Jobbers

It’s a grey morning outside, and the trees that are draped around the windows of my apartment are starting to turn yellow. I am subbing for a preschool class this afternoon, but this morning my schedule is open. I dropped Little Man off at daycare at 7:30 and am doing some cleaning around my apartment while listening to public radio and wondering about the phenomenon that is Donald Trump.

I won’t go into my thoughts on the election. As far as teaching goes, I think it is about time to make the leap and say: Yes, this is the career path I want to pursue. This is week 4 of subbing for me, and while I have had some difficult days, I sometimes really enjoy the job, and when I am not loving it I still mostly don’t mind it. I also LOVE not sitting in front of a computer all day (which I mostly did in my last job). The schedule makes so much sense, both in terms of matching my son’s schedule while he is growing and having the ability to travel to Washington and see family more frequently. And, really, what other job will allow me time to have the kinds of big outdoor adventures I still dream of having? I do have my reservations and fears about this career field, but I feel better about it than I do about any other potential options. Lastly, and this is a novel feeling, I have been told by several teachers that I am doing a really good job for a person who has been teaching for less than a month. I don’t know what the other subs out there are like (there is no interview process for this job and the only screening is a background check) but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special. Certainly my classroom management skills can use improvement. Still, it feels good to think that maybe this is something I could do, and do successfully.

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The Other Side of the Door

Divorce sometimes feels like sitting on the floor in an empty room. Like during a move, maybe, when you’ve cleaned out part of your space and it’s all empty and strange feeling, but you know if you got up off the floor and opened the door into the next room there would be all the stuff you haven’t cleaned up yet. Life and furniture and laundry. And maybe your partner would be in there too, playing computer games or boxing up dishes or something.

It’s not a very good simile, but it’s the closest description I can give to what my feelings are today. I’m here, in my space, and while I have furniture and things on the walls and have been living solo for 3/4 of a year, my life is sort of a blank. Over the years I pictured myself building a life that included my partner (not a generic partner, but my partner, J), a dog or two, and a kid or two. It’s shocking to plan these things and to invest yourself in a relationship, to discuss and agree on having a family, to have a kid, and to suddenly find yourself alone when your best friend and partner suddenly decides your goals are not for them anymore. When I talk to my ex now, it is like talking through a door. We can hear one another and sometimes I feel like I could open the door and walk across that threshold into the old life we had built. I know, though, that on the other side of the door there is nothing I would recognize. My old best friend is there, yes, but the furniture is all different and there is somebody else living there as well, and I am a stranger, both to that space and to the person who meant so much to me.

The nice thing about moving is the simplicity of a blank slate. I like being in empty rooms sometimes because without all the furniture, it’s easier to notice things like light slanting in through the windows and making patterns on the carpet. This morning, in my apartment, I sat down by my couch in a patch of sun and felt somewhat at peace. Not having the toddler for a weekend is both peaceful and disconcerting. I met an acquaintance for a short hike. I felt sad, and I felt hopeful. This coming week includes some more hiking plans with friends, an evening at the community garden, and some subbing jobs. I do miss the friendship I had with my ex and I still find it hard to believe how rapidly and completely somebody can change (we all change, but some people change much, much more than others). I still grieve over the lost family hikes and camping adventures, the shared difficulties, the tag-team approach that would have given each of us some time to see friends and pursue other interests, the well-earned kid-free nights when we could have enjoyed one another’s company and reached for that core of solidarity and companionship that would have taken us beyond the child-rearing years to a time when we would, once again, be able to be vagabonds. I grieve over the spirit of shared adventure that would have let us discuss, as partners, how to make life exciting even in the midst of the increased responsibility of having a family. People do have families and lead interesting lives. The potential was there. It’s just…. my partner didn’t see it.

 

 

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Old Papers

In my closet there are a couple of bags of papers for sorting and shredding that I have ignored for years. This weekend I finally am going through them, and as expected, there are some painful memories of the past in there. What is painful is the reminder of good times past with J. I didn’t feel much when I saw documentation of J’s name change, or even the Christmas collage my parents sent out as their holiday card last year that included a photo of myself, J, and Little Man (J moved out shortly after that holiday). Those things made me feel thoughtful, but no worse.

