Incomplete

Occasionally, my husband will bug me with: ‘So where is your best selling novel?  Why haven’t you written it yet so we can live a life of luxury and I don’t have to work anymore?’

I guess some people might find this obnoxious, but I find it funny (it’s partly down to tone).  I also like it because it reminds me of my life dream.

I had several years of childhood existential angst where people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had answer.  What did I want to be?  (Note to adults: don’t ask kids this.  They don’t know.  And if they are sure they want to be a sparkle princess firewoman, they’ll tell you.)  Then in 6th grade I did a story writing unit and on the bottom my teacher scrawled ‘This is great!  You should be a writer.’

Thanks to Mrs. Garwood, suddenly everything made sense.  Hadn’t I been scribbling and composing stories since before I could write?  I even had some proto-fan fiction drama in a notebook: a hilarious crossover between The Legend of Zelda and The Little Mermaid.  I don’t know how offhand that comment was, but it changed my life.

I devoted my life to becoming a writer.  Well, kind of.  I was never a tortured artist who was consumed by her art, but I did everything I could to be a better writer–I penned my first (terrible) novel at 15, and wrote one complete sequel and half of another.  I took the creative writing electives at high school and majored in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing in college, damned be the expense and impracticality.  I kept filling up notebooks with further novel attempts, planning out a family saga in four parts–but I never finished the first.

It turns out that writing is pretty easy.  Finishing a piece of writing is hard.  Figuring out what makes me finish something is harder still.  After about five years post-college dithering with one novel, I discovered that fan fiction was an actual thing.  No, I was not weird for spinning further stories about my favorite books–or if I was, I was in very good company on the internet.  Inspired by the fact that I wasn’t alone and a renewed spark of inspiration for the Narnia books which had fired my imagination so much as a kid, I churned out a good half dozen multi-chapter and short stories in the space of three months.

I also met my a writing partner, someone who was as caught up as me.  We started writing fan fiction together, and I abandoned my serious literary attempts to write about fully copyrighted characters.  We mused often about how we would go somewhere with our stories, but at the same time, we were having so much fun we didn’t ever want to finish.  We did some good work and I honed and thought about my writing skills, but I never seemed to finish much of anything.

Yet all through these years since I had been told I should be a writer, I never doubted that I would be.  I would write, no matter what.  Even if I wasn’t producing, I knew that one day I would, and that was enough.  After all, I spent every night writing for two plus hours as my writing partner and I spun stories for ourselves.  There couldn’t be more dedication.

Then things started to change.  I met my husband and started building the dream I didn’t think would come true–getting married and starting a family.  My writing partner had a kid, then I did.  We didn’t have as much time for writing, and then the fights we had been having from such an intense friendship and creative partnership became too much to get past.  I got a job teaching, and marking and planning took up a lot of my time outside work.  I did manage to write a play and even get it performed at a small am-dram company, but lately, I struggle.  Instead of the absolute certainty that one day I will write a best-selling novel, I start to wonder sometimes: do I have to?  I’m already so happy.

This line of thought scares me.  I always swore I wouldn’t be the type of person who gave up on their dream, yet here I am, sometimes on the verge of doing so.  It is hard to fit in writing when I have one kid–very soon to be two, and a job that is full time and then some.  It’s easier to mooch around on Facebook and BuzzFeed at night instead of plodding through typing to find my inspiration. But actually finishing is hard, and I’m teetering on an edge, given my present feelings and my past history.  I always thought that without writing and achieving my goal to be a published author I would feel incomplete.  What’s scary is to realize that incompleteness wouldn’t be a gaping hole but more of a niggle that I could live with.

