A few years ago, when I was happily married to the love of my life, I would have started my day just as I did today…odd when I think about it.
At 7 am I was tidying a messy house…dog hair filtered through the air from my duo of dogs….I worked on dirty dishes for much of the morning….I polished the front of a stove that never looks clean since it has rust spots on the side of it from the salty sea air….I enjoyed the sound of a noisy washing machine thumping through a cycle of dark clothes…I tip toed around piles of clothes, scattered around the bedroom highlighting the colors left to wash…..the refrigerator is now filled with vegetables in baskets rather then old jars full of sauces that needed tossing….I stil have the feel of gritty Ajax that I used to scrub my sink …it makes my hands feel extra clean…the smell of Windex from cleaning my living room table is still in the air. This life feels so comfortable I can’t tell you how much it relaxed me like a meditation of its own…lulling me into an intense sense of security.
But my day did not start at 7….now it always starts somewhere in the night…At 4:00 am I was already reading a Brookings Report on poverty. I start studying at around 4 but have been known to awaken much earlier…
I love the feel of studies unfinished and concepts becoming clear. I love knowing that I am doing the best I can….and that my best is pretty dang good…even amongst brilliant people I am holding my own.
I also have to admit to enjoying the feel of falling on my face and doing the occasional crash and burn. I certainly crashed and burned in Arabic class this summer.
Since it was too much for me I had to drop all Arabic studies…I gave up about the time I realized there was not time to take my Arabic test to qualify for studying Arabic in the program at my school. I opted for Spanish which did turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
I am now studying Spanish at an intensity I have never experienced before. What I love the most about it is that my class requires us to hold intellectual conversations discussing grown up subjects like inequality and recent newspaper articles for much of the time we are together. I am now conversing rather well in Spanish even though I am confusing it quite often with Italian. I am quite shocked to report that I am actually succeeding at my Spanish class and really enjoy both teachers involved.
The Arabic program was just as exhilarating…but I was not progressing much and my conversation in Arabic was down at the level of basics like, “Hi, how are you?” “What is your name?” “Bye, see you later…”
Now I am discussing inequality in South America and the Chilean Overthrow of 1973, in Spanish….solamente espanol….
Not only am I holding my own but I feel like I am doing quite well….I know because I am thinking in Spanish all the time now. My brain is keeping a tally of both English and Spanish as I talk so I know I can switch reading in a heartbeat.
This might be costing me my beloved Italian and Arabic as though so it is time to refocus on what I already have in order to hold onto it.
So this morning, at around 5:00 am I opened up a computer program on my phone I have not allowed myself to open since late August. I went over my Arabic vocabulary on Quizlet. It was like bending my mind in a different direction…sort of like going back to my housewife persona this morning at 7….I was surprised that within a few tries, I was actually scoring OK on my games with the site in Arabic.
The other day I turned in my first policy memo….I did the best I could…taking extra time and effort to follow the instructions since this is territory I am unfamiliar with…but at least I turned it in. I did a little victory dance as I printed it in the college’s copy area.
I have worked hard to get here but I think I am fitting in quite nicely. Instead of walking streets I know like the back of my hand back home I am now growing familiar enough to host a tour and explain details of the history of buildings in the area.
I am walking where Robert Lewis Stevenson has tread…I swigged on a hookah near a tree he is seen drinking under…I regularly walk inside a building that John Steinbeck lived in and wrote.
Needless to say I have had intense shifts in routine and perspective lately…but I wouldn’t change a thing…life as a grad student simply rocks…and I think it is good to drastically shift perspective once in a while….