Posted by: mick | August 22, 2010

Homemade Happiness

Warning: This is a rather reflective, navel-gazing post, so feel free to skip it if you’re here for knitting.  There will be more next post, I promise!

Though I’ve made long distance moves before, in more turbulent times in my life, the move this summer has been particularly hard for me.  We left a place we loved and people we adored for the great unknown, and maybe that’s why it was so difficult.  I was very much ready to leave DC and Boston, and felt I was leaving some bad experiences behind me, but this time I was leaving friends who’d come to feel like family and a nurturing academic and professional environment.  Kalamazoo had really become home more than any other place I’d lived, and I wasn’t anywhere near ready to leave.

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been trying to adjust but coming up short.  I wasn’t working all summer, and was waiting to hear back from a program regarding my admission status.  I felt like I was on hold, waiting to really start my life as an adult.  I did end up getting into said program but, for reasons I won’t really get into here, I’ve decided not to attend.  This was another large setback for me, mainly because I had such high hopes for this new direction in my life.  I’ve found myself confused, making big decisions, letting go (at least for now) of a dream, and missing my friends terribly.  I’ve been trying to meet people here, but have run into some resistance, and forgot how lonely it could be when you don’t have a community around you that shares your beliefs and ideals.  Times, they have been hard, and I’ve been feeling sad and nostalgic much more than I’ve felt hopeful and excited about our future.  Perhaps what’s so hard is that, while all of my previous moves were for school and thus temporary, this may be rather permanent: J has a tenure-track job (yay!) and, since they’re rather hard to come by in today’s job and academic climate, we’ll more than likely be putting down roots in an area that, as of yet, has felt less than welcoming.

In my stocking last Christmas, my mom wrapped a tiny, stuffed wall-hanging that says “Happiness is Homemade,” and I’ve got it hanging on our bathroom door.  I walk by that little placard every day, and often think nothing of it, other than the fact that it’s cute and reflects my crafty pursuits with its handstitching and button adornment.  Lately, though, I’ve found myself thinking about its other meaning, and realizing just how wise the saying is.  We are all, I’ve come to understand, in charge of making our own happiness.

I’ve often felt rather out of control in life: I always trust that there’s some sort of grand plan, that there’s one thing out there I’m meant to do, and that I’ll only be happy if that’s my path.  I’ve recently come to realize just how silly that idea is.  For my entire life, I’ve wondered if I’m “meant to” be an academic, an English professor, or a high school teacher (and, more recently, a mother), and I’ve put so much pressure on myself to make the “right” decision, never entertaining the idea that I could be happy doing a number of things.  As the lovely Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood says, in what is definitely my favorite movie of all time, “After all, there is something bewitching in the idea of one’s happiness depending entirely upon one person.”  Though she’s talking about relationships, her statement is so applicable to what I’m feeling lately.  Letting go, making small decisions that feel right right now, and working to make my own happiness every day are really the only things I can do in the face of uncertainty, which seems to be the default status of our lives.

So that’s what I’m working on lately: whipping up some homemade happiness, and letting go of my rigid expectations.  I’m not going to be a high school teacher, at least not any time soon, but that does not mean that I can’t be an educator.  I’ve recently secured a part-time position at a school where I feel inspired, where I can really make a difference, and that is all I’ve wanted;  reaching my students is my main priority, and I’ve found an environment where I can do just that.  I’m working at exercising more to feel happier physically, throwing myself into my teaching (about which I’m more excited than I’ve ever been, which is a very good sign), and relying on old friends and my wonderful husband when I feel lonely in our new place.  I can’t control what happens next, and I’m working at being okay with that.  I’m living in the moment so that what comes next will feel less jarring, whatever it happens to be.

So that’s what’s important right now: the constants of loving friends, wherever they live, a supportive husband, and the little joys of day to day life.  Of course, kitty snuggles and woolly yarn are helping, too.