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Source: Incomplete

Misstep, or past employment fails

When I left school, I was shockingly underprepared for the world of work.  I had done some work study and some temp jobs while in college, and I thought all jobs would be like that: show up on time and reliably, do a bit of good work but also mess around on the internet, and everyone would be cool.  I also thought it would be really easy to get a job, since I had fallen into one job after another from the moment I started working.  To top it all off, I had no idea what kind of jobs were out there.  I had a degree in English and French and couldn’t think of a single thing to do with it other than write or maybe teach, a possibility I was considering at the time, but didn’t have the money for.  It was a long road to get to teaching, the career I have today.  Even then, I had to start my career from scratch when I got to the UK.  So here is a brief catalogue of my missteps on that road:

Interview disasters

Nobody told me about interviews, and what to do, and how to behave.  I thought it was actually kind of fun–sit down, talk about myself, be honest, and they would hire me.  I candidly told more than one potential employer that in 5 years I saw myself as a novelist.  I also neglected to read up on companies before interviewing with them and didn’t take notes.  When I didn’t get second interviews I was utterly baffled.  Thinking back now, I shake my head at myself.  Sometimes I start to go into an embarrassment spiral, but I talk myself out of this one: really, how was I to know?  I spent four years at college sharpening my mind, not honing my business acumen.  I could write 20 page papers in French, but I had to be taught how.  Similarly, interviewing is a skill which must be taught, and nobody had taught me.  I was lucky that when I interviewed for teaching posts, my candid answers were exactly what principals wanted to hear.

Job fails

My first full time job out of college was when I was living in North Carolina.  It was for an education non-profit (as close as I could get to teaching without a master’s) and the people were noble minded and lovely.  And I totally took advantage of them by spending most of my day on the internet and doing a bit of work.  My boss had to give me a real dressing down, but she was so nice about it I didn’t really take in the lesson.  In retrospect, she probably should have fired me, she was just too nice.

My next job was when I was back in New York, and my friend got me the job.  I continued in my entitled ways, and they were a lot less understanding.  Although to be fair, I wasn’t nearly as bad because I had barely gotten my foot in the door before they fired me.  And I burst into tears, both in front of my boss and the HR lady, and then later on the subway.  I had never been fired before–I was 22 and was used to getting praise for my work.  But high flyer in the English and French departments of a small liberal arts college doesn’t translate to anything in NYC offices.  I have to say though, standing over me while I packed up my stuff and escorting me out of the building was a little much.  I mean, they were basically firing me because I was acting like a stupid kid.  What did they think I was possibly capable of carrying away?  It would have been humane to at least give me a minute to pack up my stuff and gather the shreds of my dignity.  The random people on the subway were much nicer.  As I sobbed uncontrollably, two people dropped a note in my lap, which read ‘Don’t cry.  Everything will be ok.  From two people who love you.’

I then embarked on a year of temping, which went great, but of course people expect very little of temps so I was a superstar.  They did interview me to go permanent at one place, but  weren’t keen when I told them I wanted to be a writer.  My next permanent job was for a linen company, and honestly one of my bigger missteps was not holding out for positions which were better suited to me.  Seriously–let this be a cautionary tale because there are so many mistakes.

The linen company had some really cool people working at it and I did get to talk to Connie Chung on the phone once, but my boss was awful, and we basically spent 9 months in passive aggressive warfare.  She clearly thought I was being an entitled kid but didn’t give me any real direction about what to do better or what her expectations were.  God forbid I sharpen her grammar when she gave me a handwritten letter to type up.  Eventually she fired me too.  In the end, I was so frustrated I didn’t cry.  I saw it as a mercy killing, especially because I had already applied to become a NYC Teaching Fellow.

Finally, success. Ish.

The Teaching Fellows accepted me, and I started on a proper career, one I loved from the very first day.  I made missteps aplenty my first year of teaching.  I didn’t quite know how to teach the level of the kids, so I wound up teaching kids in Harlem like they were college students.  I didn’t know how to put together a unit or assess their skills.  But I loved literature, and I loved them from the first time I met them.  I would not say I was universally beloved, and I still wouldn’t say that of my students, but I bonded with enough kids that I thought this job far exceeded anything I had done before.  So I learned how to assess them, and tailor my lessons to their needs.  I came home and cried because I couldn’t express the full range of my anger at school, and then the next day walked on air because the kid I had kind of wanted to kill had actually learned something.

Eventually I left teaching in the inner city to teach at Townsend Harris, my alma mater and a specialised high school for the humanities in NYC (read: only smart kids go there).  And I thought as I signed out the copies of The Odyssey and Things Fall Apart that my classmates had used, that that was it.  I had reached the last step in my career, and I would work at good ol’ THHS until I retired.  I was barely in my 30’s, so that felt a bit weird, but I was also very happy.  No more missteps.  I knew THHS as a student, which helped me know it better as a teacher.  I had confidence because I had security.

