews published by respectable publications, writing the stories I want to write) are not just for other people, they're for me if I want them.

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My company today, plus the things I'm too tired to fold, clean up, and put away.
I think when I was about 28 or 29, with two little teeny kids at home and a mostly failing marriage, I thought that I knew what the rest of my life was going to look like. I was scared because I wasn't happy with it, and I saw that as a fault in myself. I'd committed to the picture of myself I had when I was 19. I'd grown more and more dissatisfied with the non-kid aspects of teaching in a public school, yet I felt like I was going to be there until I was 60, complaining about the same things every day and hardening myself to the world just so I could get up in the morning. I just didn't believe that I had the capability for change, or that opportunity would be there for me if I went looking beyond the borders of my small town. I'm happy to have been surprised so much by life these past few years. To see that working hard and really putting effort--hours--toward new endeavors pays off, and that I'm not stuck. To realize that 19 year old me wasn't a bad person--I'm thankful for the decisions I made then--but that doesn't mean I have to stop at what I wanted in 1999.

Some days I have a hard time keeping up with everything I've committed myself to doing. Since graduation in December, I've read and reviewed 11 books. 11 in 5 months. (Three of the reviews are still to be published.) I'm trying hard to build publication credits and relationships with editors and publications. I've been reading and writing like a madwoman. And pitching all the time so this review train doesn't stop. Sometimes I don't want to read. Or I start reading and it takes me a while to get into the book. Or I read then book and then I'm not sure what I want to say about it. But I've never felt so sure I was on the right path. I love this work. And I still can't believe people want me to read books and then write what I think about them. I've found this niche and I'm as pleased by it as I am surprised.

In a roundabout way, this new writing focus has given me positive perspective on teaching. When I started my MFA I thought I'd want to quit teaching and move on. I don't. But I have much better perspective about what it means to me. About not wanting it to be my whole life or even my whole day. It's too easy to get hopelessly frustrated by teaching, and it doesn't look like things are going to improve. And again, I'm not talking kids or the nitty gritty of what I get to do in my own classroom, but all of the B.S. just outside, and in the political arena I want nothing to do with. So what all this reviewing and writing fiction have shown me is that this other life I have not only flourishes if I put my effort into it (I know, duh), but that having that rich life beyond the security fence around my school means I'm better when I'm in the classroom. Mostly because I'm able to let it go.

Next year I'm letting even more of it go and teaching part-time so I can be home in the afternoons as Addie starts junior high. I'm reducing my contract so I can spend more time with family, a decision I know will also lift a bit of the guilt I feel when I have to leave them to go write. I'm sure I'm always going to have to find moments in Starbucks or my car to get work done, but knowing I get to give more of my presence and attention to the monkeys at home means I feel more peace about my time in the classroom, as well as the time I'll spend reviewing and writing stories next year.

Reviewing is teaching me a kind of happiness in the midst of unfinished business. If I'm going to do this, and do it well, I have to live with the idea that there's always another book to read, another review to write. There's no finishing--or at least, I don't want there to be. But if I'm going to live with that as a thing in my life, I have to learn when it's okay to have fun, too. I can't ruin my joy with guilt about what I should be doing.

There is no should be, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. oh man...am I jealous of that part time thing.....oof. mad, mad oof. But I want so much for all of us to carve out that life unlived, the very same one that so many of us didn't feel worthy of. Until we did. Best to you in Europe. I'll miss you like a crazy person, I will. Because, well. I'm crazy. <3, OSM

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