Monday, September 24, 2007

When the stars go blue

I spent this evening cooking a sweet potato gratin and listening to a This American Life episode from September 21, 2001, the episode where Ira Glass offers David Rakoff and David Sedaris's takes on 9/11. It brought to mind a lot of things I've been contemplating lately.

You see, in about 15 months, life is going to take another turn. CB and I will be on the way to somewhere. Our location might be Chicago or even London. It won't be Seattle; not yet, because our return home comes about 24 months after that.

I've experienced several mood swings since I returned to the U.S. Once I figured out that my dysfunctional thyroid contributed heavily to my poor experiences in the UK, I started wishing I could have a do-over, another chance to see whether England and I were at loggerheads for no reason. There are things I missed about the States that I cherish now: my family, my friends, good food, and even the American people -- at least when we live up to our better stereotypes, moving through the world with good intentions and offering whatever we have to each other. But there are things I'm finding I never wanted to come home to: our ignorance, not only about world affairs, but also about our own government; our conservatism; our crappy health care. I've been turning it over in my head to understand whether the things I love outweigh the things I loathe, or whether my values are diverging so far from where our country's headed that I no longer belong here.

I still don't know, at least when it comes to the short term. In the long term, I can't see myself anywhere but Seattle. Thankfully, CB feels the same and understands my fierce devotion to friends and family enough to move back, even when we're both realizing that his potential could take him anywhere he wanted to go. The fact that he wants to go where I need to stay tells me more about our future as a couple than anything else could.

But for the short-term, I want to go where he chooses. I realize that's a rather un-feminist thing to say, but here's the situation. I don't have a clue what I want yet, at least not when it comes to my career. Correction: I have several conflicting clues. I want to be a writer and an environmental lawyer, a planner and a journalist, a librarian and maybe a professor. I can't be any of these now, and I don't really want to jump into any one before I have a better understanding of myself. In a way, then, the next two years are experimentation time. While CB conquers the statistical genetics world, I can work part-time and try it all out: freelance until my fingers go numb, think long and hard about law school, find out whether planners ever do anything besides sit in rooms approving permits or bickering over growth management guidelines.

It's important to note that I don't always feel this way. Deep down, I'm also very afraid of losing sight of myself and my goals. In some ways, this year feels like the first step down that path: I take a job out of sheer panic, make it work, and promise myself to do better next time. I can't promise then that this post is going to be the definitive exposee on how I feel about our future...but it's the definitive post today, and part of me thinks it could stick around even longer.

Back to the original thread. As I look ahead to careers and (maybe) children and mortgage payments, I find myself wondering: why not now? Why not live abroad two more years, why not pack up the cat, park the car in storage, sell the furniture and head back to jolly old England? What's two years in the grand scheme of things, anyway?

I don't know how I feel about this country sometimes. I think it's home, but that doesn't mean I won't capitalize on the opportunity to live in a place where politics are more nuanced, where health care matters (even if it's still flawed), and where people actually believe that the community matters more than the individual. I miss the latter the most. I almost cried the other day listening to people on Oregon Public Broadcasting complain that they shouldn't have to fund health care for anyone's children but their own. What the fuck is wrong with this place? For a few days after 9/11, I thought we might come together in more ways than one. Now, look at us. Our civil liberties are frayed, our social values are racing backwards, and liberals like me are a bigger threat than the terrorists in some Americans' minds.

I'm rambling badly, and I don't think I've written one tenth of what's on my mind, but if I'm not posting often it's because most of my thoughts take shape this way: in fragments and long threads I'm still pulling from buttonholes. Blame it on the age or on post-college disenchantment; attribute it to my LDR. Really, they're all complicit...and so am I.

1 comment:

Auglaise said...

A lot of things ran through my mind when I read this post, but mostly? I know how you feel about the States. I know *exactly* how you feel.