Until I didn’t, because I moved to the UK.

Beginning a career I’d been doing for 10 years

I didn’t think it would be very hard to switch from teaching in the US to teaching in the UK.  After all, I had worked in a really tough school and a really good school in NYC.  I had seen it all.  But that wasn’t quite true.  I was used to dealing with underprivileged kids who felt that the system was doing them wrong and privileged kids who bought wholeheartedly into the system.  I had never dealt with the kids in the middle.  I hadn’t ever had students who were apathetic.  And most importantly, I had never taught students younger than 14.  I quickly found you can’t treat those kids as adults.

My first UK job was a maternity cover/ general cover job.  I had less prep periods than I should have had because I was constantly on call to cover classes.  Nobody told me about the differences in systems, or what was expected.  I had a coworker, who I felt was always trying to catch me out on grammar.  She’d say things like ‘Oh…I can’t remember all the modal auxiliaries.  I can think of can, may, might, could, would, will… What are the others?’  But in the US, no one uses the term modal auxiliary. At least, no one that I knew of, and after majoring in English and French and taking two other language classes besides, I knew a fair bit of grammar.  Meanwhile I interviewed for a permanent job and there was an A level component.  I barely understood the difference between A level and GCSE, and mining through and understanding what exactly AQA meant by genderlect in their English Language spec was a bit beyond me, particularly because in America, English is English, and there’s no distinction between language and literature.  I still cringe a bit when I think of my interview lesson reviewing genderlect.  I definitely took more of a lit crit approach than I should have done, and didn’t mention any of the theorists I am now so familiar with.  Basically that grammar quiz teacher was sitting in the classroom internally rolling her eyes and me and thinking I didn’t know anything about my subject–humiliating, because I know that isn’t true.

If you’re going to move forward, you’re going to make missteps

Now I’m working at a 6th form college, which is another job I’ve come to love, especially since it consists of teaching only 16-18 year olds and teaching mostly English Language, which is essentially linguistics focused on English.  I want to be as confident as I was at THHS, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible again.  I’m not foolhardy enough to be that confident.  Moreover, switching systems continues to have its issues.  I’ve wrapped my head around the differences, but not everyone believes that.  I have students who fret that I’m not preparing them for their (all important) exams because I haven’t spelled out how *every single lesson* could be used to answer a question.  Meanwhile, Ofsted inspected us last year, and the inspector didn’t like that they had an ‘inexperienced’ teacher doing GCSE–even though that was my 10th year teaching.  It took me ages to figure out what administrators wanted in an observed lesson.  So while the learning curve is, as ever, extremely steep, I know there are still going to be moments where I go wrong, or where people think I’m going wrong.  Not quite the same thing, but with the same effects.  The key is taking it in stride–a lot easier said than done.

 

 

 

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Source: Misstep

Flow

I’m not very good at going with the flow.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea of going with the flow.  When I was a kid, I really liked that song ‘Que Sera, Sera’.  And who doesn’t love a bit of Enya to zone out to?  I dare you to listen to this and not feel relaxed:  It’s like a musical spa day.  I also love spa days.

The point is, I know how to unwind and bliss out, but I can’t *stay* that way.  I always start stressing again if I don’t have closure or don’t know the answer.  One of my childhood friends is on Facebook touting the virtues of following your bliss after (from what I can put together from her posts) giving up her career as a lawyer to become a yoga instructor/ life coach.  Part of me wants to roll my eyes at this, but it’s hard when she seems so honestly happy and chilled about life.

I want to be like that.  At least, I think it would lead to a calmer existence.  After being married three years I’m not as tightly wound as I used to be (sharing your life with someone will do that), but I still want to know how things will end up so my imagination doesn’t run wild with all the possibilities of what *could* happen.  I’m very good at coming up with dramatic, though highly unlikely, possibilities.  For example: if I go to the town where my ex-best friend lives, will I see her?  Maybe there will be a confrontation!  Should I play it cool or giver her a piece of my mind because I still don’t have closure from our last fight?  I run the scenarios through my mind like stories.  The problem is, like many good stories, they are engrossing because they are so stressful.  It’s like when I stayed up all night one time to try to find a good pausing point in The Hunger Games.  Note: It took something like reading 200 pages until 4am and practically falling asleep before I could close the book.  This is how I get about life.

