Category Archives: jobs

Another year, another home for the Perambulatory Professors/Wandering Jews

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A soon-to-be happy 9th anniversary to The Scientist and me! Here is a hint as to how we’re going to spend our anniversary:

Some people get married, buy a house, and spend their lives in it. Maybe they move once or twice. In 9 years of marriage, we have moved a few more times than that.

Here I was at our Southern apartment complex when we were newlyweds:

Southern complex, 2003

The next place, a total of 567 shared square feet, was a little less luxurious:

Northeast urban condo, 2004

But a year later we were in a nicer home, with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a patio, and a winter view of the river:

Suburban Northeast townhouse, 2005

And then our jobs took us really really far away–into the Canadian hinterlands–where we dropped back down to one bathroom. The condo was OK–we were grateful to find a place in a province where it is both legal and popular for owners to choose not to rent to people with children under the age of 18. Here I am  with Cool J in the oven and latkes on the stove:

Canadian Hinterlands condo, 2006

We got two years off moving in 2007 and 2008, so in 2009, we had to move several times. When we subletted a furnished place, we had access to other kids’ playthings, to the delight of our own kids, whose personal cache of toys has long consisted of Lego, Lego, and more Lego:

Canadian Hinterlands sublet #2, 2009

Luckily, we ultimately landed in the ultimate house:

Canadian Hinterlands Dream House, 2009

But sadly, that didn’t last long. By the end of 2010, we were packed up again and ready to go. We found a house with one bathroom (for the now 5 of us!) sandwiched between a House of Prayer and a Urologist (The Scientist chose to go to neither). Here are the boys and their cousins in our current house (Messy? You try having 7 kids stay in your 1200 sq ft house!):

A Princely Town Duplex, 2011

And here we’ve been installed for a whole year and a half. A lifetime! But alas, all houses come to a quick end for us, and a couple of weeks ago, The Scientist walked around our house, studying it thoughtfully, and at last declared: “OK, I’m done with it.” And so we all are, it would seem.

On to the next adventure, and to our new house, which I am calling The Nut House, owing to the series of nut-named streets in the area, and for no other reason at all! (3 nutty children? irrelevant!). The Nut House has a small, overgrown backyard, no parking (not even on the street out front), and an uphill when you walk out of the front door that is going to kick my butt when I’m on my bike, but it does have 2 bathrooms (woohoo!!), and my kids’ all-time favorite house-feature, an “upstairs-upstairs.” It’s a bit bigger and it’s nicer than our current house, and being the wandering jews that we are, we embrace the new adventure (moving is fun! moving is fun! moving is fun! Repeat ’til the page is full, printer, or, um, blog).

Pictures of the Nut House in a Princely Town, 2012, are forthcoming . . .

I am organized, efficient, and capable. I am hard working and adept at keeping track of lots of bits of information. . .Vote for me!

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As a part of that world of academia, I am a member, as surely you are of your profession, of various organizations that host conferences, publish journals, and come up with useful, applicable ideas and plans for both the sub-specialty and the field at large.

There is one organization that I have been a member of for near a decade. I have published in their journal, I regularly review articles that are submitted to their journal, and I attend and speak at their conferences. But I’ve never thought to get involved at an administrative level, which would mean really immersing myself in the organization’s inner sanctum, and contributing to its welfare. Recently, however, the editor of the journal the Society hosts suggested I run for office this term. I thought about it. On the one hand, it meant committing time I can’t imagine I have, and attending the two major conferences a year, which can be pretty much anywhere in the country. On the other, this was the opportunity to participate in something I believe in and care about. I guess teaching at an Ivy League university, where everyone is earnestly involved up to their eyeballs influenced my decision: I looked around at my messy, messy house, took stock of the (virtual) stack of papers to comment on, pulled Baby MoFo up on my lap, and began to write my nomination statement.

“I am organized, efficient, and capable . . .”

Four nights later found me running through campus, wearing PJs, boots, and a jacket. No socks, no bra. It was 11:30 at night and I had not forgotten that stack of papers at school (it was virtual, after all), nor was I meeting with a student at that late hour. I had been lying in bed, about to drift off into unconsciousness, when my mind starting running through all matter of things:

1. I never did anything about that hunk of pasta sauce stuck in my engagement ring I noticed a few nights ago while I was on my way to parent-teacher interviews. I should probably stick it in the jewelry cleaner.

