Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dear September

Dear September,

I’ve been keeping a secret from you.  This blog is about my adventures in housewifery - and I do love being at home - but I’ve been hiding something.  And poor September has paid the price for my preoccupation. See how sad you look in the blog archive section with your two little posts?  July and August are laughing at you like you’re Steve Rogers pre-Captain America.  I’m sorry, September: I haven’t paid attention to you because – and here’s the confession - I applied for a job at the end of August.

It wasn’t just any job.  It was the job - the one I’d been hoping for since graduation.  It combined my interests perfectly, it seemed intellectually stimulating, and it even offered some international travel opportunities.  Plus, I knew a few folks at the organization.   Feeling like a woman who found her true love a day after swearing off men, I excitedly submitted my cover letter and resume.  September started to fly by:  I got called in for a first interview, did well on my written exam, got called in for a second interview, and crossed my fingers every night in my sleep. All the while, I nervously opened my inbox and jumped whenever my phone rang. 

But there was a duality to my nervousness.  Of course, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get the job, and the over-achiever in me would be really disappointed.  Yet another, equally present fear rang between my ears – a fear that I would get the job.  Why that fear?  First of all, we’d have to move, and I’m convinced that one of the nine circles of hell involves packing tape and utility set-ups. 

More importantly, I’m hesitant to upset the status quo right now because I’m so happy with it.  Like I said in my very first blog post, I really like being at home, but that’s a characteristic I’m still struggling with.  The biggest guilt factor prodding my conscience is the temptation to have more income, which is just even more tempting than that bar of dark chocolate sitting on the kitchen counter.  Excuse me for one second...  

So going into the hiring process, I felt conflicted.  I wanted the job because it was perfect for me.  But I was also apprehensive about diving head first back into a nine-to-five desk job because I’m happier without one.  So I waited to hear back from the organization, and I finally got the phone call on Monday afternoon.

I didn’t get it.

Considering my split feelings about the job, I was pretty surprised by my reaction to the news.  I politely thanked them for considering my candidacy, hung up the phone and immediately threw my hands up over my face to hide the torrent of tears leaking from my eyes.  Unashamedly, I cried for about 30 minutes, and then I threw my unnecessary-because-it’s-overcast-sunglasses over my red puffy eyes and went over to my parents’ house to let Teddy run around their backyard.  Then I got Chipotle dinner and watched Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  The three “B”’s of Annie’s coping: burrito bowl and Bravo.

Feelings of failure, lost efforts, and severe disappointment made my eyes swell with tears, but I’m sure that the water works would have come regardless of the hiring outcome because of the magnitude of emotional energy I had invested in this opportunity.  You see, this particular job opportunity presented me with a huge fork in the road.  And if you can’t tell by the length of this post already, I poured a lot of thought and emotion into this opportunity  because I knew the outcome’s ability to uniquely impact my life. 

Certainly, day-to-day events impact our life paths in ways we can never be aware of.  We call it serendipity.   I’m reminded of the line in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in which Mr. Button describes all the tiny circumstances that came together to cause a car accident that uniquely impacted one of the characters:

 If only one thing had happened differently: if that shoelace hadn't broken; or that delivery truck had moved moments earlier; or that package had been wrapped and ready, because the girl hadn't broken up with her boyfriend; or that man had set his alarm and got up five minutes earlier; or that taxi driver hadn't stopped for a cup of coffee; or that woman had remembered her coat, and got into an earlier cab, Daisy and her friend would've crossed the street, and the taxi would've driven by. But life being what it is — a series of intersecting lives and incidents, out of anyone's control — that taxi did not go by, and that driver was momentarily distracted, and that taxi hit Daisy, and her leg was crushed.

But then there are times in our lives – perhaps when we decide where to go college, when we move cities to be closer to a loved one, and when we decide to have children - when we are acutely aware of the impact certain events will have on our life paths.  This particular job opportunity was one of those times for me.  Faced with my internal conflict about going back to work, I knew that the outcome of this hiring process would take me down one of two very different “roads in a yellow wood”:  Career-woman or housewife. 