That’s why pregnancy is such a special challenge.  I’m now in my final few weeks of gestating #2 and I’m at the point now where I’m ready to have this kid.  Problem is, I don’t know when, or how it will happen and there are so many variables.  What will happen to my two year old daughter while I’m in labour?  Who will take care of her, and how?  My personal plan A got turned on its head for a variety of reasons, and that was the one I liked because it was most predictable: she’d stay with a relative she frequently stays with and who not only loves her, but is excellent at upholding her little routines.  With plan B, I’m not sure how she will react.  I kind of know, but I don’t *really* know.

Then there’s the method of delivery.  The Feliciraptor was a c section, which means I could, in theory, demand a c section this time.  But then I don’t know how I’ll cope with staples in my stomach when I’m trying to manage a two year old.  On the other hand, it is what I know.  I know what the recovery is like and what the pain will be like, and generally how everything will go. And if I schedule it, then I *know* what will happen, which is comforting.  But I wouldn’t be able to drive for a few weeks, which means being stuck at home with a tiny baby and a two year old, and last time I found that very hard.

And speaking of post delivery, what will having two be like?  I know what it’s like to take care of a tiny baby (simple, really, but pretty boring), but I don’t know what it will be like dealing with two children.  Probably fine–after all, this is something a lot of people do with a very high success rate.  But *I* don’t know, so my mind ticks over with possibilities.  Will Felicity provide me with some company while her brother develops a personality, or will she make my days more monotonous?  What is it like to handle two kids having meltdowns for completely different reasons?

Last night I thought I had the beginnings of labour, but no dice.  As we drove to the hospital, though, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that this was it; things were finally decided.  Only they weren’t, and now I’m in limbo again and finding new things to angst about.  For example, at my last doctor’s visit he agreed that I shouldn’t be induced, but I get stressed about the idea of being induced and back in hospital again for ages–even though that’s not going to happen and I have the power to refuse induction.

I posted a similar anxiety-ridden post when I was very pregnant with Felicity.  Now that post seems kind of silly–I had a pretty traumatic labour in the end, but she’s fine and I’m fine–fine enough to try this all over again.  People were lovely–I had lots of messages reconnecting me with friends who all sent words of reassurance.  This, however, is where I think the idea of flow comes in–if a river flows around you and you’re standing resisting it, eventually it’s going to tip you over and carry you along anyway.  Either the flow was too strong for you to fight, or you just don’t have the strength to keep resisting.  The other option is to lie back and float and see where the river takes you.  I really need to get used to option B, because the river’s given me an interesting ride.  And when I get on the lazy river at a water park, I love it.  As for exactly how to lay back and enjoy it when I want to steer and impossible to steer inner tube, well, there’s the rub.  But maybe I should try.

 

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Source: Flow

Paris is not all white people (and other reasons not to feel guilty for using a French flag filter)

On Friday, a terrible thing happened.

Another terrible thing.

When I heard what happened in Paris, my heart broke.  When I saw the French flag filter Facebook put up I thought ‘What Paris–and France–could use right now is some support.  It’s not much, but I want to say to the French and to the world is that I’m standing beside them in the wake of this horrible tragedy.’

Apparently I’m an impostor for caring.  Apparently such compassion is worthy of outrage.  And I’m kind of racist for showing support, as shown in this meme:

This is just one example of the compassion shaming I’ve seen all over Facebook.  The implication that we shouldn’t be talking about Paris.  The posts from 7 months ago about a different tragedy in response to posts about Paris.  How dare I care about Paris when something terrible happened elsewhere?  I mean, first world problems.

That is a bit hyperbolic.  Most of the people posting these things are well reasoned and intelligent people (I’m quite selective with my facebook friends).  The general question is one that needs to be asked.  But maybe, you know, not right at this very moment.  And maybe not by saying that those who show compassion to others are cruel and neglectful.  Because compassion is always, always, always a good thing.  We need to cultivate compassion, not shame it.  But while I would classify myself as really damn liberal (I still think there are some ideas to admire in the Communist Manifesto), for the first time I see what conservatives mean when they say liberals can be…self righteous, shall we say.  Donkeys’ butts might be another, to be polite about it.  People shouldn’t be made to feel bad for trying to do good.

