Read more about this project here.
Day 11 (July 20)
But in other “better” photos, our smiles are fake. This one shows who we really are when we’re together.
I moved multiple times as a kid, so I don’t have many relationships that began in childhood. Facebook has allowed me to connect with folks I knew years ago, yet their pages mostly serve to show me how my life could have turned out so very different.
When I got older, I realized friendship was no longer a byproduct of circumstance; it was a conscious decision, a protracted effort, a financial commitment. And absolutely worth it, in the case of these two.
They have been my best friends for 14 and 10 years, respectively. He and I were prom dates; she and I were college roommates; I stood next to them at their wedding; I helped them move into multiple houses; I held their baby one week after her birth, and the other 2.5 months after hers. We’ve lived our lives together.
Now their life is medication and doctors appointments and sleep training and disciplining the three-year-old and more appointments and not enough sleep. She is on chemo and steroids and sleep-deprivation. He is balancing grad school, internships, and trips to the park with Maddie. Their home has been a revolving door of houseguests since the diagnosis.
She wears her scar and her half-shaved head with grace and strength, and she looks like a badass while doing it. I’m fiercely proud when she displays her beautiful self in all of its broken glory. She has always been and she continues to be absolutely radiant. Oh, and he looks good, too.
Friendship with these two has never been easy but it has always been joyful. And being part of their family has taught me two things:
1) We have no time to waste, and
2) loving our people is the most valuable use of our limited time.
This photo shows a few more wrinkles, pounds, and worries than the ones taken when we were 16 or 20. But I’ll keep taking pictures with these friends of my heart until the end of our lives, and I’ll be grateful for every one, good or bad.
Day 12 (July 21)
With all of the travel I’ve been doing lately, I’ve more than used up my airport pick-up favors. So I thought it’d be a good idea to figure out public transit options.
Stephen took me to Boston Logan at 5am, where I got Dunkin’ (when in Rome) in preparation for my long day. The plane left at 7:30a, and I sat next to a chatty older woman who was going to visit her grandson. Upon landing I changed into shorts before catching the two buses that would take me to the train.
I had to wait for the train in 98 degree heat, but there was a breeze blowing and benches in shade. And when the train came? Friends, it was a TRAIN. Not some little commuter rail, but a real train with an engine and some guy hanging off the caboose, checking for any stragglers.
I do love trains. Their sounds are so distinctive: the wheels on the rails, the whistle blowing, even the sound of the attendant asking for your ticket. They don’t move fast, but they have their own path, and everything stops for them.
Once I got off the train, I took a Lyft the final 10 miles to home. Planes, trains, automobiles, and buses, all before 3pm.
I got home, tired and sweaty, and laid down on my living room floor (still couchless, but that’s another story). I am grateful for the time to travel and the ability to spend what little I have on seeing the people I love. I enjoy being self-sufficient and trying new things. But I also love lying on the floor of my apartment.
I’m reveling in it. Only four days until the next adventure.
Day 13 (July 22)
You know the old adage about making God laugh with your plans? While he can’t stop me from making them, I have learned not to say them aloud. My mother taught me that, who claimed at a young age she would never marry a pastor. Look where that got her. (Okay, very happily married. But to a pastor!)
My inaugural trip to Texas was in May, and I left the rain of Portland to gorgeous sunny skies and 80*F weather in Waco. I met with a graduate student who gave it to me straight. He told me summers in Texas were completely awful. His honesty made me think I could survive in that particular graduate student community, if not survive the summer. He lives in North Dakota now, and I like to imagine he is similarly honest about the winters. I’m still in Texas.
One Texas summer, I said, and here I am four summers later. It’s unbearable, truly. The heat index today at 3pm was 112*F. Why do humans live here? Why do I live here?
I hid at home all day, doing household tasks and avoiding all appliances that gave off heat. I conserved all energy by moving as little as possible and not cooking at all. Also, I have no food, but who has the energy to grocery shop when it’s this hot out?