It’s turned out to be the latter path, and I’m just fine with it.  I’m still disappointed, but the job-hesitant part of my mind is slowly taking over.  I’m sure part of it is self-defensiveness – I didn’t even want it anyway, but I’d rather feel okay about it than not. 

Some folks like to say that “Everything happens for a reason” as justification for the big Why’s in life.  I’m not sure that I believe that; I don’t think that my lost opportunity was pre-determined. But instead of stewing in the sticky broth of doubt and resentment that can accompany pure self-determinism, I’m actively choosing another way.  I choose to be happy with my life’s path, no matter the bends and curves within it.   

So that’s what’s been going on, September.  I hope you understand why I’ve been neglecting you.  But October has something to look forward to:  I made a bet with my parents that if I didn’t get the job, we'd go vegan for 30 days.  It all starts this Sunday at dinner.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And Then There Were Three...

My brother-in-law first converted a few years ago; then I joined him this past spring; and now Ian is a vegetarian.  Three immediate family members gone veg.  Looks like Thanksgiving should be quite novel this year.  

If Ian can last until Thanksgiving that is.  He’s been unusually vocal about the omission of meat from his diet over the past few days, which has us both doubting his long-term prospects.  You see, he’s tried vegetarianism once before.  (What environmentally-conscious liberal hasn’t, really?)  After watching Food, Inc. we both committed to meat-free diets for 30 days.  It stuck for me, but Ian ate a bacon cheeseburger from Five Guys on Day 31.

So color me shocked a few weeks ago when he shouted “I want to be a vegetarian” in the middle of watching TV.  

Okay, we were watching King Corn on Netflix.  It’s another agribusiness documentary, but it’s not nearly as guilt-inducing as Food, Inc.  And Ian’s reaction was quite disproportionate to the image he was seeing, which was merely a few brown and black cows standing indifferently in a stockyard.  Very PG.  

Then again, maybe his reaction wasn’t so disproportionate.  As a recent convert to vegetarianism myself, I’ve become increasingly interested in animal rights organizations like the Gentle Barn and Farm Sanctuary, both of which both rescue farm animals from abusive situations, including factory farming.  I love to coo over cute videos of baby cows and goats being bottle-fed and massaged like they’re Labrador Retrievers, and I always pull Ian over to coo with me. Bouncing calves are very memorable.

More than annoying Ian with adorable animal videos, I’m sure my food choices have influenced him as well.  And that’s the thing I’m learning about being a vegetarian: even if you don’t say anything to the people you’re eating with, your food choices force the issue anyway.  As much as those cheeseburgers tasted good, I’m sure the presence of my Boca Burger kinda made Ian feel bad about his food choice.  Especially after I play the cute animal videos.  Oops.

So maybe I’ve inadvertently made Ian feel guilty about eating meat, but an unexpected chicken sighting really sealed the deal.  Driving down a local road, we saw two metal crated semi-trucks that were bleeding white poofey feathers.  We passed them on the left and saw alive-but-motionless chickens on their way to slaughter.  They were stuffed into the crates like pillow fluff.  Ugh.  Chalk it up to our mutual love of Teddy, but that image is going to stick with us for awhile.  

I know it’s easy and more enjoyable to replace that unpleasant image with a tasty image of chicken marsala, so how can I know that Ian is really committed?  When I wrote about my own decision to become vegetarian a few months ago, I mentioned knowing that it was the real thing this time rather than just another experimentation.  How do I know Ian’s in it for the long-haul?

I guess I can’t be sure how long he (or I) will stick with our new vegetarian diets.  But I feel renewed optimism because his decision to go veg was all his own. You see, our month-long trial with vegetarianism earlier this year was more like a bet: we declared that if either of us partook of any meat, we had to buy the other person anything they wanted valued up to $100.  Our mutual cheapness assured our dual successes.  But this time, the only bet he made was with himself, and his conscience seems to be a better task-master than his wallet.  