Also, the sentiment that caring about Paris equates to ignoring other nations is misguided and faking a cause, and here’s why:

  • Starting with the meme above–Paris is not just white people.  Nor is France.  Far from it.  There are many neighborhoods in Paris which have immigrants from all over the world.  Moreover, there is a large Muslim population which is often marginalised.  Overlooking these French people and pretending the entire country is whitewashed exacerbates a different problem altogether.
  • It is possible to care about Paris *and* include other tragedies in the world.  Observe Trevor Noah’s comments on the Daily Show (and a link for American audiences), which were compassionate and elegantly said, still paying heed to the fact that tragedies exist all over the world.
  • Just because something is popular it is not therefore meaningless.  My choice to use the tricouleur overlay was a very conscious one because Paris has played an important role in my life.  It is the city I fell in love with, and seeing the people there attacked is as shocking as when New York was attacked on September 11th.
  • On that note, a kind word can go a long way.  Paris is not in need of a lot of material things.  I could try to raise money for them, but what would it go to?  However, kind words can have a bigger impact than people know.  When my father died, I got cards from people I never expected, and to know that they were thinking of me and my family because they had met my Dad once was an enormous comfort.  Moreover, in the wake of 9/11, when I was bewildered with grief and I couldn’t comprehend such powerful hatred, the outpouring of love and support from the world was a huge balm.  It went a long way to helping me heal.  After that initial shock, the French started asking a lot of important and critical questions, much to some people’s anger (freedom fries, anyone?).  I admired them for it. But the key was that they waited.  The timing was everything.  In the days and even weeks after 9/11 they showed nothing but support.
  • The news is not evil for not reporting all this horror.  It’s not even really racist.  It’s following the princples of news–what gets reported on is what’s close to home, what’s prominent, and what’s unusual.  The last one is key.  Last Friday was a peaceful night in Paris, full of football and music and food.  And then–it wasn’t.  And that was shocking, so we turned our heads.  It is indeed shocking that many almost expect violence in the Middle East.  That should not ever be.  But it is, and it was the same where plenty of white people lived.  I grew up in America and knew the IRA was kind of a thing.  That was the extent of my knowledge.  I did not know the systematic terror the IRA put people under for decades until I moved to England and heard stories, read poems.  Yes, my awareness should have been higher.  But even my English husband says that eventually those tragic attacks stopped being huge news because they were the norm.  So what we have here are two separate issues: first, that Paris has suffered a shock and a horror, and that deserves our attention.  Second, many other places suffer a daily horror and we need to focus more attention on helping them.  Both equally important.  One does not cancel out the other.

To that end, we should build on the compassion and goodwill.  Instead of decrying people for caring about a very real tragedy, we should be banding together and building on our compassion, and letting the fact that we all care unite rather than divide us.  Never judge someone for caring for others.

In response to the Daily Post : The Great Pretender

I have many feelings about the HIMYM finale (and they are related to this blog)

It has been a long, long time since I’ve posted, mostly because I don’t have a lot of spare time to write anymore.  I tried writing today, but my 4 1/2 month old baby only accepted being ignored for about five minutes.  Meanwhile, while she was napping, I was trying to eat.

But nevertheless, I have come out of hibernation, and I have come out of hibernation because of a tv show.  A tv show, you ask?  Yes.

**Spoilers ahead for How I Met Your Mother and Game of Thrones.

I’ve always been the type of person to get emotionally invested in tales of fiction.  It’s why I can’t watch horror movies, especially those involving torture–I have way too much empathy.  Lately, that empathy has gotten ratcheted up when I see a situation which directly relates to my life: that is to say, it deals with finding love and beginning a family.  The infamous Red Wedding on Game of Thrones aired when I was newly pregnant, still in my first trimester.  My husband had been trying to make me pregnancy cry as a sport for weeks, and every time we saw something touching and/ or kid related, he’d give me puppy dog eyes.  Well, when they stabbed the pregnant lady in the stomach, I absolutely lost it.  I sobbed, because I was already so fearful of the precious little bean I had inside me suddenly losing hold and slipping away, and to think that someone could end something so innocent with such violence left me shocked.

