Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Every Rope Has An End

When I was a young woman, I was confused. I thought that I was defined by my family. I worried because I thought that secondarily, I was defined by the community I lived in. I worried even more because it seemed I should get married and that the person I married would be the definition of me. I spent a great deal of time in a church, praying that I would be someone good and that God would love me.

Sometimes my family is a little crazy. Sometimes I'm not in a great community. And it's 100% unfair 100% of the time to expect some poor man to do all of the work of defining me. Honestly, I wore men out with that one. Loaves of men. Those poor men, with their skeletons stacked to the ceiling of my closet. Metaphorically, of course. They just all fell short of the perfection I had to have within myself.

No, I pretty much define myself. Through the words that I say, the actions I take and the company I keep, I write the book of my own life. But let's dwell for a moment on my friends. They make me look pretty dang good. They sometimes make me look pretty damn crazy. I have a few very close friends that I can call in the middle of the night and they'll come over - or I'll go over there- and we'll talk it out. I return that favor, of course. When I moved from Washington back to Oklahoma, my friend Cathy steam cleaned my carpets for me, set up my bed, brought in flowers and potpourri and stayed up waiting half of the night to keep a light on for me. I'm just never going to forget that and hope I'm half that great as a friend. I have other friends who would help me hide a body. That's not a metaphor. I have friends who trust me with their children and invite me to a bridesmaid at their weddings.

I have a few friends who I have made through either Facebook or my blog. I find things in common with the most unlikely people. I think I love that part the most. I wrote to one friend:
"I write so much because I feel inarticulate in real life. I'm a..hider. I like isolation because then people don't get to come too close. And I never feel as connected to humanity as when I'm divorced from that noise, writing. As for teaching, well, it's a mask and persona that I wear so that I can feel close to people."
It surprised me because he responded that he felt the same way. It's hard for me to admit that I avoid crowds of people like the plague ever since I taught in a prison. It just seems so dangerous and it's very tiring for me. But when I write about it and share it with someone, it seems the burden is made light. I hope these are the kinds of people who define me, because they do often bring me into sharp focus.

It seems this semester that I will need my crazy, sane, safety release valve, intellectual, silly and supportive friends more than ever. It seems that I've finally found my limits as a human being. It starts at 5 a.m., when I get up. Yes, this night owl has to be a morning person for a bit. Seriously, I don't ever *want* to see 5 a.m. unless I'm stumbling out of a casino, having not gone to bed and perhaps missing my stockings.
I have to get up so early to commute to Ada, Oklahoma and teach at 8. It's a 70 mile one-way commute. I teach on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, five classes in a row. And it's all the same class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I don't have to get up as early, but still make the commute to hold office hours. I'm also taking 6 graduate hours- my final classes in the program. Yeah! But they're also difficult hours. One is a teaching language class wherein I will learn some basic Italian and figure out how to teach English as a foreign language. I have a minimum of four pages due every week. I don't really "need" this class, but I do need two in order to remain a full-time students.
The other class is a curriculum theory class. The professor rotating into that one is very tough. I have had her before and got an A, but she worked us pretty hard. So minimum of a book a week there and some heavy research. And the class gets out at 10:15 on a Thursday night, so getting up at 5 on Friday mornings will suck even more.

Oh, and I'm taking my general exams this fall as well. That's where I'll get a list of three questions from my committee. In two weeks I will have written three 20-page papers. I will be required to defend my generals. Oh, and at the end of the semester, my language professor wants me to find the money to go to Italy.

I'm a little overwhelmed, but there are some benefits to these decisions. For one, I like where I'm teaching. I like them a lot. I will have my final semester of coursework and my generals out of the way by December. I will have the comfort of a good friend who is doing her generals this semester too- while pregnant and commuting to Norman from Lawton twice weekly. I'll have a regular paycheck that doesn't just stop in December and regular 401k contributions. And I'm hitting up a dentist, doctor and chiropractor as soon as I can. The first two are preventative; the chiropractor is to look at my neck. It's probably grad school-itis. All the knots will uncoil as soon as my advisor signs the last piece of paper.

Maybe it's my friends who extend the end of my rope. They throw me a line when I'm at the end of mine and I'm starting to sink. Yeah, that's about right. I appreciate you, friends, whomever and wherever you are. Sing it with me: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

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