In all honestly, though, I don’t really care if he’s a vegetarian forever.  I just appreciate that he’s trying it out now.  Even if he has turkey at Thanksgiving or partakes in the celebration of Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp, I think  / I hope that the long-term effect of this dietary experiment will be an increased awareness of his meat consumption.  Then again, maybe he’ll stick with it as long as I keep letting him know how sexy it is whenever he asks the waiter “Can the lasagna be made with marinara instead of bolognese sauce?”

Monday, September 12, 2011

That's So High School

I recently went to a high school football game at my alma mater.  I’d like to say I hadn’t been to one since high school, but I’ve been to several because my Teacher Dad still helps announce the home football games.  Specifically, he keeps track of the players on the field so the announcer can call the plays correctly, and he does a great job.  

I didn’t go to football games often in high school, but I went enough to make going back eight years later feel really weird.  Walking up to the stadium I am hit by dual waves of emotion.  First is fear: I don’t want any of my ‘03 classmates to see me here.  What’s more lame than a 26 year-old going back to her high school football game, right?   I’m as big of a fan of my alma mater as the next alum, but high school was meant to be graduated from, not re-visited.

The second emotion I feel at the stadium is fierce, fierce annoyance.  The parents proudly wearing circle picture buttons of their players / cheerleaders / band members on their school-colored outfits, and the high school students throwing baby powder at the opening kickoff (that’s the new thing apparently) - I find everyone’s enthusiasm uncharacteristically aggravating.  So I sit with my Mom in the stands feeling like one of those Muppet hecklers, mentally rolling my eyes at the seriousness with which everyone is so in to this high school football game.  We might be one of the best football teams in the state, but this is Indiana; not Texas.  No two-a-days here (I think).  

My annoyance at these otherwise-nice folks stems mostly from my cynicism about the high-school / college / real-world transition.  Ask my friends and family, and they’ll say I’m frustratingly optimistic.  Once at work when our central data system had crashed and was completely paralyzing our operations, I managed to tell a coworker, “Well, at least this shows us that there’s a problem with the system.”  That was making lemons into tart moldy lemonade.  

My normal effervescence becomes caked in sticky bitterness whenever I’m surrounded by cheerful high school students.  You see, I used to be one of them.  I was the standard high school over-achiever.  I graduated in the top 2% of my class; I held numerous leadership positions in orchestra, language clubs, and honor societies, and I even cried over at A- or two.  Then I went to a college where everyone was an overachiever.  And I entered a work-force where my social networks mattered more than my GPA.

So I sit at my high school football game with an cloud of cynicism raining on me.  I have a strong desire to go up to one of those chest-bumping football players on the field, grab him by the shoulders and say “All of this doesn’t matter.”  Cheerful.  I know.

But then I realize that what I might be feeling isn’t cynicism, it’s jealousy.  Because I liked high school.  

Yes, I said it.  I liked high school a lot.  But I know it’s not cool to say that.  I’m even nervous to write it down because it’s okay to like the four years in college, but not the preceding four years, right?  If you reminisce about college in your twenties, you’re being nostalgic; if you reminisce about high school, you’re being immature.  At least that’s my perception.  After all, valedictorians’ speeches always talk about moving on to the “real world” and better things.  But what if high school is the better thing?  I certainly liked it just as much as college.  It’s where I first felt important and accomplished, it’s where I met my first life-long friends, and it’s where I first fell in love.  Those trends continued in college, but high school paved the way.  College prep at its best.
I was lucky to have such a great high school experience, and I realize that many folks don’t have such cheerful memories of their alma maters.  Even the Real Housewives are quick to label cattiness and jealousy as being “so high school.”  (By now I think it’d be better to say those qualities are so “Real Housewives.”)  But I don’t really have bad memories, and so I’m happy to celebrate 1999-2003.  I love looking at my yearbooks and all the little messages scribbled in it thanking me for a fun year and wishing me good luck in the future.  So the next time I’m at a football game, you might find me wearing blue and gold and throwing baby powder with the teenagers.  You may call me uncool, but that would be so “high school” of you.  And if you were my classmate, you should take that as a compliment.