The finale of How I Met Your Mother is actually not that far off with its emotional betrayal.  Actually, it was worse.  At least Game of Thrones warned you with Ned Stark’s death not to get attached to anyone.  Ever.  How I Met Your Mother charmed me, lured me in.  And promised me emotional payoff.  It was right there in the damn title.

At first it seemed like we would get the payoff.  We saw more and more glimpses of the Mother over the final season, and she was utterly perfect for Ted.  She didn’t just get him, she shared things with him.  He has a flail from the Renaissance Fair, she has a jousting lance.  She dressed up as an old Floridian lady to his hanging chad.  It reminded me very much of how me and MR are together.  We share a lot of things, things that when I was single I worried would put off guys, but no.  And those quirks we don’t share just make us more endearing to the other.

That’s the thing.  I get Ted.  I’ve always felt he reflected what it’s like to be a true romantic and single and aching to find ‘the one.’  Before my sudden and crazy romance began, Ted was my touchstone.  First his boundless hope, then it slowly running dry and the fear and exhaustion that sets in.  I could go through episodes, but the list would just be far too long.  In fact, his attachment to Robin was pretty tangential to me as I watched the show.

‘Trilogy Time’ aired just months before I got married.  At the end of the episode, Ted walks in cradling his baby daughter in his arms, and we knew his happiness was just around the corner.  I felt so much the same way.  Just a year before that episode aired, I was like Ted, having given up on the hope of having a husband and a family, wondering if the future could possibly hold anything for me.  But then things changed overnight, just like that, and I was on the cusp of my own happiness.

And that’s where the betrayal lies.  In ‘Shelter Island’, when Ted is about to marry Stella, Robin gives him this big speech about how he deserves his own grand ending, because he is the grand romantic, and instead he is sinking into someone else’s life.  That’s exactly what happened–instead of getting his grand romantic moment with Tracy, Ted just circles on back to Robin, and instead of being celebrated, becomes subsumed.

Moreover, it sends a troubling message to those of us who empathized with Ted, who felt the pain and the fear of being single, and who know either now or in the future what it is to find happiness.  HIMYM says ‘You know that dream that seems so ethereal that it might not ever materialize?  It will.  And then it will DIE.’  In other words, after years of patience you get a second of joy.  HIMYM tells me that since I’ve found happiness, I’m going to lose it.  And that turns a sweet and funny show into something crushingly depressing.

All to turn their intelligent, human characters into Ross and Rachel for the teens

.ImageImage

Not so very different, so what does this say about our fate?

But No Cigar

Yesterday I wrote about things in my life which worked out exactly as I had planned.  MR is a person who seems to always land on his feet, and he says this is not because he’s especially lucky, he just knows how to seize opportunities.  I think I’ve done the same at certain points.  Sometimes, though, with all the will in the world, things don’t work out exactly as I planned, and that is certainly true for settling into my marriage.

Everything began perfectly.  I’ve detailed the story often enough here, but it still amazes me, because when I hit 30 and had been on exactly 3 dates in 8 years, I thought one of my life dreams, having a family, was never going to happen.  As 30 clicked over to 31, and then 32, I started to really panic.  Time was running out.  I had to kiss a few frogs before I found the One, didn’t I?  And I wasn’t even catching frogs.  Then if I did find a guy, we’d probably date for a couple of years before getting married, and then want to be married a couple of years…basically my logic turned into panic along these lines:

Then my friend introduced me to MR and we were exchanging emails before we met as though we were already a couple.  When we met in person several months later in August, it was already a fait accompli.  Then he went about some serious day seizing and surprised both himself and me by proposing at Christmas.

Suddenly my life was falling into place.  Perhaps that’s one of the ways he’s the right person for me, because he goes after the things he wants in the same way.  We started planning a wedding, a big wedding with a 14th century Guild Hall as a venue and a phalanx of bridesmaids and a Big White Dress.