2. I forgot to pay for the Daddy-and-me Gymnastics night. Crap. Hope there’s still room.

3. I have to open blocks on my online calendar so the students can schedule their conferences since they begin in just a couple of days.

4. I should take my coat to the seamstress–the buttons look like they’re about to fall off.

5. I really have to start revising that article if I’m going to have it workshopped by my faculty peers next month. Which reminds me, I have to go to the library. They’re going to cancel my hold order again if I don’t pick up the books soon.

6. I should have loaded the dishwasher before bed. I’m going to regret that pile in the sink when I wake up.

7. Even the counter is cluttered with dishes. That must be unsanitary.

8. Were my rings sitting in that counter clutter? I don’t think I wore them all day.

9. I don’t think I wore my rings yesterday.

10. Have I seen my rings since I discovered the hunk of pasta sauce on them 3 days ago?

11. Yes, I did see my rings. I was playing with them while I was trying to revise my article in my office the other day, wasn’t I? Wasn’t that after the parent-teacher interview? But I wouldn’t have taken them off and left them at school, right?

12. WHERE ARE MY RINGS?

I jumped out of bed, went downstairs, looked in all the usual places: sitting on top of the microwave, on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table, on one of the bookshelves. Nada. I told myself to be calm and I did #6–loaded the dishwasher. That way, either I would have an empty counter and sink and also find my rings (could they have fallen in the sink? Could they have fallen down the drain?) or, at worst, I would have an empty counter and sink and one or two fewer things to worry about. I did my nice service for next-day me, but my heart started pounding harder as I put the last plate in the dishwasher: No rings. I took everything off the table. I pulled off the table cloth, checked it thoroughly and shook it out (not from the 21st floor–so my rings couldn’t have the adventure you must remember they had last year!). Nada. I picked loose Lego brick, pens, opened mail, DVDs, Wii games, and crumpled receipts off the bookshelves. Nada. Cleared the microwave surface of a bag of rice cakes, a container of Jane’s Krazy Salt, and The Scientist’s deodorant (huh?). Nada.

I finally decided I was driving myself crazy–that they were, of course, somewhere, and I went to bed again.

Once there, a rendition of Scarlett played through my head: “I can’t let [my rings] go [again]. I can’t. There must be some way to bring [them] back. Oh I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters?”

And so, near midnight, I was sprinting through the campus, hoping not to see my students, or rather, hoping they wouldn’t see me, and hoping, moreover, that I hadn’t been so stupid as to play with my rings in my office and then just leave them lying on my desk, and hoping, even more than that, that I had left my rings lying around on my desk or in my wastebasket or in my coffee mug or on my coat hook–anywhere, anywhere, that they could be found again.

I opened my office door.

No rings.

I sorted through the papers and lifted my mug and looked in it and under it; I pushed books hither and thither; I  checked my coat hook and wastebasket and recycling bin; and finally, deflated, I called The Scientist to say that they were gone–lost forever. As he answered the phone, I absentmindedly lifted up my keyboard. And underneath–

“They’re here! I didn’t lose them!!!”

I am organized, efficient, and capable . . .

Which is true, for the most part, and saved me over the next week, which is to say, this past week, during which time I taught my 2 classes twice; prepped for my classes; commented on 24 essays, which takes, according to our program’s requirements, about 36 hours; met with each of my students individually for 45 minutes, conferences scheduled around their busy lives, so that the 22 hours I was at or going to or returning from conferences included hours early in the morning and past 10:30pm; stayed home with my baby for the afternoon of President’s Day when there was (I was late to discover) no daycare; went to the dentist for a cleaning and a check-up; did my usual triple pick-up of the kids most days (and took them for frozen yogurt on the particularly warm day) as well as about half the drop-offs; made all three meals for everyone every day; took the baby to the doctor when the daycare sent him home (and said he couldn’t return) because he had pink eye; and all this, I should add, with no sleep since, in addition to pink eye, Baby MoFo also developed an ear infection –actually, a double-ear infection — this week, and he suffered all through the night.

I am organized, efficient, and capable . . .

But my house can often be a madhouse, and as a result, I might act as though I’ve been lobotomized . . .

Oh–but vote for me!!

