Wool socks. An oatmeal sweater. Reliable tea that I can get at any moment of the day. My own bed. I am back from traveling.
Back in my little artist house–messy with books and art work and old New Yorker magazines–it feels like I am staying at the nicest airbnb in the world. Because it is. It’s my home.
This morning, I pull on long pants, wool sleeves, an old bike jersey and a wool cap and go for a run around my neighborhood. Passed the grey house where the Beatrix Potter type writer. Past the big yards of green where kids play football and adults play rugby. Past the woman who walks her dog but never says hi. Past the road to the bakery where I stop for coffee and a muffin, if I’ve done something exceptionally well that week.
Being home is one part comfort and one part complete and utter existential fear.
Coming home from this trip means facing the bull of finding the right job in the face. I have a manuscript that I wrote in my MFA and I need to send it out. It’s about a French mother who is an artist and a daughter who solo sails her boat. I think it’s brilliant and it needs to be published; I just can’t seem to find the confidence to send it to agents.
So, today, after running, watching The Great British Bake Off and eating an omelette, I slept most of the day. I’m reading Rick Moody’s “Purple America” and trying to escape into the lives of other people. On the trip, I read Roxanne Gay’s “Hunger” and Jen Sincero’s “You are a Badass at Making Money.”
For most of my career, I have had been making less and less money. I see this as a pattern that needs to stop. My ideas are good. My work ethic is strong. I am allowed to be paid for my work.
However, adjunct teaching really hammered in some bad thoughts about this–you need to be credentialed, a good teacher and able to take on a serious workload, but we will only pay you $12,000 a year and give you no health insurance. I cannot accept these teaching jobs any more. Additionally, many of the education jobs I have done ask for all of me and yet only pay me $15 or less an hour, without health insurance. Therefore, I have decided to leave teaching. This breaks my heart, as I really wanted to be a college professor, but alas, I cannot participate in a system of second class citizens. It’s not good for me and it’s not good for higher education.
Therefore, I come home to fall in Buffalo and I think of my airbnb host in Port Alberni–a town on Vancouver Island. She drank good Yorkshire tea and seemed to buck up to life. She showed us her artwork, matter of factly, “This is my painting. This is my husband’s.” She was not embarrassed about her work. It met her standards. After she left, I sat, there drinking the tea and was reminded of my own British roots. Keep calm and carry on. Don’t worry, everything will be absolutely fine, love. Never, never give up. And, I saw how good her painting was. How truly beautiful the lines were. Strong, dark reds outlined in black. She should be matter of factly proud. I admired her.
I started these series of British Columbia posts thinking about why we travel. To connect? But, I think it’s to connect and to change. To find parts of ourselves in other people and in other settings. We are always searching, walking through unknown neighborhoods of our minds into other unknown neighborhoods. Wondering who we will become. Look back at the photos years from now and think, that was right before I changed my life. Right before I published that book. Right before I decided that now is the time to send out work into the world and see what might happen. What might happen if we are courageous and self-compassionate and calm.