I recently moved to a third floor apartment that faces the afternoon sun. I despise the heat, but I am very cheap and my recent electrical bill was, shall we say, elevated. My solution at present is to keep a box fan directly in front of my body at all times, cover the windows with blankets, and keep refilling the ice trays. I always cave and turn up the AC around 5:30p, when I feel like I am rapidly losing electrolytes while in my own living space.
Anyway, Texas is utterly miserable right now, but I’ve learned my lesson. I’m here for the duration, and I’ll pay the dues for my verbalized plans and my outrageous hubris in sunburns and sweat.
Winter’s really nice here, though!
Day 14 (July 23)
It’s been a journey. I bought this couch online with delivery planned for the day before I left for Boston. Then shipping was delayed three days, so a friend volunteered to come by and wait for the package. Well, she (and her dear husband) spent all day at my place, only to find out that the Fedex driver decided to drop the box off at my apartment front office.
The box sat in that front office for over a week, very inconveniently, until I got home and another friend and his truck could help me. Today was the day, and this friend took time out from moving to help me load the couch into his truck and then lug the blasted thing up two flights of stairs in 100*F heat. We did it though, to my surprise (I had all the confidence in him but little in myself).
Finally, the unboxing and assembly, which was done easily and happily while I listened to podcasts. The couch is stiff for now, but it’s put together and beautiful and I’m so happy to have a place to sit.
I woke up today very grumpy. Part of my grumpiness was soul tiredness from feeling the summer ebb and sensing transitions to come: in strained relationships, in work/life balance, in who knows what else.
As I put the couch together this evening, I thought about this couch saga, and how many people had helped me along the way. Those who helped me decide which couch to purchase. Who helped me try to figure out how it would get to me. Who waited for it all day. Who let it languish on the floor of their office. Who used their strength, encouragement, and truck to get it into my apartment. Who celebrated with me via text when I sent them this photo.
It was a ridiculous saga, but typical of the ridiculousness of life, right? At least the saga reinforced how many good people I have around me and the unexpected ways things can work out. Transitions come: old couches gone, emptiness in the inbetween, new couches come (after stress and heat exhaustion) and assembled. The circle of life. In a way.
The takeaway? It’ll all be okay. I’ll try to remember that each time I collapse on my couch.
Day 15 (July 24)
As a grown person, it’s easy to stay in your particular wheelhouse. For example, I haven’t left school since the first day of kindergarten. Along the way, I’ve gotten fairly comfortable with writing text on paper or on a screen. Not confident, mind you, or nonchalant, but it’s the mode I primarily work within.
Well, this summer my friend and I started recording a podcast. No episodes are up yet. We’re still figuring it out. It took us a while to figure out a name, and then we recorded the inaugural episode multiple times. Our schedules are crazy, so we have little time to meet between her work schedule and my numerous trips. But we’re doing it.
The learning curve has been and continues to be steep. I’m in a whole new world, trying to learn about podcast hosting fees, file formats, and audio quality. She’s doing the editing, clipping and cutting away.
Audio requires a different way of composing. We’re still thinking about familiar things like tone and pacing, but in terms of our actual voices. Rambling is just as easy in audio as in text, but it’s harder to fix; highlight and delete is less of an option.
We’ve had to try stuff. And fail at stuff. And redo stuff. We’ve had to talk a lot about what we’re trying to do and wanting to do. We’ve had to start over…a few times. It’s been challenging in occasionally frustrating but mostly great ways.
This process is teaching me so much about voice and structure, and more generally, about the type of academic, teacher, and researcher I want to be. I want to speak with my own voice in whatever I do, and speak about things that are important to me and my community.
I’m also reminded that learning new things is hard and intimidating and sometimes seemingly impossible. So, when I ask my students to do something new, I need to be mindful of those gut reactions–and then help them through them. Our minds are capable of amazing things, and we are changed by what we learn.
So, the podcast is still very much in process. Who knows what it’ll be? But the possibilities are exciting and terrifying and thrilling all at once.