Category Archives: changes

Six months

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(Of ten. Ten months of corporeal colonization. Ah, ah, ahhh. 25 weeks and change, of 38-42.)

This is how we’re doing time these days, when I am tethered to no other artificial calendar or clock. I officially start my fellowship in July; I can bill hourly work right now but have not been taking as much advantage of that option as a wiser person might. I’ve realized that every hour I put in now is an hour I don’t have to think about how to balance writing with caring for an infant. I’ve also realized that these silent hours alone in the house while my husband is at work are, in effect, the last such hours I’m likely to have for a very long time. Which to take fuller advantage of? Conundrum.

When we bought this house, the front yard was bare, the grass having been scorched away by a summer hotter and drier than is right or fair. When I moved down permanently in December, we bought and seeded winter rye. I remember how refreshing the first tiny shoots of grass looked when they sprung up a few days later, how hopeful. The shift into actively building the life and community that will sustain my family in the years to come, after spending the last few years doing my damndest to not put down roots, is.. a lot like that. Tenuous, and vulnerable, and not yet anything resembling lush- but a sign of what’s possible, what this could turn into if we treat it right.

So, at this moment, things are quietly pleasant. There is an underlying hum of stress around renegotiating my relationship to my work; sometimes I engage it, sometimes I block it out. Mostly, I work happily on settling into a life I’d like to inhabit much more fully than the recent past has allowed me to. And from the ‘sweet spot’ of the late second trimester, where I am no longer sick all the time and not yet big enough to be in a state of constant discomfort, I am genuinely surprised by the strength of my desire to have my girl here with me. In earlier pregnancy it was all far away enough to seem almost hypothetical, but the more she grows and makes herself known the more anxious I am for the day when I can bring her out and meet her. Who will this person be?

 

 

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And now for something completely different

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Exactly two weeks from today, if all goes as planned, I should be pulling a 16′ moving truck away from the house where I’ve lived for the last two and a half years and making the two-day trip down south to begin to inhabit my other life full time. ‘Other’ is about as good as I can do here–it’s tempting to call it my ‘real’ life, but that gives short shrift to what I’ve been doing up here. Life in both places has been pretty equally real, personal, professional, and incomplete.

I’m usually pretty (very) anti-Disney, but when I think of how anemic and circumscribed my life has been in the past couple of years, this is the image that comes to mind.  Remember those sad little mermaid souls? Yeah, that.* There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I was a much happier, more at-ease person, with a much more robust life and sense of self. And while I recognize that the hollowing out of lives and souls is one of the things grad school does best, I’m just fundamentally not okay with it.

So now I have the opportunity to make a change, and I hope I’m up for the challenge. I know I’m supposed to be excited, and in some ways I am, but right now I’m more freaked out. I’m worried about starting over again in a place where my husband is the only person I know, especially since the plan is for me to be working from home for the next year and a half (!?), which means no meeting people through work. I work from home a lot here, but I’ve always had regular meetings and other obligations, and the option of going into the office if I’m feeling stir-crazy. The mental health implications of being home all the time scare me**. I’m worried about what my reaction to the upheaval of the move away from my university community is going to be, and how it will interact with (i.e., make worse) the transition into permanent co-habitation. In the end I know it will be different, and I’m sure I can make it better than these years have been, but man, does it suck to know that there are gonna be some bumps in the road before we get there.

(None of this is at all, let alone completely, different. Yet. Oops.)

*Yes, this would make me my own Ursula.
**The most sensible thing would be to go out and get a job, but for the next 6 months I’ll be in the odd position of being away, but not unattached. Next semester I’ve got an ongoing research assistantship, two conferences, and two trips back to the university (one lasting several weeks). Following that I could indeed work, assuming I do not get/accept a diss writing fellowship that would disallow outside employment. My own Ursula, indeed.

Assessment

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With all the things I’m not getting done this summer, there is something that I have been doing. I found a post that, had it not been written over a year ago, I’d swear had been written by someone reading my mind:

…being outside of the time pressures of the typical semester can give you a much better sense of how you feel about things.

Take your research, for instance. Are you excited by it? Bored by it? Avoiding it? Are you getting things done, noodling around without making much progress, or putting it off[…]?

When you think about academia right now, how do you feel? Affection? Anger? Indifference? Excitement? Energy?

If you take the time to check in with yourself now, when you’ve had some time to decompress, you’ll get some really important clues — clues about what actually motivates and energizes you, clues about what drains you, clues about what you enjoy and what you merely tolerate. Figuring those things out will get you one step closer to figuring out how to adjust your life to maximize your own happiness.

(Read the whole post here. Julie is generally awesome and wise, so sit, stay awhile, poke around in the archives).

Yesterday I told a friend and coworker that I was back in Big Decision-making mode, this time from a calmer, more balanced place. His immediate response was “Yeah, but that’s just because you’re far away right now and you see an out.” I didn’t engage that idea in the moment, but later in the evening, it struck me just how odd of a statement it was.

Almost seven years ago, my then-stepmother and I took a girls-only trip to Puerto Rico. Within 48 hours of landing, she’d decided to divorce my father.

I moved to PR shortly after that, and lived there until starting my current program. Since leaving I’ve gone back 2-3 times a year. At no point on any of those trips has it crossed my mind to divorce my husband. (Not yet, anyway.)

The difference is that she already wanted and needed to get out of that relationship, but was unable to find the necessary headspace or resolve within her everyday context. The ‘out’ didn’t just rise up and convince her to make a move. She got closer to it by getting farther away from what was blocking her path.

It makes me wonder what would happen if we all got a little space once in a while.

(Aaaand now I understand why most people are allowed so few vacation days.)