A calm(ish) moment in our madhouse (in case you're wondering, Baby MoFo is about the fall off the couch, cry, and then take off his diaper and pee on the floor)

Coveting Alone Time (Why I can’t be a SAHM and why I think all you SAHMs are a combination of brave and crazy)

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Anytime I meet a stressed-out SAHM, my first comment is “Get a job!” I happen to be in the camp that thinks staying at home is way harder than trying to figure out that so-called “work-life balance.” A job: Where you can talk adult-talk. Where you can get out of your messy house. Where you can go to the bathroom by yourself. I’m not even thinking about the economic issues here (especially since for many of us the cost of childcare easily eats up the second income). I’m talking about sanity.

This was my first day of work at my current (wonderful!) job. Note the piles of laundry in the background. I was so excited to GET! OUT! Bu-bye, messy house!!

At almost 2, Baby MoFo is still babyish. Apart from general cuddliness and the inability to pee in the toilet, he pretty much refuses to talk. I call him “The Artist.” He knows to clench his fists and growl when he sees a picture of a lion. And he has the essentials: I (iPad), Elmo, Uno, more, mayonnaise, shoes, . . . that kind of thing. And “no,” which he uses frequently. For a long time we thought it was only “no” and not “yes,” but recently he surprised us when asked a series of yes/no questions:
“Are you a good boy?” “No.”
“Do you love your mama?” “No.”
“Do you love your brothers?” “No.”
“Did you make a kak?” “No.”
“But you stink.” “No.”
“Are you lying?” “No”

[Change poo]

[Cool J, in the meantime, is trying to translate for his baby brother. “He says ‘NO’ when he means ‘YES.’ He just doesn’t know HOW to say ‘YES.’ Watch this: MoFo, can you please give me that Mario Kart toy?” MoFo: “No.” Cool J yanks the toy out of Baby MoFo’s hand and Baby MoFo starts to cry. Cool J: “He’s crying because he tried so hard to say yes, and he couldn’t. Thanks for the toy!”]

“Are you scrunching your brothers?” “No.”
“Stop scrunching your brothers!” “No.”
“Did you make your brothers CRY?” “No.”
“I’m going to give you a time-out! Do you want a time-out? Are you a bad little baby?” “Yes.”

Well, there was that.

Mostly, he just motions to us when he wants to communicate. Like on Friday, when I went into Cool J’s school office to talk to them about billing, and of course, Baby MoFo came with me. That’s what the SAHM life is all about. You go somewhere, baby goes somewhere with you. Baby MoFo was waiting, not so patiently, digging around in recycling bins, digging through my pockets, opening my wallet, dumping its contents on the floor .  . .As I set off to leave the school, in the pouring rain, I reach into my pocket to take out my car remote and do a quick click-click to open up his door, when I discover my pocket is empty. Wallet, probably missing a credit card or two, is in one pocket, and the other pocket is empty. I rush back into the school to look for my keychain holding my car remote, car key, and house keys. It is nowhere to be found.

I look suspiciously at the baby. “Do you know where the car keys are?” No answer.

“Where are the keys?” No answer.

“¿Dónde están los llaves?”

“Ou sont les clefs?”

“?איפה המפתחות”

“Ha a kulcsok?”

We try all the languages of the house. Sometimes we think he’s not an artist, but perhaps English is not his first language.

No luck. And then, suddenly, he races into the school office and points at the radiator. We look inside. Nothing. We get a flashlight, look in it, over it, under it, behind it. Nothing.

Sometimes his non-verbal communication is not great.

Which is unfortunate, because The Scientist was out of country, and we were locked out of house and car for many hours.

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This morning the non-verbal communication was not great, again.

I dared to go to the bathroom alone. It’s risky business, and I knew it.

I was in there for 1 minute.

I spent the one minute thinking of all the mischief Baby MoFo might be up to. Mostly I was thinking about my cup of coffee sitting on the table not too far away from my laptop.

When I emerged from the bathroom, Baby MoFo looked pretty innocent. Also, naked. He had, in the one minute I was not watching him, taken off his footy-pajamas and diaper. So cute.

Except. What’s that? A ball of kak on the floor.

“Did you kak?” “No.”

“Did you make a kaka?” “No.”

“Is that kaki on the floor?” “No.”

“Is there more kaki?” “No.”

