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.