*~* 2012 *~*

1 01 2012

Everybody’s writing the numbers on everything on Facebook this morning, with a sense of combined anticipated glory and sublimated fear: we are terrified, on some level, of the year we always sketched in all the jokes about the end of the world and the Myan calendar (long before we feared the computer-shut-down-enforced anarchy of the millennium), but I think we’re more afraid that nothing at all is going to happen, that we’re just going to gradually bleed into living in the sci-fi worlds the nerds among us read about, trying, as we’ve grown older, not to notice how often the old projected dates of those long-since imagined futures have already passed us by. I could post about it from my iPhone, but that would take too long, and anyway, why bother learning to be proficient: any good review of the imaginary technologies to come says that soon enough it will be sketch-drawn-in-the-air alone: cramped micro-screens are a reverse slide and won’t be with us long anyway. I read a teen-fic book last week written less than a decade ago, where one of the protagonists is a fifteen-year-old with a cell phone and mentions “star-69ing” an unknown caller; today’s fifteen-year-olds have no idea what that even means, or why you’d bother, since everybody’s name shows up on screen, and you rarely even have to see a number written anymore.

So there’s the inside-the-interface implications of the turnover, sure, but there’s also the simply and painfully mundane: I’m 37, living in an old, mostly-made-of-wood, tiny-roomed house with few electrical outlets, wasting an absurd amount of brainpower trying to figure out how to maximize the finished space in it for use in the lives we live now while also building in the flexibility for a hoped-for future baby or two (with that future shrinking daily, re: 37) and the chance that we never will–or at least not in enough years to matter–be able to afford the conversions of the attic and basement that we intend. I love, beyond words (and yet I feel I’m falling short constantly on the word-front) my precious, snuggly, superteacher, brilliant, sexy, rock-star husband (ok, the “star” business is really just classroom-related, currently, because I haven’t succeeded yet at guilting him and Paul past planning on the idea of gigs to playing them, but they can ever-so-definitely “rock,” and I think at Christmas Erica & I convinced him & Craig that they should jam on Craig’s in-Cuse weekends, to build a little more rock into the roll of the globe down the neverending slope of the arm of this dim-dazzling galaxy)–who just brought me breakfast, by the way–and our shared-time little boy, who’s really not a toddler anymore, & with the wee one having to little time left to be wee, I’m trying to schedule in sacrifices so we can spend more time together, even while I know the stuff exhausts me in practice, because the summer = lawyers and next year he goes to school somewhere, so if I’m going to sit down with him and practice his workbook-lettering and baby-maths and tape note-letters on his keyboard to teach him simple songs, the time is now, specifically the Mondays I’ve been using for me, to write and grade and try to make up for the 10-ish hours a week I spend commuting. He’ll only be four, and here, this last little slice of once, and whatever it is I think I need to do for me, I can do it when he isn’t.

It’s time for a lesson-plan overhaul for my students as well–I’ve run some of these old tricks into the ground and they’re getting crabby about them, and some of the ones I’d despaired of they’re turning out to like, so I can’t ditch it all, but the textbook industry’s rabid new-editions schedule means I can’t stall much longer either way, so it’s time to re-plan, re-vise, re-schedule, re-vamp, re-everything. The fact that we’re trying (again) to get pregnant, and if we succeed the plan is that I stop commuting to Utica to teach this class anyway hardly factors in: I have to do the professional development if I want to still be professional, and whether or not we can afford or even end up having the opportunity to reach for a different schema next year can’t afford to factor in. I also have to keep applying for “better” (i.e. at least briefly brushed against the notion of tenure, whether offering it or not) jobs, even though I’ve tried every place in reasonable driving distance, sometimes twice, already, and somehow my many credentials, high GPA, PhD-and-scaffolding-degrees-in-hand, few (but better than “no”) publications, 15 years’ classroom experience, commitment to staying local, etc. don’t even get me callbacks. It was all a lie, PH, not that I blame you, but it was all a lie. My 2-person fanclub of Matt and Sarah Berry claim that they’re excellent teachers because I’ve taught them everything they know, but they’re both more solidly employed–and with much shorter commutes–than I am/have, and that’s not a situation that’s likely to change.

What I’d like to do with the new year? Finish a novel, start publishing professionally, have a baby, & start a new life as a full-time writer working out of my home office (even if it’s wedged in the corner of what we thought would be the master bedroom but we can’t afford to waste that much space on only sleeping). Degrees, all 3 of them: wasted. 8 + 2 + 5 post-high-school years spent gaining them: professionally wasted, in terms of tracks and placement and advancement etc. Actual lived years, though, reading, learning, discussing, thinking-about, and teaching, teaching, teaching: priceless and wholly non-negotiable in terms of their rewards. Most of the time, that’s enough for me. Every once in a while I remember that I could have taught where I’m teaching and done what I’m doing 8 years of PhD ago for the same pay and the same security, but what would the difference really be? I’d have been teaching the same classes now for 12 years instead of 4, I’d have spent way more years commuting by car instead of walking in the weather, I’d know fewer interesting people, I’d have missed out on years worth of bad movies (and occasional good movies) and friends and places and interactions (Cordell, I’m talking about your living room a lot right now) and I probably wouldn’t know Matt or have Caleb, since I wouldn’t have met Claire at grad-school trivia, & thus it’s a damn good thing that the world works the way it does, and each year has its own geography and hills to climb, and that you can’t trade-back in rash moments of squint-eyed limited perspective.

I also want to spend 2012 throwing more garbage away to make room for the things that matter: images that inspire me, pathways to use to make my way across the rooms to hug my family (and the cats), reflection and the ways-with-words that only bloom forth when I have it, space to spread out calendars and student work across the desk, room to roll the yoga mats out to move and stretch together, room to build a space for Matt to make his music, time and space to sit down with the little guy to teach and learn, and time, and space, and space, and time, and most of all the necessary silences to write (but to earn those, a removal of the clutter that gets in the way of focusing on the other needs and responsibilities that want, given their druthers, to occupy the silences instead). Also, I want to build Matt space this summer to finish that damned dissertation, but that’s going to require a lot of him caring, because we tried last year, me making the rules about time and what to do when, and it didn’t (surprise surprise) take root so well. It’s got to come from him, just like his promises to build me room to write in don’t come to fruition that way: it has to be room I build, and, more, that I make the time to ground myself in and inhabit. The structural frame isn’t just “not enough”; it isn’t even a beginning.

“We read and write poetry [& music] because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, [music,] beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.” –“John Keating,” Dead Poets’ Society




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