New academic year. New state. New life. I am writing to you, dear reader, from my new home. I have moved across state lines again, only to end up in a place that is more familiar and more unexpected than any of the other places I’ve lived in.
When I started this little project, I spent a lot of time censoring myself. At my undergraduate college, perhaps the biggest little public university in the world, I became hyper-aware of academic politics and I was afraid. I was afraid that something I wrote here would kill any chances I had of a future in academe.
Well, no more.
The retail job I have is at R.E.I., an amazingly generous company staffed by some of the best people I have ever met. They took a chance on me, because my knowledge of the outdoors before they employed me was less than nil—I did not know that sleeping pads or stuff sacks existed. My co-workers are some of the friendliest, sharpest people I know. They have been needlessly sincere and open, and R.E.I. is the company that has helped cultivate this atmosphere that draws so many wonderful people. Whether they realized it or not, R.E.I. has persuaded me to be nicer to myself and take it easy, which has been immensely restorative.
Mostly, though, my time at R.E.I. has given me the gift of a happy life outside of the academy as well as the inspiration to pursue what I love—critical analysis.
And now, I finally feel ready to start on my Master’s in Cultural Studies.
All of you who have ever made a long move know just how awful long moves can be. Plus, we downsized from two bedrooms to one. We donated and donated and threw out endless bags of trash, and still there was more! This move and all of the fallout from it almost broke my marriage. Almost.
I was Googling “divorce” and “Asperger’s” and “PTSD” in an Oregon motel room at 3 in the morning.
And, after we had moved, I drove around and around after work until I finally stopped at Target and bought a 12-pack of Rolling Rock from the refrigerated cases next to the frozen pizzas.
Somehow, that was what was needed.
We didn’t break.
I’ve been thinking about happiness lately. I suspect that I don’t feel happy the same way other people do. This isn’t to say that I’m never happy—rather, it’s that I interpret my own happiness as a series of dismantled, related sensations. Shock, excitement, disbelief, and gratitude might combine to feel like happiness in another person, but in me, they stay distinct. It’s very tidy, and I like it like that. I get a lot of satisfaction from analysis, which I’d say is the closest I feel to a more neurotypical happy.
Where I’m trying to go with this, is that lately I’ve been feeling very satisfied. I don’t feel guilty about all of the things I wasn’t able to get to today. For the first time in a long time, the voices that told me I had to guard myself and stay wary are quieting. They’re slowly being replaced by the voices of all the strong people I know telling me to just be.
So, I am.
My name is Erin. I live in Seattle, the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I work at R.E.I. and am about to start on my Master’s in Cultural Studies at the University of Washington. I have no idea what I’m going to “do” with that degree, but so far I have been privileged enough to be able to pursue what I love. I want to make life slightly better for everyone I know, but the truth is that I don’t yet have what it takes to interface with the majority of the public that needs social services. I don’t know if I’ll ever have what it takes. Also, I hate volunteering. I know it’s essential to all of society, and I know it’s the Christian thing to do, but I still hate doing it. And as long as I’m confessing, I’m really dreading trying to find a new church, too. Church people can be so pushy, and I’m crazy liberal—I will leave your church if any of the leaders ever insinuate that women should obey men or that homosexuality is a sin.
But we will find a new church, probably after a few exhausting Sundays of accidentally walking into a church with a 3 hour+ service. And, I am currently looking up the volunteer opportunities at the public library, because that’s what life is: sometimes you do the thing you don’t want to do because you know it’s the right thing to do.
So, dear reader, I’m signing off for now, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be back more often and more regularly. It’s a whole new life—anything could happen.