Thursday, December 5, 2013

Everything's...Gonna Be Alright?

This image, by Christopher Clark, has been my desktop wallpaper for about a year and a half now. I saw it exhibited as part of Cooper-Hewitt's "Graphic Design: Now in Production" show in May 2012. I was at the time gearing up for another major life change; I had decided, despite having a good job and being in a stable (at the time I would have probably said "good-ish") relationship, to uproot myself from Boston and move back to midwest after over a dozen years on the East Coast.

I felt stuck. I felt like I was going through the motions. While I loved my friends in Boston and was successfully supporting myself, something was not clicking. So I moved to Chicago. And as I wrote about nearly a year ago, I got very very depressed. I was lethargic, I felt utterly purposeless. On days when I didn't have to be anywhere, I stayed in pajamas and ordered pizza (and not even good pizza! I'm talking Dominos, which, when you live in Chicago, is a travesty to consume). 

So Clark's typographic art - the clash of the beauty of the image and its sad, sober message - really resonated with me. I looked at it a lot, when I was trying to convince myself to write poetry, or blog, or even just write a damn Yelp review, anything to get my brain functioning, to reconnect to my writing self.

Tonight, for the first time since May 2012, I am thinking about changing my desktop wallpaper. Because something kind of incredible and unexpected has happened and the message no longer strikes a chord.

On July 15 of this year, I got a phone call that changed everything - an offer to teach at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. I was a little terrified; until Eau Claire, I had only lived in major metropolitan areas. You know, places with amazing restaurants and good public transit and culture around every corner. I read Eau Claire's Wikipedia page and was not sure how I would fare in the Horseradish Capital of the World, population 65,000. Now, I know 65K is not tiny -- but compared to Chicago, it feels pretty podunk. When I visited the campus, there was a deer hanging out in the student parking lot. 

But it was a good job offer and I didn't have much going on in Chicago -- part-time teaching gigs supplemented by hostessing at a trendy late-night dining spot downtown. I loved living in Chicago but nothing was tethering me there, so once again, I decided to just move. My contract was only for a year, so I figured if I hated Wisconsin, I could always move back to Chicago after the school year.

I have now been here for 4 months. I have no plans to leave anytime soon. It actually feels like home to me, the girl who couldn't wait to live in NYC after graduating from college. The people I have met here feel like lifelong friends. I love my job and my colleagues. I love my little weird one-bedroom apartment. I love my "new" car (new to me - it's a 2004 Honda Civic. Her name is Loretta.). I am writing again. I'm singing in the shower again. Something inside tells me I could really be happy here, for a while. Forever? I'm not sure. I do miss some city stuff (mostly ethnic food and liquor stores that are open past 9pm and not having to drive everywhere) and I have yet to experience true "Wisconsin cold," but if I can stay here and keep teaching next year, I absolutely will. 

Oh, and another really unexpected thing: I'm in love! With a wonderful man who makes me so, so happy. I have been in a lot of different kinds of relationships over the years that offered some of the things I was looking for, but always with some compromises. I had pretty much given up on certain things and was starting to believe that if I wanted to get married and have a family, I would just have to settle for close enough, assuming I could find someone who would have me. But this is different. It's still a new relationship, so who knows - the last time I wrote on this blog about being happy and in love, the shit hit the fan almost immediately (and the guy in question turned out to be a total sociopath). So we'll see. Fingers crossed.

Yesterday, some psych students came by my office and asked if I would take a quick survey as part of a project they were doing, comparing beliefs/values of humanities vs. non-humanities faculty. The questions were about being satisfied with your life -- one statement that I had to rate on a scale of strongly disagree to strongly agree was "My life is very close to my ideal." Six months ago, I would have strongly disagreed with that statement. And now, after a momentary flash of "well, ideally I would be 10 lbs lighter, a millionaire, and have a book deal, and an apartment in Paris" I realized what I do have, which is pretty ideal: a job I love that is rewarding and pays me a living wage, a family that is healthy and speaking to one another, friends that care about me, an apartment I like to spend time in, enough money to get by, and a man who thinks I'm beautiful and smart and tells me so daily. If my ideal is to have a fulfilling, happy life filled with adventures and wonderful people, I'm getting pretty close.

I circled "somewhat agree". I mean, a book deal would still be nice.

Definitely have to find a new image for my desktop wallpaper. Being cynical about life no longer feels authentic. Don't worry, I don't think I'll ever look as happy as the people in this ad who are really ecstatic about the accredited nursing program that offers flexible night and online classes:

Come on, NO ONE is THAT happy (or has that group of wildly attractive, racially diverse friends).

1 comment:

Aneta said...

Katie, I loved reading your blog and I'm so happy to see that you are things are slowly falling into place and that you are happy again. Life takes us through this journey and we go through so many phases in life. I too last year found myself in a rut - no job, no money, a huge pile of debt and I thought I would never be able to put my life back together. But I did and just like you I never stopped looking for an opportunity and it finally came a knockin' and I took it. And I'm glad I did. I never thought I would end up where I am. If I had to rate my life last year if it were being close to ideal, I would have been like "HELL NO"! But I am truly grateful for a lot of things.
Great job on the blog!!!