Then things started to crumble a little bit.  MR’s family, especially his mother, is an efficient person, and this is no fault.  Also, this was the first wedding of her 3 children so naturally she wanted to be involved.  However, I as the bride was across the Atlantic, so the efficient planning meant sometimes cutting out the bride, and that was just the beginning of transatlantic difficulties.  I thought when we decided to get married in England that I would have a small cluster of guests.  Not a lot, because a trip to England isn’t cheap, but I thought a handful of people would turn up.  My bridesmaids did, and I was so grateful to them for making that happen even when they didn’t have tons of available funds.  And I did have two friends make the effort to come.  But none of my extended family could come, friends who I had counted on because they said they would.  In the lead up to the wedding this made me feel a bit lonely, particularly because of the immigration circumstances.

By far the most difficult thing was trying to sort out immigration. We were getting married in England because we wanted to live in New York, but the US Department of Immigration had other ideas.  If we wanted to get married in England, MR would have to wait 9 months for his paperwork to be processed before he could even enter the US.  If he tried before then, even to visit, the border guards could send him home because they could say he wasn’t trying to visit but sneak in.  We could give up our big wedding in favor of a quickie courthouse wedding, but even that would require paperwork and months of waiting if we did everything on the up and up.

I thought when we got engaged that I would have everything–a job I loved in a home city that was a part of me,  and newly, a man I loved who I was going to start a life with.  Immigration law quickly squashed that have it all feeling, and I had some decisions to make.  So I decided–I had been a romantic my whole life, and I wasn’t about to give up on that ideal.  I waited so long for MR, I wasn’t going to wait anymore.

I miss NYC terribly.  It’s still my home.  I miss my friends, and I miss my job.  I worked for a stint at a British school, and part of the reason it didn’t go so well was because it wasn’t the job I had loved for so long.  I’m only just now starting to branch out and make friends, a year and a half after arriving here.

But I don’t just have a husband, I have a family.  If I had agreed to wait those 9 months, I wouldn’t have my daughter next to me as I type this.  We would still be waiting to start a family.  And sometimes I wonder–teaching was always the backup career.  It turned out so wonderful that I really started to devote myself to it, but I had wanted to be a writer since I was 12 years old.  I mentioned yesterday I was afraid that writing wouldn’t work out, and the story above is why.  But then I think–even though this isn’t the ideal I set out for myself, it’s still a pretty great life.  And while I may miss home, that doesn’t mean I regret going for this life.  So maybe it’s time to grab a little courage and give my final dream a try.  Carpe diem…carpe horas.

All It’s Cracked Up to Be

I’ve always been a person with big dreams.  I wasn’t just going to be a novelist, I was also going to be a screenwriter, and I was going to win an Academy Award.  None of those things have happened–yet.  But I feel like they could, because I’ve had the ability to Make Stuff Happen for myself.  There’s a bit of good luck involved, but there has also been a lot of work.

The first time was in high school.  I was in Beginner Band, and drudging through dreary scales and dire renditions of “Hot Cross Buns.”  I had a friend who had been playing clarinet since fourth or fifth grade, and she was proficient enough to be in concert band.  She loved music, and she made concert band sound like the height of cool: they played in a concert and people came to watch (okay it was mostly parents, but even so), they played medleys to Phantom of the Opera and Aladdin, which sounded way better than the theme to the Magnificent Seven that we were playing.  After hearing her rhapsodic descriptions, I decided that would one day be me.  I was a freshman at the time, and I would spend sophomore year in Intermediate Band, and graduate to Concert Band by the start of junior year.  Then, for fun, I decided that the concert band would also play a Les Mis melody because that was my recent obsession.

So began a year and a half of hard work.  I borrowed the school flute several times a week and most weekends and played an hour a night.  I found out that I could take instruments home over the summer and did just that, playing on my grandparents’ deck until the neighbors shouted through an acre of woods for me to stop playing.  I bought every piece of sheet music I could.  The next school year I had Intermediate Band for an elective in the fall, and still practiced tirelessly.  I picked up one of the open hole flutes and trained myself on that.  I would have killed for private lessons, but my parents couldn’t afford it, and the honor’s high school I went to didn’t permit time for after school jobs.  In the spring, when I was taking creative writing, I gave up my lunch period to play with the Intermediate Band which fortuitously met at that time.

At the end of the year, it was time to fill out elective forms.  I had to get the band teacher to sign off on concert band, and when I nervously presented him with my slip, he smiled and signed me in.  It was so easy, and my friend Lisa got in too, so I thought he was just letting everyone in.  But our friend Greg was playing saxophone in Intermediate Band, and Mr. Lustig didn’t sign him off.  I realized perhaps this was dint of my hard work.

