“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”
— Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 – 180 AD)
In my last post, I mentioned that I spent a weekend recently with friends I hadn’t seen for some time. I had a great time and even though I slept relatively little, I left Kansas feeling rejuvenated; rejuvenated, but also a little glum.
My life has changed quite significantly over the last eighteen months to two years, and because those changes were not earth shattering, colossal upheavals the effects of them have been gradual and fairly subtle, I think. Then I visited Kansas and, even though it was a wonderful weekend, I started to recognize some things that have been missing from my life since the changes. I don’t mean the people themselves specifically, because who needs reminding that you miss your friends. Of course, I have missed them since they all moved away. No It is me. I realized that I have been missing some of me since they have been away, and since other changes in my life have occurred. It was a revelation to me, and now I have to do something about it.
Don’t panic! This is not a spiritual awakening, and I am not on some pilgrimage to rescue my soul or discover myself . It is nothing so esoteric; in fact it is a completely practical realization. First of all, I have not made enough effort to stay connected and in touch with those people who matter to me and are no longer in my neighborhood – that is easily remedied with some help from Google, Skype, I-70, and United Airlines. It can’t be “fixed” – I wish we all lived near each other, but we don’t, and for the immediate and at least foreseeable future that is the way it is.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that most of the changes I’m talking about were of my own volition. A couple were not.
Between 2008 and 2014 I went “back” to school and studied. I got an Associate’s degree, then two BAs, and then an MA I loved it. I love studying. One of my most favorite things to do is research, and so my time at University was very rewarding. I graduated in May 2014. I taught some college History classes directly after that, and although I LOVED teaching, it became quickly apparent that the McAdjunct world wasn’t going to get me a new sofa, except one to sleep on at someone else’s house, if I tried to make a living doing it (thankfully, I don’t have to rely on adjunct pay for a living, so this is a joke – it’s not a joke for many people I know…).
In January I landed a job – one with pecuniary remuneration rather than purely intangible gratification – and I really enjoy it. After the Spring semester I gave up teaching for a while, because, even though I mostly work from home, I also have to travel (usually once per month) and that interrupts a teaching schedule. Working from home, however, can be quite isolating, and while the work I am doing is challenging, it is very different from the in-depth intellectual engagement I am used to. I don’t think I realized quite how disconnected from my interests I had become.
Having spent my own youth in the military, and then traveled with my husband for the remainder of his military career; and since I spent the first half of my life in the UK and Europe, and now reside permanently in the USA, it has been the way of my life that the good friends I have made now live somewhere else. My closest friend from high school was living in the USA (nowhere near me), but now lives in the UK again. My closest friend from the Intelligence Corps lives in Scotland. My closest friends from Hawaii now live in Korea and Japan. My BFF lives in Washington State. My mentors from University are currently in Guadalajara and Barcelona. I have spent my life making great relationships with people, and then one or both of us move. I’m quite used to it, and consider myself very fortunate to have made so many good friends.
My life as a student was no different in this respect. I didn’t think it would be. As a non-traditional student, I thought it was likely that I would make a few acquaintances, but I wasn’t expecting rewarding and lasting friendships. I was very lucky! While studying for my Anthropology degree, I took an awesome class in experimental archaeology, and it was in this class that I met what I’ll call my Kansas family, even though they are not all living in Kansas right now (fabulous things are happening for these fabulous people, and I am so happy for them all).
So, it was with these fabulous people, that I spent the weekend, and it dawned on me that all these little shifts in my life had left a hole. It was like taking a drink of water and realizing that you have been parched for some time.
“It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.”
– Publilius Syrus (85-43 BC)
The upshot of all this is that I need to make some adjustments. Don’t get me wrong here; this is not a pity post. I am not miserable. I have a fantastic life. We have a wonderful home in a beautiful peaceful place. Both my husband and I travel and our time together is cherished and fun. No, this is the “Ah ha” moment and I’m documenting it. Acknowledging and recording the intention to change some plans. We all manage to get side-tracked, stuck in a rut, or just lazy when it comes to our day-to-day lives. When this happens we can also stop questioning ourselves and our world. We are adaptable and slip easily into new ways, until it seems commonplace. I feel a bit like I’ve been asleep at the wheel though – cruise control. I’m going to make an effort to address those empty spaces and fill them up again. I expect that means I’ll be studying again. It will mean deadlines again, but it will mean research again, and, ultimately it will feel like me again.
At a dinner in New York in 1907 Mark Twain gave a speech that included the following: “We are chameleons, and our partialities and prejudices change places with an easy and blessed facility, and we are soon wonted to the change and happy in it. We do not regret our old, yellow fangs and snags and tushes after we have worn nice, fresh, uniform store teeth a while.”
It is easy to settle into the new “teeth,” and ignore the slight gaps, especially if the new teeth are easy to use and look pretty. Eventually, we might not even notice the gaps. I’m not ready for that though.