As I crawled around the house, picking up balls of kak, I thought about my new semester starting up again in a little over a week. A lot of people who teach get anxious as the new semester rolls around (I was just reading a post by one of my favorite bloggeristas– MannahattaMama –about this feeling). I get excited. Work? Work! Work!

And then I see another kaki ball. And another.

It’s Not Starbucks

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AFter all that blah blah blah complaining about unemployment, I do it. I get a summer job. It’s not my dream job, but, you might say, it’s not Starbucks. I don’t have to wear a uniform (I don’t really do hats) or pretend I don’t understand when people say “medium” (“I’m sorry. We don’t carry that size. Perhaps you mean a grande??”). At the hourly rate local crossing guards make, it also pays a bit more per hour than Starbucks–although, as I’m soon to discover, there are many hours (“Be here an hour early to test the incoming students, but DON’T PUT THAT HOUR ON YOUR TIMESHEET WHATEVER YOU DO!!” “Oh, did we mention there’s a faculty development meeting today? Bring a lunch, and expect to stay and extra hour and a half or so. Oh, and DON’T PUT IT ON YOUR TIMESHEET!”) that are simply unpaid. So perhaps not.

When I read the job description, it sounded glamorous and exciting. I wonder if I misread it. I don’t have the ad, so I’ll try to reconstruct it from memory. It went something like this:

Italian students will be coming to America to discover, imbibe, inhale, and digest American culture. Some other Europeans are coming, too. For the small sum of 6000 € (plus airfare), they will: Shop! Go bowling! Visit the White House! See a Broadway play! Hit the mean streets of Philly! Eat hamburgers and fries! Stroll along the Baltimore Inner Harbor! Cry at Ground Zero! Spend lots of money! Tell their friends and brothers and sisters about their experience so that they, in turn, can  add many more euros to our coffers!

Teacher of English: You can be a part of this experience. You can impart to these FOBs what it is to love the land God blessed. You can teach them what it is to speak the language of our beloved country. You can fill their mouths with clichés and their heads with stereotypes. You can’t join them for that Broadway play (though feel free to play youtube videos from the production in your classroom), or live out your little Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr or Fay Wray/colossal gorilla romantic fantasies at the top of the Empire State Building (ditto the youtubes) with this job, but you can do something far more important. You can lock yourself in a classroom with them for 3 hours/morning–don’t come late! don’t leave early!–don’t take more than 10 minutes for a break!–and do something or other with them (we don’t really care what, but their parents aren’t going to pay for them to just go sightseeing. We are calling this edutainment, people!!)(ps: We recommend youtube videos).

Will you be paid for this job? Oh yes! Of course you are! Don’t you worry! Well, OK, we’re only going to pay you a pittance (hey–that 6000 € is ours), but just think about it: This is the opportunity of a lifetime.

YOU can give your students:

THE AMERICAN DREAM.

And so I did.

How to fill 3 hours of class time for a class with no objectives, no curriculum, and no rules (apart from those pertaining to the number of hours to be in class)? There are youtube videos . . . and then there are cupcakes. I filled my students up on Americana both ways. Also, I attempted to improve their English. Which is, I think, what they were there for.

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Transience

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Avatar, an Australian colleague, asks me about the state of tenure in the US. I blather on about tenuous tenure, a topic which years of tenurelessness has made me an expert in. I cite the latest statistics I’ve seen: “In 2009, only 24.4 percent of American faculty members were tenured or tenure-track,” according to a recent New York Times book review of In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, a book by bitter long-time adjunct Professor X who taught introductory courses that many students failed, as the students, he says, were “in some cases barely literate” (in case you don’t plan to buy the book, I’ll jump ahead: he’s going to suggest that university might not be for everybody. This might be very good news for those of you who are debating between putting your money into 529s for your less-than-brilliant children or into future passage for your hard-working self on the Crystal Serenity for a taste of LA, Papeete, Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Dubai, Cape Town, and London, with a few dozen at-sea days in between).

Technically, Avatar and I are about to find ourselves among (or increasing?) that untenured/untracked 75.6%. But you won’t find me complaining. My students will be far more than literate. I will have small classes of engaged, intelligent future Nobel prize winners. I will be mentoring my future senators and perhaps a president or two on an individual basis, discussing their ideas, helping them to refine their critical thinking skills, guiding them through the thickets of theoretical texts and their own sometimes muddled prose (that might end up in The Great American Novel). So I’m definitely not complaining.