  1. mick — thanks for sharing this. sounds like you’re doing important wrestling with big things, and doing your best to focus on the good stuff while you hope for and build the rest. be good to yourselves — transitions are really hard, and the unknown IS scary. anybody who says otherwise hasn’t taken these risks. and i think kitty love and fibery goodness are definitely good ideas.

  2. Dearest Mick,
    I felt so sad when I read your comments and I had to tell you that we love you very much. I also wanted to let you know that it wasn’t until I was well into my role of being a mom when I met my two most best friends in the world. It has been in the later stages of my 54 years that friendships have been so wonderful. Don’t give up trying. Love you,

  3. Mick
    That was brave, sharing your thoughts and feelings. I know a bit about the loneliness you are experiencing. I lived for a brief time in Central PA and experienced the same chill. It’s NOT you.

  4. You are one tough broad, and I love you more than anything.

    Luckily, you’re also a ton of fun, so it’s only a matter of time before people who appreciate your considerable assets as a friend stumble across you.

    And if they don’t we’ll breed our own batch of friends, and say “Get Bent” to the rest of those jerks.

  5. I’m completely with you on this one Mick. Our move has thrown up a lot of similar issues and there’s been times already when I’ve wondered whether what we’ve left behind was worth the sacrifice.

    Like brittlewords says, you’re an ace person and if you’d moved into my area you wouldn’t see the back of me (does that sound creepy? It’s not meant to..!) Real friendships and ties take time to come along and even longer to develop and this time next year it’ll look completely different to how it does now (will you remind me of this in a couple of weeks when I start my new job?!)

    As for future choices, you just have to do what feels right and as my mum would say, keep your pecker up x x

  6. Sounds like a challenging time! I had a terrible time adjusting to Chicago when we first moved here (I desperately missed living in Madison, and at times I still do). I think moving during the summer is especially hard b/c people’s schedules tend to be so intense!

    Hang in there…

  7. P.S. I’m right there with you on agonizing over the “right” decision when there’s actually a full spectrum of good choices. It’s an ongoing challenge. I thank my lucky stars that I have Paul, my sweet kitties, good friends, and a library full of books.

  8. Dear Mickles:

    I so felt your loneliness here. I know how hard it’s been for you lately. You try so hard all the time and give everything your all, and it just doesn’t seem fair how often you are disappointed. Every day is a new day with new possibilities. Life changes from minute to minute, and often times surprises you with wonderful moments. I know there are tons of wonderful moments and friendships in your future. Smile. You are loved so much.

    Mom 🙂
    Mom XXOO

  9. Mick,

    You are an amazing lady. You’re putting such a brave face on all this, for going through with these things and then posting about it. Your friends love you, your family loves you, and you have kitties & hubby & fiber to help you feel better about what’s going on. The world turns ever as it should: we just need to hold on for the ride and take things as they come – something I need to remind myself of frequently. I’m glad to hear that you’re working through everything and letting some things beyond your control – and that takes a lot of self-control on its own! Good luck with teaching, and enjoy whipping up that homemade happiness – you’ll make a tasty & lovely batch of it. 🙂

    ❤ Sarah

  10. I am so sorry to hear this but so happy to hear that you are taking time to focus on the good. Big changes, especially ones that we aren’t ready for can be so hard. Enjoy teaching and the things that are wonderful and the other stuff will work itself out.

  11. we had our hard move when we went to vancouver. nothing seemed to fall into place.

    i hope things get better very very soon. i’m sorry for all of the upheaval, but here’s to a new routine, some new friends to find, and fulfilling work to do. hang on.

  12. Mick, I’m sorry to hear you’re having a challenging time, but love that you shared your thoughts and feelings about it here. I hope you know that you are not alone–everyone has felt similarly at some time or another, and it’s obvious that tons of people think you’re incredible, which is heartening, even if they don’t live around the corner. Your approach to all of the recent changes has been incredibly flexible and brave, and I want to commend you for that. Time will bring the direction and comraderie you seek, I just know it! Hang in there, and keep your chin up! You’re an inspiration!

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