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).