Actually, I’m ecstatic.

But I might not be in 5 years.

Because that, my friends, is around the time I’ll be looking for a new job.

That’s the way it goes. Tenure might be a failing system, but it’s the system everyone seems to be upholding; the tenured want to keep their power, and the untenured want to gain that power.

And so–

The boys debate between them the next three places we’ll live. This is a debate they have taken up between them, without a word about future relocations from The Scientist or me. They just understand this to be life: first you move, then you move, then you move again. And each time, you’re the “new guy” and everyone comes over and checks you out and maybe, if you’re lucky, one or two of them also really likes Super Mario or Toy Story and then you pretty much have everything in common there is to have in common, and you’re BFFs–at least until the next move.

“I’ll do first and second grade here,” announces LL. “Then we’ll move to Miami to be near the alligators.”

“NO!” retorts Cool J. “There are way more alligators in New York. Remember how many we counted in the sewers?”

“Oh yeah! I think it was 426!”

“I think it was infinity alligators.”

“Would you rather go to Your-ami?” (Much laughter here. Tell this joke–this Mi-ami/Your-ami bit–to children under 6, and you will be the equivalent of Jackie Mason for the alter kockers) (Did you know Jackie Mason is still alive, by the way? I have friends going to see him in Long Island this week. One of them is not even 35. But I guess alter kockers come in all ages).

“I want to go to where Dada’s from next. If we live there, we can play with all of his Lego.”

“What about The Tower of Power? I want to go back to the Tower of Power.”

“The Tower of Power! It had a red elevator and a yellow elevator!”

(they are sidetracked for a while in the discussion of the elevators)

The Tower of Power

(a long while)

The conversation resumes another day, the thread intact: “How about Miami, THEN the Tower of Power, THEN Dada’s old house?”

“OK.”

“Does Baby MoFo get a say in all this?” I ask. Baby MoFo chooses not to talk yet, but the big boys regularly report on his desires (“Mama, the baby said he wants to watch Backyardigans.” “Mama, the baby said he wants a popsicle, but don’t worry–I’ll hold it for him.””Mama, the baby said he really really really really wants a Zurg Lego, and he wants to go to Target right now to get it.”).

“I think . . . ” begins Cool J. “I think the deer place. Yeah, that’s it. He wants to live in the deer place.”

(Nara, Japan: those were some impressive deer. They certainly got intimate with Cool J:

Or maybe he just remembers what a rock star he was–a Baby Sensation.

So here’s to the tenureless dream: every five years or so, pack up your bags. Find a place to live. Grasp a new culture or language or laws. Learn the the new job, the new schools, the new kids that come to your door from here and there and everywhere. Meet the kids’ parents, meet the work colleagues, meet the neighbor that comes by with homemade empenadas and grilled plantains. And of course: collect many more Facebook friends.

Are we exemplars of a 21st-century post-modern rootless cosmopolitanism? Not a chance. LL was born in one country, The Scientist and I in another. Throw in LL’s 4 grandparents, and you’ve added 4 more countries to our family tree. Their parents, our grandparents? Add another 4 countries. That’s 11 countries accounted for in 4 generations. There’s nothing new here. We’re not modern; we’re traditional–a family of Wandering Jews descended from Wandering Jews. . .

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Dear Self

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Remember how afraid Marty is of meeting his past-self and future-self in Back to the Future? Doc Brown made it sound really bad: he could explode the universe. Or disrupt the space-time continuum. Or erase himself. Or something crazy. Perhaps the effects of such a meeting would be less dramatic in real life.

You never know.

My past-self (though likely not the universe) might have imploded if she were to realize that none of her dream-children would ever be born. After all, she spent months, if not years, very carefully crafting the names of all her future children:

Anastasia Monique Chantal

Charity Ellsbeth (alt. Charity Elisant)

Chayara Nadiva

Little girls, perhaps you live in an alternate universe somewhere, wearing pretty pink dresses and hosting tea parties, or scorning pretty pink dresses and joining the Tea Party.

Today an envelope arrived in the mail. I looked at it, turned it over in my hands a few times, and then put it on the side table. Later, The Scientist came home and said, “Hey! You got mail!” Before I could stop him, he opened it. But to his surprise, inside the envelope he found another envelope.

Which is what I expected.

