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The ranch, we are still at it.

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So a year has gone by.

And what a year it was. 

My child is now just shy of 16 months old. I can say, without hesitation, that the second year has thus far been immensely more enjoyable than the first. Don’t get me wrong; R. was an adorable infant, but the first year is intense. Need on top of need wrapped in need, with very little positive feedback to tide you over. They don’t call it being in the trenches for nothing. Now, the need is still there, but she is a tiny bit more independent, a tiny bit more curious, a tiny bit more observant all the time. Her personality is blooming and it is glorious. She’s so funny. And affectionate- oh, the kisses and cuddles I get from este pequeño ser, and oh, the kisses and cuddles I send right back her way. There is nothing better. 

I’m a Ph.D. now. It feels like one of those movies where, in its final moments, it speeds up and speeds up and speeds up and you know what’s coming but when it suddenly cuts out and ends with a solid black screen you’re still surprised. I’m not quite sure how I got from ambivalent ABD to done. I know it had a lot to do with a couple of timely fellowships that allowed me to focus on writing without having to attend to other duties to pay the bills. It also had a lot to do with the very thing I worried would set me back: having a baby around the house. 

Before R. was born, I was genuinely unsure of the path I wanted to take with respect to work and motherhood. I thought that it was very possible that I’d want to stay home full-time. As it turns out, I am nowhere near hardcore enough to weather that intensity day in and day out without some kind of break. Writing a dissertation, which is another intense experience but one that requires a totally different kind of energy, turned out to be the perfect break from childcare, and vice versa. Being able to leave my daughter with a trusted sitter and spend a few hours playing with the day’s writing project was such a relief after spending the rest of a given 24-hour period with a little person either attached to me in some way or begging to be. Likewise, closing my computer to go snuggle and nurse and play with my favorite person in the world was a welcome break from the isolating and tedious process that is writing the dissertation. 

My marriage was put through the wringer this year. Finishing a doctoral program and becoming a parent are experiences that, on their own, can rock anybody’s world; combining them left me with little time or energy to take care of myself, much less my adult husband. It got pretty rough there for a while, with neither of us feeling cared for or inspired to care for the other. The dawning of the second year of R.’s life, and now my recent defense, have taken some of the pressure off and we’re in a better place now than we were even a few weeks ago. And somehow, on the other side, I feel like that much more of a grownup. I think it’s related to being taken off autopilot. The great realization that emerges from that period is that it’s no longer okay to coast, to just let things happen. It’s time to Take Care of Business. 

So it is with that orientation that I am approaching my professional life at this point. I have a renewed energy and a newfound seriousness about it that still feels foreign to me, but is welcome. I am still apprehensive about full-time work, but I am more open to an academic job now than I have been since before entering grad school in large part because of the combination of challenging, meaningful work and some degree of flexibility. I know now beyond any reasonable doubt that I’m not meant to be fully at home. Because I have been around with a baby and a very open schedule, I have socialized much more in the last six months than has ever been normal for me. I’ve met a lot of very nice people, but none of them have been quite my people, and the experience has given me some insight into the contexts I probably need to be in if I’m really trying to set myself up for personal, as well as professional, success. I’m in a postdoc that involves a lot of collaboration with people I know, respect, and just enjoy like crazy, and that’s been exhilarating.

The weather in Dallas has been great this week: mid-60s and even on up to 70. We’ve taken a lot of long walks. The sun has already made quite a bit of progress back toward its summer home, and feeling the shift in seasons, feeling the spring light, is as invigorating as it has always been. What happens from here remains to be seen, but from where I sit right at this moment things are feeling pretty good.  

Welcome, 2014. 

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food fight

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Q: so yeah, you have your oblivious Midwestern griddle cakes.
me: and you enjoy your curried tofu cubes.
Q: i will eat the granola of Enlightenment
me: actually that’s not half bad.
Q: and we shall see whose colon is cleanest on the day of judgment
me: although i bought kashi once and it tasted like dog food after it’s come out of the dog’s butt.
Q: Kashi…
Q: no.
me: no kidding.
Q: it tastes like COLD TURDS OUT OF A DEAD DOG’S ASS.
me: YES
Q: it’s unrefined
me: but people keep talking about it in a positive light
Q: yeah
me: and i don’t understaaaaaand
Q: it’s insanely good for you
Q: but i mean
Q: it’s not refined
Q: so it’s like running through a wheat field with a fork and a hose full of milk
Q: i think they just flick the aphids off and shove the shit into a box
me: oh, god
me: lmao

the lessons

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here is what i think. i think that i need to start making a book now, because if i ever have a child there are many things i want him or her to know.

i want my child to see pictures of many, many different kinds of bodies. i want my child to know that tummies and hips, breasts and bottoms, penises and vaginas come in all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors- because above all, i want my child to know that they are normal. i need for him or her to know that normal isn’t always what people say it is, or what they show on television. the security that comes with knowing and being comfortable with this truth is priceless. i wasn’t raised with this information; i’m thankful that i realized it, or maybe achieved it, on my own. i see people lashing out at themselves and at others because they are made to feel bad about their bodies, and i want to do everything in my power to let my child know that it’s okay to look the way they do. if my child inherits the tendencies towards fluffiness that some members of my family exhibit when leading sedentary lifestyles, (s)he needs to understand that all the effort put in to counteract that trait, to build a strong and healthy body, will be worthless if the development of self is not attended to with comparable or even increased diligence. a beautiful shell is a shell nonetheless.

i want my child to know that there’s not always just one answer. i want my child to know that hurting other people because you are hurting is not the way to solve problems. that human interaction should not be considered a game. i want my child to know that if kids in elementary/middle/high school don’t like them, it’s not the end of the world because life begins anew once you escape that incestuous microcosm. i want my child to know that sometimes it’s not you- but sometimes it is. i want my child to learn to live in the manner that makes him or her proud, and that that is not always the manner that pleases everybody else. another one: ethics aren’t just for when somebody’s looking; in fact, they become almost more important when nobody is.

there are so, so many things that i have had to learn, and these things turn into lessons that i have the responsibility to teach. i don’t know if i could do it. i don’t know if i will try.

what i do know is that, for now, i am my child.