most of you who read this know that once upon a time i lived a different kind of life that led to years of rehabilitation facilities and regular attendance at 12 step meetings. i dont do them anymore, after 18 years i dont need to sit in a dingy room with bad instant coffee and hear people whine about their miserable lives. some of them will be the same people i knew 18 years ago, but most of the people i knew then have either gone on to get a life as well, gone to jail, or ended up dead. i think about going every so often, mostly so i can give something back, but then i talk to someone who reminds me how far removed i am from that life now, and i realise i dont need that kind of support anymore.
but i did learn lots of good things in those early days. i learnt a lot of shit too, but some of the good stuff has stuck. there are two things in particular that have been running around in my mind this week, two pithy little sayings that, like most stereotypes, contain a kernel of truth.
one is never judge other peoples insides by their outsides. and the other is to always have an attitude of gratitude. its very easy to think that other people have superfantastic lives and to be bitter and resentful about that, especially when you focus on what you dont have based on what it LOOKS LIKE they have. it can be hard sometimes to not have had a rosy upbringing with lots of parental support, to have gone off the rails and to have had to fight your way back (im not talking about just myself here), and to find yourself 10 years behind your peers in relation to the things you’re SUPPOSED to have done to have a successful life… the right job, the mortgage, the babies.
but these are external measures that more often than not force people into yokes of obligation and stress, when it might not even be the things they want, and are no sure road to happiness anyway. i was just talking to trent about this this afternoon – this idea that we’re meant to buy into – that happiness is some great big thing, with fireworks and designer everything. and i said you know, i think happiness is just really the little things. all this week, i have felt wave after wave of gratitude for the small things in my life, the life i do have, the life i live, the one that i think matters, that i judge by my own internal standards, not someone else’s appearance.
it helps that i have finally landed the job i want. obviously, im still on the short term contract, so its not THE JOB yet, but i had a career development meeting with my head of school this week and we talked through the timeline for the advertisement and interviews, and what kind of things i need to have ready, and we’re looking at decisions being made in august. but things have happened this week that make me feel like im a more permanent part of the school already. the move to the new office has helped, as i talked about a few posts ago. this week though the transition was complete. the temporary incorrectly spelled ‘kylie’ on the door was replaced with a proper sign
the temporary single desk designed for a share room
was replaced with a proper L shaped desk
so i can sit at my computer properly without getting RSI
and dont have to have my back to the door but face out into the hallway and have people say hello when they walk past
in my career development interview we talked about the big research project i’m trying to put together, it was the idea i went to the universities of virginia and pennsylania with and now hangs outside my office for everyone to see
and ive written a detailed proposal for the bits of it that i need to do now, the bits that can wait a few months, and the bits i need to go overseas for. my head of school was more than happy to give me some money on the spot to get to archives in sydney and canberra over the next month or so, so i can put together the material i need for some quick papers and the two international fellowships im applying for later this year. im blown away by her support.
i sent that proposal to my mentors at upenn and i got some fantastic feedback. my intellectual hero even called it ‘a fascinating premise’ and gave me some pointers about things to consider and what archives i would need in philadelphia, washington DC and back in new york (state. westchester, to be precise, at the rockefeller archives). my knitting colleague in brooklyn and i have been talking about working together, we think we have an idea close to ready, and the director of the barbara bates centre in philadelphia who was so nice to me when i was there will be here in australia next week for the international council of nurses congress in melbourne, at which im giving two papers (i fly down on monday). we’re having dinner together tuesday night and she’s going to read my proposal on the way over and then we can talk about what i need to do to make it happen. if im lucky i might find myself back stateside over our summer.
ive also been involved in some other really exciting projects this week with my lovely friend sam, we have a few things on the boil that we think the uni might fund, and im so happy to be working with someone who appreciates my strengths, and has let me tap into hers. i think i see big things in our future.
so this is my superfantastic life. when i was a kid, i only ever wanted to write. i wrote my first novel when i was 10. i wanted to be a famous author. now i dont care about the fame, but the writing is still the thing that burns inside – and ive found a way to combine it with my other great love, which is reading, which is not really about reading so much as it is about learning. i love being this busy everyday, i love how much energy i have to get things done, how i have a little idea for a subject im teaching and say to someone ‘oh maybe i could make that into a digital resource’ and next thing i know im building a project moodle that the whole school will be able to use. this week ive had other staff ask to have lunch and help them work out their own research issues. ive been asked to run a session on critical theory in health research. i come home, cook dinner, and read some more, or knit a little, and fall into bed exhausted but happy. im not having so many bad dreams or waking up in cold sweats. i did wake up at 230am with an idea for a paper though!
its a superfantastic life because im happy about the small things. im enjoying being independent and having time to myself. im doing little things around the house, fixing a hole in the fence, sorting out cupboards, even enjoying the housework! this week it got cold so i pulled out the rug and laid it on the floor, all by myself (heavy rug, heavy furniture).
i also rearranged all my pictures so the van goghs are together on one wall and i can sit and stare at the rothko i got block mounted.
there are two more still to do, and one will go into work. i love the independence of a car to drive to and from work or to visit friends, i love coming home to my sweet little dog who is always so happy to see me
i love feeding her and bathing her and training her and going for walks with her. im not rich but i love having enough money to do what i need and not be stressed or in debt, and i love thinking that if i get my permanent job i can make an offer on this house that i love,
or buy a different one somewhere else, or not buy anything except a plane ticket.
yes there are things i want, things i miss. sometimes i get sad, or angry, or lonely. there are times when i want to be in washington DC or new york city so bad its like someone stuck a knife in me. but then i think about how quiet it is here, and how i see this every night when i park outside my house
and i remember how important it is to be grateful for what i do have, to accept the things i cant change, to get on with the things i can.