Then there was a photocopy of J’s old driver’s license (why, I do not know, but it was there). The photo was taken four years ago. At that time our relationship was already in the process of changing. I didn’t know it then, of course. But J had already come out to me about wanting to cross-dress. One year after that photo was taken, J would tell me that he was transgender. Sometimes I imagine having the opportunity to talk to the J of the past. Not to let him know about his future or to try and change anything, but just to talk and get a sense of the person I used to be so close to. It’s not even the J of 2012 I want to talk to– It’s the J of 2006 or 2007 or so. The J I knew in the early years of our relationship, who cared about me and was enthusiastic  about getting outside and exploring the American West.

Another paper I found in the stack was a storage facility rental agreement from Hurricane, Utah. During the winter of 2007/08 we drove a U-haul truck with the contents of our first apartment from Washington to the southwest through some of the worst winter storms I have ever experienced. After we loaded up the truck in Washington we had to wait several days to start driving, because a storm came through and our truck got plowed in, plus a power line came down on top of it. When we did start driving we passed wrecked vehicles all the way from Washington to Idaho, and we nearly didn’t make it over Deadman’s Pass in Oregon before another storm closed it. In fact, we had to drive the pass three times, because my car was on a trailer hitched to the truck, and the pass was closed to trailers when we arrived. We drove J’s car and the moving truck over the top first, came back together in J’s car, and returned the third time driving both my car and J’s. It was past midnight when we checked into a motel, and I had a phone interview for a job first thing in the morning (I was later offered the job, and took it). When we arrived in southern Utah I felt as though we had entered a different world. Zion National Park was nearby. There was redrock all around, and we were in a very different desert than the sagebrush country I knew from the northwest. The storage facility in Hurricane was a small stop-over for our belongings while we decided where to live. It wouldn’t be long before we moved another hour + down the road to Moapa Valley in southern Nevada. I won’t say it was a great town for us (it was small and religious and we were an introverted, non-religious couple without children who had no easy way to connect to our neighborhood), but the landscape was amazing. I still remember driving down I-15 from Utah, exiting a long canyon and seeing Joshua trees for the first time in my life. When we found a rental in Moapa Valley I remember it being months before I could look at the palm trees lining the streets of town with anything other than awe and excitement. A few minutes from our apartment there was a slot canyon to explore, and more rugged country than I had ever had access to before. I was seeing a new part of the country with my best friend and partner, and I was happy.

Sometimes I wish I could talk to the J of those days. If I came home one day and saw that J, would it be obvious that the me walking in the door was nearly a decade older than the me that J knew and loved? My longer hair at least would give me away, but I like to imagine just being able to walk in and be me without having to reveal all the complicated things about time travel and being a future version of myself. I would just like to be there, in that present, for a few hours. I would ask J to go on a short hike with me, and we would walk and talk, two of my favorite things. I would remember what it was like to be cared for and I would try to puzzle out in my mind the connection between that past and this present in which J is essentially gone from my life, and is a person with such different interests and concerns that I hardly recognize her sometimes. I would ask past-J about his goals for the future, and I would let him talk to me about the things he had, at the time, so much enthusiasm for. We would wander around that open, beautiful countryside and I would enjoy the old companionship again, just for a while. Maybe I would come away feeling sadder about my current present, or maybe I would feel more at peace, having had the chance to say goodbye to the person who I first fell in love with. I like to think it would be the latter experience.

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A Word About Style

One thing that made me really nervous about moving out of natural resources work and land management office surroundings was the idea of being in a world where people “dressed nicely” on a daily basis. In land management offices there are often some office staff who come in wearing slacks, skirts, necklaces, makeup, etc., but in my experience that is not standard practice. Some land management offices equip their staff with uniforms, so actually, nobody has to dress up. In the (2) low level management jobs I held over the past decade, I often felt that being too dressy would actually be detrimental, because it would mean I looked like a person who never left the office to do any on-the-ground work.

