You know those experiences that divide your life into before and after? Yeah. That’s what the last two weeks were like for me. It was so strange to come back feeling so changed only to find that the Earth turned at it’s slow pace and no one else in my life changed with me while I was gone.
I feel like my eyes have been peeled open, my heart has been set free, my soul has been lit like the sun.
Yeah, maybe. But I can’t help it. Here are some things I learned while I was gone:
1. There are ideas floating around, and caught up by amazingly bright and wonderful people, that I have never even conceived of. Being surrounded by conversations I was a part of or even just overheard that were so stunningly smart and stimulating was one of the best experiences of my life.
2. Everything I saw in Vermont was almost creepily cute. (No offense Vermonters, I loved your state!) Each little house was a sweet little Victorian with gingerbread. I expected Little Red Riding Hood or maybe some fairies to come skipping out of the woods at any moment. Every coffee shop, every book store, the food co-op, even the hardware store beckoned with it’s adorableness.
3. I have heard my whole life that the West has big skies. I never knew what it meant until now. In Vermont, and in NYC for that matter, you can only see the sky just over your head. There is no horizon, thanks to huge pine trees and huger skyscrapers. When I got home, I looked up and breathed deep of dry desert air, and decided I really like seeing the sky.
4. I am capable of so much more than I realized a couple of weeks ago. During my residency I designed a six month semester for my self, studying character development in my own writing, character in literature, and how women respond to stress by bonding (especially how modern women have used writing, i.e. blogs, to bond during this economic crisis.) My adviser said I’d designed a graduate-level study plan. I’ll carry that with me for a long time. (Maybe forever.)
5. I am also capable of figuring out how to take the New York Subway system from Pen Station to the Metropolitan Museum (the C train to the Museum of Natural History and walk across Central Park) and from the Met to Brooklyn. That one took some doing, because I had to figure out two transfers. (The 4 Train, then the F train, then the G train.) I was scared. I spent the last three or four months expecting to take cabs all over, because the subway scared me so much. But I did it. I did it.
6. I am ALSO capable of spending two nights in a hostel bunkbed, sharing a room with five very young European and Asian men. Yeah. I did that, too. (I even climbed up to the top bunk my first night, with my ass inches from a window on my way up, with 8th avenue three stories below.)
7. In Vermont, when you order a Diet Pepsi in a restaurant, they bring you a tiny glassful (about a third of a 12 ounce can.) When you ask for a little more, they fill that little class 1/2 way. In New York, they bring you a slightly larger glass, charge you $2.50, and then $2.50 more when they refill it. In Nevada (and in Florida when I was there, too, for what it’s worth) when you order a Diet Pepsi, they bring you a decent sized glass for $1.50 and then refill it without being asked and without charge until you leave your table.
8. I had the best dorm room and the best roommate at the Spring 2010 Goddard residency. My room was out a door and across a beautiful courtyard from the main hall that held the computer lab, the dining room, and most of the workshops. The room was tucked under the stairs and was dubbed Harry Potter’s Dorm Room on the first day. My roommate was a lovely, lovely woman named Moona who brought her own kimchi (kimchee? Some super stinky sauerkraut stuff) and organic raw whole milk plain yogurt to every meal and became my instant and I just know life-long bosom buddy (yes, just like Anne of Green Gables.) The best part is we were able to request a repeat next semester. That means I’m not lugging my 12-pound laptop across the country by plane, train, and taxi cab in October.
9. I had absolutely no idea that there was anyone alive who wanted other people to ask them their ‘preferred pronoun.’ Or that there is a gender-neutral pronoun (ze) that many prefer. I had no idea that I would be brave enough to ask such a question. But I was. And I did. And I learned.
10. I no longer have any doubts about dropping the whole social-worker-or-teacher debate. I may choose to do either. Hell. I’m a social worker now, and I’ve been a teacher, all without a degree in either. I am a writer. I have proven to myself that I’m capable to doing interesting and important work without spending years and thousands of dollars on a degree that I don’t want. I don’t need a Plan B anymore, but it wasn’t easy to let go of it. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I feel free.
11. When I was there, in Vermont at school and in New York on a mini-vacation, my weight was the furthest thing on my mind. My mind was upmost on my mind. My words. My thoughts. The amazing thoughts of other people. Other people’s words. Joining a debate on how to encourage the school to mark which food is gluten-free after a small group of us made ourselves sick on some vegetable stew. Getting to know a student who was the first person ever to give me concrete proof that the way I see my son and his future aren’t wishful thinking. Discussing the merits of popular fiction with a horror writer. Dancing with my friends at the Goddard prom. Walking the wooded path to the library. Listening to student and faculty readings. All of those things mattered. The size of my ass? Not even a tiny bit. Honestly, not even for a fraction of a second. (I’ll write more about this later. But it honestly feels like an inner revolution.)
12. I love to travel and learn and grow and change. But I love to come home. There is nothing in this whole world like my own bed and pillows and shower. And my own Ruby to snuggle with before we sleep, my own husband to crawl into bed with me in the morning when he gets home from work, and those big skies overhead when I go out into my world every day.
I’m home now. And jumped straight into work. But I’m done for the week tomorrow at lunch time, and then I’m off to the races with studying for my first ‘packet’ (more later) due on May 11. It involves reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s and an essay on the Tend and Befriend strategy of stress management. Fun, huh? I can’t wait!