At 41, I’m unemployed, feeling single*, and feeling stuck. These are things I’m not really all that happy to admit.**
When I moved to Albuquerque to get my MFA at the University of New Mexico in 2013, I had a lot of hopes for a new beginning. Years before, I had moved home to Wisconsin for what I thought was a short stay after living on the East Coast for about seven years. I’d been feeling tired and homesick so thought I would rest up at my mom’s house and leave in a few months. But it turned out, I was sick. A brief rest turned into weeks on the couch where I actually couldn’t get up. I was pretty miserable and because I had quit my job, I didn’t have health insurance. I would eventually discover I had a common autoimmune disease, but the discovery didn’t mean I could suddenly fling myself off the couch and back into my life. It took a while. I’d been sick for a long time and the body needs time to heal. (Plus, I went through all of my savings for travel.) And, in the meantime, my plans for love and life just went on hold.
Fast forward to today: I’ve completed an MFA and another book, but I’m still not doing the things I want to do. The book went nowhere and sometimes getting the MFA feels like the worst mistake I ever made. I ended up teaching as an adjunct after graduation and if you’ve followed the news at all lately, you’ll know adjuncts don’t make a great deal of money. There are perks though, like a flexible work schedule, and you’re essentially your own boss, which, I’ve come to realize, is important to me. But the job, even before I was cut from the program this fall, was not enough. As an adjunct, you generally teach the classes that require the most: The most grading, the most interaction, the most time. It can be extremely rewarding work, and so many of my students have been seriously awesome people, but after teaching the same classes for a while now, I feel less motivated, less intellectually challenged. It’s time for a change.
So while it feels trite to say this, I’m making goals in 2019. (Ugh. Even I’m rolling my eyes at that. I gave up New Year’s Resolutions years ago with the idea that we should be living each day with intention. But I think this year I need to roll out ye ol’ goals.) And while much of this is inner-focused work, I don’t want this to be a selfish trip. I’ve been making a list of things that matter to me and some of those things include–hey, get this–OTHER people AND the environment.
Too often, when women embark on self-healing, or journeys of discovery, we get pushed into corners that focus on romantic love. But what if the good life really is about learning just to love … the world? To wit, I’m reading bell hooks’ book All About Love: New Visions. It’s rather enjoyable, in spite of the fact that I don’t necessarily agree with a fair amount of it. What I do agree with: That American capitalistic endeavors are based on lovelessness and that to love people is to resist, to be radical.
In order to begin this journey of the good life, I plan to read more nonfiction in 2019. I’ve always loved the idea of the polymath, someone who has a wide range of knowledge, and books are good place to start.
I need to make decisions about how I want to live. And while there’s a part of me that wonders if this is even possible–read about Determinism or, here, watch a “CrashCourse” on it and never feel fully in control again–I know I have to try.
Resolution #1 for 2019: Read more nonfiction books.
Let’s aim for at least twenty books, shall we? I’d like to make it more, but with job searching, my regular fiction reading habits, and the like, I don’t know how high I can go. Plus, this is seventeen more than my 2018 totals.
*You probably noticed, if anyone is still reading this, that I said: Feeling single. Most of my life has been one of singledom, happily. But this last year, I’ve been feeling alone. There’s a huge difference. Solitude allows me the room to think, to breathe. Loneliness is smothering. I’ve been a pretty independent person all of my life; I never really wanted marriage or kids. But I did think at some point I would find a partner. Someone to travel with. Someone to mull books over. Someone to laugh with. I did not find this person. And I miss this person, whoever they were supposed to be.
**Being a single woman at 41, people are quick to make judgements about my life. Admit you’d like to meet someone and all of the sudden you’re smacked with the label “desperate.” I’m not. If I don’t end up meeting someone, I will be more than content with my life. Perhaps even more so if I don’t. Who knows?