The second envelope was my reprieve. My chance to say: “Don’t open it!” My chance to collect myself just a little bit more. Not that I haven’t had 13 years to collect myself.

A few minutes ago, at The Scientist’s prodding, I decided to open the inside envelope. The one I had addressed all those years ago. The one from my past-self–Past Princess.

The letter was written near the end of the last century. It was written during a “mentor meeting”–one of the meetings I had with a college teacher who had greater experience than I, and who was an inspirational figure who taught me how to teach. And, apparently, to reflect. Because this letter was my assignment. “I’ll send it to you in 5 years,” he promised. “Just put it in an envelope and use an address that you’re sure will still be valid in 5 years.” I didn’t know that it would take him 13 years to put that envelope in the mail. The family house–our famous house with a Chai (we lived at #18)–has long passed hands, and passed hands again. It has been renovated inside and out, gained an addition, and even bears a new facade, not red brick, but gray stucco. It’s there, but not there, a big stucco sign of what once was. The letter should have disappeared into the recesses of the universe in all this time, like my childhood house.

Of course, I couldn’t forget that little assignment, and so, being the pain in the butt that I am, I found that brilliant mentor on Facebook (where else does anyone find anyone?) and asked for my letter-to-self, hoping, against all odds (13 years–who knows how many moves? how small the New York apartments? how tight the storage space?), he had retained it.

He had.

So there was my letter, ready to be read, and I was holding back. The reason I was so hesitant to open this letter is because I suspected some things: that I had had great ambitions that weren’t fulfilled. That I hadn’t been nice about The Scientist. That I had been nicer about the guy I was dating–some Law Student who had a number of strange quirks. (On the first or second date, he latched on to the fact that our birthdays were 9 days apart, just as his parents’ birthdays were, but when I casually mentioned a few dates later that I had no plans to change my last name upon marrying, he flew into a blind rage and declared that HIS wife and HIS kids would bear HIS name. I’m not really sure why my last name was so relevant to him–he hadn’t so much as given me a peck on the cheek at that point [did I mention this was the 5th or so date?]. Fastforward a passage of time, and we’re on another date/post-date/past-pecks: he picks up the phone to call his dad in California while we are in the middle of engaging in an activity that was not eating dinner to ask Dad about the potential effects of certain meds on certain parts of his body [Dad was not a doctor, by the bye]. . . . The relationship didn’t last long.)

I remembered correctly. I did write about Law Student. And I am pleased to see that rather than declare my sappy, pathetic enthrallment with him, I made a brief prediction and was pretty much dead on: “As for our [Law Student], future icon of the bourgeoisie, I can only imagine he will just be the vaguest of memories . . . some lawyer out in California that I knew . . . once.” CHECK, Past Princess!

As for The Scientist, I was a little off. I claimed that he preventing me from meeting my bashert. How could I have known that he was my bashert? Even then, not dating him, barely speaking to him, I write: “I love him today and have loved him for oh so long!” And yet I didn’t know he was my bashert. How silly I was.

I mean, really silly. Because it was not that I was so ambitious then, but so wrong about how I ought to be pursuing my ambitions. I thought graduate school the holy grail. And yet, I thought, in writing my letter, that I was going to leave grad school, and this idea terrified me:

“What will I be doing 4 mos. from now nevermind 4 years? (Consulting? Studying? Teaching?). It scares me so much to leave this place despite the ‘I’m going out to the real world to make money’ bravado.”

Oh, Fear!

Oh, 24-year-old Self! You should have gone out into the world and made money!

Alas, I did not. And so I became the Poor Princess. Although, also, the happily married Poor Princess.

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I end with an assessment of my world, a philosophical summing up of all that is important, and a question that I think significant enough to allow my future-Self to truly reflect on Life and all that it’s worth:

“Today I’m 24. My grandmother is alone and lonely. My brother-in-law just had his 32nd birthday. My sister is 9 months pregnant. My rent is going up to $1430US next month. Kitty is 12. Daddy should be retiring soon, and Mom leaving her school. And that’s my life, I suppose.

“LOVE, ME.

“PS: Oh by the way, Dear Future Self — Do you still do those teeny bikini waxes, leaving only an itty-bitty Hitler ‘stache?”

