My last post here was in May of last year. Eight months have gone by since then, and so much has changed in seemingly so little time. I accepted a traditional teaching job at a public high school in a small town which required moving to a new home, in a new town, with a totally new way of life. Farther from friends and family, closer to mountains and vineyards and rural life. More space to move and spread out, longer commute times. New challenges at work, and new stress, yet familiar from past experiences. At times I am homesick for my old life, the easy rhythm I had, the familiarity and comfort of routine carved out over years of repetition. Looking back over my past blog entries made me remember how much I loved my old life, and made me sad. But I also saw in those posts a need to justify what I was doing and how I was living, and and underlying craving for change and adventure. We made the decision to throw everything up in the air and see how it would land together, my husband and I, and we are in this new adventure together and loving the new life we are creating. It is a slow process, and I must be patient with myself as I sometimes resist change and mourn the old. Will I continue to post on this blog and make it into something new, or will I let it remain as a testament to my old life? Perhaps it could become a place to celebrate new discoveries and focus on what I have gained in my new life instead of feeling nostalgia for what I let go of.
Today is Day Three of my Spring Break. Already! I had thought about spending this week in Florida visiting family, but then plane tickets were so expensive, and there was so much to do here. So we decided on a long weekend in wine country followed by a “staycation” for myself while Drew went back to work.
I wish I had taken more pictures on our weekend away, but I was just having too much fun to think about taking lots of pictures! My favorite one of the few pictures I did take was at a winery and organic/biodynamic farm we visited. I never wanted to leave this amazing place with animals, people, and plants living and working together in an amazingly beautiful setting. My favorite part was the chicken run with some of the fattest and happiest-looking chickens I have ever seen. So this is the best picture I took of my big weekend away:
Now this is going to look like a very ordinary picture to many of you, and I confess that I almost felt silly sharing it. “Editor Voice” is saying, really? A picture of chickens — that is what you want to share from your amazing weekend getaway? But yes, this was one of my very favorite moments from the trip, because it summed up for me a vision, a little twinkling and twinge of a dream I have for my future, one day when I get tired of living my current dream of the big city life. That when I am a Real Grown-Up, I will go live on a little farm and have chickens and a garden and a dog and I won’t hear my neighbor’s TV at night while I am writing.
That’s the thing about dreams — when you achieve them, they become reality. Then along with all the things that drew you to your dream, you realize all the things that make it real, and therefore imperfect. San Francisco was my dream, and I achieved it. I have been here almost six years now, and I still have those moments where I look around and think — wow, I actually live here! But then there are also the moments where I wonder if we could be just as happy — who knows, maybe even happier? — somewhere else, maybe living a completely different life. Taking the leap to move here took courage, somewhat careful planning, and faith in our family, friends, and in ourselves. One day in the maybe not-so-distant future, perhaps we will be ready to take another leap and start another adventure. Maybe one that involves chickens!
In the meantime, I will continue to revel in my simple city garden bravely sprouting the occasional vegetable in amongst the weeds despite my haphazard gardening approach. There is an artichoke coming up right now, and some radishes, and maybe eventually some carrots. And there are always lots of happy city birds who are thankful for this little patch of green they call home, or at least a good place to hang out, rest, and hunt bugs for a while.
Last week was a juggling week: confused new students, projects to grade, interviews and applications, not-so-good family phone calls, and a friend’s wedding-planning-freakout were just a few of the metaphorical balls I had in the air. Needless to say, balance…I didn’t have it so much. So I bristled selfishly (albeit silently) at the prospect of having to spend most of a glorious, sunny Saturday doing things indoors I didn’t really want to be doing. I read somewhere once that the #1 determiner of the amount of stress a person feels is the amount of control they have (or perceive having) over how they spend their time. I didn’t perceive myself as having a choice in the Saturday plans, and this left me with a slight twinge of frustration all day. But part of marriage (and life in society in general) is about making compromises, so I spent the morning on the phone looking for a makeup artist for my friend’s wedding, and then we drove down to visit family for the afternoon.
But Sunday…I somewhat ferociously defended my right to determine how and where I would spend my Sunday morning. And so it may surprise you to learn that my Sunday started with some completely elective housecleaning. But when we work together, we get it done so fast! And then everything is so shiny! And I’m not constantly being driven crazy by allergies! And then my Sunday began, and it was a delicious day indeed. It was sunny and warm (and oh how I apologize to those of you who are still facing cold and snow and drudgery). Here it was not quite iced-coffee warm, but it was picnic-in-the-park warm. We stopped by our wonderful local grocery and loaded up on good things and then we staked out our favorite spot under a big tree in the park and were totally, perfectly indulgent for a while. The low-level existential ennui of Saturday was long forgotten in a balmy sunshine-and-rosé-induced haze. Balance was restored to my universe. All thanks to a couple of unplanned and unscheduled hours, free to be filled or not, however we felt right at that moment.
I am 100% aware of what a gift time like this is, and I will continue to guard it jealously. Balance, for me, depends on being completely and utterly selfish with my time and with myself for at least two hours a week. And for that, I do not apologize!
Last week was a whirlwind, mostly because of:
1) Our school enrollment going through the roof;
2) An interview for a possible new job for next year!