Yet here I am, leaving the fold of natural resources. I’m happy to be leaving, for the most part. It was not a family-friendly career path, a permanent job seemed to be a myth on the order of dragons and unicorns, and I was, for these reasons and a few less important ones, just done. But now I have to do something else. I chose education, and I am still working out what I think of this career field. But you know what? The whole work wardrobe thing? It doesn’t seem so bad, now that I am here. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Teachers don’t dress up nearly as much as I had imagined. Some women have the perfectly done nails, hair, dressy sandals, etc., but I have also seen a number of employees walking around in tshirts and tennies. I have to look dressier because, as a sub, I need to put my best professional face forward, but the bar is not as high as I once imagined it would be.
  2. Speaking of putting my best face forward, I don’t do makeup. Moreover, I no longer feel guilty or “less than” for not doing it. I think maybe Solo Mama wrote a post on this subject once? — Something about the freedom of deciding that makeup just was not her thing. There is freedom in that decision. Makeup has never been my thing; I have always found it an annoyance rather than an addition to my life, and at some point in recent times (truly, the 30’s are a great life decade to start realizing that you don’t have to build your existence around things you actually don’t give a crap about) I realized that I could still feel attractive without the stuff. My personal style is sporty and natural and that is okay. And it is, I have discovered, perfectly possible to look office-professional without conforming to all the gender-normative dress standards.
  3. Speaking of dress standards — Or rather, just speaking of dresses: I enjoy wearing them sometimes! Yes, I do. Actually I wear skirts. I have several lovely knee-length ones I found recently at thrift stores, and it feels great to have a reason to put them on sometimes. As for my hair? I keep it up in a practical ponytail. It’s a wonderful thing, deciding, for yourself, what works for you.
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Short Update (It’s official now)

Pausing for a moment in my day to regroup. I’m in the midst of the first cold of the fall season and am sitting at home with tissues littered around my computer desk.

Emotionally I’m doing okay. The divorce paperwork came in the mail this past weekend, and I missed it initially because I was camping overnight in the mountains with Little Man. Incidentally, I climbed somewhere between 2000 – 2500 feet in elevation up a trail Sunday, covering maybe 7 or 8 miles while carrying ~40lbs of toddler, snacks, water, etc. on my back. I was ridiculously sore for the next two days, but it was a good workout, and a nice location to place myself on the day the letter was being delivered.

Announced the divorce yesterday on FB, because there were a number of people I used to know better than I do now who were not aware of the change, and I wanted to get the information shared once and for all. Yesterday evening I met up with J at his day care’s Back to School Night Potluck. The event was okay. There’s a wall between J and I now that is made up of some weird combination of anger, goodwill, and exhaustion. I feel it, anyway. Midway through the potluck J said, “I pictured getting the paperwork as the end of the story, but it’s not. The interactions keep on going.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. We are raising a kid together… I didn’t say that, though. J’s emotional short-sightedness over the past couple years has been epic, but I’m tired of arguments. She is excited about the new chapter in her life, and while her choices to ditch a best friend, a family, and a decade of shared memories at the first test of commitment still anger me (she admits that she never compromised for me, while the reverse often was true)…. I can’t say I would be happier if she was miserable. It’s a parting of ways, is all. And given her inability to compromise, I do feel some relief, though I would not say I am as excited as she is. If I had to pick an adjective to describe myself at this moment, I would say I am feeling thoughtful.

This cold, today, truly has me beat. It’s chilly and grey outside, truly autumn weather, and I have turned the heat up in my apartment. I’ll be going to pick Little Man up from day care in a few minutes. I hate colds. Hate the raspy throat, the cough, the stuffed nose and stinging face from contact with too many tissues. But it feels cozy in my apartment. Cozy and cheerful.

Good enough for the moment.

