I’ve only read the description of Shonda Rhimes’ recent memoir, but I’ve already subscribed to her decision-making philosophy in Year of Yes. Even though it sounded cheesy on the surface, the more I considered it in relation to my new "self-employed" and stationary existence, the less I could refute its premise for myself.
I’m not sure when to consider the official start to my year of opting in—yes to beer fest tickets, yes to Tuesday night trivia, yes to faculty readings all the way across town, yes to floating down the Colorado River, yes to (gulp) jogging again—but that start is solidly behind me, I know that.
Perhaps it started with a soft opening as I eased out of my job in mid-June and departed Spain. Perhaps this glorious gap year in my early-thirties started when I landed back stateside on June 23rd with my brother and his daughter after a successful camping trip around Iceland’s ring road. Or maybe the following weekend when Goddard’s Program Director handed me a Master’s degree and I bawled into the microphone about no longer being a teacher.
Yes, I think my new life started a month ago, on July 1st, when I officially closed out the three major experiences of my early adulthood: my 2.5-year stint in graduate school, my 7-year tenure at THINK Global School, and my 10-year lifestyle on the road.
In what felt like one swift Band-Aid tug—amidst what I tried to make a slow and smooth transition—I stopped becoming a nomadic educator and started the life of a stationary writer. It took me off-guard, that simultaneous and instantaneous change to my identity.
For so long, who I was had its feet planted in what I did. I changed homes every few months, always a stranger in a strange place. I surrounded myself with multicultural teenagers and progressive educators, represented my country without a choice through daily, poignant, critical discussions about world issues. I felt on the periphery of society with my finger on its pulse. I had my schedule dictated for me, a rolling stone on whom few could count (because of my schedule, not because of me...right?). I thought in academic years, not calendar years. I was a teacher at a traveling high school (Say what!? A traveling high school? I’ve never heard of that before!). At times, I worried that my job and my lifestyle made me interesting, not my mind or my heart or my words or ridiculous laugh.
And though I did make a conscious choice away from this life—wanting to command my identity entirely—I still knew it would be hard. A good hard. The kind that isn’t easy but is better in the long run. I do miss my students and my colleagues and my health insurance and my paycheck, but not surprisingly, I don’t miss that life. I’m just continuing to find its off-ramp bumpy and intriguing. I’m learning to redefine myself by the life I sculpt for myself.
For years, the transient life inspired states of mind and perspectives I thought should be discussed: What is home, really? To whom and where are we obliged as individuals? How do expiration dates affect relationships, friendships, personal investment and engagement, ambitions? What can we learn about being a part of a community by being a fly-on-the-wall to many? Ironically, I feel more primed, now that I’m stationary, to think about these questions. Perhaps it’s just because I now have the time. I’m in charge of my day. Perhaps my mind is slowing down from the constant high of figuring things out and being somewhere new that has opportunities and threats unknown around every corner.
And thinking about these big questions I am: through the third revision of my Fiji manuscript, through discussions with friends and Lyft drivers, hopefully through shorter writings in contests and literary journals and blog posts such as this one. Yes, I endeavor to get back to blogging.
I say yes to blogging again.
Working at THINK Global School already made upkeep on a blog seem like an unnecessary strain and a creative chore on top of an already-creatively exhausting job. I had too much to say and no time to say it. Adding onto that the constant reading and writing of an MFA made blogging nearly impossible beyond the two or three posts a year I pulled off since 2016; at least not to the level I grew to expect of myself as a “Master of Writing” in the making (picture me in superhero stance, a la Rhime's Amelia Shepherd character in Grey's Anatomy).
But now I have a new normal. I live in Denver, not anywhere else. I have trips planned to see friends and family, not major address changes or long-term explorations. I have a cell phone coming to me this week with a US phone number that isn’t likely to change for years (delete all the old numbers, folks!). I get to decide every morning whether today will be a hefty reading day of Pulitzer prize-winning books or if I’ll take a jog in a park and then write from the front patio before heading to a reading series. I have time to say yes to personal health above all else and time to focus on relationships with people, not with work.
It’s a privileged time I have this year, this "gap year" I saved up for, a misnomer for this break from working for others, more a chance to work for myself. I’ll likely never be able to lavish in this self-centered comfort again because I also want to say yes to some of those common American narrative elements, to respond (eventually) to those biological “Mom pangs” of the last few years, regardless of how many mothers and fathers attempt to convince me otherwise.
My new normal allows for the pursuit of thinkers that challenge me, expenditures of time that satiate me and align with my values, and—best of all—time to process the last 10 years of learning about the world from the world. But this new normal is still grounded in my oldest motivation: my desire to share what I’ve learned from a privileged life of options and experiences in order to impact and influence others, to transfer the experiential learning properties of world travel to armchair readers and get back that learning ten-fold. I’ll always say yes to that.
So, that was nearly 1,000 words to say, simply: I’m going to start blogging again, this time about being a writer in the world...just not all over the world. These blogs will be rough, short-ish (for me), and hopefully helpful to those of you who also write or travel or wonder what it’s like to stop being nomadic and start putting down roots in one place (yes, I was channeling The Real World just then).
Your comments, your book recommendations, and your encouragement to finish this darn manuscript are welcome.