Regarding #1, it has really felt like getting hit by a tidal wave for the past couple of weeks, and just today I found out that the numbers justify that feeling: our high school enrollment grew by 67% over the last three months, most of which occurred just in the past 2-3 weeks! The reasons for this huge wave of new students are not totally clear, but it seems that it’s mostly due to the fact that we’re the last online school in the area still accepting new students. My feelings on this issue are mixed, but I will save that musing for another post…
Meanwhile, any remaining energy I’ve had for the past week has been focused on gearing up for an interview for an adjunct position at a local community college! I am both interested and nervous about the idea of moving up to the community college level from high school, but mostly I am excited about the idea of having a traditional classroom again, at least some of the time. I miss the physical classroom — there, I said it! I even miss getting dressed up for work — it has been way too long since I’ve tried on professional clothes and I was starting to forget what they felt like and what I looked like in something other than leggings! So I spent most of my weekend looking for a real interview suit.
Finding a suit is hard, especially for someone who has never worn one! I tried on a $400 suit at Nordstrom’s that was just…no. The salesperson wanted me to wear something he was calling “shapewear.” I got it on as far as over my head and just sort of flailed around with it for a second before tearing it off in disgust. What is the point of a $400 suit if it doesn’t even look good without “shapewear”? Two more frantic fitting-rooms sessions later, I went with a much more reasonable and at least somewhat stylish (I hope) charcoal-grey number from Macy’s.
Of course I realize the interview isn’t all about the outfit, but I did think it was important to project the right image. This is probably the only time in my life when I will actually want to look “older” (besides when I was a pre-teen, of course!) and a suit helped me feel and project the confidence needed for the job. The interview itself went by so fast in comparison to the amount of time I put into preparing for it, and now of course waiting to hear about the decision will feel like forever! In the meantime, I am going to keep applying for opportunities as they come up, and keep focusing on giving my current position my best effort!
There has been a lot of talk lately around the Internet and in the news about finding that ever-elusive thing we call work-life balance. There have been a lot of words spilled about how much we should be working, how hard, and from where. This piece in the NYTimes summed up the dilemma nicely, particularly the dilemma faced by hard-working young women who put off starting a family for starting their career. It was interesting (for me anyway) to hear from a woman who made the choice to put off having children and who later regretted it. Putting the “kid question” aside for the moment though, I just need to sort out some of my own thoughts about this whole issue.
In fact, come to think of it, this idea of “work-life balance” is really what this blog is about. Finding the balance. I left my first full-time teaching position because it had swallowed up my life. I was totally unprepared for the excruciating daily challenges of teaching at an underfunded, underserved urban school. All my wonderful idealism flew out the window (along with some of my books which were actually thrown out the window when I wasn’t watching…”Never turn your back on the ocean,” a wiser, more experienced teacher later told me). I hung in there for three years, mostly out of stubbornness and sheer love for those tough, sweet, funny, infuriating 13-year-olds. But I always felt like Sisyphus pushing that rock up that hill, just to have it come rolling back down. And just when it started to get a little easier, I decided I had to do something different.
Teaching online instead of in-person was meant to be a stopgap while I got my MA, just a way to keep working and paying the bills. And then I finished my MA. And I suddenly had time. Time….free time! Time to do whatever I felt like doing…like making things. Using my grandmother’s sewing machine which my grandfather shipped out across country to me when she passed away, because he figured I would be the most likely to use it. Time to read. Time to write! Write a blog! This blog! And also time to fret about the future, all those possibilities, all the things I “should” be doing with this new-found freedom. I was driving myself crazy with this wonderful, overwhelming freedom!
Clearly, I still haven’t figured this whole thing out yet. In the swirl of possibilities, it is so easy, for me at least, to get carried away and try to do too much all at once. And again, this blog probably reflects that in its somewhat randomness and unthematic, sporadic posts. Sometimes, I need to just stop doing and be. And remember that sometimes, that is enough!
I (was) sitting here waiting for my husband to pick me up to go out to dinner, and I figured I’d squeeze in one little post to sum up this week. Here goes, it was quite a week!
- Our school’s enrollment grew by 30% over the past two weeks. That is HUGE! And I was definitely feeling it in terms of my workload. A big part of the reason for the new-student bump is that, apparently, we are the last online school in the area that is still taking new enrollments. And all too often (although not always). these last-minute enrollments are students from families who are…shall we say…less-than-organized. So I spent a lot of time this week trying to get students up to speed who are already seriously behind academically. This made for a week that was at times frustrating, and at other times more rewarding as I got to feel like I was really “helping.” For what it’s worth, anyway…
- I started a new home decor project, this one a lot more manageable than my epic coffee table endeavor! This one is an adorable little tray to go on top of said coffee table based on this tutorial. I am painting it bright turquoise since I am obsessed with this color right now but don’t have the room (or money!) for another big project right now. I will (hopefully) post the finished project on Monday! Here is a preview of the color:
- And finally, probably the biggest news in my life right now is that I am applying for adjunct faculty positions at a local community college, The application process is a lot of work for something that’s probably a long shot (I will probably be up against people with PhD’s) and I am super scared about the idea of making such a big change. But it is also really exciting! So that is what I am planning on doing tomorrow (before I let myself out to go buy more stuff for my next project [see above]). Enjoy your weekend — I plan to be busy!!
Just one more reason I love where I live!
The Bay Bridge deserves a little love, after all — the Golden Gate is always stealing the show. When we first moved to San Francisco, it was the Bay Bridge that I could see from my balcony window. In the evenings, the setting sun would catch on the windows of houses across the Bay and it would look like the hills were on fire. I would stand out on my little balcony after a long day teaching and think about all the people looking out in my direction admiring the sunset, while I was catching a thousand tiny fireballs gleaming off each window. It only lasted for a moment each evening, and only happened at all on those certain evenings where we weren’t already socked in with fog.
This man-made light show looks pretty cool, and I’ll definitely go check it out. But I bet it has nothing on that view from my old balcony.