Like so many others in my generation, I was raised with the notion, which was repeated often by parents, teachers, and mentors alike, that I could do anything I wanted. My head would sometimes swim with the possibilities, but after awhile, I stopped thinking about it at all. I was sure whatever I did would be great, and I simply enjoyed learning and trying new things.
Yes, I was one of those kids who loved school. I loved the new pencils, folders, and notebooks my mom bought for me at the beginning of the school year. I smelled the loose leaf paper like I might actually forget that smell if I didn't take it in every chance I got. I can bring that scent up from memory whenever I choose, and thinking about it still lifts my spirits. Did I dread summer vacation? Absolutely not! I played outside (I was no sickly Percy Bysshe Shelley) with the neighborhood kids, but I did not live outside like so many very nearly did, because I had things to hold me indoors: those things were books. I devoured adventures, picked my teeth with fantasy and science fiction, and I nibbled at the sweet-stuff of poetry. If I thought I could do anything and everything, perhaps I should blame the freedom of my youth, which was afforded to me by parents who gave me a small allowance, some weekly chores, and a very good life. I remember these facets of my childhood very fondly, and somehow I never believed they could go away.
In many ways, I have a wonderful life. I have been happily married for 12 years, and we have a beautiful 14 month-old daughter who was an unexpected miracle. For reasons we did not explore, we were an infertile couple. We saw no reason to look into it, because we did not feel financially prepared for children. We manage, but just barely. When I became pregnant, I was working as a bank teller so that I would have time to write: that kind of work is not the kind you need to take home with you, after all. I was not keeping my end of the bargain at that time, though, because while I did not have to take that work home, that work was not stimulating and did not fulfill me.
In those weeks I stayed home with my newborn, I could not fathom returning to my job. I could not imagine leaving my daughter, whose name means light, in the care of a stranger. I also could not afford to part with half of my paycheck for that dubious honor. I found a job teaching English classes online, which was afforded to me because of my experience teaching courses during my graduate work. I could do this! I could stay home with my daughter, take care of the house, and earn a paycheck. I could also resume my fitness routine, which had been quite intense in the year leading up to my pregnancy. With regular exercise and a decent diet, I had managed to lose 45 pounds, and I had only gained 20 during my pregnancy.
In my expectation to have everything, because I could do anything, I approached this venture with the belief that I would succeed and with a fluorish.
How many of you are tired of hearing that "it takes a village"? I was tired of it before I ever had a child, and I still grind my teeth a little when I hear it. It's true, though. I thought I could be that village, and I am still trying to do just that. I have no choice. I am nowhere near any family, and my friends are scattered to the four winds. Thanks to social media, I can keep in touch, but digital friends do not make good babysitters. I can't really cry on their Facebook walls as I would cry on their shoulders. No one can help me with dinner, and there's no one who can reasonably offer to help me with my downed tree situation. (That's another story.)
A well-meaning friend with whom I have contact on Facebook gave me her phone number shortly after I gave birth and told me to call anytime. She said I would need support. I called her once, and I felt awkward and like I was interrupting her life. This is no fault of hers; she did not say anything disparaging, nor did she rush to get me off of the phone. The distance was difficult, and in truth we had not spoken for a dozen years or more. I am still grateful that she reached out to me, but I don't think I could take advantage of her offer again.
The house is dirty, I have gained more weight since I gave birth, we struggle to stay financially afloat, and I have a small girl who depends on me. Just in the nick of time, I was assigned a course to teach this term, and I was horribly afraid I would not get one at all. I haven't written a poem that I actually like in years. I have not written a poem at all in months. Yes, I am overwhelmed, and I do not have help. My husband works in excess of fifty hours per week, and he even puts in more hours at a second job for part of the year. In my pursuit of having everything and doing anything, I forgot to ask anyone, even myself, how I would do it.
While I still teach online at the same university where I started shortly after giving birth, I have now finished training at a second university. In the coming weeks, I hope to receive an invitation to teach. I started working out a few weeks ago and lost five pounds, and then I quit. I will start again, because I have to do it. I have to keep making plans, keep changing my approach, keep pressing on, because my goals will not magically reach themselves. I wrote this blog entry, and that was a big step for my writing self. Next up: poetry.
After 35 years,it finally happened. I am a grownup. There is no summer vacation. I'm not going to get five dollars because I dusted the shelves, cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed the floor. If I want to read a book, I'll have to do it between the hours of 9:00 pm and midnight. I don't blame myself, or anyone else, for how much I am flailing around. I honestly don't know how my mother and grandmother did all of this, and I suspect that time has erased some of the how involved. They figured it out, and so will I. Perhaps in a few short years, I will look back at all of this and laugh. Perhaps I will think that it wasn't so difficult, once I got the hang of it. Now I just have to get the hang of it, however long it takes, however many times I have to begin again.
Image Credit: © Photo by Melissa Coppola, http://nhdfl.org
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