A Snatchable Moment of Clarity

It's late, very late, and Sam's asleep. Every once in awhile I hear him mumble something insistent but incoherent. I should be sleeping or grading papers, but instead I've been popping around on blogs, looking at people who have pretty lives, and imagining what I want mine to be. Here is the blog I just found tonight and have been reading for over an hour: Heart of Light. She buys pretty flowers and bakes pretty things and crafts tiny somethings and sells them in an etsy shop. Everything in her life looks bright and scrubbed into beauty.

I want that.

I've learned stuff this year: about myself and about working and academia and students and cooking and marriage and cleaning and eating and sleep and my body and healthcare and unhappiness and cats and meanies. I didn't want to know everything I learned. I didn't want to know I could fail. I didn't want to know that sometimes people won't like me. I didn't really want to know that getting a tenure-track job is not a holy grail; it's a JOB, a j.o.b. like any other, a sort of intense and consuming one that I'm not sure I want.

But now I know all that. And, if I can manage to think about it right, I'm at this beautiful moment right now where anything's possible, where I get to start over and decide who I am, who I will be next. I've really been imagining this all year, ever since I decided I hated this job. And I've dreamed big dreams. For awhile I was really serious about studying the social habits of elephants in Africa. I imagined a little boy who looks like Sam in a papoose on my back, pointing a chubby finger at the saggy gray beasts while I scribbled observations in a field notebook. That's one dream.

And since I've known this was going to happen, I've been applying to big fancy textbook publishing houses downtown to work as an editor. I've imagined taking the train into the city, wearing a sleek gray suit, reading poetry on the train, meandering over to The Commons to eat my lunch in the sunshine. That was a good dream, too.

But tonight, over dinner, Sam made a compelling case against all that--the fancy job downtown--a case that spoke to my heart. He said I'd probably like that sort of thing, probably be good at it, but I would sacrifice everything I actually wanted for it.

It's funny because my impulse is to think of this as a feminist thing and a little piece of me bristled when he was talking, thinking he was trying to keep me home taking care of babies and cooking his dinner--which is funny because it's so not Sam. How do I explain this? I've always seen myself as a girl who manages both a career and a family. But you know what? If I've learned anything over the last year, it's that I don't want that. We don't have babies; I'm not even close to thinking about getting pregnant, but sometimes when I would rush out the door to teach a class, there would be this little part of me that whispered I wouldn't want to rush out if I had a baby at home. And that's not even about all the rhetoric I know from church: a mother's place is in the home. That's about me, some little whisper in the deepest part of me that said there was another way, one better suited to who I am.

I've been trying to figure out what that way is. Now this is getting long, so I'll try to come to my point, but first another small tangent.

I have this friend in my ward who has two small kids and a delightful husband. The whole crew is delightful. And one of the most delightful things about them is that they seem to have cracked the code: they both work part time, do a ton of interesting, meaningful stuff with their spare time, take exquisite care of their children, and do all of this while managing to live in Cambridge, which has an laughably high cost of living. I have absolutely no idea how they do it, but I think it must have to do with some absurdly efficient budgeting. Which is another thing I've figured out this year: as much as, to me, it feels like freedom to drop big bills on a fancy dinner or a pretty haircut, true freedom (and I can't even explain how expansive and true that word is for me in this case) comes from living within ones means: living on very little and spending very wisely. Anyone who knows me knows I'm an absolutely train wreck at that, but I have a feeling I'm about to learn more about it.

Anyway, all this to say that I'm trying to imagine what my new life should look like, and I think tonight, looking through that blog, some ideas about it solidified. Dear universe, this is what I want my life to be, in no particular order:

1. I want to teach, but I want to teach in a low-pressure situation. I want to sit with students one-on-one or in very small groups and ask them what they think and help them think and write more clearly. (Maybe this means a couple of tutoring jobs?)
2. I want to write. Really, really write. Aggressively. With my whole heart.
3. I want to exercise. I want my body to be strong and lean and healthy. I want that feeling back that I used to get from running. That running feeling. I can't explain it.
4. I want to learn how to make meals at home with relative ease and joy.
5. I don't want to agonize about what I eat and how I feel so much.
6. I want a sweet sweet generous relationship with my husband and my family and with friends.
7. I want to make something with my hands that people will love. (Craft, visual art, collage, photography?)
8. I want to cultivate more faith, to pray more, to find more time for the study of spiritual things and more participation in my religious community.
8. I want to travel, to have a clean house, to wear clothes that define me and make me happy, to have flowers on my kitchen table more often, to spend more time petting my perfect cats.
9. I want to read good books, look at good art, watch good movies, see good plays, hear good music and say nice things.

Is that too much to ask? Is that impossible? I don't know. I know it would have been impossible at this current job, and I would have held onto that job forever if they would have let me, hating it and all. I know it's more possible in Massachusetts, where healthcare is available for (nearly) everyone and there's a market for education-related work. I know it's more possible with Sam, who feels more like my partner all the time, who is patient with me and clear about what our priorities should be, and so very much my best friend.

Okay, time to join him and sleep. May the sound of our combined snoring make an artful chorus. Tomorrow I will officially tell my job I'm hitting the road, and I will commence building this new life. Or at least try.


Jamie said…
I really like this post. I wish there was a "like" button, because I don't know what to say in response. YOU are one of my favorite bloggers, even if you don't make things for an etsy shop.

This post makes me want to make my own list. [Clicks like button.]
eden said…
now that you're private i don't see when your blog is updated (through the changed title shown on my blog). sometimes i forget that i need to actually go to your blog to see when it's updated.

so i get a little bit behind sometimes.

anyway - i really like this post. for numerous reasons. one being - i can relate.

ps - i do think that observing elephants in africa would be awesome.
Veganmothering said…
Deja, you make me want to cry. Please continue writing. You're being my voice, because so much of what you say I can resonate.

In terms of juggling career and motherhood. I like the both spouses work part-time idea. As long as the kids are dotted over and loved, and cared for by one parent nearly all of the time (before they're in school), I think this is what matters most.

I like my jobs and feel I couldn't be more blessed to have such a set up. But I don't like the pressure of being a provider and hope that all of the work and sacrifice towards Joseph getting a law degree will pay off so that some day in the near future, I can choose to teach less, choose to work less.

Also, there are days when I just want to be a mom. Don't get me wrong, I feel very fulfilled to be able to give back and participate in what I feel is a very real activism (helping people take control of their health) and imagine I will do this until the day I die. But sometimes I just want to be a person who has no cares in the world but loving and kissing, feeding and playing with the three joyful spirits I call my kids.

So, while the feminist revolution has brought some perks, in many ways it's just made choices more difficult to make. There are no clear cut answers.

What I know for sure is that to choose to have kids is a huge decision, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. Both parents are responsible for nuturing and teaching, NOT just the mother.

Anyway, I suppose there's a more appropriate place to be writing all of these thoughts (like my own blog) but I just wanted to let you know, YOU'RE NOT ALONE in your thoughts. Keep writing away. I'm listening.
belann said…
I certainly pray that you are able to have every single thing on your list. I think you deserve it.
best wishes for your new life! I'm excited for you. You're amazingly talented, and I've always wished I could express myself as you do. And I don't think your list is too much to ask for, I think its all within your reach, and Heavenly Father knows how to get it for you :)
Tia and Amara said…
Do you reallize that you create something beautiful with your hands almost every time you write? Word picturers count as pictures. I can see them clearly. I believe you will have it all--I've been very blessed to have most of my personal list--but maybe it didn't all come at the same time. Look at the many people Mom has been.

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