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Living to Make a Living

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In a recent post, I wrote about a financial planning book called Your Money or Your Life. My main complaint against the book is that it misses a key reason people work: because they actually enjoy it. Clearly the author, who was very keen on his coined phrase “to make a dying,” was not so keen on his own job.

Soon I will be back in the working world. There is much to look forward to, and much to dread. All those things I take for granted now–like curling up on sofa with a giant salad I’ve put together with everything I can find in my house that seems fair game (without being game–ick!) while watching Victor piss off Nicky yet again (maybe you should take to the bottle, Nicky? there’s a novel idea); Sharon throw away her family for the man who kidnapped her child, told her it was dead, and gave it to her ex-father-in-law and his young wifey; and Sheila Carter rise from the dead once more (it’s only a matter of time)–will be over. Lunches with ladies and babies? Long mornings at the gym? Sitting in the playground at Cool J’s preschool for hours while Cool J and his friends Phoenix and Elvis run around with plastic boats and shovels and watering cans, call them guns, and shoot at each other? These moments will soon be history, distant memories of my carefree days–my days when I was young and restless.

In other words, I went for my interview.

I had my lipstick; I had my job talks. I was good to go.

Admittedly, despite my new coat of lipstick, I lacked a coat of the other variety. (What do you think of a ski jacket over a suit–kind of hip in a I’m-too-cool-to-try-to-look-cool kind of way??). I do own one coat that is theoretically interview material. Unfortunately, it has a lining that looks like it was attacked by feral cats, a missing button, and pockets that allow me to slide my hands right through (you know, just in case I have to pull my wedgie out–very convenient). Imagine, if you will, that threadbare, shameful excuse of a garment, covered in the melon rinds people flung out of their casements, that Akaky was convinced to surrender in The Overcoat? (at lot of good that did him).

Mom: “Just go to Walmart and buy one.”

Me, bristling: “I don’t DO Walmart.”

Mom: “You can return it the next day.”

Me: “Mom, there’s a word for that.”

Mom: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Me: “You do.”

Mom: “Listen, just because you don’t–“

Me: “Steal?”

Mom: “You know our friends, The Cheaps? They buy beautiful orchids from Costco and fill their whole condo with it. Then when the orchids die, they take them all back to Costco and return them, complaining they got dead flowers.”

Me: “There’s a word for that.”

Mom: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s called working the system. They know how to work the system.”

Me: “That’s not working . . . .”

My mother thinks I have a goyishe kop. Which, believe me, does not say good things about the yiddishe kop.

I wore the shabby coat.

But I digress. I went for my interview, and it went well. I talked. I answered questions. I asked questions. I met intelligent people who were interesting and engaging, even though none of them had ever been locked in a cage for months, buried alive, had multiple babies stolen from them, or pretended to die but had really moved to Australia to hide being gay. It was great.

And there was something else. As much as I love sitting in the playground and watching sand toys turned into weapons of mass destruction, there is something to be said about being out there in the workaday world.

Switching trains on the way home from my interview, I was bone tired. Satisfied, but exhausted. I was ready to be semi-prone on my couch, in sweats, with a big bowl of popcorn and Glee (instead, I would face, upon arrival in my house, hungry, cranky kids and a husband who was itching to get work done, which he had not been able to do during my long absence. But I was yet to know that). I had only about five minutes to wait, but I could barely stand it. I shuffled my weight from my left foot to my right and back, slid my fingers through my pocket-holes to pull on my skirt, and I looked around.

A little to the side and in front of me, facing the tracks, were a young man and a young woman. I couldn’t see their faces, but their bodies seemed young. Their clothes seemed young. She wore a big Afro, 70s style, and he wore both baseball cap and hood. His jeans sunk low. In their ears, they had ear pods. I could see the white wires coming out of their pockets and disappearing into their ears.

They danced. First her, then him. Backs to the crowd, listening to their hidden ipods (was it the same song? the same rhythm? how were they so beautifully in-tune with each other, so magically in sync?), they danced. They were incredible.

The woman beside me, an older woman with eggplant hair, tugged the sleeve of my ratty coat. I turned to her. She gestured at the young dancers and said something in Spanish. I have no idea what she said, but we both burst out in laughter.

I was on my way home from a potential future job. I was aching with exhaustion, but somehow, exhilarated. There is a world out there, and to work in it is to live in it. To make a living is not just about making a living. It’s about living.

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