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Around the Next Corner

I finished my Americorps term. The 11 months went by quickly — but I am no longer surprised by the speed at which time passes.

Little Guy’s day care was closed last week as the teachers prepared for fall session, so I drove with him out to Washington to visit family for a while. I have been out to the dry side of the Evergreen State many times this past year, but it’s been a long time since I drove out. Road trips with a toddler are stressful, frankly. If you can picture sitting for hours in an enclosed space with a fire alarm that goes off loudly and randomly, that’s just about the experience.

It’s not all bad — On this trip at least, Little Guy did really well. He had his moments, but mostly he was content to nap, snack, and play with the rotation of toys and random objects I passed back to him as we drove. On my way out I listened to Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” and on the way back I started in on Andy Weir’s “The Martian.” I looked out the car windows at the landscape — hills and towns I have seen many, many times before but have never grown tired of — and felt some of that old thrill of going somewhere. It was sad to not have J beside me to share in the experience, but what is there to say about that situation? I picked up the bits of my courage and moved on with my thoughts. I am ready to travel again. To hike. To explore. Even if I don’t get far away from home… I need some outside in my life again. My flabby body needs it too; my pants are tight and I have a slight muffin-top, after all the sitting I did in my last job. It’s time to set some new personal goals.

But more on that another time.

The visit with my family was pleasant. I am back home in Idaho now, and I feel like the person about to jump into a cold mountain lake who takes a deep breath before jumping in. Inhale, and….. GO!

I have been approved to substitute teach for one of the local school districts in Idaho; hopefully I will be approved to substitute teach for another district before the end of September. I have given myself a little over a week to prepare myself for the job and to finish up other tasks I’ve been putting off: Fixing the broken side mirror on my car. Clearing through Little Guy’s clothes and toys for things he has outgrown. Clearing through my old outdoor gear. Fixing my bike, so I can actually take my kiddo riding.

And.

Ohh yeah. The effing thesis.

Don’t judge. Or rather, judge if you like. Won’t change or affect anything. It’s the biggest failure of my life to date — and that includes my failed marriage, because at least with my marriage I did all I could to save it.

I’m going to try and finish it up… if I can.

Ready, set, GO.

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Musings at the Sunday Breakfast Hour

This is the last weekend without Little Guy around that I will have for some time. Due to wonky scheduling I have had the last four (five?) weekends child-free (though during J’s field work season I have custody all the time during the work week, so it’s not like I never see my kid). Having time to myself has been very helpful in allowing me to get things done, and it has been a relief to be able to do things like clean out the fridge and do food prep for the coming week without the distraction of a toddler. Still, I’m looking forward to having him on the weekends again for a while. I fit a lot of activities into our weekday evenings (swimming, the occasional hike, working at the community garden) but when you look at the numbers, I only have about three hours with him on a given day beyond the morning scramble to reach daycare.

I’m feeling at peace again this weekend. It’s a state of mind that comes and goes, I realize, but I think I am more frequently content than I was a few months ago.

J is more friendly as of late and we talk more easily now. Her current partner, S, does not want her to interact with me apart from the most basic parenting-related interactions. J is trying to decide how she wants to deal with that situation, and while S’s attitude disgusts me (especially considering her past with both me and J), I’ve told J she needs to figure out that situation before we hang out. Whether J and I ever do spend time together as friends again is still a big question mark, but I don’t have any expectations there anymore. Historically J and I always got along well, and I still care about her and would like to be friends. But … How do I put it? I’m tired of her in a lot of ways, too, and the thought of not being friends is not quite such a sad thing as it once was. When I think about my past relationship with J I miss our early days together and I miss my hiking buddy, but the early days are irretrievably gone. I don’t, now or ever again, want to be in a relationship where I compromise on so many things for a partner and get nothing in return. I know relationships inevitably involve compromise, and that’s not such a bad thing. For right now though, I want nothing to do with it….

And guess what? I don’t have to! I’m my own person now. I can care for J but I don’t have to suppress my interests and goals anymore, for her or for anybody.

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