I spent junior year as a 3rd flute, but I was happy to be there.  By senior year, I had made it up to the first row with my stand mate since the beginning, Joanne.  Mr. Lustig passed out the medley we would be playing for the winter concert, the one which would close out the show.  It was Les Mis.

This may seem like such a small thing, getting into Concert Band in high school.  Don’t band geek jokes abound?  (Although in my high school, which was full of geeks and nerds and all sorts, it was actually semi-cool.  Or at least some cooler kids were in band.)  But to me, it meant the reward for hard work, and how much I could give to something I wanted, and how that moved me towards a goal.  I didn’t know I had so much power.

So when I got to college, and I saw and fell in love with Paris over a weekend my freshman year, I decided I would do a study abroad my junior year, and to justify said study abroad I would add a French major and double major in English and French.  I only learned afterwards that this wouldn’t have been necessary if I’d covered all my English credits, but that information didn’t bother me.  It didn’t matter to me that I had taken Spanish and Latin in high school and only a semester of college French.  I was going to major in French.  Again, I worked as hard as I could.  I skipped over the required Intermediate French II to take a literature course, which was required for the major, and got the signature from the chair of the Foreign Languages Department (it helped that she was my advisor).  My school didn’t have a study abroad program, they partnered with a school in Iowa, Central College.  I had to apply, and nervous though I was, I got accepted.  I arrived in Paris nervous, but prepared to revel in the year abroad I had dreamed of.  I had Paris as a destination since college, but even in high school I wanted to study abroad.  Once in France, I decided that while I tested into Level B at the Sorbonne’s course for international students in the fall, in the spring I was going to jump over Level A to Section Universitaire, which required writing a 20 page paper on French literature.  In French.  And I did it.  I spent a year wandering round Paris with virtually no money, and hours holed up in my unglamorous room at the foyer comparing the depiction of youth in Balzac’s Peau de Chagrin with those in Hugo’s Les Miserables, and I loved every second of it, from writing letters in front of the Fontaine des Medicis in the Luxembourg–it was the turn of the millennium and the internet was nowhere near as pervasive–to frequenting the homme des crepes, as I dubbed him, on the Boulevard Saint Germain just off the Boulevard Saint Michel, to reveling in the stationary department of Galleries Lafayette and the large scale paintings in the Louvre.

My senior year in college I finally decided I wanted to be a teacher…except I hadn’t taken any teaching courses, and I was up to my neck in student loan debt.  I took some admin assistant jobs and hated them, and managed to get myself fired twice in two years (though I had three jobs, in my paltry defense).  Clearly I was going nowhere with that, but I still wanted to be a teacher. I had dreams of one day going back to teach English at the high school I attended, which I paradoxically loved.  On the subway, they had ads for the New York City Teaching Fellows program, and I applied, playing hooky from work one day to finish my application.  Looking back I think that was the final straw when they were considering whether to fire me or not, but it turned out to be a worthwhile move–I was accepted to the program.  I got my Masters in Education for free and spent five exhausting but rewarding years teaching in some of the rougher schools in Manhattan.  I would have stayed on a couple years more, but a job at Townsend Harris opened up, and I seized the day and wrote an application letter, quoting our school’s Ephebic Oath.  They made us take an oath.  It was a weird place.  They called me in for an interview, and then I didn’t hear anything. I thought it wasn’t going to happen, so I left all my teaching materials at my old school and said I tried, and that I would try again.  But in July they called me in to do a sample lesson for some kids who had volunteered to come in.  Over the summer.  And off the back of this, they hired me.  Teaching there was very work intensive, but it was hands down the best job of my entire life.  I would have worked there until I retired if it hadn’t been for love intervening.

I’m bragging about these triumphs, but the thing is, I’m lazy.  Something has been holding me back from completing a novel and sending it off for publication, and I think it’s a combination of procrastination, laziness, and fear.  What if this is the one time I can’t make things happen by sheer force of will and hard work?  What if chance, which has helped me along, fails me?

I think though, this is where my propensity to worry comes in.  Yes, it might not work out, but when I look back and I really tried for something, I got it.  That’s a pretty powerful thing, so why be afraid?